My Prepared Notes for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast

One of the most popular leadership podcasts anywhere is the weekly Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. So when Carey extended the invitation to interview me about Hero Maker: 5 Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders, my forthcoming book and the big idea for Exponential 2018 Conference, I was quick to say, “Yes sir!”

When Carey interviews someone he captures the audio while you are interviewed on a video platform; that way you can see each other creating a more dynamic conversation. So, the first thing I noticed when I logged on was that Carey’s shirt perfectly matched his pillows and I quickly mentioned it to him in good fun. Carey countered by taking this pic of himself and accessories and then posting it on his twitter account! I could tell this was going to be a fun interview!

Once the interview started we immediately hit it off and went on for about 90 minutes, much longer than the 45 minutes we planned. We talked about planting churches, movement-making, the “5 levels of churches”, the rapid global expansion of the NewThing network, the rapid growth of the Exponential Conference and the five practices of a Hero Maker. I ended up telling a story I’ve never told before and even gave him a peak into my journal (which I think he took a pic he is going to post when the podcast releases). I thoroughly enjoyed Carey and the interview!

Before the interview Carey sent me about a dozen possible questions that he planned to asked me but also warned me that he will take the conversation wherever it goes. So that I could be ready for both I spent a little more than an hour typing up a few thoughts to all the questions Carey sent me. While the interview will be released on December 5th; attached are the planned questions and my prepared notes for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast in case you want to check it out.

“Finding Your Way Back To God” – Phase I: Conception

1a. Jon, Kopp and meWhile “helping people find their way back to God” has long been my personal mission statement and the mission of the church I lead; the writing of the book, “Finding Your Way Back To God” began here.

You may recognize the two guys on the outside (Jon-left, me-right) but the guy in the middle was a huge help and influence in the conception of Finding Your Way Back To God. David Kopp was our friend, mentor and editor through this process. Starting about seven years ago, David would call me once or twice a year and ask, “Are you ready to write Finding Your Way Back To God?” After one false start five years ago we agreed to do start the process in 2013. This picture is of Jon, David and myself in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago after Kopp flew in to spend a couple days with us to get this book started in the right direction.

1b. 6 Awakenings...?We interviewed about twenty-five people who described their journey as “finding their way back to God” so we could hear their story and see if we could find a pattern.  We finally settled on the “5 Awakenings” as the path for someone to find their way back to God. But early on we struggled with how many awakenings and what words we should use to describe them. This is one of the early back-of-a-napkin drawings that included six awakenings and wording that is quite different than the final product.

1c 1,2,3 post its Some good friends of our parents loaned us their condo near the lakefront in Chicago for a week so we could get a lot of writing done. It worked!  Jon and I hunkered down and worked five eighteen hour days, and made a lot of progress. This is one of about ten giant post-it sheets covered with little post-its outlining the book. This post-it shows the first three chapters of the book. If you look close and have read the book, you can see that some of our ideas made the final edit and others did not. This kind of brainstorming lots of ideas made sure that we also got the best ideas. I would use this process again.

1d. manuscript notebookIt was after that week in the Chicago condo that Jon and I had a yellow notebook of more than 60,000 words titled “Finding Your Way Back To God.” This version of the book also had twenty-two chapters. We thought we were done. Wrong!  After a few more edits to make this book as readable as possible we eliminated about 15,ooo words and seven chapters. It was tough saying good-bye to all those word, stories and idea, but the book was better off for it!

Exploding Old Scoreboards

Keeping Score book cover finalGrowing up in Chicago, I remember a couple famous scoreboards.  There was a scoreboard at the old Comiskey Park where my White Sox played when I was a kid – I loved it!  Every time someone hit a home run the scoreboard would explode with fireworks.  There is also the scoreboard at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs.  It’s one of two remaining scoreboards that are still hand-turned.  It was installed in 1937 and is still waiting for its first World Series win! 

