Friends and Links

Join me at Rethink Leadership on April 26-27 in Atlanta

For the last 20 years I've been involved with events and conferences. Putting them on, producing them, attending, creating, and ultimately being impacted by them.

One of the things about conferences that is incredibly helpful, but hard to create is a peer to peer learning environment. An environment where the experts are not just on the stage, but actually in the seats next to you and at the tables around you. 

That's one of the many reasons I'm excited about Rethink Leadership, a gathering for senior pastors, lead pastors, and executive pastors happening next month in Atlanta on April 26-28. 

I'm helping curate this event along with Carey Nieuwhof and Reggie Joiner, and if you're in a leadership position in the local church or a non profit, this gathering is for you and you're invited! 

If you haven't registered for Rethink Leadership yet, please do so now!

TODAY, Thursday, March 16, is the last day you can get early bird pricing, but your registration also gets you into a pre-event reception Tuesday night.

Then over the next two days, you'll get a chance to interact not only with 600 other leaders from across the US and the around the world, but with world class leaders like Bob Goff, Reggie Joiner, Jon Acuff, Les McKeown, Jeff Henderson, Kara Powell, Dan Reiland, Geoff Surratt, Danielle Strickland, Carlos Whittaker, Clay Scroggins and more. We'll have main stage sessions, but also affinity conversations where the crowds are smaller and your questions get answered. 

So if you haven't locked down your spot at Rethink Leadership yet, do so NOW!

Look forward to seeing you in Atlanta next month!

15 New Books I Recommend

It's the end of the year. And this is probably more than you can read over the Christmas holiday, but wanted to provide my current top 15 list of new books I recommend you read. In no particular order:

1. Team of Teams - Stanley McChrystal 

2. How's Your Soul? - Judah Smith

3. Designed to Lead - Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck 

4. Tools of Titans - Tim Ferriss

5. Originals - Adam Grant 

6. Grit - Angela Duckworth 

7. Smarter, Faster, Better - Charles Duhigg

8. When You, Then God - Rusty George 

9. The Content Trap - Bharat Anand

10. Present Over Perfect - Shauna Niequist 

11. The Ideal Team Player - Patrick Lencioni

12. TED Talks - Chris Anderson 

13. Shoe Dog - Phil Knight

14. Living Forward - Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy

15. #AskGaryVee - Gary Vaynerchuk

BONUS: Thomas Friedman's new book Thank You for Being Late

The Unreasonable Power of Discipleship and Community- guest post from Rich Birch

Here's a guest post from Rich Birch, the author of a new book entitled Unreasonable Churches. If you don't know Rich, he's been involved in church leadership for over 20 years. He also blogs and podcasts weekly at

How Pursuing Discipleship Created an Unreasonable Church that’s Reaching Disney Employees

Journalist Shane Snow surveyed 3,000 people with this question: “Who would you trust more as your leader? J.K. Rowling or Queen Elizabeth?” The vast majority would rather follow the storyteller than the world leader. The famous proverb reveals why: “Those who tell the stories rule the world.” This saying, attributed to Plato and to native Americans, describes why the most established story-telling juggernaut in the world, the Disney Corporation, continues to cause parents everywhere to hear “Let It Go” 35 times a day.

Stories are ultimately about people, with all the trials and victories that people blunder through. The storytellers themselves immerse their lives into their stories; just like the characters of their stories, they wander down life’s unknown paths with doubts and fears. Who will reach these storytellers with the greatest Story of all? Only an unreasonable church!

A New Testament Church

Cast Member Church—one church with three locations in Orlando, FL and Anaheim and Burbank, CA—is one of the most unique churches in North America. Steven Barr launched and pastors the church along with leaders at all three locations throughout the week. The focus and vision of Cast Member Church is to bring a Kingdom influence to every corner of The Walt Disney Company—the largest media company in the world. The Walt Disney Company employs over 100,000 people in all of its facilities, and the majority of the Cast Members do not attend church anywhere, nor are they Christians.

Cast Member Church gets its name from the title which the Disney Company gives to its employees. No matter what job they have at the parks and resorts, the workers are all called “cast members.” Every employee has a role to play.

Pastor Steven had worked as a cast member for a season, and during that time, he thought, “It would be great if there was a church just for cast members.” He had forgotten about this thought, but it came back to lead him to this one-of-a-kind ministry. Pastor Steven set out to reach cast members with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he certainly had some obstacles ahead of him.

