A Chemistry Conversation with Andy Martin
Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, talks with Andy Martin, Pastor of Church Relations at LCBC Church, about how the Church is scrambling to do what we should have been doing all along. We're in a rebuilding phase ... back to church planting days. What changes can you take advantage of in this season?
Learn from Andy in this exciting new lab!
This is a six-session online lab with Andy Martin centered around leveraging what you already have to reach more people.
- Six live online meet-ups with a small cohort of other church leaders
- Offline learning opportunities and exercises to push your team forward
- Virtual office hours to dig into your unique challenges
- Private Basecamp Portal for ongoing communication and collaboration
Read the Full Transcript
Notes: Check 00:15:01.27 minutes (Page 4) to confirm who Andy is referring to that does the life church model. It sounded like “Art” but I could not verify.
Matt Steen: Well hey, this is another Chemistry conversation. I’m Matt Steen, joined today by Andy Martin. Andy is a repeat offender here on Chemistry conversations. He’s the pastor of church relations at LCBC church in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Andy, not only do you have a great title, but I love spending some time with you because you’re doing so much work with churches all over the Pennsylvania area and the northeast and kind of hearing trends and all that kind of stuff. Thanks for taking some time to talk, man.
Andy Martin: Thanks for having me. I really enjoy being here, and I appreciate the conversation, the challenges. It’s always thought provoking.
Matt Steen: Oh yeah. So as you’ve been working with churches and hearing different stories, what are you learning about the church right now?
Andy Martin: Wow. What am I learning about the church? What I’m learning I guess is, everything that’s new is old. It’s the same. What we’re seeing is the stuff we should have been doing all along. So it was really interesting, our pastor David challenged us at the very beginning of COVID. Sort of an emergency response was connect with God, connect with each other, connect with community. And that was our roadmap for the first nine months of March 2020 on. Be sure that you’re connecting with God on a daily basis. You’re connecting with each other as staff, but also we rolled that out to our church, connecting with each other. And then connecting with community. All kinds of community projects and stuff. You’re going like, “Huh? That’s revolutionary.” No, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing all along. That’s what Christians do. They connect with God and each other and make a difference in their community. So it’s nothing revolutionary, nothing new. It’s what we should be doing all along. An interesting thing is in order to connect with each other, we challenged our staff to contact everyone on our rolls. So not our members or our partners, but everyone in our - we call them “active leads” - anyone in our sphere of influence. If they’ve ever come to LCBC in the last year or two. So we were doing right at 30,000 contacts a month.
Matt Steen: Wow.
Andy Martin: Our staff members and we would enlist volunteers to do this. So they would get a text, an email, a phone call, something once a month on a repeating basis. I would say probably 70% of those people never called or acknowledged that they got a call. But 30% did. Some of them were folks we haven’t heard from or connected with in years. It’s been really paying off. So when I say what is old is new. Contacting people, calling them. You matter. Can I pray for you? How can I pray for you? And it was really a little thing but a big thing, but David made sure to say, hey, when you do these calls, don’t do them as friend or neighbor. Do them and say, hey, on behalf of LCBC, how’re you doing? I want you to know the church is reaching out to you. Because people cross the lines of is it the church? Are you doing it because you’re a part of the church or? We are the church. It’s paying dividends. It’s paying a lot of dividends as far as people reconnecting with the church. So I would say, what am I learning and seeing? That what was old is new.
Matt Steen: That’s cool. And the church, regardless of what we like to think, we’re still uniquely situated to be able to do that stuff, right?
Andy Martin: We can respond to blood drives, food drives, clothing drives, families that are in need. We were quickly motivating our people to say, don’t wait for the church to organize this. If you see a need, meet a need. Because of the contacts, we became aware of what different needs were, and we were able to leverage small groups to go do those things. So it wasn’t LCBC’s giant food drive. It was just local. Our local campuses did individual needs in their communities. So we said, that’s the stuff we’re going to continue coming out of COVID whenever that happens. As we come out of COVID, we’re continuing the contacting. Maybe it’s not monthly, but we’re doing it I think on a two-month cycle. Everybody in our sphere of influence will get a contact because it’s just been paying dividends.
Matt Steen: And to be clear, you’re mobilizing people to do that. This isn’t something where it’s just the pastoral staff is doing this. You’ve got a handful of volunteers that you’re like, hey, help us with this and unleashing them.
