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Later this month I’ll be attending the XP-Seminar in Dallas, TX with some very good friends of mine.

This is THE place for executive pastors and church leaders to learn, network and hangout.

The dates are February 17-18. You can enroll HERE. Today is the last day for special pricing.

This years seminar with be featuring Mel McGowan
From the Magic Kingdom: Lessons Learned from Disney

A former Disney Imagineer
brings vital insight to church design.

Mel McGowan is the President and Founder of Visioneering Studios. This firm is a national “Envision.Design.Build. firm” with offices around the country. Mel had a decade-long tenure with the Walt Disney Company, helping to design the renovation and expansion ofCalifornia Adventure at the California Disney Resort. He also has a background in film and urban design—and continues to work on many civic designs around the country. He brings a rich perspective on “sustainable Christ-centered community” and has written Design Intervention: Revolutionizing Sacred Space.

In Exodus, God gave His people complete instructions for designing and building a tabernacle. From specifying the colors of linen to the dimensions of each alter, God cared about the details of that environment and His connection to the people inside. God still seeks relationship with His creation, and our gathering places can still reflect it—if we’ll consider a Design Intervention. From the Old Testament temple to today’s most innovative building, churches create effective environments by using their unique story to share The Story. Design Intervention is a global journey through this revolution in sacred space.

Why Come?

Dr. Gene Getz Pastor, Author

Dr. Gene Getz
Pastor, Author

Author of more than 60 books, Gene Getz says …

David Fletcher has been helping Executive Pastors for over a decade through  I love what he is doing through the keynotes and workshops—and I had a great time a couple of years ago when I was a speaker. To learn and grow, this is a fantastic place.

I’ve also seen first hand the results of his own leadership where he serves at the local church level and in helping train leaders in cross-cultural situations—which has added to his ability to structure a dynamic learning environment regardless of the societal factors. Don’t miss this opportunity!!

Tim Samuel

Tim Samuel

Tim Samuel, CFO of Bridgeway Community Church says …

The Seminar enables me to create future opportunities. Daniel Rolfe’s talk last year helped shape my 2015.

It connects me with church leaders from around the country so that I can innovate and save money for my local church.

Clint Smith

Clint Smith

Clint Smith, XP of of NORTHchurch says …

The XP-Seminar has had a huge impact on my leadership and development as a person, as well as an executive pastor. Years ago, when I began the journey as an XP in my late twenties, it provided the networking, mentoring and insight that I needed to grow in this demanding role. I continue to attend the Seminar to increase my knowledge in church law, HR, staff development, budgeting and so much more. The relationships I have built through XPastor grow every time I attend.

This year I will be teaching a workshop entitled, “Raising Up Leaders—Coaching and Development.” As a 10+ year veteran as an XP, this is still my favorite part of the job. I believe in this seminar and what it represents and would love to give back any way I can.

Seminar Highlights

Dr. Paul Utnage Springhill Presbyterian

Dr. Paul Utnage

Survival Skills for Managing Moral Failures Among Your Leaders

Paul has been an XP and SP, serving in ministry for decades. He has served with some of the most noted pastors in the nation. Paul has been a noted contributor to the XPastor world, giving mentoring to many upcoming XPs. Currently he is the XP of Springhill Presbyterian Church in Bozeman, Montana and earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Dallas Seminary.

There are two types of skills that help manage moral failures on your team: tangible and intangible. Tangible skills are the organizational decisions and processes that must be followed to have success. But there are intangible skills that many people ignore, to their later dismay.

Bruce Woody

Bruce Woody

Golden Buildings and the Architect-Client Process

Bruce Woody will share some of their “golden projects.” These are the church buildings that have special merit—things that architects really hit a home run for and with the client. Look for lots of concrete illustrations of the client-architecture process and its results.

This is a “tour de force” of great architecture. Bruce is the President and CEO of HH Architects.

Matt Anthony

Matt Anthony

SCOTUS on Marriage—Legal Considerations For Your Church

The majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United Stated held that “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.” This was the Oberfefell v. Hodges case, argued on April 28 and decided on June 26, 2015.

David Middlebrook

David Middlebrook

In response, one Senior Pastor said, “Our church will never do any kind of marriage again—go to the Justice of the Peace.” An Executive Pastor said, “We won’t rent out our facility to any outside group.” Some changed the constitutions of their church to address the issue and others have done nothing. This imperative presentation contains material that you must consider as you audit your church policies and practices.