As he began efforts to establish the Cast Member Church, Pastor Steven spent several weeks meeting with church leaders in Orlando. He was trying to figure out what had worked and what had not worked from established churches trying to reach out to the employees at Disney. All he heard was horror stories of churches trying and failing. This group of people was so diverse and different. He quickly found that a typical church model was not going to work.

In prayer, he decided to go back to the Bible to figure out what kind of ministry he should do to reach out the cast members at Disney World. He asked the question, “How did it work in the New Testament?” He studied the book of Acts and how the Lord grew the infant church. As he studied the Scriptures, he recalled what author Mike Breen said, “If you plant churches, you might get disciples, but if you make disciples, you always get the church.”[1]

A Micro-Church of Disciples

So, to birth the unique Cast Member Church, Pastor Steven did it the old fashioned way. Trusting the truth of Scripture, his plan was to make disciples instead of planting a church for the cast members. He began this effort of unreasonable discipleship believing that as he made disciples, God would take care of the church. Pastor Steven began to gather a group of young cast members whom he taught, mentored, and discipled. These disciples, in turn, began to gather a group of people around themselves whom they also discipled. They named this network of groups, CommuniDs (D for Disney, or also for Discipleship).

To continue the growth of the Cast Member Church, Pastor Steven began to enter the parks as a guest on an annual pass (Disney doesn’t pay him, and he is not endorsed by Disney World). He connected with cast members at the Disney parks and hotels, as a paying guest, and engaged them in conversation. As cast members showed interest in the unique ministry, Pastor Steven invited them to the CommuniD groups.

The CommuniDs are “micro churches” of four or five cast members that meet at all kinds of times and places, mostly in hotels where the cast members can find a small quiet space. Some of them meet online. The CommuniD also functions as a family element, providing a secure relationship in which it’s safe to share questions and doubts. Once a month, all the CommuniDs come together for a time of extended worship, prayer, and fellowship. Pastor Steven is constantly working to grow the network and expand the reach of the micro-church concept.

Every new group is introduced to Life Beyond Imagination, which Pastor Steven developed. Life Beyond Imagination is a process which provides a way to share about Jesus without having the conversation shut down before the gospel even comes up. Pastor Steven discovered early on that if he told cast members that he was a pastor, or talked about Jesus, then the conversation quickly ended. But alternatively, he found that cast members were very interested in talking about their purpose, and Life Beyond Imagination uses that route to introduce the gospel.

The series of conversations use “Disney speak” to talk about finding their purpose in ways that the cast members relate to, using words such as “dream,” “quest,” and “story” to help them understand the significance of God’s Word and His gospel in their lives. Cast members at Disney World often have these questions floating around in their heads: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Where am I going?” “What does it even matter?” These issues open up the opportunity to share their purpose in Christ. In the process of introducing Christ, the lessons teach that each cast member has a purpose, but they have been separated from the One that gave them purpose. At their micro-church meetings, group leaders work with their CommuniD groups through this process of understanding their purpose in life and how the gospel of Jesus Christ relates to them.

To read more about Cast Member Church and stories of other UNREASONABLE CHURCHES, visit


Rich Birch has been involved in church leadership for over 20 years. Early on he had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,500 people in 6 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, as well as on the Lead Team at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing communities of New Jersey.

Rich speaks at conferences like Orange, WFX and various regional multisite church events. He's a featured writer on Auxano’s Vision Room, and MinistryBriefing. He's honored to blog and podcast weekly at

Rich is married to Christine and together they parent two wonderful teens, Haley and Hunter. Collectively they try to keep their dog, Rory, from chewing everything that lands on the floor.

New Research from Fuller Youth Institute- An Interview with Kara Powell about the new book Growing Young

Today the new book Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church, releases nationwide. This is a great book and one I highly recommend! 

I had the privilege of serving on an advisory council the last couple of years with Fuller Youth Institute and watched first hand this research come together and the entire project unfold. 

I also asked Kara Powell, co-author of the book, to answer a few questions related to the new book and the project overall. 

We keep hearing that young people are leaving the church and Christianity in droves. Is it true, and what can we do about it?

