Creating Goals With a Robust Digital Strategy | Kirt Manuel

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Kirt shares his insight and experience using any digital strategy out there to reach the lost and serve their 6000+ weekly online attenders

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Speaker2: [00:00:06] Welcome to the Church Growth Interviews podcast from Missional Marketing on Bart Blair, and I’m joined, as always, with my good friend and ministry partner, Jason Hamrah. Jason, well, welcome to the show today.

Speaker1: [00:00:18] Hey, glad to be here, Bart. And it’s been a great season. I’m really excited. We’re coming into the summer months and it’s been fun for us because we’ve been spending a lot of time working on missional marketing because, you know, sometimes you can work in the business and you’re so tied in that you you’ve got to zoom out to kind of work on the business. Know what I’m talking about. You know, I’m talking about well, this season we’ve been spending the summer of working on digital marketing. So super exciting. What we’re what we’re coming up with, the changes we’re making, moving staff around and just working on the business is just really rewarding right now.

Speaker2: [00:00:59] Yeah, I’ve been working with missional marketing on this team for almost three years, and it’s just been really cool to see what God has done in and through our team over the course of the last few years. We’re hiring. We’re adding new team members pretty regularly now. And I feel like a wiry old veteran. You know, it’s funny because three years ago, like, I was trying to really get my head around the Google ad, and now I’m the one teaching and training new team members on what the Google ad is and how it works and all the things that we do to to serve and support churches. So it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great time to be a part of missional marketing. It’s really cool. This podcast, this podcast is turned out to be a blast. When we started this a little over a year ago, wasn’t really quite sure how it was going to shape up. And now we’ve just had the opportunity to have some really class A guests. Some are people that we’re just kind of like knocking on doors on LinkedIn and other places and going, hey, we have a podcast, would you be on it? And people are saying, yes. And then some of the people that we have on the show here are actually church leaders that we work with. And that is the case of the church leader that we’re going to be interviewing today. Why don’t you introduce Kirk?

Speaker1: [00:02:15] Yes, it is. In fact, I would say there’s a handful of our churches that we get to trial and error things, kind of our R&D department. We get to work with a handful of churches that said, yes, we’ll be your guinea pig. Northwoods Church in Peoria, Illinois, is one of those churches, fantastic church led by Pastor Carl and a Kirks on their team. And it’s been just a friend for a long time and a ministry partner for years and years and years. And Northwoods, the cool thing about Northwoods is they’re just not afraid to try things. They’ve just got that posture of going, OK, God, whatever you have us do, we’ll do it willingly. And so they’ve done some really cool things digitally. Well, Kurt is their communications pastor. He’s been with the church for a long, long time. He’s going to share his story. But I’m really excited about you hearing from Kurt because, again, this guy is very innovative. They’ve got a team of people that are passionate about reaching the lost and using whatever digital tool is out there to do just that. And we get to partner with them. So it’s a fun conversation today.

Speaker2: [00:03:23] Yeah, Northwoods is a is a church that we talk a lot about behind the scenes in our own team meetings, because, as you said, they kind of serve as a little bit of our guinea pigs, our R&D department, and they’re willing to try new things, which has been pretty cool. And Curt has led the charge in a lot of that front line digital online stuff for Northwoods over the years. It’s pretty neat. Northwoods is, I think, three campuses now. And I think yeah, I think some people yeah. They say about three thousand people in person, but about six thousand people online each week, which those numbers are pretty substantial and pretty exciting and. Yeah, well you, our listeners, our guests, our friends here, we hope that you enjoy and get a lot of great stuff out of this interview with Kurt Manual.


Bart Blair: Well, hey Kirt. Thanks so much for joining Jason and me today on the Missional Marketing Church Growth Interviews Podcast. Really excited to get to know you. As we were just talking offline, just a minute ago. I don’t really know you much. Jason knows you pretty well and I would venture that there are quite a few people listening to our podcast or watching online who probably don’t know who you are today. But, after we’re done, we’re all going to know you better. Thanks for joining us.

Kirt Manuel: [00:00:34] Glad to be here. Thanks for asking.

Bart Blair: [00:00:36] Awesome. Well, why don’t you start, Kirt, by just sharing a little bit about your ministry history. How you got into ministry. You’re at a church called Northwoods Church which is a fantastic church. Go ahead and just, kind of, give us a little bit of background on who you are, how you ended up where you are today.

