Rethinking Church Communications Post-COVID | Phil Bowdle

Bart Blair Leave a Comment

Phil Bowdle is a Pastor at West Ridge Church and leads a large team of creatives and the author of the book Rethinking Church Communication

Podcast Notes

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Podcast Transcription


Well, hey there, welcome to the Church Growth Interviews podcast. My name is Bart Blair, and I am here with my friend and the CEO of Missional Marketing, Jason Hamrock. How’s it going today Jason?

It’s going well, Bart, I can’t complain.

Now, I have to comment on the fact that you’re wearing like a hoodie, a sweater today, is it cold in Phoenix?

I’m in Phoenix, it’s March, and this is a really rare season for us because it’s actually chilly and we have clouds. If you you live in Phoenix, it’s like clouds are very rare around here, so it’s kind of nice to be able to see clouds today.

What’s chilly, describe chilly.

Mid 60s, it’s cold.

Ok, so for our friends that are like listening in Minneapolis or the Northeast, that’s not chilly, they’d probably love to have a temperature in the 60s.

They would, I have such weak…My blood is really thin, and I’m just a wimp.

Ok, well, we’ll document that. I can probably take that into a little short video clip, make a meme of Jason, I’m just a wimp. Hey, speaking of weather, so get this. I’m in Texas, I’m in the Dallas area, and this is springtime, so this is like severe weather time for us. So last night, it’s funny, my wife Elizabeth loves storm season. I don’t know what it is, she’s terrified of bears, which is like this totally irrational fear, because where we live, there are no bears. But she’s not afraid of tornadoes, I’m not quite sure why she’s not afraid of tornadoes. So when we start getting these severe weather alerts and things, like she runs outside, she’s one of those people standing in the backyard looking at the lightning, looking for the tornado. And last night, we’ve got the news on, and all of a sudden we’re getting some some weather reports. And down the street from us, the tornado sirens went off, started fired off. So we like, we grabbed Silas, he was upstairs in his room, and we ran down. And we’re like tucked into the hall closet, you know, sitting there with the dog. Like, OK, this is like the real deal, we’ve got the tornado sirens. And they were for like two minutes, and then they went off, and we went back and checked the news again and there was a tornado warning in the next county. But it never really formulated into anything significant, but it was kind of adventure. Speaking of whether, you know, it’s that time of year.

That’s rare for you guys there in March, to have that kind of severe weather with a tornado.

Yeah, March, April, well, I mean, we’re almost in April at the time that we’re recording this, right. So it is at springtime when we start getting those. I’m not a meteorologist, so I don’t understand it. But I guess you get these high pressure, low pressure, warm temperature, cold temperature things kind of hitting each other, and it causes updrafts, and twisting, and I don’t know.

Well, wherever you are in the in the world, we hope your weather is just fine.

Yeah, let’s hope that you are not hiding in a closet somewhere as you listen to this podcast. Hey, so Jason. we’re coming up on pretty close to a year since we launched this podcast. I think it’s safe to say that the year that we’ve just been through, a lot of the content and the topics of the podcast, we’re very different than what we had expected and hoped when we started, because we had no idea when we planned this thing out last spring that COVID was probably going to occupy the majority of our of our podcast content.

But now we’re at the day that we’re recording this, we’re kind of wrapping up, we’re almost at the end of March, first quarter of the year. And I want to ask you a question, after the last year, and as we’ve gotten through the first quarter, we’re kind of coming up on Easter as we’re recording this, what’s been something that’s been encouraging to you that you’ve seen in the local church kind of coming out of 2020 into 2021?

One thing that’s been really encouraging for me is the throwing away of sacred cows. What do I mean by that is I think we, as the church in North America, in the United States, we’ve been so focused on driving people to our building. And if we just get them in the building, then we can minister to them. And COVID put a stop to that in a heartbeat, and I think that was one of the best things that could happen to the church because it forced leaders to think differently about how you do ministry, how do you disciple, how do you reach people. And that means instead of making them come to us, we go to them. We go to the digitally, and meet people where they are in the in the muck of what they’re in and life, and we can speak to them.

