In this episode of Lunch and Learn series for Church Butler podcast, we interviewed Adam Weber the Lead Pastor of Embrace Church.
Highlights of the discussion:
- What are some new tactics on getting more people in church?
- How to motivate your congregation in inviting more people?
- What are some effective strategies for small churches to get more people in their church?
Check out the video below.
You can listen to the podcast episode here.
KENNY: Hey, everybody. This is Kenny Jahng with another installment of our Lunch and Learn series for Church Butler. We’ve had some really good success in finding some topics that you guys have found valuable. Hopefully, today is going to be another smash hit along those lines. I’m fortunate to have my new friend, Adam Weber. Welcome to the show today for our Lunch and Learn.
ADAM: Kenny, it’s awesome to be on with you. It’s a gift.
KENNY: Adam. Let’s go right through it. You are the Lead Pastor of Embrace Church. You’ve had a 10-year journey there approximately. And, you’ve had a wild ride. Just gives us in a nutshell who you are and the Embrace story.
ADAM: I’m born and raised from South Dakota. So, this is definitely home for me. Never thought I’d be a Pastor, let alone a Christian. And, God changed my life. Went to college for Business and Marketing. Never thought I’d be a pastor. Ended up becoming a pastor. Ten years ago started a church called Embrace. Something about our story that people don’t know is the first 3 years, we struggled to grow. We stayed about a hundred in worship. And 3 years in, we’re actually almost closed because it wasn’t self-sustaining. It wasn’t growing. We had some morning services, 7 years ago. And in one morning, we over doubled in size, and since then it has kind of been a wild and crazy ride.
KENNY: Let’s talk about that little milestone. What changed? Something happened.
ADAM: Yes, so we are Sunday evening before. We will meet at another church in Salem on Sundays. And I had the sense in my gut that if we went to Sunday mornings, if we get Sunday mornings, we’ll grow. But I had no clue about how big a deal that was. Again, there’s something in me that says, “Gosh, I think we’ll grow if we do.” And so, literally, in 3 hours time, not even a full 24 hours, but in 3 hours time, we doubled in size.
ADAM: …when we went to Sunday mornings. So, it’s crazy. Completely crazy.
KENNY: That’s fantastic. So, today, how large is your community?
ADAM: We have 5 physical campuses. 6 campuses online. 4 of the physical campuses are in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And the other campus is on the far east side of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, in the Minneapolis Area. And so, it’s just been a crazy, crazy ride. We’re keen about launching more campuses in the next 12 months is what I hope is.
KENNY: Currently, you have 6 campuses?
ADAM: 6 campuses total, yup.
KENNY: Got you. New church coming up. That’s a big date. Like the Super Bowl for a lot of churches, right?
ADAM: It is.
KENNY: What are some of the new tactics that you are employing at some of your campuses to get more people in your building and into the system?
ADAM: Yes. We’re constantly looking for ways to do that. I mean constantly just looking for simple ways. We often give out invite cards for kind of big series. And even switching the look and feel and size of those. Kind of stuck in a rut of always giving the same exact size?
KENNY: What do you say on the invite card?
ADAM: We try to get a little bit of the heart of asking questions of what it looks like. So, our series from Easter is called from From Death. And so we’re asking, “Ever made a mistake? Ever felt broken or empty or restless or hurting? Ever felt like a party was dead?” And so, that is really the heart. Kind of just to ask questions that if I attended Embrace and I gave it to a friend, they might look at it and say, “Gosh, I felt broken. I have felt jaded in. This is a church? And wow, that doesn’t seem like a church would hand out. So, maybe I’ll check out more.” We always try to push people to a certain webpage for those events. So, it’s iamembraced.com/christmas or /easter and it goes to a page. There’s a simple 2-minute video of just me kind of sharing the heart and sharing a little bit about Embrace. 2-minute video, here’s the service times, here are the occasions, we’d like to have you.
KENNY: So, you list the service times and say “Come Join Us”.
ADAM: Yes. Come Join Us. Trying to make it as simple as possible. Trying to keep the page as clean as possible. I don’t want to send them a book or any huge thing to read. Just short 2 minute video that shows who I am and what the church is.
KENNY: Do you have maps or directions?
ADAM: If you click something, it will list down the different service times. If you click the campus, it will go to the campus page. That will have the locations. And I have another minute half video specific to that campus to kind of give you more about that. If you’re like, “Gosh, I live in this area.”, it’ll bring you there and it will share a little bit more. But, trying to keep it as clean because anytime I go to a website that has all kinds of stuff, I’m so confused and I’m not sure what to click. So, I just click, ALT + CTRL + DELETE. I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible.