Kirt Manuel: [00:00:53] Sure. I’d be glad to. Well, so personally, I’m a central Illinois native. Northwoods Community Church is here – headquartered in Peoria, Illinois. We have campuses around all of central Illinois. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in a minute. So I grew up here, went away to college, came back and started working in the marketplace and got involved in newspapers. That was my first area out of college and then into commercial printing and design and marketing support for businesses. And I was pretty far from Jesus in those days. I had grown up in the church but like a lot of people, drifted very far away. And this new church was starting up in Peoria called Northwoods Community Church. My aunt and uncle were super excited about it. They were part of it and they invited me to come along and I said no. And they invited me to come along and I said no. And then they invited me to come along to meet this gal that’s been coming with them to the church. I said, well, OK, I’ll come along. Right? So I went to church to hang out with Rachel, who is now my wife of almost 26 years.

Bart Blair: [00:02:06] Wow.

Kirt Manuel: [00:02:06] So, yeah. So, I really was a product of fruit, if you will, of the ministry here of the church. Northwoods started in 1990. Really modeled after the, sort of, seeker-targeted movement started by Willow Creek and did a lot of things in their shadow and really learning from them in style [00:02:30] and in how they method [00:02:31] and all of that kind of stuff. And so, I was right in the bull’s-eye of that ministry and feel like I was, sort of, reconnected to Christ and my life redeemed through that relationship. So really grateful what God did in those years of my life. Now Northwoods has grown and transitioned over the years from the seeker-target ministry that we started as and really to what we call now, Holy Word and Spirit Church. Really, a lot more presence-driven in our services and embracing the work of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to offend anyone in the church world, right? But we have evangelical and mainline churches maybe over here and very strong charismatic churches that swing this way. At Northwoods, we’re trying to come down, right down in between there – being really solidly grounded in the Word but also very open to the living work of the Holy Spirit.

Bart Blair: [00:03:30] Let me get you to back up just a little bit. So it was, what? 1990 you said, was when the church planted. Identify again the actual city that the first campus was planted in and talk a little bit too about what that community was like in 1990. You obviously lived there. What was that community like?

Kirt Manuel: [00:03:54] Peoria, Illinois. Pretty much right smack in the middle of the state and Northwoods campus, primary campus to our broadcast campus is here in Peoria. Peoria is a town of – metro area, Peoria is roughly 300,000. So it’s medium-sized, you might say. It was a manufacturing community. Caterpillar tractors headquartered here. A lot of medical industry, so just kind of a – well Peoria is a real prototypical community. For many, many years it was a marketing research place, right? In the current phrase, “if it plays in Peoria”. That idea that the mentality of the sentiments of the people here really are reflective of a, sort of, mean or average of people all around the country. But, you know, like a lot of places in the country – a spiritually hungry place. By 1990, there’s churches everywhere, but there’s still a whole lot of people who, you know, they’re looking for something more in their lives because they’re not finding it. And so, these seeker-targeted ministries like Northwoods really stepped into that gap to provide a place where, you know, the searching could be done in a way that didn’t have a lot of the baggage that the church had for some people at that time. How’s that for a start?

Bart Blair: [00:05:18] That’s great. Share with us…. Go ahead.

Kirt Manuel: [00:05:23] [00:05:24]I have more lanes coming. You can edit this, make it sound…. T [00:05:27]here was a campaign, a phone campaign, actually, that was part of the church planting process and they made tens of thousands of phone calls to people simply asking, do you have a church? Do you have a home church and if so, that’s wonderful. Can we pray for you, thank you, goodbye. If you do not. Would you be interested in a church like this and if you would be, hey, we’re going to be starting up. Here’s our opening weekend. We’d love for you to come and can we pray for you, goodbye. And those, 30 plus thousand phone calls resulted in opening services of just over 300 people. And in 1990, March of 1990, and the church has continued to climb since then. It’s been a really exciting ride. My wife and I started together here at the church, as I shared a minute ago, in 1994. So, we were not here at the very beginning but pretty early on.

Jason Hamrock: [00:06:25] So you found yourself volunteering, what, ’96, ’97 and then that turned into a staff role in the year 2000. How did that happen?

Kirt Manuel: [00:06:35] Well, I asked for it, right? I was really, really enjoying serving, using the gifts that God had given me. At that time was working, like I said, in newspapers and then moved into commercial printing and graphics support for that. And, I just approached one of the pastors here, who’s still on staff with me. The office is right behind this wall, that’s behind your head right now. And I just said, hey, you know, those postcards that you’re sending out to people and stuff like that, I think I could help with that. And so, for the next 3-4 years, I produced most of the publications that the church created that were really primarily used for outreach and did more and more of that stuff and got to a point where I approached the executive pastor and said, hey, Steve, you know, you might as well pay me for this. And, you know, I mean, joking aside, they had leadership of the church at that point really had reached the decision that it’s time for us to create a role like this on our staff and they invited me into that which, I was thrilled to take and have been here ever since.

Jason Hamrock: [00:07:47] So, you’ve been on staff for over 20 years.

Kirt Manuel: [00:07:49] Since 2000.