And if you think about that, that’s what Jesus did two thousand years ago, that’s what he did. He didn’t say, come to me, he came to us. And so for me, I think that was probably a huge turning point for churches. And a lot of churches rallied behind that with resources, with their people, with their money. And they invested into what they know is going to be the new normal, and that is you’ve got to…You’re not throwing your building away by any means, but you’re thinking differently about how to do ministry, and really a lot of it’s online.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. We’ve had several guests on the podcast here in the last few weeks, Jim Tomberlin, one of them. Talking about the fact that we used to think that without a building, we had no revenue, that all of our offerings came as a result of having a building. And obviously, that’s one of the things that we’ve learned is very different.

We’re going to introduce our guest for this episode here in just a minute, it’s a guy named Phil Bowdle, who is the Creative Arts Pastor at Westridge Church in Dallas, Georgia. The Little Dallas, I’m in the big Dallas, he’s in the little Dallas. But we were offline with him yesterday when we recorded this, and you’re one of the things that I said that I was really encouraged by coming into the end of the first quarter was that this time last year there was a real sense of panic in the local church. I think both Jim Tomberlin and Dale Sellers, in the episodes they’ve been on with us, both of them made the statement that COVID-19 didn’t create as many problems for the church, as much as it exposed problems that we had in the church. And that exposure really caused a lot of panic, there was just, this time last year was like, are we doing Easter? Are we not doing Easter? Are we ever going to get back in our building, or are we not getting our back in our building?

And this year, even though there’s still a whole lot of unknown, and people are really not sure how 2021 is going to fully play out, our experience has been, especially as we’ve been connecting with churches here in preparation for Easter and helping them with their their digital outreach campaigns and their marketing campaigns, is that churches are moving at a much more purposeful pace. There’s not the panic, there’s not the knee jerk. there’s not a we’ve just got to throw a whole bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. They’re being much more strategic, and much more methodical in their approach, and that’s been really encouraging for me because things are going to continue to change. Like the new normal we say is the new normal, and the new normal might last two or three months before we find ourselves facing another normal, a different normal. Right? And so I think one of the big lessons that we’ve learned as a church is that slow and steady wins the race, that these knee jerk reactions, or overreactions, overcorrecting doesn’t serve us well, it doesn’t serve our people well, it certainly doesn’t serve the kingdom well, and so that’s been an encouragement for me.

Well, one encouragement for me is God is still in control, and God is in control of those who are in control. God is in control, and regardless of what’s going to come at us, this is his church and we’re his people. And I think what what kind of came to light, I think a lot of people and rightfully so, you’re a little nervous, right? Churches are going, is giving going to stay consistent or is it going to drop? I mean, what’s going to happen here?

Of course, last year we also had that little thing called an election. And, you know, all that stuff that’s going on in our country, it caused some panic. And, you know, we’re humans, and I think that was something that was probably natural. But as you were saying, this season, right now that we’re in, we’re right before Easter right now. Of course, when you hear this, it’s going to be after Easter. A lot of churches are like kind of breathing a sigh of relief, ok cool, all right, the giving us still strong. In fact, some churches, it’s gone up, that means our people are more dedicated, and we can still do ministry. I just, I sit back and go, yeah, because God’s in control, so don’t freak out, and think ahead and plan. And I think churches have been doing that, I know they’ve been doing that. So it’s pretty exciting for, in my opinion, what’s going to be happening here the rest of 2021 and into the future. You know, we serve a great God who loves us, he cares about us, it’s his church and we just get to to follow in his footsteps.

Yeah, that’s very well said. Well, we should probably go ahead and introduce, I kind of already, I kind of introduced the guest already. Phil Bowdle the Creative Arts Pastor at West Ridge Church. Westridge Church is a church of about three to four thousand people in attendance, pre pandemic. I don’t know if he told us how they’re doing these days in terms of their attendance, but I’m really encouraged by the ministry that they’re doing there. Phil leads a large team of creatives and communications people, and he’s also the author of a book called Rethinking Church Communication. And we’re going to unpack a little bit from that book in the conversation that that we had with him yesterday, and so without any further delay, let’s get to that interview with Phil Bowdle.

Well, hey, Phil, welcome to the podcast, glad to have you on board today. How’s it going?

It’s going great, thrilled to be here with you guys.

Yeah, we’re thrilled to have you. And I’m excited about this podcast today because we’re going to dive in a little bit to a book you wrote, and I want to learn a little bit more about who you are, what God’s been doing through you and through your ministry. And so share with our audience who you are, and a little bit of your background.