KENNY: I love that you’re focusing on video. Video messages are something resonated to the people you’re trying to connect with.
ADAM: There’s something about video that’s impossible to replace. And right now, we’re in between on having a video personnel on staff and we’re totally missing it because to communicate who you are, you can just say so much, even in 5 seconds, about who you are as a church that you would never be able to explain in writing. And there’s something welcoming about, “Oh! That person looks like somebody I can connect with or I can relate with.” So, videos are huge. It’s critical.
KENNY: Got you. So, what is your video capabilities? How large is your staff? You’ve got 10000 people. You got a decent size staff. How many people have the capability of making video, editing videos for you?
ADAM: First off, I hopefully have 10,000 eventually at some point, that’s still ways on the road. But, on staff, we currently have a lot of part-times. I believe right now, we have 25 full-time staff. And then, the rest are part-times. We utilize part-times. Currently, for financial reasons, just to be good stewards you’ve only been entrusted with and also because in certain areas, we don’t need a full-time person, yet, for that, but so, like i said, right now, we’re in between having kind of a video editor on staff. So, we’re kind of jumping things just from people who know little bit enough to be dangerous about video, that’s what currently utilizing, right now. On Sundays though, videos are huge part of what we do and being a multisite, but i wish we had that video editor back on staff again, ‘cause when we’ve had him it’s been incredible to share the stories of what God’s doing in the changed lives that are taking place.
KENNY: I think it’s also encouraging for a lot of churches that are watching today because most churches are smaller than you, right? And even if 4 or 5 thousand. And I’d say 10,000. You guys are on the Outreach fastest growing church list. I know this Easter, you’re going to hit 10,000. I know, it’s not about numbers but let’s talk big. But, anyway, it’s encouraging that a church of your size though, still doesn’t have a full-bloom media team. People think that they look at a church like yours. They look at the website like yours. And they think, “Oh you’ve got like 50 people a day with video production capabilities. TV. Studios. I can never do that with my small little church, right?”
ADAM: Exactly. And we don’t. Seriously, first off, we have nothing figured out as a church and the amount of things we are just resourceful with. I’ve never been more proud of how we use and steward the finances entrusted with us as a church. And so, we try to harness every dollar for the best that we can. Currently, what I realized, the first 3 years of our church, we moved to our new location at that time. And so, I asked, how many carloads or new whole loads is going to take to move all of our stuff. And I said, “If we have one pick-up and 2 guys, I think we can do it in one load.” Then, they looked at me and said, “That’s all we own?” And I’m like, “That’s all we own.” So, what we realized early on is that we learned that this church on the street. We learned this in large church. Again, the first 3 years, we had a hundred people. But, we could take one step. So, how are like online services started? We bought a cheap security camera because we couldn’t afford a nice one. We sat it on like the ledge of the sound booth and we used livestream for free which meant that you got random shady advertisements during the worship service. But, that’s all we could afford. And so then we could afford something else, we got rid of our security camera. We got a nicer camera. And then, we actually paid for our services. We constantly challenge ourselves. We can’t go from here to here tomorrow. But we can go from here to here and here to here and here to here. Just taking that next step.
KENNY: I think it’s a surprise. So many of the entrepreneur big churches, the ones that have been growing and the one the ones that are scrappy in making do what they can. I remember my first three months at Liquid Church, part of the time, my desk was literally outside of the curb. There’s no space inside. I had a chair. I had a little pushcart and I worked on that. And people make fun of me, but that’s how we do it, right? I love that entrepreneurship that’s coming out in a breeze.
ADAM: A scrappy entrepreneur. It’s amazing how the Lord can use that heart. So often it’s like, I’m going to wait ‘til I have this standard to me or wait until this comes. It’s like, No. I’ve been entrusted with today and what I’ve been given and I’m going to use it to the best of my ability, right now, instead of hoping and waiting until some day far off in the future.
KENNY: Let’s talk about Easter Promotion. Some of the things that you’re trying now for the first time in your campuses. What‘s your highest aspiration right now for something that you’re doing for 2017 for Easter, in terms of promotion?
ADAM: Gosh. I think this year honestly, more than anything, I am praying this series would be a series that would grab all hearts. And from the series itself, we’re doing egg hunts. That’s one of the things we’ve done every year. We do it after every single service at every single location. You don’t have to go to a service to go to the egg hunt if you have nothing to do at church, still we’re so excited to have you come, but that’s been a huge draw as doing it right after service. But, really my hope this year is series would be one that would grab hearts and more than that we just move our current people to invite like never before.
