Seizing The 167 with New Harvest Chicago: Coaching Edition #017

Welcome to another session of the Pro Church Podcast: Coaching Edition. In this podcast I'm going to be speaking live with a church and you’ll get to sit in on our coaching session together. Nothing is off limits and everything is recorded.

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October 12th, 2017

New Harvest Chicago knows that seizing the 167 hours outside of their Sunday service is integral to growing their church, but they’re unsure what they should focus on first. Brady sits down with Eric, their service producer, to put a plan in place.

Meet The Church Being Coached

  • Church Name: New Harvest Chicago
  • Church Location: Cicero, Chicago
  • Church Age: 34 years
  • Church Size: 150-200
  • On the coaching call: Eric Melendes – Worship Director/Service Producer

Show Notes & Resources Mentioned

3 Instant Takeaways

    1. Inventory your communication channels. When you’re a church with limited resources you don’t want to spread those resources too thinly. Take stock of which channels are not contributing to your end goals.
    2. Only give ministries that have a separate service their own social media accounts. This will help concentrate attention on your main accounts, as well as free up some of your time and creative energy.
    3. Prioritize boosting your new visitor retention rate before beginning social media advertising. Examine why your retention rate is so low. Is there an issue with follow up? Before inviting more visitors you want to ensure you will be able to give them the best experience.

The Full Transcript

Brady: Well hey there and welcome to the Pro Church Podcast: Coaching Edition. You’re now part of a small group of pioneering churches doing everything we can to seize the 167 hours beyond our Sunday services. Why? Because we’re living through the biggest communication shift in the last 500 years, and what got us here won’t get us there. I’m Brady, your host, and right now you’re going to sit in with me as I coach and consult with a church in real time. It’s raw, it’s unedited, and we’re solving real church problems so let’s dive right in.

[00:00:30] Well hey there Pro Church Nation, and welcome to another session of the Pro Church Podcast: Coaching Edition. In this podcast I’m going to be speaking live with a church. You’ll get to sit in on our coaching session together. Nothing’s off limits, and everything is recorded. And on this session of the podcast we’re welcoming in Eric Melendez. Eric, welcome to the show.

Eric: Hey, thank you Brady. I appreciate you having me. Really do.

Brady: It’s great to have you here. We start off each of these coaching editions with a five question lightning round. Are you ready for the lightning round?

Eric: [00:01:00] I’m ready.

Brady: Perfect. So firstly, what is the name of your church?

Eric: So we kind of have two names. So our official name is New Harvest Christian Fellowship, but locally we’re more known as New Harvest Chicago.

Brady: Okay. Well where is your church located? What part of Chicago?

Eric: So we’re just outside of Chicago in a Chicago suburb called Cicero.

Brady: Okay. And how old is your church?

Eric: So our church was established back in 1983. So [00:01:30] it was a little over 30 years I think. I do my math right? Yeah.

Brady: Yeah. It’s only 34 years. How big is your church?

Eric: So if we’re looking at a Sunday attendance we probably average anywhere from 150 and 200 people.

Brady: All right. And finally what is your role at the church?

Eric: So my role, I kind of wear many hats as probably is pretty much the norm in churches of our size. So my main role, my main title, is the … Two titles really, the Worship Director [00:02:00] as well as the Service Producer. So I oversee pretty much everything that goes into making our services happen every week.

Brady: Okay perfect. So we’ve got New Harvest Chicago in Chicago, 34 years old, about 150 to 200, Eric Melendez Worship Director and Service Coordinator. Okay great. So I provide some context for who you are and where your church is at physically in the journey of running of a church. Where do you want to [00:02:30] take the next hour that we have together in this coaching call?

Eric: Well you know in just kind of preparing for this call, I really wanted to get the most out of our time here together. I felt like we could a million different directions, but as a church being 34 years old and averaging that 150 to 200 mark, obviously one of our goals always is to grow the church. Not for the sake of numbers, [00:03:00] but for the sake of what we’re able to do when we have more resources. And so obviously right now, at the size that we are in, we are very limited when it comes to our resources and a lot of times people are being stretched. And because of that, and because we try to stay as up to date as possible, and try to follow the trends of where the church going, sometimes we find ourselves doing, I guess you would say too much [00:03:30] in that we have at times found ourselves trying to emulate what other churches, bigger churches are doing only to see that it may not work for us for various reasons. Whether we just don’t have the resources, the amount of people, or it just doesn’t work in our location.

And so two things I really want to focus on really is to … If you put yourself in our position or in my shoes, where would you [00:04:00] focus in terms of … Where would you put all, for lack of a better word, all of your eggs in which basket to really focus on? To really take advantage of the other 167 hours versus just that one hour on Sunday. And then the second thing I’d like to talk about, and maybe this could be the second half, would be how to really take advantage of social media when it comes to advertising. So [00:04:30] twofold and I know it’s probably a lot to try to jam into one hour. But that’s kind of where my head is at as far as how to really utilize our time here together.

Brady: Perfect. Well I think when it comes to the size of your church, the first thing that you want to do is kind of take inventory of all the communication channels that you are working on, that you are investing in and figure out what here is waste? Because when you’re a church with limited resources, and every church, but when you’re in your position [00:05:00] the worst thing that you can do is, sounds like you’re already doing, which is spread your already limited resources thin across a variety of different channels. And especially when you’re in the position where your church is, maybe you don’t have someone that’s dedicated to communications that’s done it for a really long time, and so you’re put in charge of it or someone else is put in charge of it.

And then what you’re doing is you’re just kind of like, the carrot and the horse or whatever metaphor that is where basically there’s something in front of you that you think is going to solve the communications problem, or the growth problem, or the [00:05:30] media problem, and you so go for it and so that doesn’t work. And so you go, “Okay. Well let’s try something else,” and then you go for that. And then inevitably you’ve got a bunch of different things that none of them are working but you’re trying to maintain all of them. So let’s talk first about the communication channels that you’re already using. Obviously you have a website.

Eric: [inaudible 00:05:46] We got a website.