Sure. Yeah, well, my favorite role and job title is Dad, so I get to be a dad to six year old Ethan and two year old Ava Joy. And I love that, being able to do that with my wife Sarah. And we live out here in northwest Atlanta in Dallas, Georgia, little Dallas.

Little Dallas, okay.

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. But have been out here, it’s not home for us, I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. My dad’s a pastor out there, so I’m one of the PK’s that survived, I guess, and made it. So, I’ve been a church kid my whole life, been on the front pew or front row since day one. And so, yeah, a lot of my growing up days were figuring out what could I do in the creative space, and I didn’t necessarily see that being in the church, because the church space wasn’t always that creative. But God continued to, as I said, no more and more, God had other plans. And so I went to school to study media communications, thinking I’d be in an ad agency, or run a company, or something like that in that kind of space. And God’s gonna just continue to use things all the way from early ministry on, to be able to help shape me to do what I do now.

And so I’ve been at West Ridge Church for almost 11 years, I can’t believe that. So I started off as Communications Director, came in really just to help build and create the communications team. So we were like a lot of churches that just had no system, structure, resources, team. My team meeting was me closing the door and, you know, figuring it out and stuff. So it was a lot of building, and a lot of lessons learned, through that phase. And so I served in that role for about four and a half years, and then moved into our Creative Arts Pastor role, and so I’ve been in that role ever since then.

So I get to serve with and lead an incredible team of creatives, so for us, that’s our worship, production, video, communications. And our thing at the end of the day, is we love tech just like everybody. We get into songs and guitars and all that stuff, but our thing more than anything is we just want to put Jesus on display and put him in the spotlight. So I get to be able to just be a part of that through our team, and help us try to do that as well as we can.

Wow. So, you know, here we are, we’re in March of 2021. We’re kind of coming out of this last year, which as you know, the church world just turned upside down. You guys have navigated through that. What kind of, what kind of things are you doing today, that you had no idea you’d be doing a year ago? Like, just it’s crazy, how have you responded?

Yeah. I mean, I’m one of those crazy people that, I wasn’t excited for this by any means. But at the same time, when everything, when this all started to happen, I mean, I remember going back, thinking back to a meeting I was having with my team. And we were sitting around, and I was saying, hey, we may need to be ready for a couple of weeks to just be online. And they were like, you’re crazy, what are you talking about? And I was crazy to think just a couple of weeks, you know. So, I mean, there’s no way to be prepared for all this. But at the same time, it was kind of energizing, partly for what I get to do. Because, I mean, I wrote a book on rethinking communication largely with a lot of the stuff in mind, not a pandemic in mind, but with the mindset of how do we reach people physically and digitally and help put Jesus on display in both worlds. And seeing all these new opportunities, that part was really energizing. So it’s led to some really great conversations with leadership, with repositioning how we’re doing some things, just to be more intentional with how we’re actually reaching people when they go to church in person, and as they go out in the community, and as they engage with us in person and online.

So I feel like we were having the right conversations before, but it prepared us to be able to jump right in and say, how do we take it up another level and get really intentional? But the thing that I’m actually most excited about for our team as a whole is, there’s just another level of awareness, I think, of how the the student ministry, the kids ministry, women’s ministry, every ministry has a role to play. And they may have not signed up to be an online minister, but they are one now. Because if God called them to reach people…If you’re a women’s ministry leader and God called you to reach women, he’s also called you to reach them online, because that’s where they are. And that doesn’t mean you have to leave them there, but it means you have to reach them there and stuff. So the hunger of not only people in our church, but churches all across the country to say, hey, I want to make sure that I’m not, that I’m leveraging this season, not wasting it. It has been really energizing and exciting.

So you wrote this book, Rethink Communication, in what, I think, 2018?

Yeah, in the beginning of 2019.

2019, so timely, timely, when you think about Rethink Communication. What inspired you to to write this book, and what prompted this>

Yeah, well so like I mentioned earlier, my first couple of years in communications where I learned a ton, but most of it was learning it the hard way, and learning it on the on the fringes of burnout. And so for me, the biggest thing was I see myself, and so many other leaders across the country, that are saying, hey, we don’t know where to start. I didn’t get trained in this, I didn’t go to school for this, there was no playbook, you know, out there. And so that was my heart, so I just wanted to kind of create a playbook from the things that I’ve learned to give you a way to be able to help communicate anything that your church is communicating.