KENNY: Yes. Let’s talk about that series. Is that series starting on Easter, starting one week before Easter, is it intentional? Is it continuous through easter? What’s the timing of it?
ADAM: Great question. So, this year, we actually have another series that we’re doing before it, so, we’ll do a three week series on prayer to go along with the book I’m writing. And then, we have Lisa Turker’s going to be sharing. It should be awesome. And then, the Easter series is really two weeks long. It’s Palm Sunday and it’s Easter. And then, after Easter, we have another series, that’s honestly the series after Easter, is sometimes more critical even the Easter series. Having something. So Easter. Easter, my biggest that I’m sharing is you need to come back ‘cause we‘re doing this series that’s going to be a part of your life and teach you more about the Lord and His Word. And you need to come back because this series is going to be starting up. That sometimes is even bigger than actual Easter series. But, yes. This series for Easter is two weeks long. Palm Sunday and it’s Easter.
KENNY: I love the fact that you’re thinking about what happens after Easter because people have this cliff of attendance after Easter, right?
ADAM: Yes. Especially, we have seen incredible response from what we do after Christmas. In January, it’s typically a dust zone for South Dakota for worship, but early on we started doing a very, very practical series. So, like this year it is around relationships for January, and it was amazing to see the uptick after Christmas. I mean, our January was extremely solid here. There has been some times in the past where we will grow towards Christmas, and then one year, we did a series at. It was just called sex. And like literally our attendance just went straight up. It was so much a response that we’re actually crushed. I mean as far as just being prepared for it. The first week was not a pretty situation as far as being organized. I’m like, “Oh my goodness, we drastically underestimated what was going to happened in the best way possible.”
KENNY: Got you. And your Easter services, some churches are at this point, thickening for seeds for registrations. Do you do that?
ADAM: We haven’t done that and it hasn’t hurt us, yet. There was one year before we started going multisite, we shouldn’t done something. Something like that cause coming in, we knew we were going to be overloaded and we still don’t know what to do. But, we haven’t done it. I don’t judge churches that. There’s white. There’s a lot of risks on that. I want to have anything that will discourage someone from coming. Luckily, our people are awesome as far as the people are committed to Embrace. If they see that the service is full, it’s pretty amazing how many people will say, “Hey, we’re going to come back the next service.” And just kind of automatically to see it, I am like “Nope, those seats are not for us. Those seats are for people coming in for the first time, so we’re out.” So, they’ll go go grab for coffee and come back to the next service. There’s one family that skipped two services and came back on the third one and got it. So, it’s pretty cool just to see that.
KENNY: They get some extra rewards and charges and have it for sure.
ADAM: Just cool seeing their heart of a host. When Embrace is your home or church is your home, you’re no longer a guest or a host. I know in our house, if we have friends over and we ran out of seats, I would be the last person sitting. It would be a “No, you sit because this meal is for you. You’re our guest.”
KENNY: Yes, that’s a great segue because when I’m talking to churches who are growing, who are vibrant, who are healthy, who are finding a good stream of new visitors on a regular basis, there’s something different about a culture. Can you tell us what is different about your culture? How are you getting your people to invite their friends, invite their family, invite their teacher, their coach, their co-workers? How are you getting them to do that because it’s easy to say invite your friends, but it’s really hard to motivate people to actually follow through.