Brady: You got Facebook and Instagram?

Eric: Yes. Yes.

Brady: Anything else on social?

Eric: So we do have … So our youth group they also [00:06:00] have their social media as well. So they have their … So different ministries within the church also have their social media platforms like an Instagram or a Facebook. And those are also advertised on our website, but just the church itself. So we do have our website, we do have the Instagram, and we do have the Facebook.

Brady: How many other ministries have their own social accounts beyond the student ministry?

Eric: Just two. So it’s the student ministry, and our singles [00:06:30] ministry.

Brady: Okay. And do each of them have their own … Do they each have their own service beyond the Sunday morning?

Eric: They do. So the youth, the student ministry they meet on Thursdays, and then the singles ministry they meet on Saturdays.

Brady: And is that like an actual service or is it just like a meetup? Like I imagine the youth ministry is like an actual service. What about the singles one?

Eric: Yeah, the singles is more like a meetup, or kind of like a hangout type thing.

Brady: Is there a reason why the singles ministry have their own social account and [00:07:00] another ministry wouldn’t like the men’s ministry or women’s or kid’s, something like that?

Eric: Actually you know what? That reminds me. This just launched our men’s ministry also has their Instagram page as well. As well as Facebook.

Brady: Interesting. We usually use a general rule of thumb that unless you’re ministry has it’s own actual worship service aside from the Sunday morning, there’s really no reason to have a variety of different social accounts. Especially because a church of this small … [00:07:30] I mean it sounds like you’ve got one, two, three, four, five, six different social accounts, maybe more, there’s no reason for an organization of just 150 people to need that. And who’s in charge of these other social accounts? Are you in charge of all of them, or is the men’s ministry in charge of the men’s social accounts?

Eric: Right right. So yes our men’s director he’s in charge of the men’s social accounts. Our student ministry director he’s in charge of his accounts. And then the singles group they have somebody dedicated who [00:08:00] basically will run their account.

Brady: And is there any type of brand guideline or accepted use when it comes to social media and what’s expected of these accounts?

Eric: You know, right no. And you know I run the church accounts and I obviously I follow a lot of your stuff and whatnot, and so I do try to have certain guidelines by which we post. Unfortunately I don’t run those other accounts so there is no set [00:08:30] standard, guideline by which they post. I would like there to be. But I think just what you’re saying, it doesn’t really make sense to have those other accounts. I just never thought about it that way.

Brady: The way that we like to say it is, “You want to be a branded house, not be a house of brands.” And like you said, the men’s ministry just opened up their social account. And so what happens when the women’s ministry feels like they need theirs? And then the kid’s ministry wants [00:09:00] theirs. And then the senior ministry wants theirs. And suddenly now you’ve got a dozen different social account pages for a church of just 150 people, and there’s also no cohesion, no consistency, no common goals or strategy across any of the accounts. I mean most churches can’t even handle a single social account, like their main Facebook page, and do it well. And to expect a church of really any size to have that many different accounts is difficult. Especially when they’re public accounts.

Now if you want [00:09:30] to transition these ministries into having a private Facebook group, a private text thread, a private slack channel, a private email thread, that’s something that can be explored. But to have a public page for that, it’s just going to be confusing for your existing church and it can be confusing to any new potential visitors as well. And like I said at the beginning of kind of this thread that we’re pulling at right now, you want to consolidate as much of the channels that you’re using currently to communicate. Because when you have limited resources, [00:10:00] it makes sense to consolidate and only focus on the select number of things that are really going to push the needle forward and give you positive ROI. Right?

So it’d be like if you were starting a business and you could only work on the business two hours a day, you would want to make sure that those two hours were dedicated to the most important things to growing the business. Right? So you’d focus on sales, you’d focus on product, you’d focus on actual communication with real customers. Maybe you wouldn’t spend those two hours every single day [00:10:30] perfecting the website and making sure that the fonts are just perfect because you don’t really have the luxury to focus on that. Same thing comes to this arena of communication. There’s no reason for you to have all these different channels and try to maintain all of them and maybe what happens when someone posts something that you’re like, “We really shouldn’t post something like that on social media,” and then you need to kind of keep an eye on it. That shouldn’t be something that you have to worry about, something the pastor has to worry about. And suddenly this is how things can get out of control.

We’re only at the website and social right now and we’ve already [00:11:00] found a way to consolidate. We haven’t even got to app, bulletin, telephone numbers, texting. There’s so many other things that we’re going to cover after this, and so I think one of the first things that you can do is consolidate on social. What kind of pushback are you going to receive from that? Or how can we formulate a plan to actually execute on it and not just talk about why it’s important?

Eric: That’s the thing. And I guess that’s what I’m thinking of. I don’t think we’ll necessarily receive too much pushback. I guess more [00:11:30] so just, “Why? What’s the big deal,” kind of attitude. We’ll run the accounters, we’ll post whatever we have to post to promote our ministry what have you, but yeah I think if we were to bring it across in a sense that, “Hey we want to keep everything branded across the board,” then I think that makes sense. I think that makes more sense and that they’ll also see it that way as well if I bring it to them the right way.

Brady: [00:12:00] Yeah. And one thing I would recommend is offering a substitute. Right? So if you feel like a public Facebook page is just not the way to go, which I would recommend, you could transition that into a private Facebook group. Now they feel like they have their own thing, and it’s going to make so much more sense. Like this is a group. It is a ministry. It is a group of people. Having a Facebook group is the perfect way to accommodate that online. Having a public Facebook page where you get likes, and single admin is posting [00:12:30] stuff and then people are liking, and they don’t have the ability to post themselves, that makes no sense.

The whole point of a group within a men’s ministry is to have fellowshipping and two-way communication. But a Facebook page doesn’t allow that. Someone can’t just post something on a Facebook page if they’re part of a group. Not unless they’re an admin. And so it really just doesn’t make sense even when it comes to the structure of that social media Facebook page. So I would recommend transitioning to a group and just explain it that way. Like that’s one easy way to explain to people that aren’t going to maybe understand the nuances and details and strategies of a social media [00:13:00] communication outfit.