Every year, David Middlebrook and Matt Anthony from The Church Law Group bring the XP-Seminar imperative topics from the field of law, HR, safety, fiduciary responsibility and much more. This will be a growing time and invariably you will take away homework and a full to-do list.


Mike Erre

Mike Erre

The Constant of Change and a Track for Lead Pastors

You asked for Mike to return again! We heard from him, Mr. “Lightning in a Bottle,” at the 2014 XP-Seminar about his transition to EvFree Fullerton and the resulting phenomenal growth. But you wanted more of Mike. In 2015, he spoke on being a catalyst and directional leadership. This year he will address The Constant of Change–giving us a continued insight into a dynamic leader.

On Thursday afternoon, Mike will lead a workshop only for Senior Pastors/Lead Pastors. Before becoming the Lead Pastor of EvFree Fullerton, he served as the teaching pastor at Rock Harbor Church and Mariners Church. XPs, this is a prime opportunity to bring your SP!  Read about the SP track.

Jon Platek

Jon Platek

The New SP and XP Team

Two years ago, Jon became the new SP of Maple Grove Church. He soon added XP Jim Hobbs to the team. Let’s learn the “start-up lessons” from Jon about his experience. You never know when you will get a new SP or join a new team. His observations and perspective will give insights to new and experienced XPs and SPs. Read Jon’s story of when he was a Campus Pastor to gain some perspective on his prior ministry.


Eddie Park

Eddie Park


Our emcee this year will be Eddie Park. On a 4-year learning gig at EvFree Fullerton with David Fletcher, he is an Assistant Executive Pastor overseeing church business and operations. Eddie provides church-wide strategic leadership and oversees EvFree’s internship program, along with developing skills in teaching and communication.

Eddie is an information addict, avid life-hacker, and leadership junkie. His passion is to change lives and organizations with the highest level of Christian leadership.

At the 2015 seminar, I was exposed to some of the most experienced church leaders from all over the nation. I never thought I would ever be prepared for senior leadership until I came to the seminar and received the invaluable wisdom and resources provided by David Fletcher, the speakers, and participants.  ~Eddie Park


About the Seminar

Short Rides

short-rideWe will feature a short ride with a case study on church leadership issues. To the point. Clear. Impactful. Horse not provided.

Afternoon Workshops

On each afternoon, we have three sets of workshops led by some of thebest church leaders from North America—people who are coming up with innovative solutions to practical ministry. Hear from your peers! The workshop leaders are church leaders who speak from their amazing areas of expertise. They talk to you as “one skilled leader to another.”

“Thank you so much for the obvious work that was put into the conference. It was my first time attending and it was very beneficial.”

“On our flight home, my XP said to me, ‘So was the conference worth it for you?’ I answered, ‘Yes it was.’ He agreed as well.”

Enroll in the Seminar

The regular enrollment rate is $750.  Includes books and lunches—but not lodging. Overview of all rates:

  • Enroll by February 1 for $675–save $75
  • Enroll two or more from your church for $600 each–save $300 and more!


We will again be at the Hilton Dallas/Park Cities.

I hope to see you there! If you’re going, let me know and we’ll grab some time together.


*** Go here for more on tithing in the bible.

Don’t get me wrong – I read a TON of business books. I think there’s a lot of principles, concepts, strategies and leadership lessons that we can learn from the business world, but I also think the business world can learn from a healthy church. The Wall Street Journal wrote about this today. Check it out…

  • MAY 17, 2010

Learning From the Good Book

For tips on starting a business, entrepreneurs might head to church

Entrepreneurs who need help boosting their business could learn a thing or two in church.

New houses of worship face many of the same challenges as start-up companies—and the strategies pastors use can hold valuable lessons for entrepreneurs of any stripe.

Consider the worldly concerns pastors have to sort out to get a church on its feet. They must assess a market to see if locals want a new alternative, figure out whether to buy or rent space—and then find ways to keep worshippers coming through the door. Not to mention landing enough donations to keep in the black.

And if pastors can’t keep revenue flowing, they face the same realities that all small businesses do. About one-third of new churches fail by the end of their fourth year, according to an estimate by Lifeway Research, a nonprofit church-advisory group in Nashville, Tenn.