Andy Martin: More than a handful. Because you think 30,000 contacts on a monthly basis. That’s all your staff would be doing is sitting on the phone or texting. They had to mobilize an army. I’m on central team and I had 80 I was responsible for. So I enlisted four other volunteers and we divvied it up and we did it. More than just a text or more than just an email, we were able to have conversations. Yeah, absolutely.
Matt Steen: That’s cool. As you’re watching and seeing what’s going on church-wise, what are you seeing as something pastors, church leaders just need to be aware of? Is there something coming down the pike that maybe people aren’t necessarily aware of that we need to be thinking through?
Andy Martin: I don’t know if it’s aware of - we’re in the same boat as everyone else. We’re learning and figuring this out. But I think a cool observation that our team is seeing and I guess a mindset that we’ve had to get into is we’re in a rebuilding phase. Taking it back to where we were at the very beginning. We’re not going to be able to flip a switch and everybody come back. It’s just not going to happen. Easter just told us that. We’ve been running about one third of our pre-COVID numbers on all of our locations the last six months, something like that. It’s been slowly climbing, but very slowly. Easter we were expecting a big boon. I think we got up close to 50% of our pre-COVID numbers. This is anecdotal, but what we kept hearing from our volunteers, “Hey, it was great to be back. Can’t wait to make this all the time. But we’re not ready yet.” We’re not ready yet. And so what we’ve been advising our campus teams, our campus pastors to say, you know guys. It’s back to church planting days. It’s back to when you’re first building. It’s a thousand cups of coffee. Having that conversation. You’re starting over. I guess some of our Kitman people were beating themselves up because they couldn’t recruit all of the volunteers that they had before. Well you don’t have to because you’ve got one third of the people you had before. You just need a few. Start rebuilding, and don’t hold yourself up to those pre-COVID numbers. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about investing in who you’ve got now and then reaching out to those people who were there. How do you get them back? How do you talk to them? How can you serve them? How can you challenge them to grow in their faith? It’s definitely a mindset shift for us, to rebuild instead of relaunch. I think it’s helping our guys to look at it that way and also their volunteers, to see you’re in this with us. There’s no way a staff’s going to do this. The volunteers have to do it.
Matt Steen: Yeah, I think that’s huge. I love the rebuild mindset that you’re sharing. So much of what I’m hearing from churches too is the engagement piece to of volunteers. Engagement all around, right?
Andy Martin: Absolutely.
Matt Steen: Because we’re coming out of a season where people have realized that I can watch church with a waffle on my lap from my living room.
Andy Martin: It’s kind of nice. I like it.
Matt Steen: It’s kind of nice. But helping people realize that there is a non-downloadable experience that you get in person. But having to rebuild and reengage and realize. I love it. You used the language “a thousand cups of coffee.” I don’t know that we’ve fully processed that as the capital “C” Church, that that’s coming.
Andy Martin: That’s what church planters do. They’re constantly sitting down with people casting vision. Here’s what we can see happening. Our dream is to have a church that does x, y, z. Well the difference is, you’ve already got the structure. You’ve already got a lot of those things. Now you’ve just got to go back and recast the vision. Huh? I’ve never heard somebody say vision leaks, and you have to say it over and over again. That’s what you’re doing. You’re saying it all over again. It’s a basic word, and it’s going to pay off.
Matt Steen: There’s an opportunity here, too, isn’t there? There’s an opportunity to - maybe the pre-COVID experience wasn’t exactly what you had anticipated, or maybe this is an opportunity. You’ve got to go back and start rebuilding, what is our preferred future? Are there some shifts and are there some changes that you can actually take advantage of this lull in engagement to start building towards?