But what you can do instead is be like, “Look. The whole point of a men’s ministry is to have dialogue and to have real community and fellowship.” Right? That’s what you’re trying to do. That’s why you’re having men get together in real life. Well it makes no sense to have a Facebook page because all you’re doing is posting about the men’s group. You’re not actually facilitating fellowship and communication. “How often do you meet men’s group? Once a month? Even if it was once a week, it’s probably only for an hour. What if you could have a Facebook group where everyone could communicate men’s group as a whole every single day? That’s what a Facebook group allows. [00:13:30] It just makes no sense to have a Facebook page for a group like that.”

Eric: Right. And now that you mention it, I know that we do have already a texting thread. I think we use text in church. And I mean I receive … All the time we’ll receive messages from the men’s director that he’ll text everybody through there. And so basically he’ll give us the same information that he might post about on his Instagram page for the ministry. So I think that just makes more sense.

Brady: So the men’s ministry has a Facebook page.

Eric: [00:14:00] Yes.

Brady: They have an Instagram account.

Eric: Yes.

Brady: They have a texting thread.

Eric: Yes.

Brady: How many people are in this group? 10,000?

Eric: I would say about 25, 30.

Brady: 25, 30 people. They’re on Facebook, they’re on Instagram, they’re on text. This is obscene. Think about all the wasted resources here that could be spent elsewhere.

Eric: Right. Well I mean the text in church we use it. It’s not just for the men’s ministry. We use it for the [crosstalk 00:14:29] [00:14:30] Followup and everything else, and there’s just … They use a portion of it as well. But yeah. I mean it makes sense. I think that, like you said, those resources could be used elsewhere definitely.

Brady: And this would be a simple question to the men’s director if he’s a bit stubborn about it. Be like, “Look. You have a texting thread for 25 people. Why in the world do you also need a Facebook page? What is it giving you that is different than what the text thread is going to give you?” And if the answer is just, “Well maybe different [00:15:00] people will see it.” That’s not a good enough reason. You actually have to have an actual strategic purpose for having a Facebook page. Otherwise … And it all starts from this idea, this thesis which is how you started this call. It’s like, “We’re working with limited resources.” We can’t just have every single ministry and every single person … Even our church has a hole.

I was going to start this by saying, “What are you doing on Facebook and Instagram? Before jumping into Instagram just focus on a single Facebook page. Your whole church, just one page, and figure out how to make that work [00:15:30] and then you can begin branching off into other things.” And so this is like a much more complicated and interwoven web of complexity that I think that we can begin to untie. This is like when you pull iPhone headphones out of your backpack, and you’re like, “Well this is going to take 40 minutes to get these untangled.” And that’s why I wear AirPods now. Much nicer. But we need to begin untangling this web, and so I think the biggest way to make the change is to offer substitutes. Don’t just go in and be like, “Your page sucks and I hate it, so we’re going to delete it.”

[00:16:00] Talk about the goals that they have as a ministry. “What are you trying to accomplish? Okay, so you want to have interaction and dialogue online, and you also want to be able to get information out when needed. Great. Well we’re using this church-wide text in church account. Good people over at text in church are helping us out with that.” So you now have, what I would consider the best way to get information, announcements out to a small group of people. Text in church would be the perfect option for that. Especially since you’re already using it.

“Well that’s not probably going [00:16:30] to solve the dialogue side of it. So how are we going to facilitate that online because we really do care about that? Great. That’s a separate thing. So maybe text in church allows for that. Maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, let’s consider a Facebook group. Most people of this 25 person men’s group are going to be on Facebook more that Instagram, unless they’re exceptionally young. So let’s use a Facebook group to facilitate this, but a public Facebook page we can nix that. We can get rid of this Instagram account unless, again, everybody’s on Instagram.”

But [00:17:00] having an Instagram account for 25 people just doesn’t make any sense. That’s what you should use the group for. If you’re sharing photos, you don’t need to share it with the world. You can just share it in the private group. And every time a new man comes to the group, he can get added to the private Facebook group. And now he feels like he’s part of the club, and this is again helping with the growth of the group and the feeling of inclusion and it’s a tight knit bond. It’s not just, “We’re trying to grow this men’s group throughout all of Chicago with this public Facebook page. [00:17:30] But we only have 25 people.” It’s kind of backwards.

So not to harp too much on a single group, but I think the first step into saving your time, money, and creative energy, and volunteer resources is to consolidate as much as you possibly can with all of these different social accounts. And the best way to do that is to offer a substitute, and then really to get to the root of the why behind why these pages, why these accounts, why these strategic communication channels exist. And then kind of pair them with the why. [00:18:00] So like, “Okay why does this exist?” And if there’s not a really strong, unique reason for each, then you can just nix them or consolidate them into one. Because like I said, you’ve only got two hours to work on your business everyday.

If you’ve only got 30 minutes to get in the gym every single day or three times a week, you’re not going to spend that just sitting and like wiping down your chair, and taking a bunch of sips of your protein drink, and flexing in the mirror and to walking around talking with people. “Oh hey Janet. Oh I [00:18:30] see you’re doing legs again. How are the kids?” You got 30 minutes. Lift some weights. So …

So we’re officially into the fall weather, and one of the elements of fall that I absolutely love, especially when it comes to filmmaking, is the fog. It’s the changing of the seasons and usually September, October, it’s like the perfect time for fog to be around every morning which means you can capture some stunning videography. And so that’s what we did one [00:19:00] morning pretty recently. Two of the guys, Alex and Brandon, headed out early in the morning, 5:00 AM, 6:00 AM, found their spot to film. They brought along their drone, the DJI Inspire 2 5k raw flying through the air, and they were planning anyway on shooting some amazing fog.

And what happened was they realized that it’s sometimes difficult to capture fog from an aerial vantage point. And they were going through, and trying to find some scenes that were going to work. Trying to frame the camera in just the right way. [00:19:30] And eventually they just decided, “Okay, you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to fly straight up into this fog and see what happens.” The problem was that they actually flew up above the fog, and well I’ll let you listen and hear what happened next.