So, pastors often try a range of creative strategies to launch their church and stay afloat. These methods cover all sorts of situations but have one common theme: tapping into a church’s unique spiritual mission. Pastors try to build their business by tightening their ties to their community and treating worshippers like friends and neighbors instead of customers.

Here’s a look at some of those tactics—and what entrepreneurs can learn from them.

Meet Your Customers

Like any other enterprise, pastors need to test the waters before they set up shop. But when they do their market research, pastors often bypass the traditional, formal methods of assessment—such as surveys and focus groups—and try a much more personal approach.

Clay Reed, pastor of the Southlake Baptist Church in a Dallas suburb, says it helps to develop a profile of “the kind of person you think would probably want to come in the door.” Then approach a few such individuals personally and get to know them. “If they are the kind of people who do business over lunch or go to diners, take them to lunch or hang out in a diner getting to know them,” he says.

In Mr. Reed’s case, his experience as a churchgoer taught him that young families are the most vital growth factor for start-up congregations, so he sought out parents attending youth sports events and struck up conversations on the sidelines. He found them receptive and forthcoming.

For instance, several parents told him that programs for kids were essential in any church that sought them as regular members. But they warned him that those programs shouldn’t duplicate offerings already in abundance in the community—and they shouldn’t be scheduled at times that competed with established activities.

Think Big—and Unusual

The next challenge is deciding what kind of space suits a fledging enterprise best. Many churches plan for growth from the beginning—a natural outgrowth of their missionary values and the faith they have in their enterprise. That doesn’t mean breaking the bank, however. Pastors get creative to ensure that their expenses are low at the start, but that they can expand easily and cheaply.


Many rent space, for instance, in schools or even movie theaters—where they can take over additional auditoriums if they need extra seating space for Christmas, Easter and other special services. Justin Haigler says he spent about $60,000 to open his independent congregation in a rented movie theater in Bossier City, La., in 2007. Starting out in a one-screen auditorium, the Simple Church now rents space that contains 14 screens in one multiplex and six in another.

Of course, many small businesses can’t follow that model exactly. But many can find creative ways to guarantee easy access to expansion space. Consider Mr. Reed, who sold his office-cleaning company when he founded his church. For years, he says, his secular enterprise operated rent free out of space owned by some of its customers—storing equipment and paperwork in spare offices or other rooms. “We didn’t even have our own building until we had about 500 employees,” says Mr. Reed.

Sell Yourself

New businesses can be so determined to broaden their audience that they immediately turn to mass-appeal methods such as campaigns on the Internet, radio or television. But they lose something crucial in the process: the personal touch.

Clerics at fledgling churches are well aware they are their own best public-relations representative, and they don’t miss a chance to meet and greet potential members in the neighborhood—such as distributing handbills on the street in person. Another useful strategy: getting to know local businesspeople, who can work wonders by talking up the church to customers.

“When we started out, I took a gift basket to every store. I said, ‘I don’t know if you go to church, but we’d love to have you,’ ” says Mr. Haigler of the Simple Church, adding that the merchants helped inspire a stream of new congregants both from their ranks and among their customers.

Charity and volunteer efforts are another way to get closer to the community. While these may seem a luxury for many small businesses, churches see them as essential strategies that attract interest and get new members involved. New churches usually become quickly visible in everything from clothing and food drives to helping find shelter for the homeless. Such activities can attract support from patrons of the poor—and previously indigent people the churches helped get on their feet.

Get Creative About Paying

Finally, small businesses could take a page from churches when it comes to getting people to open their wallets.

New churches often use innovative ways to encourage congregants to donate. Rather than relying on the collection plate, most preachers set up a website for online giving by credit card. Some try to make in-church giving easier, too, by putting a bucket in the lobby instead of asking people to toss cash into the plate—which makes people feel a lot less self-conscious about making small donations. It also helps the church seem less focused on money.

Small businesses could implement these sorts of ideas in a number of ways. The secular retailer who knows his customers well might feel comfortable providing layaway plans, flexible no-interest credit and discounts for cash payments. The key is to play off the personal relationship that a small business has with its customers—something a big business, like a chain store, might not have.

Mr. Johnson is a writer in Roanoke County, Va. He can be reached at