Jason Hamrock: [00:07:50] Yeah. So tell us a little bit about what your role looks like today.

Kirt Manuel: [00:07:55] Very much different than what it looked like in 2000. In the early part of my tenure here, my primary responsibility was graphic design. I was the church marketing guy, really, the church graphics guy. And, we would venture a little bit into advertising but the whole digital realm really didn’t exist. When I started here, the church had installed its first shared 56 K modem for the entire staff. And, there was a lot of debate on whether to allow outside email into the building and we had a web page. Not a website. It was a different world, right? And so, from that place, just everything has – I could just go through the growth of digital history and say even Northwoods has stepped alongside all of those changes. The size of the team has grown with those needs as we’ve opened new multisite campuses. We serve all of those in a central services, kind of, capacity. So, we’ve gone from mostly print-focused to now, we do hardly any print. It’s almost all digital content and digital platforms that we create.

Jason Hamrock: [00:09:13] Yeah, and that’s not a shock to anybody, probably listing, you know, because that’s just the nature of where things go. So, yes, go ahead.

Kirt Manuel: [00:09:25] So, right now, OK, really, all of the things that fall under the umbrella of my team: print, digital, social, online, mobile, signage, internal communications, external communications, outreach, advertising, all of that stuff is part of this one big team that I oversee, almost all of that. And then Jason Lee, that I mentioned earlier, is a peer of mine in the organization who also contributes, very strongly, into leadership of some of our real most innovative things. And then I have other direct reports, a team. I have 3 other direct reports that really help make all that happen. And then we have really close collaborative relationships with other teams: our media and video teams, our creative art teams and guest services teams. It’s a pretty exciting environment to be in because it’s – we are very collaborative in a lot of our responsibilities, kind of, cross over into each other’s fields. We try very hard to sharpen one another and pull each other, sometimes dragging, kicking and screaming onto the next level. We get there.

Bart Blair: [00:10:41] So Kirt. What has changed for you, most substantially, over the course of the last year and a few months? I mean, obviously it’s difficult for us to, kind of, look at where church has been for the last, obviously, 20 years. You’ve seen a lot of transition and I’m sure that the last year to a year and a half has, you know, COVID and everything that we’ve been through in the last 15 months or so has probably accelerated a lot of other things in the context of the church and your digital space and digital ministry. What are some of the key things that you guys at Northwoods have done to adapt to current situations? What kind of things did you change during 2020 that you think you’re going to keep doing? What kind of things, lessons did you learn? What kind of things did you start that you wished you hadn’t started and you wish you could go back and undo. Just share a little bit of the highlights and the lowlights of the last year and a bit?

Kirt Manuel: [00:11:33] Well, I think that there is not a church out there who didn’t have at least one conversation saying, OK, so when are things going to get back to normal? And, you know, and then, of course, the answer to that has really almost become a cliche, which is, this is the new normal. We’re not going back to those things. And so, you know, I would be repeating what a lot of other people have already said to emphasize that point. But it is true. A lot of things have changed, for sure. At Northwoods, I think, we were blessed to be pretty well prepared when COVID really came and shut us down. Because, we were already doing a pretty robust online ministry and so, we didn’t have to invent anything new that we weren’t previously doing as a church. In order to have the technology and the platforms in place to do a more highly-focused, digital gatherings but we had to begin to think differently for sure. Not embarrassed to say it and it’s no secret, right, that my senior leaders, they did not grow up thinking about the internet first or thinking about digital experiences first. They preach to a room. That’s what they’ve always done and it’s what they know how to do very, very well. And so, my team has had to really come alongside them and say, OK, so how is this going to play though, on a much smaller screen? How is this going to feel when I’m consuming this, perhaps on my own or with just a handful of people? When I’m participating or engaging in this, it’s different. I can’t feel the thump of the music during worship and I can’t sense the buzz in the crowd, during whatever’s going on.

Bart Blair: [00:13:17] Clearly, you need a better sound system at home. If you’re not feeling the thump. Come on.

Kirt Manuel: [00:13:22] That is so true.

Kirt Manuel: [00:13:23] I should be part of everyone’s membership kit at the church,

Bart Blair: [00:13:27] My son is a block away in his car and I can feel the thump. So clearly, you’re not doing something right.

Kirt Manuel: [00:13:33] That’s true. We’re always missing some opportunity like that.