Another scoreboard I remember is the one on the sanctuary wall of the little rural church my Grandpa and Grandma attended in Farber, Missouri.  That scoreboard, like all the other scoreboards, was there to tell us if the home team was winning.  Winning, according to that church scoreboard, came down to a couple key measurements: Attendance this week versus last week; and Offering this Sunday versus last Sunday.  As long as both were increasing, then the church was winning.

Here’s my observation: Most churches are still using a scoreboard similar to the one used in my grandparents’ church.  Now, I doubt your church is still using the wooden “register of offering and attendance,” but maybe it lives on a program passed out on the weekends, or is plotted out on an Excel spreadsheet, or is accessible on the church website.  What most churches are measuring is still the same: How many nickels and how many noses—offering and attendance.  In Comiskey Park fashion, we need to explode the old scoreboard!  Why?

There are at least two problems with the current scoreboard:

1. It is entirely possible for a church’s attendance to be growing, while the kingdom of God is shrinking! 

Right now, there are more people attending church on any given weekend in the United States than ever before! We could conclude that U.S. church attendance is growing and therefore we must be winning, right?  Wrong!  While there are more people attending church than ever before, a smaller percentage of the total population in every state in the country is attending church than ever before!  If we are content with that, we will never accomplish the mission of Jesus.

2. It is entirely possible for a church’s attendance to be growing, but the impact of the church is shrinking. 

The second problem is that, even if church attendance numbers were increasing faster than our country is growing, that stat completely ignores other vital statistics in which God is interested.  I believe God is interested in a neighborhood’s crime rate, the percentage of people living below poverty level, the high school graduation rate, home ownership and more!  Church attendance says nothing about the social metrics of our communities.  And church attendance says nothing qualitative about the lives of the people in our churches. A growing church attendance does not promise that people are growing spiritually.  An attendance graph that is up and to the right does not guarantee that people are faithful in following Jesus and displaying the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

Missiologist Ed Stetzer put it this way: “We must start counting more than baptisms, butts and bucks!”  I absolutely agree, and I’m ready to light the stick of dynamite under the scoreboard of any church that only measures attendance and offering.  We can do better than that and we must!

Excerpt from the recently released Keeping Score: How To Know If Your Church Is Winning, a FREE ebook by Dave Ferguson

Edgewater: Church “In” & “For” COMMUNITY!

The weekend started on Saturday morning with hundreds of leaders cramming into theYellow Box for a spiritedLeadership Community to celebrate the commissioning ofRich & Dori Gorman and our COMMUNITY-Edgewater team. The photo above is our lead team praying for the Gormans and our elders praying and annointing the volunteer team from the Edgewater neighborhood that lead our new COMMUNITY campus there.  When Jon Ferguson asked Dori, “What was your greatest fear?” With a laugh Dori said, “My greatest fear was that no one would want to help us start this new site.”  With more than 20 leaders surrounding the Gormans on the stage during the commissioning, that fear was definitely not realized. This was a great moment as our leaders prayed and celebrated together the beginning of our twelth COMMUNITY location.

Then on Sunday morning at 10:30 am those prayers were answered as a friends and neighbors from Edgewater filled the theater of Swift Elementary School. The photo above shows a diverse crowd standing and worshipping together.

With each new site we start there are new learnings and one of the key insights we’ve gained from this new site is the priority of being a church both “in” and “for” the community. For the last year the Gorman’s and others bulit relationships with Swift Elementary School,  Eco-Andersonville, Peterson Garden Project, Organization of the Northeast, Care For Real and Alderman Harry Osterman’s office.  Each of those partnerships are strategic in helping us reach, restore and reproduce God’s dream for this neighborhood. And it was so good to have each of those partnerships present for the first service and join us in this celebration.

Multi-Site Church Road Trip Makes Next Stop Here!

Multi-Site Church Road TripIf you have any interest in the multi-site church you need to read the Multi-Site Church Road Trip!  If you are thinking about going multi-site or considering adding more sites or want to know what the future of the multi-site church – this book is a must read.  I consider all three authors:  Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird friends; but that is not why I’m saying to read this book.  I’m encouraging you to read it because this book contains the latest and best information available on the multi-site church movement.

