Leveraging Data to Drive Ministry Outcomes at Your Church with Erik Henry

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking today with Erik Henry, the Executive Pastor of Central Christian Church in Wisconsin.

Data is critical to accurately understand what’s happening at your church and what’s changing over time. Listen in as Erik discusses the importance of using data to make informed decisions at your church as well as best practices for creating a survey that collects the needed information.

  • Data allows you to make decisions. // As church leaders, we can rely on our gut feelings when making decisions. But what if we could use data to make more informed decisions? Data allows you to make decisions based on what is really happening, but it’s only as good as the question it answers or the decision it helps you make.
  • Behavior and self-reported spiritual maturity. // It’s difficult to measure spiritual maturity because it’s so complex, individualized, and often cyclical. However we can measure behaviors and self-reported feelings about spiritual maturity. While this data isn’t useful on its own, tracking the changes to these measurements over time can help you determine what’s working and what needs improvement.
  • Create surveys. // Surveys are a useful tool for gathering data and tracking changes over time. However there are also limitations of survey data and we need to interpret it carefully. For example, when measuring the self-reported feelings about spiritual maturity of church members, it is important to consider the sample of the church that is willing to take the survey. Erik warns against overstepping the difference between causation and correlation, as pastors may push certain behaviors as the mark of spiritual maturity, leading to a new kind of legalism.
  • Focused and brief. // Erik emphasizes the importance of keeping surveys simple, clear, specific, and brief, with no more than 10 short questions. Each question needs to be directly aimed at something you want an answer to. The surveys at Central Christian Church are sent out via email and use Google Forms which most people are familiar with.
  • Determine what to ask. // What are the key performance indicators for your church as a whole? Focus your questions on measuring your KPIs to get the most useful data from your surveys.
  • Survey Fatigue. // Incorporating surveys into your communication strategy is a helpful assistant in the decision-making process, but be cautious about overusing it. Central Christian limits churchwide surveys to twice a year. After surveying your people, consider distributing the results and connecting it to your decision-making.

You can learn more about Central Christian Church at Plus check out examples of their surveys below:

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey, everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you’ve decided to tune in today. You know every week we try to bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you. Today is definitely going to deliver that for you. We’ve got Erik Henry with us. He’s the executive pastor at a church that you should be tracking along with, Central Christian Church. Now there’s only one of them in the country;I know this is one of those names of churches – there’s a lot of them out there so which one are we talking about? We’re talking about the one that’s kind of in the middle between Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee. This is a fantastic church or a multi-site church with both English and speaking congregation. Ah, one of the fastest growing churches in the country. Erik, so glad you’re here. Welcome to the show.

Erik Henry — Thanks for having me, man. I really appreciate that.

Rich Birch — Yeah I’m honored that you’re here. I’d love to love your church. Love what God’s doing there. Can we start with kind of tell us about, for folks that don’t know, fill out the picture tell us about Central and then tell us about your role. What is what do you do as an executive pastor at your church?

Erik Henry — Sure. Yeah, Central is a it’s kind of a… yeah I talk to executive pastors all the time and all of us say that our churches are weird. Um, every…

Rich Birch — Mm, so true. Yes, very true.

Erik Henry — Every church is not like any other church and so ah, but…

Rich Birch — But yours really is. Yours really is.

Erik Henry — Ours really is.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Erik Henry — But you know we we live we’re a large church in a small community. You know 35,000 people in our community and um, it’s not in a big city. It’s not in the suburbs. It’s not in in a growing area. It’s actually in a semi-depressed area, and so you know a lot of it’s very blue collar. It’s not white collar. You know people working in um, in executive roles. It’s it’s very blue collar community and it’s it’s just a different place. And so um I love it. I’ve been at Central for 23 years. I was actually teaching math, high school math…

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Erik Henry — …and I I was on just coming to church here. They asked me to come on staff and start ah, young, ah like a Gen X Ministry, back when that was a kind of the thing.

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, Gen X. Gen X, remember that? That was like all the cool and hip.

Erik Henry — Yeah, oh yeah, yeah. That’s when we were young.