Speaker 3: All right. Up above the fog.

Speaker 4: I can’t even see where we [00:20:00] are.

Speaker 3: Oh.

Speaker 4: Oh my gosh. Okay. Keep that height.

Speaker 3: Yeah.

Speaker 4: Face the sun. We’re going to fly towards the sun. We didn’t do that last time.

Speaker 3: For all we know this is out the window of an intercontinental jet right now.

Speaker 4: Oh yeah. Dude, this is how they film commercials.

Speaker 3: Totally. Or we think they’re actually above the clouds.

Speaker 4: Yeah.

Brady: So as you can hear, essentially what happened was because the fog was so [00:20:30] thick, by the time that the drone had ascended above the fog it actually looked like an entire sea of clouds. Basically the same look that you’d get looking out an airplane window 30,000 feet in the air. That was what they were able to accomplish which is spectacular. And if you want to see the footage, you can just head to the Story Tape Instagram account @storytape on Instagram. You can scroll through some of our archives, and you should be able to track down a little compilation that we put together of the footage that we shot on this day on that foggy morning. And [00:21:00] of course, if you’re unaware, StoryTape.com. It’s our stock video platform.

So all of the footage that Brandon and Alex shot that morning that you can see on our Instagram account, that footage is available to you along with more than 5,000 other cinematic, 4k pro-res clips. Story Tape is launching in November, so not only are we launching with 5,000 clips in our database already, but every month we’re going to be adding 1,000 new clips and what’s amazing is that instead of paying per clip you get access to every single clip [00:21:30] on our unlimited subscription. And the cost of that unlimited subscription is less than what you’ll pay on one of the big stock video sites for just a single, 4k video clip.

It changes everything and you can get on the launch list at StoryTape.com, which means you’ll be the first to know when we launch in November, and by being on that launch list, you’ll also get a lifetime discount code when we launch available to you. So again, head over to StoryTape.com, join the launch list as we get forward towards our launch of the Story Tape platform [00:22:00] happening in November.

Eric: Let me ask you this then. Let’s say we did consolidate their pages. Would it be wise, or maybe … Would we promote or advertise the main Facebook church page, or the main Instagram page for the men’s ministry, on behalf of the men’s ministry when [00:22:30] they had something coming up? Or would we just leave that to the Facebook group?

Brady: I don’t like to use social media for announcements too often. I like to use the main social page as 80% story telling, 80% accomplishing the mission of the church online, and then use 20% of the post to actually promote live events. But even you mentioned, the 167 hours. What we’re doing on social should be so much more than going to where [00:23:00] people are, and trying to get them to come to our live events. Like that’s just a backward way of using social. How do we use social? We use it to be relational, to be entertained, and yes to be informative. But mostly the informative, entertainment, the relational, it all comes to down to social media is valuable to us. And if a church is using social media in the majority to just say, “Hey, come to this live event that we have going on,” whether that’s a service or a ministry, or an event, whatever it might be, how is that valuable to someone [00:23:30] who’s scrolling through their feed?

Now if you post a quote post about marriage, parenting, finances, hope, purpose, community, and it offers value on its own, now that’s the way social media should be used. And we’ve got this great post that’s going live tomorrow. Seven Social Media Templates That You Can Use for Your Church, and it’s like, “Here’s seven exact concepts and ideas that are valuable on their own. And here’s how to actually post on social media in a that’s valuable to the person that’s going to see it. That’s valuable [00:24:00] to your audience, not just saying, ‘Come see what we’re doing in real life.'” It’s just a backwards way of doing things.

It’d be like if you met someone … It’s like if you and I, Eric, we met in real life and I shook your hand and you Eric, you said to me, Brady, you said, “Hey so tell me about yourself. What do you do? Are you married, do you have kids, what do you do for work?” And I was like, “I would love to tell you Eric. If you come to my house at 10:30 AM on Sunday, we can chat about it.” “Okay weirdo, how about no. This is weird. We’re [00:24:30] right here. You’re here, I’m here, let’s talk about it now.” That’s what I mean when I say the 167 hours beyond your Sunday service. You have people’s attention. Instead of going to where they are, and then demanding they come back to you, go to where they are and stay there, and build a relationship, and be valuable. And yeah, you can promote your live events, but only do it about 20% of the time.

Like if you follow me on social Eric, what am I doing? Every single day I’m posting valuable stuff that at no point says, “Buy our stuff. Give us money.” [00:25:00] It’s just like, “Here’s a valuable Instagram post on its own. Here’s a free video that we made. Seven Social Media Templates.” At no point do I say, “If you want 20 more you got to give me money.” It’s just a valuable thing on its own. And what does that do? Over time it builds relationship. It positions me as a person of authority. And now we’re having a Skype call for an hour where you’re listening to my advice, all because you found me online because of the stuff I was posting on social, and on my website, [inaudible 00:25:26] in an search engine. Whatever it might be.

And so it all comes down to posting valuable [00:25:30] content. So if you’re going to take the … Let’s say you’re going to nix the men’s Facebook page, and then the question is, “Should we promote the men’s group, men’s events on Facebook now?” Well what I would say is if you want to spend that 20% of promotional time within your social posts, two out of every ten posts, one out of every five, if you want to use that one out every five posts to promote the men’s ministry great. But they already have a text thread. [00:26:00] And they already have a private Facebook group.

So how many men are going to see this on your Facebook page that aren’t a part of that text group, or Facebook group? One? Two? Is it worth it for just those people? I would say probably not.

Eric: Right. Yeah that makes sense. And I think that answers my question completely. And so then when it comes to … And I think I mentioned this in the beginning, and since we’re already on social media, I guess we could try and dive into this … [00:26:30] Because we want to be as effective as possible when it comes to our social media use. And something that we kind of looked at, but never really dived too deep into was when it comes to advertising. And whether it be using Facebook ads, or Instagram. But what would you say is an expected use, and how would you consult us? For someone who was looking at possibly getting involved in that [00:27:00] and utilizing that as a resource or as a way to advertise the church or whatever, or what have you?