And the other piece was, I really wanted to do that with the senior pastor and ministry leaders in mind. It sounds like a bad joke, but like if you picture to a senior pastor, a ministry leader, and a communications leader, sitting down at a bar or at the coffee shop, I mean. Like that’s kind of what I had in my mind is, I wanted something that everybody could lean into together to figure out what’s changed in the church, and how do we need to change as the church, to communicate the greatest message ever.

Well, you know, I mean, we get the opportunity to talk to a lot of churches around the country. And you can imagine, we talk to everybody from lead pastors down to the new communication director who was just a children’s ministry assistant last month. But she got the, you know, the short end of the stick, and now she’s the communications director. I mean, that literally happens, and they step into that space and they’re like, OK, where do we begin? You know, they’re because they’re gifted, they’re talented, and they’re good leaders, but they have no idea.

And sometimes it’s just who has a Mac on staff, ok, you’re the communications director.

Does anybody here know Photoshop? If you’ve ever used Photoshop before, you might be the communications director.

Pretty much, yep.

Well, let me ask you a question on the note of the playbook, you talked a little bit about the playbook, Jason talked about the book, Rethink Communication. One of the things that you do in the book, is you you kind of describe very accurately what a lot of communication communications directors live in, which is, you just call it chaos, right? It’s chaos. It’s early mornings, it’s late nights, it’s a whole lot of spinning plates. You’re in a large church, and when you’re in a large church and there are a lot of different ministries and a lot of different departments, it’s a lot to take in. And, you know, we have conversations with these types of communications directors and leaders all the time. And they’re always working to try to figure out how to prioritize my time, and the things that I’m focused on, the urgent always seems to trump everything else, because everybody’s need is super urgent. And so you kind of paint this picture of chaos, which I think anybody who reads the book, who’s living in the communications space in a church is going to go, yep, that’s where I am, or at least that’s where I’ve been, that’s me. Right?

And then you actually kind of break things down into some steps, as far as a playbook is concerned. Do you want to just kind of walk through maybe just some of the highlights of those things that you would coach someone on? To say if you’re living in this chaos, these are a few little nuggets that would help you kind of prioritize your time, and prioritize the energies, that you’re putting into communications?

Yeah, great question. I think, I mean, this is a great time, I think, for churches to lean into this. Because I think at the beginning of COVID you had the excuse of, hey, we don’t know what next two days are going to look like, so we can’t plan. And a lot of churches are have created a year long rhythm of that, and there are communication leaders out there everywhere that are at the end of their rope, burned out. So it’s a great time to have these questions if you’re in that communications role, or you’re leading that, especially if you’re leading or overseeing those people, lean into this. So I think in the book I walk through the playbook, from beginning to end, of how do you think through and clarify that message before you start communicating it? And how do you effectively build a plan and all that stuff, so that’s there for you to check out if you’d like.

But I think that the number one game changer thing for me that was clarifying for me as a leader, but also clarifying for our church, is we stopped trying to make everything important. When everything’s important, nothing’s important. And when you try to put the burden on a communications person, or a church, to say, make all of this stuff known and communicate all, you’re talking about an impossible task. Because most people don’t always think, or realize, that for somebody to take a next step to respond to a message, it usually takes about seven interactions with that message before somebody makes a response.

So if you’re trying to communicate five things on a Sunday, think about how difficult that is for that message to actually stick, because people are tuning out. So the number one thing that I would try to encourage churches to do, is to pick for each week of the year, what are the one to two most important messages from your church. And then make sure that that’s really clear, and then leverage your communication channels all across the board, in person, and online, in digital stuff, to be able to help tell the story of what God’s doing through that message. And that might be a new sermon series, that may be a new service time, that may be a giving initiative, any number of messages. But if it’s not more important than those ones to two things, then it probably needs to be communicated in a different way, or in a more a more niche way. In that way, instead of trying to to be more important than the other stuff. So when you as a church can clarify that, you give your communications team and creative team the greatest clarity to be able to say, put all your creative energy into these things. Knock it out of the park, make sure that you are really effectively, not just getting the job done and making that task get completed, but really you’re saying how do I creatively tell this story in a unique way on social media. And how do we leverage this message and service, how do we use email and our app to be able to help people engage in these things? They can’t do it if you’re giving them eight things, but if you give them one to two, you’ll be amazed by the creative energy that gets put into it and the clarity that happens for the people you’re trying to when you’re not giving them a whole menu of things to engage with.