Rich Birch — It’s going to happen to you, Gen Z friends. It’s going to happen to you someday.

Erik Henry — True story.

Rich Birch — But you’re going to look back and laugh and say, remember when they used to pay attention to us? Well they never paid attention to Gen X. I’m Gen X as well. So.

Erik Henry — Yeah.

Rich Birch — But yeah, that’s great. Love it. So you started there and then kind of works your way up.

Erik Henry — So anyway so I started there. I’ve been here 23 years…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Erik Henry — …and I just kind of I can’t decide whether I kept getting promotions, or I just couldn’t keep a job.

Rich Birch — I love it.

Erik Henry — But I went from um I went from Young Adults to ah Worship Pastor to Creative Arts Director to Discipleship Pastor to a Campus Pastor.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Erik Henry — And then now I’m the Executive Pastor. I and I got into this role in February or a January of 2020. so I thought I was hopping right in at the perfect time…

Rich Birch — Perfect.

Erik Henry — …and then a month later you know what.

Rich Birch — A vision for a new decade. You know, got 2020 vision we know exactly… all those churches that had clear vision for 2020, we know exactly where God’s going to lead us that year. No, not true.

Erik Henry — Bingo.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s cool.

Erik Henry — So um so yeah anyway so it’s it’s been a blast. I’ve so I’ve got 3 years under my belt as Executive Pastor.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Erik Henry — Um I you know we we had wanted this to be sort of ah a more of a ministry use ah, focused Executive Pastor role. We were going to hire on an Operations focused Executive Pastor, but you know with everything that happened um that I’m filling both of those roles right now.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Erik Henry — And so um, but truthfully I love it. I enjoy it. I but I am doing a job that I was never trained for, especially on the operation side. And so I’m I’m going back to school.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Erik Henry — I’m getting my MBA right now…

Rich Birch — Oh very cool.

Erik Henry — …in data analytics.

Rich Birch — Data. That’s cool.

Erik Henry — And so so it’s something something that I really enjoy. You know I’m a math guy; I’m a geek and so um, so the the data thing is exciting to me. I’ve been really enjoying. I’ll graduate with my MBA in December.

Rich Birch — Right. Congratulations, congratulations on that. That’s so good.

Erik Henry — Yeah, thanks.

Rich Birch — Well you know data is interesting. I know a lot of we have a lot of executive pastors or executive pastor wannabees that are listening in ah and when you said data I know that people perked their ears up and said, ooh this one’s going to be a good episode. I’m excited about that. Because we do we think about… a lot of executive pastors see the world through spreadsheets; we that you know the world is just a series of spreadsheets, different tabs. Um, but you know talk to us about data. Why why is data important for us as church leaders to be thinking about?

Erik Henry — Yeah, great. You know I love this stuff. Data for me, and I think it should be for everybody, data is all about making good decisions. Um, data is only as good as the question it answers or the decision it helps you make. Um and so ah, part of the problem that I see in church a lot is that churches and leaders in churches usually make decisions from their gut. You know? The the sense.

Rich Birch — It’s so true.

Erik Henry — So and and I’m not I’m I’m not denigrating that. There’s there’s a place for that. And and not just your gut but also your spirit. You know there’s a there’s a place when you are um, following and and listening to the Holy Spirit. There’s a place for listening and and ignoring data. But I think I think we do that a little too much.

Rich Birch — Are okay.

Erik Henry — And I think, you know, part of what I think is important about data is it allows us to make decisions based on what’s really happening not based on a gut feeling. Um and the reality you know as well as I do ah a lead pastor is going to hear what the people want him to hear. They’re gonna he’s gonna…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Erik Henry — …he’s going to hear what ah because people love him.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Erik Henry — People want to love him.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — People want him to think that they’re really on his side. And so sometimes even though a lead pastor can feel like they’re in the know and they get their people. Um it is not exactly that clear because they have a skewed understanding because people show them what they want him to see.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. You know I’ve said for years, there’s there’s no bad information. There’s just information we don’t like. We want data. We have to get, ah you know, the the real information on the ground. But let me play the the you know the negative voice. Ah you know, listen come on, Erik, we’re in a spiritual game here. We’re we’re trying to help people grow spiritually. You can’t get that onto a spreadsheet so don’t even bother. Why would we do it at any level? Isn’t it just all about like you say you know how you know how the Spirit leads, but you know at its core, you know, we can’t; we can’t. The core thing that we hopefully do in our churches, see people take steps towards Jesus, you can’t get that onto a ah spreadsheet, can you?