What would be step one, step two, to at least getting in the right direction to doing something like that?

Brady: Well the first step is to make sure that your church is in a place where you’re able to receive new visitors, and adequately offer a great first impression, a great experience, and a great followup. And so how many new visitors [00:27:30] are you seeing in an average month right now?

Eric: Average month? I’d say maybe about 20, 25.

Brady: So that means if you’re a church of 150, 200 let’s say even, that means that every single year you could be … At least this year you could double in size from 200 to 450 if every single one of those new visitors stayed. So how often do new visitors actually become a recurring visitor and eventually an integrated member of the church community?

Eric: [00:28:00] Right now … I said we had 20 in a month, I’d say out of those 20 maybe two to three. Maybe five.

Brady: So what about your followup process is making it so that only 10% of people actually return a second time? Or what about your first impression that you’re making, or about that one hour experience on a Sunday morning, is poor enough that only 10% of the people that come want to come back? I would not, based on those numbers, and again there’s nothing wrong with this Eric. Your church, 150, 200 [00:28:30] in size, this is the perfect place for you to be right now. You’re asking the right questions, you’re diagnosing the correct problems.

So this is not an indictment on you, the pastor, or the church as a whole. And really, you being on this call is a great first step. So what I would do is before you start spending money in reaching into a cold audience that’s never heard of you and hoping to get them to come to your church, it would make no sense to do that before fixing what’s already broken. So there’s [00:29:00] a reason right now that we’re recording this. I don’t know when it’s going to get published. It might be different. But we’re recording this, and right now you can’t sign up for Nucleus if you’re not already a member.

And the reason is because it’s not ready to have new people sign up. We’ve got 1,000 charter churches in there, and these churches love us, and they’re helping us work on this product. But I’m not about to go and start selling Nucleus to people that have never heard of me because it’s just not at the place yet where it’s ready to be like publicly available permanently. In the same way, before [00:29:30] your church starts spending money on new people coming in, we’ve got to fix this problem where only 10% of the existing visitors that you have are coming back.

And so one of the best ways to do this is doing something that we call the secret shopper. And so basically you have someone that either you pay, or through an existing relationship comes to your church who’s never been there before, and all you’re asking is for them to make notes on a variety of different things that they see, hear, and experience on a Sunday morning. So you can ask them, “Okay. What was your first impression? [00:30:00] Give it a rating out of ten, and your comments. How difficult was it to figure out where to send your kids? How difficult was it to know what to expect? Was it awkward at all? Did you feel welcomed? What went well, what went poorly? What is an obvious, glaring, blind spot?”

And the key is to identify blind spots that you and I can’t see because we’re working in our churches every single day? We do this with the Nucleus product. We bring in third party designers, third party developers, and we ask them, “Okay. What’s working [00:30:30] right now and how can this better?” Not only that, but we ask our existing members all the time. So you can do this with your parishioners within your church already. Your existing congregation. What’s not working? What can be improved? And basically, before you start reaching out and doing paid ads and working on that funnel, fix what already is in place, improve what already exists so that when people are coming to your church you’re improving that 10% return rate. And even if it was [00:31:00] a 20% that would be huge. And maybe that’s the indicating number that you need to take a step into paid ads.

But there would be no … Especially because social advertising is hard for a a lot of pastors, and hard for a lot of churches because it seems untested and it definitely feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and maybe a waste. Here’s what’s going to happen. You put a bunch of money into social ads, let’s assume you have the perfect funnel which is already hard enough on its own. Let’s assume you get a great social funnel and you get a great social ads campaign. If [00:31:30] all of those people come and realize that the church experience just isn’t for them and it’s not that great, and there’s probably a reason why only 10% are returning, then what’s probably going to happen is rather than the church looking internally and saying, “Hm. What can we fix? Because obviously our social campaign was working well but people were not staying around. What’s wrong with what we’re already doing?” Nobody does that.

What we do is we look externally. And instead of placing the blame on ourselves, we place it elsewhere. “Ugh. Facebook ads, they just don’t work. [00:32:00] Obviously we’re never going to do social ads again. That was clearly a waste of time and money. What a joke that was.” And now you’ve ruined your chance at ever again diving into the most successful and most amazing advertising platform in both your and my lifetime, the Facebook ads platform, all because you didn’t fix the experience firsthand. And this is a really boring and not super fun solution and answer for you, but I’d like to say that I practice [00:32:30] what I preach. I would love nothing more that to be advertising, using Facebook ads right now, Nucleus and having new people sign up, and having onboarding new customers. But the product just isn’t where it needs to be to invite people that had never heard of us into it yet.

Just like your existing church is gracious with you because they’re already a part of it, Pro Church Nation is gracious with us. This is why we’re doing this paid beta. This is why we’re giving our existing churches a 50% lifetime discount because we know that it’s not going to be perfect for these first couple of months. But as we build [00:33:00] out Nucleus to where it needs to be, as we improve the platform, as it goes from basic and beautiful to robust and beautiful and become a mature platform, then we can transition into actually reaching out into cold audiences that have never heard of it and then begin onboarding new customers and growing in that respect. And this is just a basic growth and communication strategy that applies to a software product like Nucleus, or a church of 150 in Chicago like New Harvest.

Eric: Right. Right. And as you were talking there, I did some [00:33:30] fact checking on my … And I actually text our followup director, leader who actually runs our text in church. And so first timers it’s about five to eight. But with repeat visitors it can be anywhere from 15 to 20. But still to your point, even if we’re getting five to eight first timers, it doesn’t seem like we’re getting a lot of growth out of it. So we may have some repeat visitors, but I think our biggest struggle [00:34:00] area of growth has been retaining those and then converting them to members. Full-time members where this is their home church to then give us more resources.