Let me ask, you get burned out by that, right? I mean as a staff person, it’s overwhelming. And all of a sudden we are turning into counselors, trying to counsel them through that, and almost their therapist rather than giving them ideas. And I think that that’s the biggest, I see all the time, that’s the biggest…Church if you guys are doing that to your team, please stop, you know.

Well, and there are staffs that are so burned out and tired from trying to play this event cycle. And think about it, if you’re burned out as a full time staff member, think about the burden that…We’re trading all that work that we’re not willing to do of trying to create clarity for the people we’re trying to reach, and we’re putting that on the shoulders of the people that we want to engage in these very things in the church. So we’ve got to do the hard work to clarify it, so that we’re not putting all that baggage on the people we’re trying to reach.

I’m going to ask you a question, I’m going to ask both of you the same question, I’m going to let Phil answer it first because he’s our our guest. But both of you, like Jason, spent a number of years as a communications director in a large multi campus church. Phil, you’re in a large church, there’s lots of ministry, you’ve got lots of staff. One of the things that you said just a minute ago is as a lead team, I’m kind of summarizing here, as a lead team, we’re going to prioritize the things that are basically going to get our A-1, tier one, high level vision space, like this is getting platform time on Sunday morning, this is getting prime spot on the website and in social media. But I’m another staff member in the church, and maybe I’m coming from the men’s ministry, or the children’s ministry, or the prayer ministry, and I have something that’s important, something that I think everybody ought to know about, or an event or an activity that I really want to promote. How are you going to coach me on how I can best use my resources to communicate what I need to to the people that I want to hear my message? How would you basically say, no, we’re not going to give you the time and the space that you want, but here’s how I can help you more effectively communicate to the people you need to communicate to?

Yeah, great question, and I think that’s the tension every ministry leader has. And it’s important, we need hungry, passionate, ministry leaders that are fighting for that very thing. That’s way better than a bunch of people that don’t care if anybody is engaging with it, so I’ll take that problem all day long. I mean, there’s two strategies, I think, that are important for this, neither of them happen overnight. But they have to be fought for over time, to be able to be effective. So one thing is every ministry area, if it’s important enough to to invest in as a church, it’s important enough to have a key onramp way for people to engage in that ministry all throughout the year. And so if you’re…Now, does that mean that you give it attention every single week? No, you probably can’t.

But like, for example, our kids ministry is a very, very important ministry in our church. Do we talk about the family movie night, or the the one off events all the time? We really don’t, we try to equip that ministry with the tools they need to most effectively reach their tribe of people? But what we try to do as a church, and as we communicate all across the year, is when we are approaching their key onramp ministry, which is their summer camp, we go all out. I mean, we spend three to four weeks of that being our most most important, or our second most important message, and we creatively tell the story of what God’s doing through our kids camp. And as people hear about that, and engage in that, we know that if they take a next step to get engaged in that camp, now they are in our database, they’re in our tribe. They’ve given us permission to kind of connect with them and engage with them, and they’re involved in our ministry now. So now kids ministry can help drive that targeted communication to them all across the year. So giving each ministry an onramp time is really important, because it gives them that church wide promotion and awareness for everybody, but it allows them to leverage that as a jumping off point to make sure that they’re leveraging that all across the year.

The second thing I alluded to, is just making sure as ministry leaders we are partners with them, as communication leaders. We need to partner with them all throughout the year, to make sure that they have the resources they need to be able to take the mantle of effectively communicating their ministry. Because their most effective way to do that is not from putting up a pre-service slide, it’s their network, it’s their relationships, it’s their social media posts. They want to connect with that, like the people that want to come to that event, they want to connect with that. So we just need to give them the tools and resources, and put things up on on the website and make sure they have a good central hub for people to stay connected on that stuff. But we’ve got to partner with them all throughout the year, to make sure that they’ve got the resources that they need to help tell the story of their ministry.

Jason, what would you want…Yeah, I want to know what you want to add to that. Because my perception, Jason, is that when you were leading in your church, you loved to say no to people. Like that’s the perception that I have. Jason, I think, took pride in saying, no, you’re not getting what you are asking for.

Well, yeah, because I think if you start to say yes all the time, then you create a bad habit of ministries thinking that you’re going to be the one communications department that’s going to make my event successful. And that’s just impossible to live up to that reality every single week, week in, week out, with all these different ministries. So not only do I echo, and I believe, exactly what Phil just said, that through storytelling, and through equipping, and giving them the tools necessary, and the boundaries, these are the boundaries. If it doesn’t reach the whole room, we’re not going to mention it in worship, but we’re going to give you the tools.