Erik Henry — And I agree with that, to a point.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Erik Henry — I do because there are things that we can measure and there are things that we can’t. Um and and so I’d like to, you know, first off the bat the first thing that I know that every pastor would love to be able to do is measure spiritual maturity. I can measure if you are where you are when you come here. and then I can measure how spiritually mature you are as you ah go through all of the programs or whatever of our church. My opinion, and this is just my opinion, you cannot measure spiritual maturity.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right.

Erik Henry — It is way too complex. It is it is so clearly ah, an individualized um thing. It’s also it’s it’s circular. It’s cyclical, and it is not an up and to the right trajectory. Rarely is it that.

Rich Birch — Right. That’s a good insight.

Erik Henry — Also it has so so often it has so little to do with our church. The way that people grow we think it’s going to be our church that grows them. But the reality is the way that people grow is when they lose a loved one and they walk through that, and it’s painful, and in the end they see that they have gotten closer to Jesus as a result.

Erik Henry — Now I’m not I’m not saying that there are no, there is no role for the church. Of course, there’s a huge role for the church at this. But to say that we can measure spiritual maturity. Um I think is a little ah overstating.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Erik Henry — But there are things that we can measure.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Erik Henry — We can’t measure maturity, but we can measure behaviors, and we can measure self-reported feelings about spiritual maturity.

Rich Birch — Interesting. Okay.

Erik Henry — Now I want to I want to suggest that those are two different things. Spiritual maturity is different, actual spiritual maturity, is different than self-reported feelings about spiritual maturity.

Erik Henry — Because we’re not always um as self-aware as we want to be, as we wish we were.

Rich Birch — Right. It’s so true.

Erik Henry — And so um and so as we measure these things, it’s just really important that we are are clear and careful about describing exactly what we’re measuring. Um and mathematicians and statisticians, that’s what you’re about. We don’t want to overstate.

Rich Birch — Yes, right.

Erik Henry — We want to be very careful everything that we say is only what we can prove through the numbers.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Erik Henry — Pastors, on the other hand, are not very careful.

Rich Birch — God bless them. God bless them.

Erik Henry — I love them; I’m one of them.

Rich Birch — Yes, exactly. Exactly.

Erik Henry — But we are not careful, usually, about how we use data. And it’s not because we’re…

Rich Birch — Right. Well…

Erik Henry — Go ahead.

Rich Birch — No I was going to say like that’s like one of those standard running jokes, right? Like in fact I think it might even be in my bio where I talk about the sizes of churches I’ve worked at, and I even make the joke I’m like those are not senior pastor numbers. Those are actual numbers. Like because you know we all we all and I’ve… listen, the senior pastors I’ve worked for amazing gentlemen…

Erik Henry — Yeah.

Rich Birch — But they all this the guys I worked for had this propensity of like yeah, there’d be a room of whatever a thousand people, and there’s like there was at least 4000 people there today. And and so and that and we all have that – obviously they’re easy to make fun of. But we all do that. I do that. You know we we kind of skew what we see kind of fits our story. We’re constantly, there’s ah ah you know, ah a confirmation bias that we have. When when you talk about behaviors and then self-reported feeling, can you give us some examples of those?

Erik Henry — Sure.

Rich Birch — Let’s pull apart that a little bit; talk to me a bit about behaviors.

Erik Henry — Sure, absolutely.

Rich Birch — What are some of the behaviors if we’re trying to get at? Look under the hood, what’s actually happening in our churches?

Erik Henry — So questions like, ah how many times a week do you read the bible? That’s a behavior.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Erik Henry — Um, that’s something that we track. Ah another so that there’s sort of the on your own behaviors. Then there’s also the ah are you a part of of participation in some of our church programs, like for instance, are you serving on a serving team? Yes, or no. That’s ah, an important question for us.