Jason Hamrock: [00:13:37] So you…

Kirt Manuel: [00:13:37] But that – so that mindset. OK, now, as we plan sermon series. As we plan what service components are going to look like, we have to really stop and think, OK, this is playing to a room and to 10,000 other rooms. And those rooms are much smaller and they have a different audience component. And, it would be completely a lie if I said we were masters of that and that we always do it well. It would not be right for me to say that that’s the first thing that senior leadership thinks of or that our service plan thinks of, however, we are slowly, step-by-step, moving to be more aware of that, more intentional with it. Sometimes we hit a grand slam and other times we forget that we’re even at bat. So, that’s probably, I think, the sort of the biggest mind shift that’s happened around here. You know, I think that what’s happened in the last 15 months is, to the church, of the same level of transition, for sure that the seeker movement was, 20 or 30 years ago. And I’ve heard some people say, well, this is really the “new Gutenberg”. I’m like, well, we’ll see right, because it’s certainly – this move to the digital realms, for ministry, certainly has opened the doors that never existed before and it is allowing people to engage with the gospel in ways that have never been possible before.

Jason Hamrock: [00:15:15] Yeah.

Kirt Manuel: [00:15:15] We’re just beginning to get our heads around what that means.

Jason Hamrock: [00:15:19] Yeah. You guys are a really creative bunch and for our listeners, we get to work closely with Northwoods and their team and they’re part of, I guess you could say, our R&D department. So, the things that you’re talking about are so spot-on – the way that you had to do online church. But you guys go, you’re not afraid to and you go way deeper than that, in that, you really understand pretty clearly. Now we understand this. We have to master it, but we understand that, you know, people are searching for help with felt need issues.

Kirt Manuel: [00:15:54] Sure.

Jason Hamrock: [00:15:54] All the time and you guys are recognizing, hey, we can’t expect them to come to us into a building or even join us online. We have to go to them, digitally. Can you speak into, like, what that looks like for you guys and why?

Kirt Manuel: [00:16:11] Absolutely. You know, this is something that my heart beats really strongly about, just because of my own personal journey. For a long time, the church, of course, has been trying to engage people in conversations about Jesus. We want to introduce them to Him and we want them to understand that He has the hope that they’re looking for. He has the things that can give them freedom from the pieces of their life that are holding them back and he can heal those places of woundedness and broken relationships and we want that for them and He wants that for them. But, if we’re not where they are, we can never have the conversation. And so, where are they? Well, they’re online. They’re on their phones. They’re searching Google. They’re on Facebook. And so, as a church, we have to go there and meet them and say, hey, right. And, one of the ways that we can certainly do that is by trying to understand – what is it that people are looking for? What are the places where they need hope? What sort of places can they find – what am I trying to say? What are the ways in which the gospel, the hope-filled message of Jesus can help meet whatever needs they feel? The best example of this is this story that I use all the time. It’s kind of my favorite story about why the search engine marketing matters and why targeted marketing like Facebook really matters. And that’s this example. Why this example. So just a hypothetical one that I made up, right, for them. This idea that, you know, there’s a guy and it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and he’s on his phone and he’s searching for – he doesn’t know what to search for and he’s like, enters in there: I think I’m ready for a divorce because his marriage has been really, really on the rocks. He doesn’t know what to do. He searches that and what he was expecting was a whole bunch of divorce lawyers, in his search results. But, what we’re trying to do is make sure that, in that mix, highly ranked. What he sees is, you know, God can heal your marriage and just get an opportunity, just to speak enough into him, that perhaps he’ll click through into an article that’s really seeker-focused that really helps him to understand that there is hope that God can provide to him. Or perhaps it’s a short video snippet from a sermon. It’s brief. It’s inspiring. It’s to the point. It touches on his felt need and it gives him the opportunity to respond. That response might be just, yes, please have someone call me or I’d like to ask some questions of a pastor. I don’t know. We can come up with lots of different action steps that that might be. But that’s where missional Marketing comes in. That’s where our partnership happens because – it’s just my team. We don’t have enough time and capacity to become Google and Facebook master marketers. So, we’ve met some people who are.

Bart Blair: [00:19:31] I want to jump in here Kirt because I love that story. I love that analogy. I use a similar one. The one that I always share with pastors is, I say, you know, imagine the single mom who’s recently divorced. It’s Saturday night. She’s put her kids to bed. She’s sitting on the couch at 10:30 having her second or third glass of red wine and she’s scrolling through her phone, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram or some other social media platform and she sees an ad about finding purpose or finding meaning in her life and she clicks on it. And for decades, our call to action for the person that we were trying to reach, whether it’s the guy that’s Googling, whether or not it’s time for him to get a divorce, or the single mom who is trying to figure out what the purpose of her life is, our call to action has always been: come to church on Sunday. Come hear our new sermon series. That’s always been our call to action. And I think that, our culture is moving into such a post-Christian culture that if we’re expecting people’s first step and first engagement with us to be to show up on our campus on Sunday morning, I think it demonstrates that we don’t really know the people that we’re trying to reach because that’s not going to be – they weren’t looking for a church in the first place. They were looking for help with a problem and we have to figure out ways to, kind of, bridge that gap and create easier on-ramps for people, just like Jesus did. Let’s meet the physical need, you know. Let’s help them solve whatever the problem is that they’re facing immediately because their spiritual life isn’t what’s high on their radar. It’s the marriage or the parenting situation or the financial situation or their grief, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, purposelessness, whatever that is. That’s their immediate need. I just think that there’s so much value in what you guys are doing and how you’re approaching that. I applaud you. That’s pretty cool. And I know that a lot of that has come as a result of just, sort of, the experimentation and the partnership with Missional Marketing. And Jason, I think you had a question that’s probably related to that. Yeah?