And yeah, I think that’s a great idea. I’ve heard you say that before as far as the secret shopper, and I’ve worked in retial pretty much my whole working career, and I’ve dealt with many secret shoppers who would come to secret shop us or my employees. And [00:34:30] yeah, and I think that’s a great idea. You know I don’t think anyone’s ever really thought about doing it in a church setting. At least I know we haven’t. But I think it would really help us to uncover where our biggest areas of need are. Because if I think if you were to ask our visitors now, I think they would probably say, “Yeah everyone was friendly, was nice. We have a great first impression.” We give them a great first experience in the service. But I would like to know where are we missing it. Because obviously we’re missing it somewhere that we’re not able to really retain a lot of [00:35:00] these people that are coming and seeing us for the first time.

So yeah, I think that’s something that we’re going to have go and give a try. Trying that secret shopper, you know what have you, and seeing how that can help us to uncover some of these areas that we need to grow in.

Brady: Well just think about this, right? If you’re getting 20 to 25 new visitors every single month, [00:35:30] for a church of 150 to 200 that’s amazing. Most churches your size don’t have that luxury. Now it might be because you’re in an urban area where there’s a lot more people and so that naturally is a part of being in a large city like Chicago. And if that’s the case, I mean awesome. You got to take advantage of that luxury. But think, if you were able to boost that 5% to 20%, 25%, 50% suddenly at zero cost to you without [00:36:00] ever spending money on any social advertisements, suddenly you have your church growing every single month just by fixing that kind of churned backdoor problem of people coming in and then never returning.

You know how hard it is to come to a church for the first time? It’s not like your signing up for a free trial of some product online that costs you nothing. It costs a lot to get the family in the car, to wake up early on a Sunday, to drive out, to figure out [00:36:30] the parking, to figure out where do my kids go at this church, to sit in a new place where an existing culture is already accepted and familiar to everybody else but you feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar in an environment that’s already full of tension as religion can be. And then to have someone ask you to fill something out and take it to the connect desk, or put it in the offering bag, or fill it out online, it’s not going to be that difficult to get that person to followup and come a second time, because [00:37:00] it already took so much for them to come that first time.

The hardest thing that you’re ever going to have to figure out is getting people from aware of your church to actually stepping through the doors for the first time. That’s the hard part. Getting them to step through the doors for the second time, that’s a lot easier than the first time. It’s the reason why … The same works when it comes to business. Once you’ve paid for something once, it’s a lot easier to pay for something a second time. So let’s say you’re shopping on Amazon, and you’re like, “I need to buy …” I [00:37:30] bought this on Amazon yesterday. “I need to buy a new water dish for my dog.” So I’m Amazon, I’m playing with him in the backyard, I’m on my Amazon app and I add to cart that $5, or $10, or $20 dog dish, the water dish. And then Amazon says, “Hey, you might also like XYZ.”

It’s so much easier for me to spend more to buy a second thing because my brain is already like, “Well you already bought the first thing you might as well buy the second thing.” And once someone has already attended your church once, that’s a huge deal. And for them [00:38:00] to attend a second time is so much easier than for them to attend the first time. And so rather than again, go into a cold market, a market that’s unaware of you, an audience that’s never heard of you, and find a way, build a funnel to convince people to visit you the first time, you’ve got this huge, huge resource already that exists. People coming on their own. A warm audience that’s already aware of you. It’s already been. And if you just found a way to boost that 5% to 8%, double it, triple it, quadruple [00:38:30] it, that would be the biggest change in growth that you could ever see. And you spend zero dollars doing it.

Eric: Right. And I think too … I would say that in the last at least two years, we’ve made a huge shift in really focusing on the experience that we are giving our first timers. Because it is an experience. And like I said, we follow … We’re Pro Church Nation members and we follow [00:39:00] text in church, collaborate worship, so everything that can go into making or improving our service we’re constantly looking for the resources and trying to learn and to improve. And so we really dove deep into our followup process and what that looked like, and what type of system we had in place, and how can we improve that. And that’s when we invested into the [00:39:30] text in church, we improved our first timer visitor card that they’re filling out to include the three or four main fields so that we’re not asking for too much, but we’re getting just enough.

So we have improved immensely in that area over the last year and a half or so. Just giving that first timer the best experience possible. And so I have seen the gradual growth that we have made but now I think [00:40:00] that we need to try and focus ourselves in other areas outside of that. Maybe it’s the kid’s ministry, maybe it’s the student ministry. I’m not sure exactly where we’re missing it. But I think that putting something in place like that, really focusing on those who are coming and who are maybe either returning for a second time, and how we can really grab them.

One of the things that I’ve been looking into recently and really trying [00:40:30] to pitch and hopefully we can capitalize on something like this, is small groups. And so some years back we did have a version of small groups. They were called home groups, but they were basically the same thing where we met in several different houses and whatnot across different people who open up their homes within the church, and eight to ten people or what have you met there. But I’ve noticed one of the biggest trends or [00:41:00] one of the biggest ways to grow, what I can see at church is not always through the actual service where they come in and sit down and hear some worship. They get a message, they take their kids to class. But a lot of times it seems to be that the biggest area, the biggest opportunity to grow a church is through that small group, through that home group to where they have that relation with another human being.

And sometimes it’s easier for you to open up when you are in a smaller setting with other people [00:41:30] who … Where you can realize that, “Hey, they’re normal people just like I am.” And so we’ve kind of gotten away from that these past couple of years. And our church has been in a huge fundraising push. We’re looking to try and buy our building so … A lot of people are stretched in a lot of different areas. But as it stands right now, when it comes to our weekly schedule we have our Sunday services … We have two services. One’s in Spanish, one’s in English and then we have our Tuesday midweek service. [00:42:00] And then our Thursday’s when we have our student service. But aside from that, I feel like we could really capitalize on a small group whether we turn our Tuesday midweek into a small group, or add that in somewhere else in the week. But that’s kind of something that I’ve seen that I think could really help us to solve this problem. But what do you think? What are your thoughts on that?