Erik Henry — Are you um are you taking advantage of any of our classes or small groups. That’s another question, you know, that we’re trying to track. So those are behaviors. Am I doing a thing; am I um am I participating in a program? But then when it comes to self-reported feelings. It’s how how connected do you feel to other believers? Now that is a very soft number.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Erik Henry — Do you know what I’m saying? That’s a 0 to 5 how connected do you feel to other believers at Central Christian Church. That the number 4 means almost nothing.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — Now what it what what it does do is you can start to track over time where that number moves to. So if if on average you’re 2.1 this year, and a year later you’re at 4.2 – whoa! Whoa! We did we must have done something. Something happened. Or you go the other direction. Ooo we’ve got a problem.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — But the first time you measure it a 4.0 means literally nothing, you know?

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, it’s just a…

Erik Henry — And so those are the when it comes to self-reported feelings about spiritual maturity, you’re measuring the change. Not the actual number.

Rich Birch — Okay, that’s good. I love that. Now, so a part of what I hear you saying is actually really driving to doing more surveys, asking people to reflect on their their own.

Erik Henry — Yes.

Rich Birch — There’s obviously a couple different kinds of data – one is just like how many people are in groups. But another one is like are you in a group? That’s two different ways to look at it. Help me understand what place do surveys fit in in the way you’re using data, where you’re gathering gathering data, and then how that helps you in, you know, making decisions at the church.

Erik Henry — Surveys are huge for us. Um, because trying to to, you know, you can you can count the number of people who go to your classes in small groups. You can count your attendance, you can count other things, but it doesn’t doesn’t give you all that much information actually.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — So there’s a difference between um, the number of people who show up in seats and the amount of times per month on average your your person, your people attend church. So how many times per month do you… you can’t get that in any way other than a survey. Um.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — There’s no real way to pull that off. So surveys for us are really important. We’ve gotten we’ve decided that we’re doing two surveys a year.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Erik Henry — We’re doing one every six months. So for me, there are there are four things that we are really careful about with surveys. Number one simplicity. It’s got to be simple. It’s got to be…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Erik Henry — …clear and easy… and the second one is clarity. got to be absolutely clear with your question. They can’t be they can’t have to think about it like, what do they mean by that? Specificity. Each question has got to be directly aimed…

Rich Birch — Driving behavior. Yep.

Erik Henry — …at a question that you want an answer to. And the fourth one, and I’m this might be the most important one, it’s brevity. You cannot ask more than 10 questions.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Erik Henry — And they but it better be very simple short questions if they’re 10 of them. Um, because people will not fill it out.

Rich Birch — Yeah I… Okay, let’s talk about these two.

Erik Henry — Yeah

Rich Birch — Let’s keep pause here and drive driving on this a little bit. So you’re doing two big surveys a year. Um are you doing those like on weekends, slowing down the service, speed bump. Okay guys, either take out your phone, or you know here’s a piece of paper. Talk us through functionally what does that look like.

Erik Henry — Yeah, yeah, we do. Um we we do two things with each of those surveys. Number one we send out send it out on email to everybody. The truth is we’ve decided Google Form is the best way to do it.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Erik Henry — I mean there’s lots of other things [inaudible]…

Rich Birch — Yeah, there’s fancy stuff but um.

Erik Henry — …Survey Monkeys, but what we found with our people because we are blue collar um, church, our people are like if you’re going to want me to learn a new thing to take a survey I’m not doing it.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right. Okay.

Erik Henry — And so everybody knows Google; everybody knows Google Forms, so we just send a link to a Google form. Click, click, click, click, click – it’s less than a minute usually that it takes to do a survey.

Rich Birch — And what and what um, give me a sense of maybe a couple stories around stuff that’s changed at the church because of these surveys. That like, hey you know we we learned something here or it confirms something that was going on, um you know, that ended up kind of driving a different behavior.