Jason Hamrock: [00:21:42] What I was going to say was, just for the audience. When we’re doing this stuff. When we’re talking about getting things out and reaching people where they are, all we’re doing is planting a digital seed.

Kirt Manuel: [00:21:58] Yep.

Jason Hamrock: [00:21:58] It’s not our job to save them. In fact, you know, it’s the parable of the seeds. Some of those seeds are going to fall on different types of soil. And, our hope is that, that guy at 2 o’clock in the morning will find something and it’s just a good enough soil, and God does something in his heart. That’s all we can ask. That’s all we can do. God has to play and he does play a huge part in that. So, kudos to you guys for actually scattering those digital seeds and my challenge to our listeners would be, if you’re not scattering those digital seeds, you’re expecting them to come to the house. You’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Kirt Manuel: [00:22:40] Well Jason. If I can run with that, just for a second and say, old school advertising: television, newspaper, that kind of stuff. It really literally was scattering the seeds, right? We always called it the shotgun approach because you just can’t get very well targeted in who you’re trying to reach but that is so different now. You know, I mean, the whole idea that, whether it’s on Google or Facebook, or Instagram or whatever – that I can so narrowly and carefully define who it is that I’m trying to reach. I mean, that’s just the holy grail of what a marketer is looking for, right? So, I look at that and say, OK, you know, who am I trying to reach? And I can start to describe that prototypical person. And, for all of it’s bad, right? Facebook will say, OK, we have: here’s 400,000 of that person. Would you like to narrow that down? And so, hey, listen, I’m just like the next guy in that, I’m weirded out by the big brother conspiracy theory, end times invasive technology stuff. It weirds me out too, but I can’t stop it so, I’m going to try to redeem it, right?

Jason Hamrock: [00:23:54] Might as well.

Kirt Manuel: [00:23:57] What’s the name of the song right now? We’re going to take what the enemy meant for evil and we’re going to turn it to good.

Jason Hamrock: [00:24:04] Yup.

Kirt Manuel: [00:24:04] Absolutely.

Jason Hamrock: [00:24:04] Yup.

Bart Blair: [00:24:04] Sorry, I’m here. I muted myself. Kirt was on a roll there, so I was like, I don’t wanna do anything to interrupt so I muted myself so I didn’t interrupt. That was really good. I was like, I was sitting there – I listening to you going – like there’s some really good sound bites here with what he’s saying right now. I was just so focused. So let’s rewind a little bit. As Jason mentioned, we’ve had a partnership. Missional Marketing with Northwoods for the last five years or so. You guys have consistently invested in things like local SEO, on-page SEO, interruptive advertising. You’ve been leveraging the Google ad grant. So, talk a little bit about just, kind of, the evolution of the process of how you moved into more of a digital space from the old postcard billboard advertising, print advertising and talk a little bit about how you as the guy, kind of, leading that charge, got your senior leaders on board with you. You’ve talked a little bit about the fact that senior leaders are not, as I’m a former pastor myself, I pastored for about 17 years. And, there is a paradigm that we as pastors have in terms of what church is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to work. And then when we get dealt cards that tell us that we’re going to have to do things differently. It’s a little hard to get our heads around sometimes. So, you having to, kind of, lead up your leadership to get them on board with digital. Just talk a little bit about that process – how you got going and how you led up to get your leaders on board with what you’re doing now.

Kirt Manuel: [00:25:43] Sure. Well that’s a big question and quite a journey that we’ve been on. I want to come back up, just a second Bart, and say: I think our relationship with Missional Marketing goes back even further than that into the old printed business directory.

Jason Hamrock: [00:25:57] Yeah. Yeah.