You’re right, we do hear a lot of doom and gloom about young people leaving the church, and much of that is true. Church attendance is declining overall. Recently the share of US adults who identify as Christian dropped from 78 to 71 percent. No major denomination is growing. Further, 18-29-year-olds make up nearly 20 percent of the US population but only 10 percent of church attenders. Taken together, this can seem like a pretty bleak forecast.

But in the midst of this storm, Jake Mulder, Brad Griffin and I wanted to study the bright spots. The exemplary churches doing remarkable work with high school, college-age and emerging adult young people. We studied over 250 churches—of all sizes, ethnicities, and denominations—all across the country. What we found was both surprising and hopeful.

Based on our team’s 10,000 pages of data and 10,000 hours of research, we’ve identified six core commitments held in common by churches that don’t age or shrink, but grow, and grow young.


That sounds like good news, and a positive sign for the overall Church. What are a couple of highlights from the research?

Well, some of the biggest highlights were what we didn’t find in those 6 core commitments. It turns out that reaching young people is not primarily done through a specific worship style. Or a great facility. Or a big budget. Or being a particular size. Or designing super-entertaining ministry programs. Reaching young people goes much deeper. It’s much more about the heart of what it means to be the church. That’s why we call these six strategies “core” commitments.

For example, the power of relational warmth surprised us across the study. The top way young people described their churches was by using the phrase, “like family.” They talked about “being real” and “being myself here.” What they didn’t talk about was how cool or hip their church may (or may not) have been. Sure, some churches were pretty cool, but what we learned from young people is that warm is the new cool. Experiencing a welcoming community that’s like a family turns out to matter more.


What’s one practical step a leader could take this week to help their church grow young?

Talk to a young person! Set up a meeting over coffee to listen to their hopes, dreams, and concerns when it comes to their lives in general as well as what’s going on in your church specifically. We find that when leaders don’t assume what young people want, but instead ask good questions and listen well, they save their churches from creating well-intentioned programs that end up distancing young people even more. Often what young people need most from churches is not a new program, but a renewed point of view. 

This could actually lift your whole church. One of the great findings of our study is that as churches engage young people, the entire church benefits. New vitality. More passion. More innovation. As one leader put it, “Everybody rises when you focus on young people.” That’s good news for the church. That’s what it means to grow young.


Thanks Kara, Brad and Jake for the countless hours you put into writing this book! It's a gift to the Church as well as leaders everywhere. 

Find out more and order Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church today at

10 Tips for Conducting a Great Interview

Here are a few tips for conducting a great interview. 

1. Do your homework. You would be amazed how many people show up to do an interview and have no clue about who they are interviewing, and just try to wing it. It shows. Believe me.

2. Ask the question behind the question. Get under the surface. Dig deeper. Not to uncover gossip or something that is not relevant, but because someone has probably already asked the question you are thinking about asking. So ask a better one.

3. Be curious. Curiosity allows you to push into the unknown and follow the trail. Move towards the areas that both are interesting to you and the person across from you. 

4. Shutup. No one wants to hear your answer to the question, otherwise the tables would be turned. Your job is to pull great content out of the interviewee, not to give your opinion.

5. Create a conversation, not just a serve and volley. When appropriate, give the sense to your listeners that you are sitting in a living room having coffee and catching up. Creating conversation is different than just giving your opinion or an answer to your question. Conversations require context, which means you have to have 20 or 30 questions ready to go for an interview that would usually be around 10 questions.

6. Don't interrupt unless you need to, keep your hands off the table, and save your "ums" and "uh-huhs" and "oh-yeahs" for after you're done. For audio or video purposes, your agreeing by saying something just muddies the water. It seems like the thing to do in person- giving your interviewee verbal feedback, but just stick with non-verbal. Sounds better when you don't respond. And hitting or tapping the table is picked up by microphones- seems obvious, but everyone forgets.....

7. Listen. Seems obvious, but great interviewers actually listen to an answer being given, instead of preparing for the next question and not actually hearing what the person is saying. Listening creates great follow up questions. And creates trust with the interviewee.

8. Provide your questions beforehand. Send your questions to the person you are interviewing before the interview so they can prepare.

9. Study the best. Watch Charlie Rose, Bob Costas, Barbara Walters, Oprah, etc. Learn from their style.

10. Ask permission. On the front and back end. Make sure you always have permission to post something, and of course if someone doesn't want an answer included, make sure to delete it. Your job is to make sure you don't break their trust.