Brady: Yeah I think small groups are one of the most important parts [00:42:30] of church, if not the most important part. Especially in a culture that’s shifting away from the majority of people just believing in the traditional evangelical view of the last 30, 40 years. People are going to belong before they believe, if you’ve ever heard. But it’s kind of classic saying right? It’s like, before people are going to actually buy into everything that your church is like, “This is what we believe. These are our doctrinal statements, these are the theological values that we hold dear.” [00:43:00] Before we ever get there, you’re going to have to really let people know that you care about them. And this is why community is one of the hugest things that churches can offer that so many other things in this life can’t.

All of the people, every single person that sitting on the other side of this wall … I’m in our recording studio right now, obviously recording this podcast. On the other side is eight of my closest friends, all of which I met through church. And now they work here because we met in a church, [00:43:30] became friends, it all started with that community. Same thing goes for my best friend who doesn’t work here. I met him at church. He’s a pastor at a church. And all of my other friends, we met through church because throughout my entire life, church has offered community that so many other things have not.

Even in high school it was harder for me to make friends. I was on the basketball team, so I has some sport friends, and then I started attending youth group and that’s where I made the first real friends I ever had as a teenager going through this awkward stage of trying to figure out, ” [00:44:00] Oh I’m becoming an adult but I’m still really awkward and I’m short, and oh I have pimples. It’s so scary. Oh, but then this church accepted me, and oh I met my wife here and life long friends were all here.” All because the church was able to offer community. And when I say the 167 hours beyond your Sunday service, small groups are a big part of that.

Having a place where you don’t have to just sit and listen to someone preach, where you have to listen to music, two things that used to be very unique to a live experience but now can be experienced through headphones at any single time [00:44:30] of the day. You can’t replicate community. There’s no social or online substitute for it. Social’s a great part of community, but there’s nothing like being with someone face to face, right?

Eric: Right.

Brady: And there’s nothing like having a group of people. There’s nothing like playing ping pong with your friends. There’s no social replicate for that. And you know when we get to mainstream VR, virtual reality, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. But right now at least, there’s no substitute for that. And so putting an emphasis [00:45:00] on that I think is absolutely an essential. A necessity and something that I think that you should begin to reintroduce because … There’s an adage that we use when it comes to the way that we do courses, and products online. You know a lot of times you’ll hear someone say, “Come for the course, stay for the community.”

Maybe you come for the service, you come for the preaching, you come for the music, whatever it might be you come because you think going to church on a Sunday is important. It’s just part of your [00:45:30] life or family tradition. But you stay for the community. I have become disenchanted with so many different churches and so many different ways of doing church and stuff like that, but I’ve never left those churches because of that, because the community was there. It didn’t matter if they weren’t singing songs that I wanted them to sing, or if the service was too short, or too long, or if the music was too quiet or too loud, or the stage design was too dull, the website was too old, or the preaching just wasn’t my style, or the theology didn’t match mine, because … None of that mattered because the people that I cared most [00:46:00] about in life were there. And there’s no substitute for that when it comes to building an integrated community of people that love each other, trust each other, and have each other’s backs.

Eric: And I think what you said there at the beginning, you know people want to belong before they’ll believe. It rings so true. For us, our tagline, if you visit our website or any of our pages is, “New Harbor Chicago, a place where you can belong.” You’ll see it everywhere, and we advertise it all over our church, our social [00:46:30] media, and that’s one of things that we always constantly reach … This is a place where you can belong. But I think that like you said, a big part of that outside of your Sunday service has to be those small groups to offer the community.

And it think one of the reasons why our student ministry is doing so well … I think we just barely hit like two years, and they have 40, 45 … Or 30, [00:47:00] 45 … 30, 40 strong attendees and they’re just growing every month. And every month they’re getting-

Brady: Huge for a church your size.

Eric: Right. And every month they’re getting visitors, and I would say maybe 45%, maybe even more don’t even … They’re families do not even attend our church. But they will faithfully go to the youth ministry. And a big part of it is because of the community that they’ve been able to create there. [00:47:30] It’s still a service, but they … There’s such a tight knit group and what they’ve been able to do with the student ministry, it’s all about that community. All about that community, and I’ve been there several times and observed their services, and that’s a huge part of it. And I think that’s something that maybe in our main services we’re missing out on is building that environment of community.

And so let me ask you this. Like I said, we have our midweek service, our Tuesday service which more functions [00:48:00] as a bible study. So there’s still full blown worship and what have you, and our host will come up and give [inaudible 00:48:06] and everything of that nature. And then we’ll have our sermon/bible study. But do you think that maybe it would better use of that time to either replace it with a small group, or maybe looking at another day? See when we did the small groups before, we did it on a Friday night. And I think that was one of the problems with the day that [00:48:30] we chose. Seemed like our rebel youth ministry, they’re called rebel youth, they … When they first started they were meeting on a Saturday night. And when they moved it to Thursday night they started to see a lot more growth.

And at first I thought, “Well Saturday’s better, they’re not in school. Everyone’s off. And dadada they can come.” But for some reason when they shifted it to Thursday night, they started to see more growth and more people coming. And more kids coming and I think that has [00:49:00] a lot to do with the fact that on Saturday you want to have your Saturday open to do whatever you want to do, go to the movies, or hang out at the mall, whatever you want to do. But Thursday night’s a school night, you’re not going to do much anyway, might as well, “Hey let me go to youth group and enjoy some time with my friends.”

So would you maybe suggest either replacing our Tuesday midweek service with a home group or a small group, or maybe looking at another day in the week? Or something like that?

Brady: I mean if you look at objectively [00:49:30] what you’re doing, you’ve got a Sunday service and a Tuesday service. Why do you need two services?

Eric: I … You know I think a lot of it has to do with … And I could be wrong in saying this, but I think sometimes churches can be under the assumption that the more services they have the more-

Brady: Absolutely. Churches always … We always think if we just add more, if we just do more then things will be better. [00:50:00] And that is a huge oversight because it doesn’t allow us to really be honest about what we’re currently doing and do what we’re already doing better. It’s a lot easier to just think, “You know I could be thin if I just had the right juicing recipe. Or if I just had the right supplement. Or if I could just take this pill, this would be what I need to actually lose weight and get that dream body that I’ve always wanted.”