Kirt Manuel: [00:25:58] And, which is, out of that is where all the digital firm – the digital capabilities really emerged. And so, when we first started that relationship, the idea behind the directory for us, that allowed our senior leadership to really embrace that was, here are people in our church. Yeah, they’re entrepreneurs and business owners, but they’re out there. They’re talking to the people that we’re trying to meet and they want to see themselves as ministers in the marketplace. So that vision, that was the vision behind the business directory, that caught hold and we were definitely fans of that. I think that culturally, we entered a season that where – it just was less relevant to have a printed directory. And so we moved into the digital directory realm but the same mentality was accessible to leadership. They’d say Okay, we get that, right? It was they themselves were moving along with the culture, albeit, they’re not on the front end of the bell curve, they’re on the back end of the bell curve. And so, you know, initially in our early relationship they were aware of the name Missional Marketing. They were aware of the language of doing things digitally, but, not necessarily what they would be thinking of as a first step for anything that we do. And so now fast forward to conversations beginning about, hey, we can actually do more than just your business directory digitally. Let’s talk about how we can help you get into the Google ad networks and get into Facebook was really just getting rolling at that time. You know, Missional Marketing has been discovering the territory and then, sort of, taking us along for the ride. And we really – we weren’t equipped with enough resources on our own as a church to do that kind of discovery. But you guys have been positioned in a way where, you’re serving the whole kingdom. You’re being able to sort of pool resources from a variety of local congregations and really deploy them in a way that we can we can literally come along for the ride. So now, next step forward, you’re asking. So, does senior leadership now fully embrace this do they totally understand what’s going on? No, they don’t but that’s my job, right, is that, each year, kind of, roll the ball forward a little bit and make sure that I show them, hey, here’s what’s happening. Here’s the results of this money that we’ve been spending and the numbers of people who are being ministered to. They’re reading things or they’re watching or they’re listening to these this message that we’re trying to get out. A variety of different things. It doesn’t mean they sat down and they watched the entire sermon. It doesn’t mean they’re quote unquote, butt in the seat. Can I say that on your podcast?

Jason Hamrock: [00:28:59] Yup.

Kirt Manuel: [00:28:59] The measurements are different, but the goal is the same. It’s engagement. It’s a relationship with them. And so, leadership understands that. But, it is true that just because they understand it doesn’t mean they’re super thrilled about it or that we move rapidly in that direction. There’s there’s a lot of….

Bart Blair: [00:29:29] So they don’t give you every dollar you ask for, to spend. They don’t give you every dollar you ask for, to spend.

Kirt Manuel: [00:29:33] No, not exactly. But they have been quite generous, to be honest. We have spent a significant amount of money with Missional Marketing but it’s because the vision is so powerful, in my opinion. The idea that we can meet people where they are and that we can continue to get better at inviting them and inspiring them into the next step. That’s what’s so huge. I would say that it’s a fair thing to say that Northwoods is nowhere near 100% optimizing the potential of what could be done through grants and things like that. But at least we’re starting. I see there’s a huge amount of potential and I can convince my leaders of that potential and they’re willing to invest in it.

Jason Hamrock: [00:30:21] Let me ask you this so, yeah, every church is on some kind of a journey. Some of them are way down the path and going into digital and other ones are going, yeah, maybe we should get started in that, you know. And that’s a little bit deeper than just having your online church, putting your services online. That’s not what we’re really talking about. We’re really talking about going that extra layer deeper of reaching out into the community. So, what kind of advice do you give to somebody that’s on that end of it? They’re going, yeah, we’re kind of thinking about doing this and well, we really don’t know what to do first. What would you say to them?

Kirt Manuel: [00:30:56] I think I have two responses. They’re kind of about two different things. The first one is, you really can’t wait any longer. The culture is passing you by and if you wait much longer, you’ll just never catch up. And so, the people that you’re trying to reach, they’ll be beyond your reach. They’ll be so far ahead of you in terms of the platforms they use to connect or the technologies and that kind of stuff, it would be very, very difficult to get where the people are. So that’s the first reason. Just don’t wait. Do what you can do. It might not be everything but do what you can do. The second piece might come back to my memory. I’m old enough – I’m having a brain moment. Right? The second response that I wanted to give to that question was… edit this part because I’ve got to pause and think. What was the question?

Bart Blair: [00:31:53] Yeah, yeah. That’s OK. The question was, what advice do you give to somebody who’s hasn’t really done much yet but who needs to get going? And you said first thing was, get going. Obviously, they need to do what they can do. The second part of that question was, I don’t know. I didn’t open the notes that you sent to us.

Kirt Manuel: [00:32:16] It’s not even in the notes, but it’s completely gone. You ever have one of those?

Jason Hamrock: [00:32:19] Yeah. All the time.

Bart Blair: [00:32:22] It’s okay. Well let’s back up then. Jason, ask the question again and this time, Kirt, don’t say I have two answers to that. Just give us the answer – the one that you did have.

Kirt Manuel: [00:32:32] It was the better one too, that’s for sure.

Bart Blair: [00:32:35] Yeah. OK, well maybe it’ll come back to you in a moment when Jason rephrases the question. Alright, Jason, take a little pause and then ask the question again.