ADAM: Great question. I think just continually explaining God’s heart for those who are lost. I mean, you go through a chapter like Luke 15, you cannot help but be struck by God’s heart in the length you’ll go to reach people. I mean, He’s like a shepherd who lost a sheep, who searches far and wide. And, when He finds a sheep, He throws it on his shoulders. He comes home and He calls together His friends and neighbors and He says, “Come and rejoice with me.” And that’s the heart of God. So, even like our series for Christmas is called Good News. And when I first personally heard about Jesus and relationship for Jesus, it was the single greatest news that I ever heard. A single greatest news. To the point, at that point, I did not think I’m going to be a pastor. But, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life, telling many people about the hope and joy and purpose and redemption found in Jesus. I think when people realize that and when God changes someone’s life that’s the second part: sharing the heart of God and then, sharing stories of changed lives. When you share stories of changed lives and when people begin to realize, that’s maybe my husband whose life needs to be changed. That’s my sister. That’s my mom. That’s my dad. That’s my girlfriend. That’s my son. My daughter who needs Jesus. How cool to think that we get to be that welcoming face and warm presence to someone else’s life. To someone else’s dad. And when you start to tie it to something personal, that’s when it begins to take shape. It’s like, “Whoa, why are we doing this? Because this church isn’t about us. We’re the hope of the world. We’re like a light that you would set up, up, up. You wouldn’t hide it underneath something. You would put it in the top shelf. And your house gave light to everything.” I think just explaining the heart of God, sharing stories of changed lives, making it personal. I’ll never forget, it was actually family decision, a friend of my parents who invited my family to church and ended up hearing the relationship about Jesus. And the impact his life he had on me. I’ve just ran across it recently. His son now attends Embrace. And he is in my small group actually which is so crazy. Completely amazing. Just God’s craziness, you know. But I just said, you changed my life and you never maybe knew that you do that as a doctor because you’re not a pastor, but whatever but he impacted me. And when people began to realize that; think it’s especially people who longed to have purpose. They’re looking for purpose. You mean, I can be used? But I am a doctor. I am a teacher. I am a mechanic. God can use me? It’s like, yes. I have told people that I am envious because as a pastor, I am normally surrounded by Christians. There’s a part of me that’s envious to be out in the workplace and to be a light in what that looks like. Day jobs.
KENNY: From the stage, what type of calls-to-action are you actually giving them? How detailed do you get or is it just a generic, “We’re having Easter. We want you to bring your friends.” Literally, what are you saying? What are the words you’re saying?
ADAM: Oftentimes, “Hey this invite card when you just came in. it’s actually not for you. It’s for you to give it to somebody else. This week I just pray you give this out of the hands of someone who needs to be here.” Even that, anybody can do that. Other times when I am talking about reaching out. I’ve shared just examples of what it looks like to even invite people indirectly. Just when someone asks a question, “You seem different to actually be honest and tell them the real difference.” When someone says, “You just have someone’s joy. Where does that come from? To be able to say that, “This might sound weird and I know you may not suppose to talk about God here but Jesus has changed my life.” I think those simple things of even just by praying for someone and letting them know that, “Hey, I want you to know that my wife and I, we prayed for you last night. That you said that your mom was going for surgery, we just took a moment to praye for her.” End of story. You don’t say anything else. It’s amazing how much those types of things impact. Or especially on Easter and Christmas. Two days that people want to go to church. Especially, I should say in asterisks. *It’s a group in the church or connection up with the church or their parents are involved in church* It’s the 2 days that people are relishing to go to church. Especially, if they have kids. We should probably bring them to church. And so, people don’t know where to go. Just to even simply say, know like that we invited you. Another simple technology on the internet. This thing can encourage people. Something, we’ve specifically sai is this encourage you to go on Facebook. Take five minutes to invite people to the Facebook event. Say that on a Sunday. It’s super simple, and it’s the lowest barb outreach you can possibly have. Just putting names and inviting them.
KENNY: Once we get people in the door, what’s your strategy? This is the secret to growth, right? Having to keep them coming back. What do you do from the first time visit to the second time? Do you actually have an email that goes out to them? Do you have a first time guest gift or gift bag or something? Will someone call them? What happens after they visit you?
ADAM: Great question. First off, hopefully, everything we’re doing is encouraging them to come back. The way we treat their children, and are kind to them and tell them about Jesus, our friendliness. Friendliness is huge. Just actually acknowledging them as a person might be a huge to step for a church that does not do that well. Instead of just talking with your same friends, actually go and welcoming them and not in a weird way but to say, “We’re so glad you’re here.” I mean the announcements we do. We have a communication card in the bottom of our bulletin. Our bulletin is super simple. In most weeks, it’s one page front and back, and it’s like an oversized postcard. It’s not big either and on the bottom of that is a connection card. We encourage people to fill it up and drop it in the offering basket. If it’s our first time guest, they can stop by at our info center. We have a gift from there and that’s a process. We’re continuing to look how we can refine it. If we get their information for the first time, our campus pastors or kind of their second-in-command at each campus responds to him, we try to get it out in 24 hours. Some campuses do it on that day. They send an email immediately or first thing the next morning. Just following up with people and asking if they have questions. And to let them know that it was awesome they were there. We probably have a not aggressive follow up, intentionally. It’s kind of just a really soft, ”Hey, we just want to say we’re so glad that you’re with us and we want to have you come back.” It’s pretty simple process but hopefully, our connection place is just Sunday. I’m not just but our main place is just feeling welcomed and having them want to come back.
