Rich Klerrick is the pastor of the multi-campus, explosively-growing church in suburban Oakes. Klerrick brought his group from a small, traditional, non-denominational body to the successful, vibrant church it is now in just a few years using the five BBQ-HOT! principles outlined in his latest blockbuster: KNOW your GROW: Formula Faith and Today’s Hungry Church.
CHEEZEWHIZ: So, Rich, pastors who want to expand their vision and take the next step are looking to executive pastors with a success record like yours and asking, How do they do it? Rich, how DID you do it?
RICH KLERRICK: [Scriptural reference of some kind here, yada, yada, Great Commission, yada, yada, vision, purpose, yada, insight, yada] And, of course, purposeful missional organization. We started as a small, family operation, uh, fellowship, just kind of struggling, never gaining much ground, hovering around 150 or so for years. Then, one day, I was [prayer type of reference here, seeking, asking, yada, but not too Jesus-specific, yada, yada, keep the unchurched in mind. Questioning God, yada, yada]. I felt led to the best-selling book, Living the Creative Missional Life, with Intent and Enthusiasm. While browsing the shelves of our local Christian bookstore, it, well, it jumped out at me and changed my life, my outlook, and eventually the whole fellowship.
CHEEZEWHIZ: That’s powerful.
RICH KLERRICK: Yeah. After reading the book, I realized immediately that things had to change, that I had to change.
CHEEZEWHIZ: So, what did you do?
RICH KLERRICK: For one, I had to start speaking in numbered lists. For two, I had to stop relying on random, haphazard ways of getting things done, like prayer groups . For three, I needed to adopt a whole missional approach to things.
CHEEZEWHIZ: What does that mean, exactly?
RICH KLERRICK:That means putting the program ahead of individuals, not letting distractions get in the way. Sometimes, distractions seem like a good use of your time, but you must constantly remind yourself that the mission is the most important thing. Growing the church comes before any individual need, no matter how important some people try to make you think it is.
RICH KLERRICK: Well, like a sick mother, for instance. Soooo many times some member wanted me to come pray for their sick mother in the hospital. And my brother even wanted me to come down and pray for my mother when she had bypass surgery. What good is that going to do, I’d ask? If God wants to heal her, great! If not, nothing I could do would matter, and certainly hanging around a hospital room with crying relatives wasn’t going to do anything. My being there isn’t going to change anything at all. But my attending the 4th Annual North Central Power Ministry Leaders Conference actually was going to make a difference to my congregation.
CHEEZEWHIZ: I see.
RICH KLERRICK: So, I had to learn to stay on task.
CHEEZEWHIZ: So what are your secrets, Rich?
RICH KLERRICK: Well, after I read the book, I had to start putting into practice the utilitarian maxims I found in it. Then, things started changing fast. We canvassed the neighborhoods surrounding the church, handing out surveys and asking people what they would want to see in a church. We looked over the results and put together a team.
CHEEZEWHIZ: Was that hard?
RICH KLERRICK: Not after I read the book. I looked at it like this. It’s about the same as getting ready for a barbecue. First, I had to get rid of all the broken, dirty old tools.
CHEEZEWHIZ: How did you do that?
RICH KLERRICK: (chuckling) It’s easier than it sounds. You just have to realize that old, broken tools aren’t going to do the job and that, hard as it is to get rid of them, you’re going to have to do it if you want to keep to the mission, and the mission is what’s important. So, we’d ask people who’d been there too long to step down. If they didn’t, we’d find ways to make them uncomfortable enough to leave.
RICH KLERRICK: Read my next book and you’ll find out.
CHEEZEWHIZ: I can’t wait.
RICH KLERRICK:: So you get rid of the old tools and you choose new ones. You need new coals, good lighter fluid, a decent fire-starter, and new implements. You weed out the old and put in place the new. You want tools that will help you get the mission done. That’s it. It’s kind of fun taking out the old ones and finding people who agree with everything you say and do. and who are always there for you.
CHEEZEWHIZ: Got it. So what did the team do?
RICH KLERRICK: We looked at what the survey results said and discovered that what people really wanted in a church was not a bunch of boring sermons and scripture and songs from the dark ages. No, what people wanted was a lot of bright colored lights, repetitive songs with super simple lyrics -- light on theology and heavy on mixed metaphors. They wanted coffee available, pastors in Hawaiian shirts, a quality performance and as little demand on their lives as possible. They wanted to check in, check out and get on with their lives, and we were there to help them do just that.
CHEEZEWHIZ: Amazing. You say things happened fast. How fast?
RICH KLERRICK: Really fast. We did the survey in May and by the following September we had check-in kiosks in the lobby. We call it a lobby, not a foyer.
CHEEZEWHIZ: Why is that?
RICH KLERRICK: The unchurched don’t know what a foyer is. That’s a churchy word and we try hard to get rid of churchy words and anything else that might make the unchurched uncomfortable. The unchurched is our mission field, not cushy, “church people” who can list off the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the Four Spiritual Laws. No. Gotta keep to the mission.
CHEEZEWHIZ: So what is the main difference between how you did things then and how you do things now?
RICH KLERRICK: We used to be inward focused. The main thing then was piddly, little pathetic acts like taking baskets to new families and sick people, praying for each other in these sad little prayer groups on Wednesdays, and holding potlucks and picnics. Now, we have a huge budget for audiovisual equipment, have the latest and best programs, purchase video clips to show during the sermon and we host leadership conferences. Now THAT’s outward thinking.
CHEEZEWHIZ: How much do you rake in from the leadership conference?
RICH KLERRICK: Thousands! I mean, well, we have these huge overhead costs, of course, so we do it as a service. There is enough left over, though, that we can use as seed money for bigger and even more profitable conferences down the road.
CHEEZEWHIZ: Sweet deal
.RICH KLERRICK: It really is, but that’s off the record. [Scripture reference here, yada, yada, something about the importance of good leadership and a servant’s heart, followed by pithy maxim].
CHEEZEWHIZ:: For those pastors ready to take the next step, what do you recommend?
RICH KLERRICK: Well, my book, for starters. It’s now in its sixth printing.Then, start rethinking a lot of your assumptions.
RICH KLERRICK: Don’t assume that just because Jesus would do something, it’s automatically the right thing to do. You gotta break a few eggs to get things done, you know? You can’t be all, Well, we’ve always done it this way, so it’s right. You have to question why you do things. Then, take risks. Moving from boring old hymns and choruses to fast-paced songs with two chords and emotional words, might seem like a risk, but it’s what people want. Do it! Do it now! You won’t regret it.
CHEEZEWHIZ: Any other thoughts?
RICH KLERRICK: It’s not easy being a servant-leader, choosing your team, working 24/7 on the mission, attending national conferences and promoting books. But it’s well worth it.
CHEEZEWHIZ: Thanks, Rich. We appreciate your openness. This is really exciting stuff.
RICH KLERRICK: God is awesome!