The 2017 Summit Brings Together Leaders for the Ultimate Church Growth Conference

Church leaders from all across the United States gathered last week at the Disneyland Hotel for a forward-looking conference designed to help attendees get a glimpse into best practices in church ministry, specifically relating to leadership, communication, and technology.

Summit included keynote messages by Chris Heaslip, John Maxwell, and Bob Goff, as well as sessions and question-and-answer sessions on leadership, communication, and technology.  
Here are a few of the key speakers and what they taught at Summit.

John Maxwell, The John Maxwell Group

John Maxwell led off the first evening of Summit with his signature wit and wisdom. He taught the leaders present about how to “see more” and “see before.” For more about what Maxwell taught, click here.

James Maiocco, Chief Business Development Officer of Pushpay

James Maiocco started the second day with a glimpse into the future of church technology by sharing lessons for the Church from global tech giant, Amazon. First, he described the company’s creation of Amazon Prime and how it helped to create loyal customers.

Amazon felt that shipping costs and time could inhibit book buyers so it created loyalty by lowering those barriers. “They trusted their instinct, and they knew if they removed these barriers, they would create such loyalty to the company that you wouldn’t go anywhere else,” Maiocco said.

He next focused on Amazon’s ability to use machine learning (along with geotargeting) to deliver the right products to customers at the right time and the right place. He connected that to churches learning to deliver spiritual content to people at the time they need it.

Maiocco also encouraged churches to further explore the potential partnership between artificial intelligence and Big Data. Pointing specifically to Amazon’s digital assistant devices, the Echo and the Dot, he described how churches could use artificial intelligence to help attendees prepare for worship.

“What if I walked into the kitchen Sunday morning and I say, ‘Hey, good morning, Alexa. Tell me again who’s preaching,’ and Alexa just gives me the rundown,” Maiocco said.  “Well, what if she actually said, ‘Hey, James, Betty Veltcamp in your neighborhood needs a ride. Can you confirm if you can give her one?’ ‘Yeah, absolutely, Alexa.’ And Alexa might tell me, ‘Hey, you need to leave 10 minutes early because the weather is bad.’”

“Again, this is all possible right now. No one’s unlocked it.”

Chris Heaslip, CEO and Co-founder of Pushpay

Chris Heaslip followed up Maiocco’s talk about the future of church technology with a strong focus on how technology impacts the church today. He organized his talk around three stories.
The first story centered on his own journey into discovering what God wanted him to do with his life. He described wanting to be an accountant as he grew up but struggling to understand how he could use that profession to bring glory to God.

“And so I challenged God,” Heaslip said. “I said, ‘God, if you want me to be an accountant, you need to prove it to me because I don’t think that I can serve you in accounting and do what you want me to do.’”

But God showed him that He can use accountants. “It doesn’t matter what I ask you to do,” God told Heaslip. “Your job is to be faithful.”

He described an early business effort to get Christian music into New Zealand retail stores. Through this experience, Heaslip said, he learned the importance of excellence and how often companies operating in the church space fall short in this respect. He challenged church leaders to take their tech efforts to the next level.

“Go and check out your website. Then go and check out Uber, and tell me which one you think is better,” Heaslip said. “Your website should be so good that if it wasn’t for a church, I would still want to go there and check it out. That’s the standard we have to set for ourselves.”
He then turned to the story of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press.

Gutenberg had a good, middle-class life before God called him to build a printing press. He started working on the idea on nights and weekends and kept his full-time job. He plugged away at the printing press in this manner for about 10 years before he began to doubt whether he’d be able to finish it in a part-time capacity. He then quit his job and focused on the printing press.

“But Gutenberg was driven by his mission,” Heaslip said. “He was called by God to do something no one had ever done before. So he branched out and he quit his job, and he went to work full-time trying to crack the code on this thing called the printing press.”

Eventually, Gutenberg ran out of money. An investor, Johann Faust, gave him some money to help him continue this dream of building a printing press. Seven years after he met Faust, Gutenberg finally “cracked the code” to the printing press. He noted that the printing press then changed the world, rushing millions of books into Europe.  

Heaslip had four points related to the four main parties in the story:

  1. The entrepreneur. The church needs to support entrepreneurs like Gutenberg who are starting innovative initiatives for the church.
  2. The investors. It takes resources to make innovation happen. The church will not be able to break new ground in technology without investors.
  3. The church. The church was the primary beneficiary of Gutenberg’s invention. We’ll be a major beneficiary of future innovation as well. The church needs to support that innovative work.
  4. The culture. The world benefited from Gutenberg’s printing press, not just the church.