KENNY: Got you. Now again, most of the churches in this country are a hundred persons or less of attendance. Even small churches in the 200 300, they haven’t reached those barriers yet. What would you say to some pastors in terms of encouragement and also a practical advice where do you start? If your church has not seen new visitors in a while or if you’ve seen some visitors and they don’t come back, where do you start? What’s one concrete thing you can share with them today, who are listening today that they can work on between now and Easter?
ADAM: One specific thing on how they can grow?
ADAM: Oh gosh, one specific thing I would say for is record a 40-second video even on yourself, even on your own computer. Keep it really short and sweet. “Hi, my name is Adam and I just want you to join us for Easter this year. For this year our series is called bam bam bam. And, I don’t know if you ever wrestle with this, this, this, but we’d love to have you come. We have two service these times. We’re located on this part of the town and we would just be thrilled to have you join us. Come right as you are we’d love to have you.”
KENNY: Simple. Just like that.
ADAM: Keep it simple. And, have your staff, if you have a staff, share it on their Facebook. Share on their Instagram or Twitter. If you don’t have a staff and even if you do have a staff, ask core people. Ask your small group to share that. Ask anybody who is committed. Send an email to that committed group where there’s 50 or a hundred. And said, “Hey. We’re super excited about the message for Easter. This year we are praying that we have a 150 people come or 200 people come. And so first off, if you can do this two things, pray that we would seek 200 people come and then, secondly here’s a link, if you’d go to this link, you can share it in your wall, tell your friends to come, that would be awesome.” It could be that simple.
KENNY: Love it.
ADAM: Or even have a challenge. I always try to make it simple as I can. Link right to the Facebook event. Or sometimes, I’ll say this, “Hey, if you would do these 3 actions on Facebook, click this link and share it. On Twitter, click this link and retweet.” They won’t have to go and find it. It’s a link directly to that and they can do it. Make it as simple as possible. That’s what I would say.
KENNY: Thanks. That’s so practical. I love the fact that you literally walk through even just the verbiage of the video that you would shoot. It is that simple. A device for action is all you need.
ADAM: And the thing is. Here’s the heart behind it. If you’re just doing it to grow your church, I can tell you that’s totally empty. As a pastor, living for church attendance, it’s a miserable existence. However, if your heart sits to tell one more person about Jesus, I almost honestly crying thinking about it. It’s the greatest news ever. It’s not to feel a room or to see in your attendance number. If I can tell one more person about the hope and joy and goodness and purpose in Jesus, for me, it’s like “Whoa, I’ll do anything to do that.” And God shows the greatest example of what that is. It’s like, He sent us His one and only Son. To come and meet us right where we are. He didn’t stay in heaven and say, “I figured out. You need to come to me. You need to get your act together and then come to me.” No. You don’t have it figured it out. That’s why I’m sending you Jesus. He is coming to meet you right, where you are. We started understanding that it changes everything.
KENNY: Nice nice. Thank you so much for dropping by with our Lunch and Learn today. Tell us a little bit. How can people find out more information about your church? Do you have a website? What’s the URL for that?
ADAM: Our website is iamembraced.com and then for me, personally, it’s just adamweber.com.
KENNY: You have a new book that’s dropping this next month. Tell us a little bit. What’s the elevated pitch for your book, Mr. Author?
ADAM: Gosh. The book is just called Talking with God. What to say when you don’t know how to pray. It’s a book of prayer and super light hearted approach. Very conversational. Prayer is one of those things that we make so complicated as humans. We did that with a lot of things. And, it’s not complicated. It’s as simple as talking with God. So, if you’re a new Christian and you’re on the fence about God and you’re curious about prayer. It would be perfect for you. I never thought I’d write a book. You can get it though at Amazon, Walmart, target, wherever books are sold. It will be available.
KENNY: Finally, if someone wants to get in touch with you, personally, after hearing and meeting you here today, what’s the best way to do it? Carrier, pigeon, smoke signal, Twitter, snail mail. How can someone get in touch with you?
ADAM: I think two best ways. I’m on my Facebook and all over the place. I am actually most responsive on Twitter and on Instagram. Just @AdamWeber on Twitter and @AdamAWeber on Instagram. I’d be thrilled to hear from people.
KENNY: Great! I know you’ve got a lot of planning to do for this Sunday and this Easter. Thanks so much for dropping by. Really appreciate the wisdom that you shared with us. Blessings on you for this Easter season.
ADAM: So grateful for the time. So wonderful.
KENNY: Thanks Adam!
ADAM: Thank you.