The only thing I would add on to this is, I would also try to educate the ministry that this isn’t a…it’s a reverse funnel, ok? A normal funnel is we want to reach everybody, and try to get the message to everybody, knowing that we’re going to funnel down to the people that are going to get connected to our church or our ministry. In this case, you want to reverse that, you want to target that small group that’s really passionate about what you are doing as a ministry, and through them it grows, and it reaches more and more and more people. Because that’s the… your passionate people, your tribe, and you said that perfectly, that’s going to help grow your tribe. Get away from, oh, I’ve got to have thousands of people, remove the number. It’s all about change lives, it’s all about storytelling, it’s about reaching a group of people that eventually will continue to grow.

And, of course, as ministries, as you know, throughout the years, there’s different seasons in these families lives. Bart and I were just talking, we are in a different season than Phil is. Phil’s got younger kids, we’ve got older kids, we’re just in different seasons, and that happens constantly through the life of the church. And so the best way to equip ministries now, is to use storytelling, and use these tools to engage people, and understand there’s a reverse funnel in that.

When we..I think that’s really well said, and I want to piggyback on that. One of the things, when we talk to churches about their digital outreach strategies, their digital marketing, the way that they’re reaching people in their community, Jason and I always qualify every conversation we have with every church, by saying there is no amount of money that you can spend, and there is no marketing that you can do, that will trump the personal invitation of the people in your church, inviting their friends, their family, their neighbors, period. The personal invitation, it goes back two thousand years, to Jesus’ personal invitation. And that’s what we need to be doing, and that’s what we need to be championing in our churches. I think sometimes, even in the context of our ministries, we fail to realize that that is still even in the context of the men’s ministry, the women’s ministry, the prayer team, the children’s ministry, that word of mouth marketing, that personal invitation, is still the most valuable asset that any ministry leader has. Is find the people that are evangelists for your ministry, and for your cause, and for what you’re trying to do, get them excited about it. If they’re excited about it, and they understand the vision of what you’re trying to accomplish, then you’re more likely to have more successful events, and activities, and engagement, in what you’re doing. Because they’re going to share the love, they’re going to spread it around to the people that need to know. So I just kind of add to that there, Jason.

Hey, let’s pivot to another question here, Phil. Actually, I’m going to kind of go back to the book and ask another question. You wrote the book, right about a year and half, two years, prior to the whole COVID thing. Is there anything that you would add to the book today, in light of what your experience over the last year has been?

Great question. I mean, there’s always time for a second book, which I’m trying to work through, if weren’t for just trying to survive this season too. So, yeah, a lot of things that I think are phase two, or a different aspect of, especially, the digital side of engaging people. But I think probably the biggest missed opportunity that I think needs to be rethinked for church leaders, is that the old way of thinking about discipling people was, get them to our event, get them to our gathering, and then they’ll take the steps and they’ll be discipled, which it’s not that that can’t happen. But what I think the missed opportunity is, is there’s a lot of people that are overwhelmed with all the noises that are being thrown at them, that they’re not coming to that event because they don’t know it adds value to them, or to their family, or to their to their marriage. So what if, instead of just waiting for people to come to us, we actually said, hey, what are these little aspects of, what are these…For marriage, for example, instead of just saying, hey, we have a marriage event for you, or a weekly gathering for your marriage to make sure that we can help you with taking your marriage to the next level, so come here and you’ll be better. Like, that’s one model. The other model would be, hey, this is the story of this person who has just finished up our weekly marriage event, and here’s the three things that were game changers for their marriage. These are three things they took away, that you can use and apply right now. And that can be a 60 second, 90 second video, that can be a blog post, that can be a social media post. It gives them value where they are, and it gives them a next step. And so I think that’s what’s being missed, is we are requiring people to take the next step, which is more like a leap, to get people inside the door, to come in person, to come to that event, to take their time to do that. When instead if we give them small steps, and added value, wherever we’re communicating our message online, on our website, on our live streams, all those things. Give them value where they are, and then give them a next step. That’s where I think we’ve got to be leaning into this, because we have the greatest message, and we have some of the greatest opportunities out there to help people, and actually add value to their lives, to make their lives better, because we believe that Jesus makes our lives better. Like, we’re better people, and better husbands and wives, and kids, and all those things when we have Jesus at the center of our life. So if we believe that, we need to get that message in front of as many people as we can, and give them that value where they are, so that they lean in and take a next step.