Erik Henry — Yeah, one one of the main there was a huge shift post pandemic in that number that I just talked about when it comes to how many times people come to church. It used to be less than two.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — Um, now we’re over three, so which is a major shift. So we have ah you know our our numbers are still not… in-person numbers are still not quite back to what they were pre-pandemic. Um, but the people that we have are coming more often. And so that just changes your communication strategies. It used to be we had to say something for four weeks…

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — …before everybody would hear it. It’s not the same anymore.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Erik Henry — So that changes our communication. That’s a small one. But they’re just other things.

Rich Birch — No, that’s a good example.

Erik Henry — Yep.

Rich Birch — Okay, so now I so ah one of the churches I served in, um, they had 2, 3 decades of they did an annual survey which was a great great practice. And we worked very hard to not change the questions…

Erik Henry — Yes.

Rich Birch — …because what we were trying to do was to try to get year over year, talk us through that. Ah, what does that look like?

Erik Henry — Very important. And I’m sort of with our staff I’m like, hey what we have is what we have.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Erik Henry — Don’t don’t suggest more. Don’t don’t… because that’s the there I mean listen, and it’s not their fault.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Erik Henry — They’re like, oh man this is great. We’re getting all this information. I would love to get more information.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Erik Henry — I’d love to get different… I’d like to hear and that’s a great thing. You can’t do it. You gotta say, what is the stuff that matters the most? Because you cannot get people who are like, another survey are you kidding me?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Erik Henry — Or a 25 question survey? Never gonna fill it out. You know?

Rich Birch — Yeah, I wonder if um, would you be willing to share us like a PDF or something that shows that…

Erik Henry — Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah.

Rich Birch — …whatever the 10 questions you use – that that’s great. We’ll put that in the show notes, friends, so you can see that because you should be doing this is a best practice.

Rich Birch — I I want to come back to something you said there, ah because it connected to another idea I was thinking about which was, so you’re saying, hey you’re seeing that people are saying that they’re coming more. They’re actually their average ah number of times a month has gone up which is actually, I would say if you were to ask pastors across the country, they would say it’s gone the opposite direction.

Erik Henry — Right.

Rich Birch — So you’re seeing a trend that’s different now I actually think the deeper point is most people don’t know, they’re just guessing.

Erik Henry — Right.

Rich Birch — They’re blaming their lower attendance on that.

Erik Henry — Yep.

Rich Birch — Um, but you actually know that. How have you seen… how have you used the data to compare to national trends?

Erik Henry — Yeah.

Rich Birch — I’m sure that’s a part of the conversation of you know the way you’ve thought about these things.

Erik Henry — Yeah, so one of the other things that I think is really important is you have to um, you have to think about the the skew of all of your data. So everything that we do, because we do in-person in the services we allow people to do it right in the service and we do email. Everything that you get, we had 305 responses to our survey this last survey. Um every one that you get is skewed because it’s somebody who is willing to fill out a survey. So there is a correlation…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Erik Henry — …between someone who’s willing to fill out a survey and someone who’s willing to come to church more times a week or a month.

Rich Birch — A month. Yeah.

Rich Birch — And so ah so if you… for us to compare our 3.1 number with the national average, which I think right now is 1.6 or 1.7…

Rich Birch — It’s just under 2. Yeah, yeah, yep.

Erik Henry — Yeah um I don’t think that’s a fair comparison.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — Because usually it’s Barna who’s doing that research and they know what they are doing. And they are getting very ah um, they are getting sample sizes that are absolutely random. We are not. And so…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Erik Henry — The the the statistician in me is like we can’t compare those two numbers. Our 3.1 is not equal to their 1.7. because…

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, your 3.1 is compared to, you know, friends that maybe are aren’t tracking along, the 3.1 is most relevant as compared to your 2.4 three, four years ago.

Erik Henry — Exactly right.

Rich Birch — Because that tells you that difference. It’s it’s hard to make that comparison to other churches and understand, you know, what does that, you know, what does that look like it.

Erik Henry — You know and it goes back to it goes back to the question of what being very careful about what you’re saying you are measuring. Because we’re not actually measuring our whole church. We’re we’re measuring a sample of our church…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Erik Henry — …that’s willing to talk to us. Um, and those are that’s a different question. And it goes back to also to you know what do you do with the information? The pastor always has the best of intentions.

Rich Birch — Bright.