Since I know the three guys who wrote this book and I lead a church with nine (soon to be eleven) sites I was happy  to answer a few questions they had for me about the multi-site church movement.  So here are their questions and my answers:

Q:  In the book we describe the leadership structure at Community Christian. How important is structure to the success of a church using a multi-site strategy?

A:  Our experience at Community and through our NewThing churches is that there are structural shifts when going to two sites; when going to a fourth site and when going to a tenth site.  Because of this we are finding that a lot of churches are going to two sites; not very many churches with three sites and there are a whole lot that are going to four sites and more.  Why?  I think it has to do with structure.  Some churches that go to two sites do not think about structure and find it overwhelming and complicated and stop reproducing sites.  While there are other churches that think through the structural changes that need to be made and continue to reproduce to three sites, four sites and beyond.

Q:  Community Christian does a great job of both planting churches and launching campuses. How do you distinguish between a church planter and a campus pastor?

A:  We really believe the same qualities need to be in place for a campus pastor or church planter.  We want them to be entrepreneurial, have a leadership gift and comfortable relating to all people (churched and un-churched) in their context.  All our NewThing churches are looking to train one leadership resident per site to apprentice and become a campus pastor or church planter.

Q:  You and Jon seem to do an amazing job of leading together. What advice would you give to church leaders who are considering employing family members in their ministry?

A:  They key to family working together is much like any staff working together: good character, great chemistry and genuine competency.  However, (and I’m sure Geoff Surratt will agree with me) it takes a very special and humble leader to allow their brother to be the lead pastor.  Jon (like Geoff at Seacoast) could easily be the lead pastor at this Community or any other church; but instead he uses his extraordinary leadership gifts without getting all the kudos that come with being the lead pastor.  I have more respect for Jon, than any other church leader I know.

Q:  You have been a leader from the very beginning of the multi-site revolution in America. What do you see next on the horizon for multi-site in American churches?

A:  I love this question!  In fact, Jon and I just finished our next book, Exponential:  How You and Your Friends can Start a Missional Church Movement and we talk about this.  So here is what I see on the horizon:

  1. More new sites will be launched by sites other than the original site.  In other words we will see new sites reproducing new sites.
  2. Sites will be launched not based on the competency of the mother church, but on the strengths and needs of the community where the new site is started.
  3. There will be less of the “We use video” vs. “We develop teachers” battle and more multi-site churches will use both video and in-person teaching.
  4. A lot more campus pastors will be female and there will be evidence that they are more effective than men in this role which will bring some controversy.
  5. Multi-site churches will think in terms of launching a region with multiple sites and not one new site at a time.
  6. Online churches ill not just have one site, but they will also have multiple sites!
  7. The churches that are effective in reproducing new sites will be the churches that are most effective in reproducing missional communities.

How’s that?

Q:  In your book The Big Idea you describe how every ministry at Community is on the same page. How does the Big Idea work in a multi-site environment?

A:  It was going to multiple sites that caused us to be intentional about implementing the Big Idea.  It was our conclusion that having every campus on the same Big Idea would bring alignment to our vision and mission.   Practically speaking here is how it works: we plan our Big Idea series a year in advance.  Thirteen weeks in advance of the celebration service the teaching team develops and writes a Big Idea “graph” which is a one page summary that gives clear direction and scriptural content.  Ten weeks in advance the teaching team plans the whole message in that series and gives writing assignments.  The following week, nine weeks in advance our creative arts team plans the creative elements such as video, sketches, music, interactive moments, etc… to better accomplish the Big Idea.  This same process is done for all our large group and small groups fro adults, students and kids.  It is awesome!

How Would You Market A New Book?

Blank book You may have noticed that I have not been posting nearly as frequently over the last month.  The reason is that Jon  and I  have spent almost every free moment (except for a vacation last week – which was great!) working on a new book.  We are about 80% of the way done and we are both really pumped about it.  This is a book for anyone who loves the mission of Jesus and wants to see it accomplished where they live. Very practical and I think inspirational.  The working title is “The Reproducing Church:  How You & Your Friends Can Start A Movement.