Jason Hamrock: [00:32:43] So Kirt, as we were saying, like, every church is on some kind of a level with this already. They’re on some part of the spectrum. Some churches are way, way down the path. They embrace digital technology. And, not just to have their Sunday sermon or service, but they actually use it to reach all kinds of people and they’re going really, really deep. Other churches, and a lot of these are on this side of it. They haven’t even started yet. Maybe they’ve boosted the Facebook posts here and there, that kind of a thing but they’ve never really rolled up their sleeves and got to work in using digital tools to reach people at 2 o’clock in the morning. What would you say to those people? Like, how do you get started? What should you do?

Kirt Manuel: [00:33:33] Well, OK, so – here is what I would say. And that is, you need to start. You can start small. You don’t have to start with trying to invite everyone in the world because you cannot invite everyone in the world. The second thing is, while you’re letting those systems and processes do the work that they are good to do, it’s important, I believe, to take the time to make sure that you’re prepared to receive the people that may come through that. The worst case scenario in my mind is someone responds to an ad, they click through with a need. They need someone and you’re not there. Now, does that mean you have to be 24/7 online ready to take a chat from somebody? No. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying, have a process – have thought it through for, you know. This is going to be incoming ministry opportunity. This is an onramp to engagement with me and my church and the Jesus that I represent that I want to introduce them to. So, I really need to get prepared for that. You may already have ministries in place that, all you have to do is just, sort of, introduce and handoff. Maybe you have ministries that won’t fit and you need to retool those. Move them and change up who’s doing what. Or maybe you have to build some new stuff. You don’t have to do any of that overnight, all at once. You can take steps, as small as you need to, but you need to take steps.

Jason Hamrock: [00:35:07] Yeah, oh. That’s such a great answer. Because I think, sometimes we think: we need to be like Life Church. Really? No. You just need to start somewhere. I get to talk with a lot of churches and sort of consult them and tell them, just do this. Do this one thing. Just start there. It’s usually painting the picture of, you got some really good ministry in your church but people who don’t know you are not necessarily going to be like, oh, I’ll show up to a 7:00 Wednesday evening thing to share with a bunch of people I don’t know about all my baggage. Like, that’s you know. Some people might be ready for that. Most people won’t. So, you like you said, you have to kind of be ready to receive them and offer them advice and counsel and just love on them and just start with one felt need and grow from there, you know, and that’s something you guys have done.

Bart Blair: [00:36:03] Yeah Kirt, you said something earlier in our conversation about whether or not people were saying, like this is the new Gutenberg, right? We’re at, kind of, this pivotal place. I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that this transformation of our church world and ministry focus is that significant. I will say, there was a day in time where churches first started installing sound systems and microphones. And, I don’t know the history of that but I would guess that there was probably some controversy because we are the church and we do tend to adapt slowly to technology, right? But that was a technology that actually changed the way that a preacher or a pastor was communicating to a crowd, where, now we can gather in a building and instead of only being able to communicate to a couple of hundred people, you can now communicate to thousands of people. You know, Billy Graham, one of the he spoke to this crowd in Korea that was over a million people. And it was at the time the largest gathering of like the largest gathering of people in one specific event or something like that.

Speaker1: [00:37:14] And that wouldn’t have been possible without a microphone and a sound system like I mean, we’re talking like just nineteen sixties, probably must have been some sound system for for the nineteen sixties, probably just borrowed the whose sound system for, for that whatever. But, but that was a change in technology. And now what I would say is that digital media is kind of like a new microphone. What it’s really enabling us to do is amplify our voice, amplify our reach, expand our digital footprint, expand our footprint of reach so that we can actually connect with more people online. And to your point, if you don’t do it now, if you don’t do something now, the people that you’re trying to reach, you just won’t be able to reach them because they’re all on the Internet, everybody’s on the Internet. Even my seventy some year old mother spends a lot of time on the Internet. And so it is just a reality. It’s something that you just have to have to dip your toes in the water and start somewhere.

Speaker2: [00:38:11] Well, imagine if you were a church right now installing a sound system and that that you’re doing that with the thought in your mind that this is going to help us reach people. I mean, we laugh at that right now. So what what do you mean? So if five years from now you’re saying, hey, we’re going to get on Facebook, so who cares if we can’t get so far behind? The culture leaves us behind. In fact, we want to be racing with the culture so that we can shape and influence. You know, the two things that you made me think that when you were speaking, that you mentioned Life Church, and you’re right, we can’t all be in. But he’s built an incredible organization that has really set their heart and their mind and their money to building the kingdom by redeeming and leveraging technology for that. So I praise them and I thank them for how much we learned from them. And we use the church platform every single week. That’s a free gift. Have to