Erik Henry — But you know I hear all the time I hear them saying things like, you know all you have to do is read your Bible every day, pray every day, um join a small group, give, and you know here’s this list of 5 things and you will be spiritually mature. And um, that sounds great… because what they do is they see this data and they’re like hey people who are are spiritually mature are doing all of these things. And so they think it’s a cause and sometimes it is. But the reality is they’re they’re overstepping. There’s a difference between causation and correlation.

Rich Birch — And correlation. Yeah.

Erik Henry — And so um, when you have those those ah the pastors who want to push all of these um behaviors, if behavior is the is the mark of maturity, you end up in the end with a little bit of a new kind of legalism.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s a good insight.

Erik Henry — Because it’s like if if you just check the boxes then you’re good. And that’s not how Jesus led.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Erik Henry — That’s not how he taught. And it’s much more complicated than that and so but data is wonderful. It can be used in a way that can end up getting you to a new kind of legalism.

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s a great insight. Very, very good insight there. You know, I’ve similarly I’ve struggled with this tension of um, we do want to be clear. And so lots of churches, we all have the like whatever the five things are. You know, these are the you know, get on a team, give, be in a small group, you know, attend services, bring a friend – something like that. And ah you know for years I’ve said that that is super reductionist, and is actually not that high of a bar. Like when I when I would look at what Jesus says he says you know, follow the narrow road.

Erik Henry — Yes.

Rich Birch — And like give it all up and follow me. I’m like that doesn’t sound easy. But we have to come up… There’s a tension there because we do want to we have to communicate something…

Erik Henry — Right.

Rich Birch — …that helps people take a next step…

Erik Henry — Correct.

Rich Birch — …but it it can be super reductionist. So let’s look under the hood a little bit on on questions that you’ve asked. So I’m going to ask you either extreme. On one side ah, question that you keep asking that you’re like we probably should stop asking that question because it’s it’s not helpful, like we’ve had the same answer for so long. It’s it’s not helpful.

Erik Henry — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Or what’s the one question that you don’t ask today that you’re tempted by your team. You’re like, oh maybe we should put this one in here. Do you have do you have anything on either side that that would kind of stretch our thinking a little bit?

Erik Henry — Ah sure. Yeah I can give you the one like the first one where you you…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Erik Henry — …we asked a question for a little while that was that had to do with the fruit of the Spirit because we’re thinking okay maturity will produce fruit.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Erik Henry — So love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness – the whole thing. Um and so what we started doing was having people rate on a 0 to 5 how those fruit are being lived out in their lives. Again, this is a self-reporting thing, right? So this is self-reported feelings about the fruit in their life. And we did that over time and guess what? Nothing ever changed it. What what I what you…

Rich Birch —Oh interesting.

Erik Henry — What you found was that the it was just an average of how people feel about themselves in general, and that just doesn’t go anywhere.

Rich Birch — Oh interesting.

Erik Henry — And so it just turned out to be a a waste of time.

Rich Birch — Right. One to cut off the list. Oh that’s good. That’s interesting. Anything on the other side that you’re tempted to be like, oh or or the one, or maybe another way to phrase that, is is there a team member that keeps hounding you that like we’ve got to do this. Like, you know, we’ve got to have this, you know, this question in that you’ve resisted, you know, is there’s anything on that end?

Erik Henry — Yes. One of the thing that comes to mind is ah is marketing.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Erik Henry — So marketing is such a difficult thing to measure, the the effect of marketing. And so when we talk about marketing, we just desperately want ah data. And so we were like what about a question that is about how you were invited to church. Or what you used to invite someone to church. And the problem is it just changes so much.

Rich Birch — Right right.

Erik Henry — And and it’s different we have different strategies all the time. And so I know that there’s there are some people that would love for us to add some of those kind of questions. Um, but I just don’t, again, you just have to make the the call about what are you trying, what is the most important thing.

Erik Henry — And we have, you know, I don’t know if if your your church or other churches you use KPIs – you know, key performance indicators, and and our goals. And so we have KPIs for our whole church.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — And so most of our questions are directed toward measuring our KPIs, not just whatever’s out there. But but what are the things that are most the key performance indicators for our church as a whole. What are those things, and we that’s what we use ah to to decide what questions we ask.