Today I have a meeting today with Chris Fann and Ryan Pazdur of Zondervan to talk about marketing the book.  They asked me to start brainstorming ways to get the word out about this new book.  So, I thought I would see if you could help.  Leave me a comment with your thoughts or answering these questions:  How would you market a new book?  What creative ideas have you seen for getting the word out about a book? Are there ways that you would like to help us?

Shawn Wood’s 200 Pomegranates Blog Tour Stops Here!

200 Pomegranates
Thanks for stopping by the blog tour for Shawn Wood’s new book, 200 Pomegranates And An Audience Of ONE!  This book is a refreshing reminder of why we serve and worship the Lord with
all of our heart, mind and soul whether anyone else ever notices.  I
love the way Shawn is humble and authentic and shares the lessons he
has learned from Huram, the Old Testament expert craftsman as well as
the stories of the everyday worshipers of God in his own life.  Thanks,
Shawn!  You’ll definitely want to read this book if you want to use
your talent to do something great for God.

Let’s get to know Shawn a little better and why he wrote this book…check out his answers below:

Q. Why do you like Chicago better than Charleston, SC?

A. Dave, what I really hate about Charleston is all the 70 degree weather in the winter, the completely ridiculous three-mile commute that I have to Seacoast and really I mean how many times can you go to the beach a week before it gets old.  I need some below zero arctic blasts in my life.  My blood is just too thin.  But on a serious note I do really like visiting Chicago (especially Naperville) in the fall before all that cold stuff comes.

Q. What prompted you to write this book referencing a little known Bible character, Huram?

A. I actually heard a message in the early 1990’s preached on the “lily work” and “pomegranates” that were carved into the tops of the columns at Solomon’s temple. It was one of those messages that just stuck like a good bowl of cheese grits. I have always had a bent towards the arts through music, design and building and my dad is a metal artisan so it just seemed to resonate with me. Then one day it hit me, this guys carved this stuff not as “art” but as worship. Art is usually viewed by people, but this stuff was thirty something feet in the air and no one would see it. I realized at that moment that we all have something to carve towards an audience of one.  I did think that pomegranates look a little like corn too and I really like corn.

Q. What do you hope readers of your book will get out of it as they read it?

A. I believe that we have been sold a bill of goods that says “we can be anything we want to be”.  That is just not true.  But we can be everything that God wants us to be.  If we will find our purpose right where God has planted us and make our lives worship towards God as an act of carving pomegranates we will change the world.  My hope is that people will realize that God is not waiting on them to become something they are not so they can do things they were never called to do, but that instead they will be the artist God has created them to be and do the things that they were uniquely created to do. This will mean as parents we see the impact we have on our children as a canvas before you, primed to be painted like a the masterpiece God wants them to be. As leaders we will see the people we work with not just as people but pieces of clay that when molded together will create a monument to who God is and as a artist we will see that our gifts, though seemingly distant from the story of God are in fact not just footnotes in his story but cover art for his novel called YOU. If after that happens you do something of great value that can be appreciated by others, I will be a happy author.  But I have to say this quote already made my day:  “I laughed a lot. I cried a lot. Then I laughed and cried some more.” –Shawn’s Mom

Thanks and keep up the great work, Shawn!  If you would like to join me in hosting a blog tour with Shawn – just shoot him an e-mail at and maybe he will stop by

How To Get A Publisher To Say "Yes" To Your Book

Pile-of-book (2) For the last couple weeks I have been working on a book proposal for a book that I plan to finish up before summer.  Then today I spent about an hour on a conference call talking to a couple publishers about a new line of books and what they are looking for before they agree to publish a book.  I learned a few things.

Big idea cover
Last year Jon, Eric and I were fortunate enough to be able to publish our first book, The BIG IDEA.  We were able to work with a couple of terrific publishers:  Zondervan and Leadership Network.  Coming out of that rookie experience we learned a few things about publishing, what publishers are looking for, etc.