Speaker1: [00:39:16] Use the Virgin Bible app every day, every day,

Speaker2: [00:39:19] Millions and millions of lives. Yeah, but I think one huge thing that’s been happening, and especially with this whole realm of digital ministry, is that the actual goal is change. If as a church, you’re entering into work with missional marketing or online ministry or anything like that, and your goal is to get people into your building and intimacy, that’s the wrong goal, right? It’s not how it works. It’s not what it’s going to do best. The goal is to engage with them in some kind of relationship. If it’s as minimal as a chat or as extensive as a phone call or a repeated phone calls or or emails, whatever it is, you’re engaging in some kind of relationship with them. So they’re taking next steps. You’re inviting them and walking with them a little bit closer to Jesus. And they may never actually come and sit in your church, but you can still minister to them. It’s a huge tension in the church, right. Because they also they’re they’re not putting something in the offering plate as you pass it by. But there are solutions for that, too. So, yeah, that’s that’s another packet’s.

Speaker1: [00:40:34] So other than Life Church, what are their churches? What are their churches or church leaders or ministries are you looking to? And aside from missional marketing, I think if you’ve plugged us well, thank you. And again, we appreciate the partnership. It is our podcast. So it’s only fair that we get plugged. But, you know, aside from the marketing and aside from Life Church, you know, who else are you looking to? Who are you learning from to develop your online ministry and to continue to expand your reach online?

Speaker2: [00:41:05] That’s actually a tougher question to answer than than you might think. In fact, it’s in my notes that I was thinking through as I prepared for this. It’s the only one that has just one little thing. And that’s because I really feel like that’s an ongoing conversation. And there is something to learn from so many people that are out there. The thing that has been the most powerful for me personally is being involved in things like the Church Ikki Roundtable, which is right network, whatever they call it, global or national and global collective of like technically minded people. It’s kind of a church nerd fest, but it’s awesome because it’s all kinds of people who really understand this idea that technology is the conduit to people. That’s the next honoree. That’s the next room. And so there are dozens and dozens of what I would consider thought leaders in an organization like that, that they may maybe don’t have their own podcast. They’re not going to have a book. They’re not a well-known name. But the networking and resourcing that happens in an organization like that is huge because everybody’s avid readers. And I had I heard Richbourg say this and I heard Khari knew how I read this thing that he wrote.

Speaker2: [00:42:27] And literally that list could be dozens and dozens of people long. And we learn from each and every single one of them. I don’t feel like we’re in a place these days, at least northwards. We’re not where we’re looking to one group like we were looking at. We started many years ago as the person we’re trying to emulate them. You know, we’re learning from Life Church. I mean, they’re amazing, but we’re not trying to be like church. We’re not trying to emulate that. We’re trying to learn how they address their specific environment, their specific ministry call and utilizing the tools that were available to them to do it the best way that they possibly could. That’s what we’re trying to do, where God has put us and we’re trying to learn everything we can from as many people as possible. We’re learning from a lot of other people’s mistakes. We’re learning from a lot of our own mistakes for sure. But that’s the beauty of digital, right? You didn’t print forty two thousand copies of your digital must have your mistake. You know, it’s

Speaker1: [00:43:30] Just every time somebody makes a comment about that, I remember the postcard that I printed for my church. And right before they got mailed, I realized the phone number on the postcard was my own home phone number. The 10000 postcards are about to be mailed out for a church event. Oh, shoot, that’s my own personal home phone number. I don’t know if anybody would have called again. That was the shot. Those are back in the days when it was the shotgun approach. We had no idea if anyone was even looking at the postcards. But my wife was a little concerned that you’re about to mail out ten thousand postcards with our home phone estimate, so. Well, yeah. Hey, as we wrap up here current, I just want to say thanks again for taking the time with us. It’s it’s been an honor to be able to partner with Northwoods. And we really appreciate you coming in and hanging out with us on the on the show today. How can people reach you if they want to just kind of pick your brain and dig a little bit deeper into some of the things that you guys are doing to leverage your digital tools?

Speaker2: [00:44:28] Easiest way north and stop church our website and start listening. It’s super easy or it’s not manual at Northwest Church, but my name is Artie. Go figure. I mean, I don’t even know the story, but it’s OK.

Speaker1: [00:44:45] Well, we’ll make sure that we’ll make sure that we spell it right everywhere we print it and we will put the quick contact information in the show notes for anybody. Give us your home

Speaker3: [00:44:53] Phone number on there if you’d like us to.

Speaker2: [00:44:55] We can do that.

Speaker1: [00:44:58] Thanks again, Kurt. It has been a real pleasure today. Thanks for hanging out with us, Klatt.

Speaker2: [00:45:02] Thank you. Thanks for your.

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