Rich Birch — Love it. Um, when you ah survey—so you come up those to twice a year—what’s the tenor of the staff environment? Are people excited by this? Are they looking forward to it? Are they nervous? What do you do to ensure that, you know, that that your your team kind of is prepared and then buys in – what does all that look like?

Erik Henry — Yeah, the plus is we got a fricking great staff culture.

Rich Birch — Love it. Love it.

Erik Henry — I mean our staff culture is fantastic, and so everybody loves it.

Rich Birch — Okay, great.

Erik Henry — Nobody’s… I think there’s a little bit of of nervousness because this isn’t the only surveying we do. We actually do ah volunteer satisfaction surveys…

Rich Birch — Okay, right. Yep.

Erik Henry — twice a year as well. Um, part of the thing is you know you don’t know how volunteers are feeling about your staff because, again, they love them. And I always tell my staff I say listen, if you can’t make your volunteers like you, there’s a problem. You know what I’m saying?.

Rich Birch — Sure sure.

Erik Henry — Like if you can’t get a volunteer volunteer to say, hey I think that this staff member is great…

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah.

Erik Henry — …that’s like that’s the highest priority…

Rich Birch — That’s base. Yep. Yes, yep.

Erik Henry — …that’s bare minimum your volunteers better like you.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Erik Henry — And so um and so I I do think there’s been a little bit of nervousness surrounding those. But we’ve now we’ve now just this year moved to a single volunteer satisfaction survey that goes to every for every staff member. It took us a while to come up with the questions, and I can share those too.

Rich Birch — That would be great. We’ll take it. That’d be great.

Erik Henry — Um, but you know, what what questions were would work across the board um, that would actually give us an understanding of how a staff member is doing, that kind of a thing. So.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah because I’ve struggled. We’ve struggled, and so we have combined kind of both of these together into one.

Erik Henry — Yeah, okay.

Rich Birch — And um, have done that kind of, for lack of better word, customer satisfaction stuff and that has driven um decisions around staffing stuff.

Erik Henry — Yes, absolutely.

Rich Birch — And so we’ve tried to not like, hey friends like don’t freak out about this. It’s good. Again, it’s the same thing – there’s no bad information. There’s just information if we don’t like. But we’d rather know so that we can improve. And and there was a season—it’s not so much, you know, it’s not all the time—but there was a season where it was like that kind of freaked people out. They were like oh my goodness. What. Because people are worried.

Erik Henry — Yeah, yes.

Rich Birch — And I’m like well, you know, it’s it’s going to be… In in one way I kind of took that as a compliment because I was like okay that means that people are taking it serious and they realize we’re taking it serious.

Erik Henry — Right.

Rich Birch — We’re not just this isn’t just like here’s a bunch of random ideas, and like okay well we’ll go back to doing the things we did the way we did it before. So…

Erik Henry — Exactly right.

Rich Birch — Interesting. Are there any other surveys that you do that you might be kind of interested to kind of touch on? This has been a really helpful conversation.

Erik Henry — Honestly I think we we try to keep it at that.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — Those are the two main things. Otherwise we’re we’re going to end up with a ton of… Oh, the other thing that will always happen is the lead pastor is always going to be like, hey we’re thinking about this decision, let’s do a survey. Let’s let’s do a survey. And so unless it is unbelievably important I push back on that.

Rich Birch — Okay, and why is that? Why is that? That seems like a good use of that.

Erik Henry — Right. Survey fatigue.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Erik Henry — I I want to make sure that we continually when we do them um… Oh the other thing I’ll say is that we we feel like we we have dropped the ball, and are going to are trying to do better at finding ways to release the information that people have given us. You know, they don’t want all of the details of every little thing.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — But to be able to say, hey thank you for taking this survey, here’s what we found out. Um, we have we’ve dropped the ball on that and this year we’re really trying to to turn that around.

Rich Birch — Yeah, because people are more likely to give us information if we if they see, oh look they they… You know it’s like any conversation, it’s a conversation – you talked and now we’re responding.