Yeah, I would echo that to say, you know, I don’t think the strategy of bringing them into the room is still going to be there, right? It took a pause for a while here, and we’ll get back to that a little bit. But to your point, and something we should have been doing for years, is we should be meeting them in their space, on their time, with content that’s relevant to what they’re dealing with, right? You just mentioned it, like watch some videos of success stories on how this couple fixed their marriage, right, which gives you hope that you can experience that, and you didn’t have to come to the room for that, you could do it in your own living room. And that’s just a baby step, discipleship starts right there. And eventually, if they want, to take those steps to come to our church, right, and engage. But if we could just reproduce that over and over and over again, now it’s limitless on how many people we could reach on all these different felt needs. So I totally echo and appreciate what you said there, that we can’t just have this one minded shift of we’ve got to get him in the room. That’s fine, but we have to, and you guys have pivoted well, you’ve got to go to them because that’s what Jesus did. He didn’t make people come to him, he went to people, he came down to earth to come to us. We have to take the same approach.

Yeah, just like you said, I mean, we did not see Jesus walking the streets, meeting people and say, hey, great question, person, I see that you need that healing. Hey, can I give you this postcard to come to this gathering that we’ve got? Make sure…No, he met needs right there, and then he gave them a next step. He said, go and sin no more, or go here, like he gave them a next step. So we’re just following what Jesus’s model here. but we’ve just missed, we’ve got the gathering part, we just miss the the first step sometimes along the way. And that can be the most fun, because then it takes the burden off of us. Our win is not that we got people inside a room, because life transformation may or may not happen if they get in that room. But what we can just do is be faithful and putting Jesus on display and all those different avenues, and then let Jesus do what he said he’s going to do. And he said he’s going to build the church, so that’s not on us, but we’ve just got to be faithful in all this other stuff

Hey Phil, who are the leaders that you’re looking to, and that you’re learning from these days? I do want to point out that, you know, when I discovered your book, I saw that Tony Morgan had written the foreword. So I’m like, well, this guy Phil’s in some good company. And then when I went to Amazon to buy it, I saw an endorsement from John Maxwell, who said he read the book. I’m like, ok, like Phil’s in some good company here. So you got Tony Morgan and John Maxwell, who are phenomenal leaders, and people that I’m learning from. Aside from those guys, which I’m assuming that you learn from those guys, who are some other people that you’re looking to and learning from that might be of benefit to us and to our listeners/

Sure, yeah. I mean, authors that I really lean into just because I appreciate how they approach problems are Seth Godin, Adam Grant, Malcolm Gladwell. I just love their work, and I love their podcasts as well, I’m a podcast junkie. So other podcasts in the faith space, or leadership space too, Andy Stanley, Carey Nieuwhof, Craig Groeschel, they’re very practical and insightful in that. Those are probably not new names for a lot of people, but what I think I’ve been leaning into more in this season, is I’m more interested in leaning into the faithful leaders behind the scenes that you may not know about. That they’re just, they don’t have a Twitter account, they don’t have a blog, or a book, or anything like that. They’re just being faithful with their church of one hundred, or their specific role that God called them too. So I have a friend, Mack Lake, who’s just a leadership expert, and when I have a problem in that area, or just want to learn from him, I’m going to him. You know, Tim Foot, who I also do some work with Slingshot Group, and so he is the most encouraging guy I’ve ever met. Like, he’s just oozes encouragement, you feel better when you talk to that guy. So I’m trying to ask him questions and learn from him, and especially in that area, to lean into that. And there’s just volunteers that are on our team, or our staff, that have a unique gift that I can learn from. So I think sometimes we overthink it, like there’s great leaders out there, but there’s great leaders that are just faithful behind the scenes that nobody knows about, that I’m learning from every day.

Hmm, well said. I think we’re rubbing shoulders with people, and we maybe take that for granted a little bit. And you recognize, wait a minute, you really are pouring into my life. And it’s not always like, hey, you just gave me five nuggets to chew on that I’m going to improve my leadership. It’s more about just through life, you’re going, wait, what’s God telling me in this moment right now? I find that happening all the time, because I’m the same way, you surround yourself with people that you just like to be around, and you find that God does some amazing things through those relationships.