So if you are interested in getting published or you have some ideas that you would like to share with the rest of the world in a book here are three of the things I believe publishers are looking for before they say “yes” to publishing.

CONTENT – The number one thing that a publisher is looking for is great content.  You have to have a big idea that you want to share and the world wants to hear. When it comes to publishing content is still king.  If you don’t have good content you will not get published.

INFLUENCE – Publishers are also looking for people who have influence.  If you have a following this is a signal to a publisher that you have a ready-made market for your content.

DEMAND – If there is a pent up demand for the book you want to publish that is also a factor.  If the publisher believes that the timing is right for the book you want to publish that will be important in the decision to publish your book.

The Fine Line Coming Soon!


A couple months ago Kary Oberbrunner contacted me and asked if I would be willing to be a part of his blog tour for his soon to be released book, The Fine Line.  Only knowing Kary from a distance I couldn’t think of a good reason to say “no” and since one of my motto’s is “lead with a yes”, I told him “yes”.  But I’m really glad I did!

The Fine Line looks to be a very thoughtful, well-written and important book for our time.  Kary reminds us, “Every generation must answer the most basic ethical question of the Christian faith, ‘What does it mean to be in the world, but not of it?’” This is The Fine Line.  Kary explains, “…Our difference from the world, not our similarity to it sets us apart. But even though Christ followers are called to be different, we’re also called to transform the world. Here lies the tension. We can’t be so far removed from the world that we lose contact, and we can’t be so much like the world that we’re no different from it…”

If you want to get more info on Kary and his soon to be released book, there is lots of great stuff out there that deserves a look: 

I’m looking forward to the release of The Fine Line and the impact that is is going to make for this generation.

Talking About IT With Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel has a terrific new book out titled, It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It.

I remember after we wrote The BIG IDEA I was walking down Michigan Avenue in Chicago and I got a call on my cell; it was Craig.  He had just finished reading the manuscript for our book and he called just to tell me how much he loved it and went on to say several encouraging things.  He didn’t have to do that.  I tell you that to let you know the following:  not only is Craig a great leader and a gifted author but he is also a terrific guy who really loves Jesus.  When I got a chance to host Craig here as a part of his blog tour I was glad to say yes.  So below is my question for Craig about his book, IT and after that is his answer.

Craig, I love how you challenged us by saying, “if you don’t have ‘IT,’ you shouldn’t sleep until you get ‘IT’ and to fall in love with Jesus again.”  What if the general consensus is that most of the staff has IT, and some sites have IT, but we want EVERYONE and EVERY SITE to have IT? What do you do to foster the “IT” factor within your staff and at all your sites?

ANSWERDave, that’s a really great question. Before I try to answer, I want you to know how much you and CCC have inspired me. Your leadership and ministry is off-the-charts awesome. Thanks for writing The Big Idea! I loved it, and I recommend it often.

You said you want everyone at every site to have IT. (I’m guessing you’re talking about your staff members.) Honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever succeeded at having 100% of our staff totally broken and constantly falling more in love with Jesus and His mission. This might totally disillusioned a lot of people, but it’s true. With a large staff, it’s so easy for several—or many—of us to get distracted, neglecting the disciplines and devotions that keep us close to Christ.

Here’s what we try to do consistently:

  • Keep the vision red-hot. When we forget what we’re supposed to accomplish, we’ll unquestionably lose IT.
  • Talk openly about a team or campus that has lost (or is losing) IT. We’ll probe the leaders to help them discern what might be missing, and we seek God together for how to restore what’s been lost.
  • Foster a fun, chaotic, spiritually transparent culture. When ministry becomes dull and routine, a team will lose IT overnight.
  • Make sure leaders have IT. If a leader doesn’t have IT, their team’s not likely to keep IT. Right now, we’re arranging a trip to take all 13 campus pastors to a third world country to expose them to things that will break their hearts. When they come back more tender to Christ’s mission, their passion should overflow to those around them.

I hope some of these help. I’d love to hear from your blog community some of their experiences. Thanks for your friendship!