Andy Martin: So, how many people have said “pivot” over the last year? I know, right. Everybody made adjustments to their presentation. They went online, be it Facebook or a full streaming platform or whatever. They made some adjustments. So now, you see the whole gambit of churches. Are they going to abandon what they did and go back to what it was? Or are they going to do both? Or are they doing truly online? And that’s definitely a shift for us. We were beefing up our online presence, but prior to COVID we probably would have said that we are a multisite church with 15 locations that has an online presence. And in the middle of COVID, right after March, probably closer to the fall, we said no. Going forward, LCBC is an online church that has 15 locations. We have 15 locations. Are we going to abandon those? No. Definitely not. But we have a strong presence online. And we try to use conservative numbers with that. It’s not hundreds of thousands of people. We don’t have that. But we do have a strong online presence. They’re committed. They’re telling us they’re there. They’re checking in. So we are developing ways, how do we minister to them. They will be the people who never step a foot inside our doors that we can still minister to. We baptized a lady - we’re in Manheim, Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half outside of Philly. But we have a lady who’s been watching us in Chicago. She drove to Manheim to be baptized. Loved the experience. This is not what we’re advocating, but she just did it. And then she drove back on Easter because she said she just loved hanging out. So she came and served at the cafe on Easter weekend. So we were designing for an online presence. That’s a valid audience and a valid expression of the church. How do we equip ourselves to be good at that? Also, physical, in-person, we’re not abandoning that. That’s going to be just as strong. It’s a both-and, not an either-or. So it’s causing us to think differently. How do we do our presentations? How do we communicate to this audience who’s online? How do we communicate to our people who are there in the room? You and I were talking earlier of what’s the value of coming back in the room, as opposed to sitting at home in my pajamas and eating a waffle. I better come up with what’s the difference, what’s the advantage and embrace that. That’s true whether you’re a megachurch or a smaller church. It doesn’t matter. Those same things are true. How do you present the best version of you both ways?
Matt Steen: That’s it. That’s it. One of the things I love about what you’re doing with us is helping churches think through, how do we better use our online presence to bring people together maybe in living rooms. Then you have people, you have waffles. You’re probably not in your pajamas if you’ve got friends. But you could have that whole experience. The lab that you’re leading, whether we call it a microsite or whatever it is, is so much of embracing this rebuild mentality and saying, what’s the low-hanging fruit, how do we really help extend our presence?
Andy Martin: What I think is helping me think about it. We were doing this, experimenting with it and toying with it pre-COVID. If you look at Pennsylvania, there’s Pittsburg and Philadelphia, east and west coast. And in between are miles and miles, hundreds and hundreds of small, rural towns that will never support one of our larger locations.
Matt Steen: Yeah. I think Harrisburg is offended now.
Andy Martin: Well, I don’t want to talk about Harrisburg, but anyway. [laughing] I was talking Rough and Ready. There’s Rough and Ready, Pennsylvania. And Fearnot. Don’t forget about Fearnot.
Matt Steen: Fearnot, yeah.
Andy Martin: Hey, I’ve got a group at Fearnot, Pennsylvania right now. But financially, there’s just not enough population. And every state’s that way. I grew up in Texas. Texas has hundreds and hundreds, thousands of cities that are the population that may not be able to sustain that. What are we supposed to do? We have a goal or a mission to blanket the entire state of Pennsylvania with the gospel of Jesus. How do we do that? Does it have to have an LCBC flag on it so we’re connecting and working with other churches? How do we do that? But our part of it needs to be, how do we launch in some of these smaller towns? We’re still, we have the goal of doing one maybe two locations a year in some of the more populated areas. So like the Life Church model, the 1,500 or bigger. Arc does that. They launch big, and we agree with that. We’re going to continue to do that. But also, we recognize there are these other rural communities that can’t sustain it. I’m going, well, we’ve got a product already. We’ve got a good message. We’ve got a worship package. So all I have to do is find people who love their community, love their friends and neighbors, and are willing to start something in their home. Start in your home. That’s what happens. And we can grow it from a home group into a community group and eventually get big enough to where they can afford a staff person, and we can feed that. And I would say all those churches out there, if they’ve shifted and done something online, chances are they’ve got some sort of product, something that they could replicate and send out and do the same thing. Leverage what you’ve already been creating and doing in some of these smaller group communities around you. People are driving over 30 minutes. Yeah, they’re doing that, but they’re not going to bring their friends to do that. So take to them. Take to them.
Matt Steen: That’s cool. We’ll link off down below this to the lab that you’re going to be running and sharing some of what you’re learning through this experience as well. Andy, it’s always good to talk to you. Thank you for the work that you’re doing at LCBC, the impact that you guys are having and for taking the time to share what’s rolling around inside your head.
Andy Martin: Man, thanks for letting me. We’re learning, we’re figuring it out as we go. But it’s fun to see all the different ways that God takes this stuff and uses it. It’s going to look different in every environment, but that’s the fun in figuring it out. How does he leverage it?
Matt Steen: Absolutely. Absolutely, man. Andy, thank you.
Andy Martin: Thanks bud. Good to see you, man.