No. No there’s no substitute for doing what you already know what you need to do. It’s not easy, but [00:50:30] it’s simple. It doesn’t have to be complex. And I agree, people think, “If we just add another service, that’s what’s going to make a big difference,” and that’s not to say additional services throughout the week are a bad thing. And for those listening that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying though is that if you don’t have an existing small group infrastructure, there’s no need to have a second service and use that as a replacement for that community. Because you’ve already got a Sunday service. And so what is different about the Tuesday than the Sunday?

You know churches will say, ” [00:51:00] Well we go deeper in the Word on a Tuesday.” [inaudible 00:51:02] Same thing. And again, if you already have a ton of infrastructure and you’re doing everything that you should be doing when it comes to community, and events, and kids, and students, and seniors, and singles, and men, and women, then maybe a second service is warranted. But if you don’t have small groups already, I would definitely recommend Tuesday night. It sounds like a great night. And there’s a reason why Friday and a Saturday can be tough for different events like that. And that’s because we’re all very busy people, and we fill in our weeknights with busy things.

We take our kids [00:51:30] to soccer, we take our kids to baseball, we go to yoga, we got to small groups. That’s one of the type of things that we would put in on a weeknight. And so replacing your Tuesday service, especially because you already have the existing ebbs and flow of people expecting to do a church thing on a Tuesday night, replacing that with a small group ministry would be great. I think that’s the perfect night to do it.

Eric: Right. And I was even thinking too, let’s say if we were to pitch to our leadership, to our pastor, and if that wouldn’t fly I [00:52:00] was even thinking about if we made on a Thursday night so that while the kids are at youth, then we can have our small groups, whatever small group they’re in, and then youth usually ends around 8:30, 9:00 anyway. Small group is done, go pick up the kids, and then we still utilize that Thursday where not only are the youth going to their quote unquote, “Small group,” with their service, and then the parents can also enjoy their small [00:52:30] group as well. If they did not want to nix that Tuesday service. Which I get the feeling that that’s probably what’s going to happen.

But I do think that that would be a better use of that time.

Brady: Yeah. You could couple them together. I’m not against that. That would definitely be worth an experiment.

Eric: Right. So doing it on a Thursday.

Brady: Yeah. And have it on the same day. It’s definitely worth checking out. Yeah. For sure.

Eric: Okay. And that’s one of the things too. Like I said, [00:53:00] my eyes are everywhere so I am constantly looking at what other ministries are doing. I’ve looked at the possibility of trying to incorporate some type of a team night. I know that that’s huge with Hill Song and what have you. But I don’t know if we’re ready for something like that yet. I don’t want to again put ourselves in another position to where we’re trying to do too much. But I’m trying to see how we can better utilize [00:53:30] our midweek time whether it is in a bible study setting, or if it’s somewhere in another setting where like a small group or doing it on a Thursday night as well.

And so what I think … Kind of what I’m getting from you as well, that that would probably be the best option is to really explore that small group whether it be on a Tuesday night or a Thursday night so we’re not only focusing on our Sunday service because that’s a lot of times what ends up happening in our Tuesday [00:54:00] service. If I’m honest as the worship director, as in oversees meeting and what have you, that becomes an after thought a lot of the times is our Tuesday service. We don’t get the same crowd. We’re half of the people who would come on a Sunday service. If we’re lucky we’ll be there on a Tuesday service. And a lot of times it just becomes an afterthought as far as the amount of production or the amount of time that we spend on producing that service versus our Sunday services which is game day when go all out. [00:54:30] So I think that this might be a better solution to that.

Brady: Well even think about just the conversation we’ve had over the last hour, and all of the different things we’ve talked about. Things that we can do, things that we could implement, things that we could add. Sounds like your church, like many others, has the compulsion like we talked about to just continue to add, do more, change this. And I would just really encourage you, we’ve got a bunch of different action steps that you can take after this whether it be consolidating your social media channels, implementing the small groups, [00:55:00] finding a way to get the men’s ministry to have a Facebook group and that substitution. There’s just so many things that we’ve talked about. Figuring out the secret shopper. What I would really encourage you to do is just focus on doing less, and focusing more on the things that really matter than continuing to add and do more, and really spread thin the limited resources that you already have.

And when I say the word spread thin, it makes me think of an awesome peanut butter and jam sandwich. It’s much better … If you only have [00:55:30] on tablespoon of peanut butter, I want to make sure I have a slice of bread that is the correct size to make sure that that peanut butter isn’t spread too thin. You know if I take that peanut butter and spread it across eight different slices of toast, well suddenly I just ruined. Nothing tastes good now. Its all gone bad. If I instead had taken that single tablespoon of peanut butter and spread it across just single slice of toast, it would have been all good. I didn’t have the resources to make eight slices of toast. I just didn’t. I had to be honest about [00:56:00] that and I just had to make the one good slice of toast. Does that make sense?

Eric: That makes total sense. Total sense.

Brady: Perfect. Well I think that’s a perfect place to leave off on our peanut butter and jam metaphor, analogy. Eric it’s been great chatting with you. I think you’ve got a lot of action steps that you can take from here and really implement to improve and the experience your church and also just build a more tight knit community which I think is what’s going to help with that returning visitor also. Everybody wants to be a part of a family. Everyone wants to feel like they can [00:56:30] belong like the tagline says on your website. So finding a way to accurately put that into place … You know it’s one thing to talk for the last hour, but now you got to execute and actually make things happen. All right.

Eric: Right.

Brady: Awesome.

Eric: I appreciated talking Brady. It’s been eye opening but helpful. Thank you.

Brady: I’ve had a blast Eric, so thanks.

Thanks for tuning in the Pro Church Podcast: Coaching Edition. My hope is that by hearing what’s happening behind the scenes in another church, you can see that no church has it all figured out and we’re all on this journey together. [00:57:00] To that end, if you have a question for me, the best way to get it answered is on our weekly question and answer show called the Ask Brady Show. You can submit your question to [email protected] Sending in a video question will put you immediately at the front of the line and you can watch every episode of Ask Brady at AskBrady.tv.