Erik Henry — Yep, exactly right.

Rich Birch — We’re saying oh yeah, we heard you say this and here’s some changes. Well this has been just so good. What a rich conversation. And you know hope, friends, as you’re listening in, you’re catching a little bit. There’s a ton we could talk about here. Ah but super helpful. I appreciate you sending us those. We’ll have those links in the in the show notes. Anything else just as we’re kind of wrapping up today’s episode you could share or you’re thinking about, Erik?

Erik Henry — Ah, yeah, like I love your the the unSeminary concept, the you know what do you wish… and I you know I was thinking about that as I prepared and I thought to myself you know what I really wish? I’m not a seminary graduate. Um I’m a math teacher; I’ve been in ministry since I was twenty years old. But um, but I I feel like the people who come out of bible college or seminary sometimes now don’t really understand the complexity of ministry.

Rich Birch — That’s true.

Erik Henry — That um, that it is so much more complex than we like to make it in a classroom. I mean the ah, part of the complexity comes because your your life becomes revolved around this ministry as a pastor, Executive Pastor, whatever you are, which also means all your friendships are part of this.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s so true.

Erik Henry — And all of the people that you lead are are part are friends, and those dual relationships are so complex. So I have to lead this person who’s who’s also the person that is my friend, or my wife is best friends with his wife, and now I’ve got to I have to lead…

Rich Birch — That’s so true.

Erik Henry —…and and challenge and make decisions surrounding these things. It is just so much more… and you you have the relational side, but then you also on the other hand have what I call running the church machine. You know?

Rich Birch — Yep.

Erik Henry — As an executive pastor part of your job is to keep the machine running.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Erik Henry — To make decisions that make sure that you have ah a future as a church.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah.

Erik Henry — Um, and so but sometimes that is a tension with the relationships. And learning to live in the tension is one thing I really wish I had known earlier in my ministry, was basically first of all everything takes longer than you think it should.

Rich Birch — True, that is very true.

Erik Henry — Everything takes longer than you think it should. But if you do the right thing, I know that sounds so stupid, I know that sounds so obvious, but man the right thing is is sometimes a hard thing to find when you’re living in the tension between the relationships, the people that you love, the people who are mad, the people the ah the machine of the church that you are responsible for, it gets very very complicated. And you have to ask yourself which voices matter in that conversation.

Rich Birch — Right.

Erik Henry — What priorities matter in that conversation. And and in the middle of it, we can convince ourselves what we what what we think is right because it’s easier. Or other people can help us help convince us of what we should do. But there is this thing I find more often than not, that if I quiet myself I can normally find what’s right. And if I just am willing to do the right thing and give it time to work itself out, everything does.

Rich Birch — Yeah it’s so good. Well and there’s so much, particularly I find in our roles as Executive Pastors, there’s there’s a lot of decisions that we make that are um, they do get at the the very core of why do we exist as an organization. Um and they’re really important but they’re not necessarily seen. They’re like, you know, they’re kind of like secondary or they’re behind the scenes…

Erik Henry — Yes.

Rich Birch — …or they’re… but but man, if we if we cut the corners there, if we um and you know there’s extreme examples of that, obviously, where organizations get into fraud and all kinds of super, you know, bad stuff.

Erik Henry — Right.

Rich Birch — But you know you’re not ah nobody listening in is doing that. But we can make other compromising decisions that aren’t the right decision that aren’t the right thing that aren’t pushing us towards the kind of church God wants us to to be. And yeah, that’s just a really good word. I really appreciate that, Erik.

Rich Birch — This has been a fantastic conversation. I thank you so much for being on today. If people want to track with you, track with the church, where do we want to send them online? And friends I would encourage you to do, this is a fantastic church; Erik’s a great leader. Where where do we want to send them online?

Erik Henry — We’re at and and then we got all the you know Facebook, Instagram, all those other things too.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it.

Erik Henry — But um, in general that’s that’s kind of the place to catch us.

Rich Birch — Love it.Thanks so much, Erik. I appreciate you being here today, sir. Thank you so much.

Erik Henry — Thank you – really appreciate it, Rich.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.