Heaslip then noted that a “change in tools proceeds a reformation.”

The final story Heaslip focused upon dealt with the start of Pushpay. Just like Gutenberg, people thought Heaslip and his partner, Eliot Crowther, were crazy when they quit their jobs to start a technology company in the church space. But they kept going because they believed God had called them to it.

When it comes to software for the church, it’s all about reaching people, he added. He noted that the church must move from seeing software as an internal tool that organizes members to an outward-facing tool that helps them engage with our churches.

And mobile is the key to that.   

“Any church that is not engaging with members through a mobile phone will be in decline,” Heaslip said. “Mobile is that big of a game-changer for us, as the church. And, like the printing press, we have to embrace it. Not just embrace it, we need to lead with it.”

Kevin Gerald, Lead and Founding Pastor of Champions Centre Church

Kevin Gerald used the text of Joshua 6 to share about “What Great Leaders Do.” He pointed out four actions from the passage.

  1. Visualization. You have to be able to see what is not yet reality.
    “While other people focus on what they fear, the best leaders focus on what they see rather than on what they may fear,”  Gerald said.
    He mentioned how he and his wife and another couple would regularly go to one of the best restaurants in town not long after moving to the northwest. They couldn’t afford to eat there, but they’d have desert and dream about their church.
    Gerald would say, “I just want to see God’s church be attractive. I want to see God’s church built well. I want to see people want to come, and when they come they get lifted in their spirit. I want to see us be able to afford to do something significant rather than having our backs against the wall and barely getting by.”
  2. Role identification. The better people understand their roles, the better they fulfill those roles. He described his church’s “team church” philosophy, which centers on the belief that church ministry is meant to be done as a team. Different people, he says, play different roles with one goal. 
  3. Clear communication. Absence of clarity can have major consequences on the church. Gerald said lack of clarity in communication can lead to the pastor’s passion differing from the mission of the church, the communication differing depending upon who is speaking, a lack of collaboration, and a contradictory culture.
  4. Unreasonable expectations. Leaders refuse to accept reasonable expectations of God. Gerard noted how Joshua led with a vision that believed the impossible could happen.
    “We’re in the God business, and God can do things that man cannot do,” Gerard said. “And when we do our part, God can do exceeding and abundantly above all that we even ask or think.”

Larry Hubatka, Online Pastor at Elevation Church

Larry Hubatka covered a number of points dealing with a church’s online presence during his session at Summit. Here are a few of them:

  1. You need to pay attention to the routines of those you want to reach. Hubatka described his own routine of listening to a favorite sports podcast for half an hour each day as he commutes. If churches don’t pay attention to the rhythms of those they want to reach, they won’t communicate well with them.
  2. There’s a massive difference between reach and influence. Reach can be a vanity stat for digital teams in churches. Churches need to focus on making a difference not just getting the message out to more and more people.
  3. You need to know what’s important to the people you’re trying to reach. Hubatka encouraged churches to develop personas so they know the motivations of the people they’re trying to reach. If you don’t know who they are, you’ll soon not know why you’re creating what you’re creating, he says.
  4. Your digital presence must take into consideration the entire evolution of online engagement. Hubatka said Elevation focuses primarily on four digital areastheir website, their mobile app, Facebook, and YouTube.    
  5. Your church can learn to target its content toward attendees. Hubatka also described how Elevation uses its website and mobile app to collect information about attendees and target its communication based on that information.  

Bob Goff, Lawyer and Author

Bob Goff concluded Summit with an encouraging message that urged attendees to be sources of encouragement for others. Throughout his talk, he told many storieshumorous, serious, and poignant ones.

He told attendees to speak into other people’s lives by helping them see who they can become, to give them a vision for what their lives might look like. He tied this truth to how God the Father and Jesus spoke to Peter (“You’re a rock”), Noah (“You’re a sailor”), Sarah (“You’re a mother”).

“You need to see who people are becoming and talk about it constantly,” Goff said.
Goff then went on to tell attendees that many churches spend so much time and effort pointing out what they’re against that they block people from seeing Jesus.

“We’re not a bunch of sheriffs,” Goff said. “We’re not parole officers; we’re not to bust everybody. The beautiful thing about being right…if you actually know what scripture says, then you know you’re right. You don’t have to burn down other people’s opinions. It doesn’t make you right; it makes you an arsonist.”

Goff warned the church leaders in attendance not to make ministry all about them by being either the hero or the victim.

“If we make it all about us, it will never be about Jesus,” Goff said. 

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