And I mean, especially in the last couple of years. I mean, the interesting thing that I see from the generation older than me, is that they had some incredible giants of the faith that they could look to and count on, that they could model their lives around and be in good shape. My generation has had a lot of people that look that way, but have let us down, like they’ve had failures. And we’ve all, none of us are beyond failure on that, I don’t mean that at all. But platform and follower counts don’t necessarily mean the greatest influence either, because that can let us down, so I just think we’ve got to look in other places sometimes. And especially, like I said, lean into things that, find a trait, or find somebody that’s great even at one thing, and just ask them questions, spend time with them, learn from them. That’s where it’s at.

You know, I think you’re describing, inadvertently, you’re describing Jason Hamrock. You know, he’s a guy who hasn’t written a book, I don’t think you have a Twitter account, do you?

No, I don’t.

But someone that I’ve learned a ton from, and I think a lot of the leaders, and a lot of church communications professionals, and pastors, and executive pastors, that Jason gets to spend time with. I’m just, I’m tooting your horn here for you, Jason, so you don’t have to. Not that you would, see, that’s another reason that you’re a good leader is that you wouldn’t do that. So, yeah, it’s cool. You’re absolutely right, Phil, there is something very…We do live in a culture of the cult of personality, right, where we do tend to look to people who have large platforms, and they oftentimes have very valuable and insightful things to say. And I’m one of those people, I’m like you, I listen to a lot of podcasts, it sounds like you and I probably listen to a lot of the same podcasts. But there is a danger in hitching your wagon, or putting all of your eggs into some of those baskets, because people are people and they do fail and they do fall. And we just need to keep our anchor in Jesus Christ the King, He’s the one. And I don’t know how we kind of delved into this.

Well, I listen to His podcast all the time.

You listen to his podcast? I do too, I spend some time every morning. Some weird guy, if I use the Bible app, and you’ve got some strange guy that’s reading it to me in the Bible app, I don’t think that’s what Jesus it sounds like.

But anyway, hey, let’s wrap up here, Phil. We really, really appreciate your time, this has been really, really great to get to know you, and a little bit more about your ministry? I think that your book is really an excellent tool for for communications professionals, for pastors, for people who are trying to figure out how to really streamline their processes and and be more effective in their communication. At the end of the day, we have a message that we need to communicate, I think one of the things that you hit on in the book is that we don’t have a problem with our message, we have a problem with our delivery mechanism. I do not know if that’s exactly the way you phrase it?

No, it’s not.

But those are kind of the words that you use. Close enough, you know, it’s not the message, it’s the delivery of the message, and we need to get better at that. So we appreciate the work that you’ve put into not only doing it at West Ridge, but also making your experiences and your insights available to other people. If people would like to get a copy of the book, find out more about you, what are the best ways for them to connect with you, track with you, or to get the book?

Sure. Yeah, you can go to Search my name or Rethink Communication in Amazon. that’s where most people are grabbing the book on there. But there’s links for all the different places you can find it, or to get bulk copies for your team, if you’re walking through the book with your team. We try to make that really competitive with the publisher, to be able to make that a good option for your team, so feel free to check that out. Also, you can text me (678)653-2047 if you have a question, if I can pray for you, if there’s anything I can do to have your back, feel free to to reach out there, (678)653-2047. I leave in the end of the book as well too, and have had some really fun…That’s how John Maxwell called me. So I’m like, it’s worth it just for that, you know, so I’ll take it. But feel free to reach out, I’ve had some really fun conversations with people from churches all over the place from that, so I love being able to connect with anybody. And then you can also email me

Awesome Phil, man, I really appreciate your time, but I also really appreciate God using you to further his kingdom, so thanks for answering his call. I kind of laugh, because I’m like, yeah, God has a sense of humor because I didn’t find myself wanting to work for a church. You know, I wasn’t a preacher’s kid, but I just I grew up in the church, I never thought I’d work for a church. But, you know, sense of humor God goes, no, no, no, I’m going to do this to you and change your life, and it’s been awesome ever since. So I appreciate your story, and thanks for your leadership.

Oh, I appreciate it, and thanks for all that you guys are doing. I mean, churches need leaders like you, podcasts like this, and people that are just here to help the church. So, honored to be with you guys today.

Thanks, buddy.

Thanks, Phil.

Talk to you soon.

All right.


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