A Chemistry Conversation with Kenny Jahng
Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, enjoyed a conversation with Kenny Jahng who is the creator of Church Masterminds and Church Butler and who also serves as the Chief Innovation Officer at Church Communications.
Kenny talks through the challenges church leaders face managing all of the voices and opinions coming at them from all sides and how it's vital that we come together as a united front to help one another succeed.
Kenny Jahng is an entrepreneur, pastor, and strategic advisor. Also a Story Brand Certified Guide, he leads the team in partnering with mission-driven leaders and organizations. Kenny is Partner and Chief Innovation Officer at ChurchCommunications.com which has a community of 28,000 leaders. He's the founder of ChurchButler.com, a social graphics subscription service. He has also served as Church Online Pastor at one of Outreach Magazine's Fastest Growing Churches in America. His number one passion is helping cause-driven leaders gain clarity on how to connect with the right audiences. Kenny earned a B.A. from Duke University, MBA from Columbia Business School and M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Church Masterminds is a 3-day, cohort-based retreat to help clarify your next steps, help you connect with your tribe, and help you lead with confidence. There are limited spots available for the retreat that's happening from September 29th through October 1st.
We're excited about Kenny's coaching and the leadership development work that he does with people in the Christian world.
As always, Chemistry Staffing is here for you, and we're praying for churches and teams all over the United States!
Read the Full Transcript
Kenny Jahng: Glad to be here, excited.
Matt Steen: Good, well we’ll try not to ruin that. Really, we typically sit around and have conversations about what we’re seeing in the church world. Now, you’re working with a lot of senior leaders. What are you learning about the church right now?
Kenny Jahng: That’s such a big question.
Matt Steen: Let’s start with the easy one, right.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah. Do you want the list alphabetically, height order?
Matt Steen: Exactly.
Kenny Jahng: What are we learning right now? I think one of the things that’s sticking out in my mind is church leaders are now starting to understand that measurement is important. So we have this offline world. We used to call that “the church.” I used to be a church online pastor back in the day.
Matt Steen: Who knew there was such a thing, you know.
Kenny Jahng: Well, they used to say, “You work with imaginary people, right? You have these virtual people that don’t exist, and you just play with them in the interwebs.” Now, it’s revenge of the nerds, right? Digital is here. And that is what’s literally been happening. Once you can’t do physical headcount in your sanctuary or you can’t take registration or you can’t do kids’ check-in with labels, you have to figure out what’s going on. Are we getting traction? So measurement I think has really become important for pastors, even as we go back into a hybrid situation. We all know, what you measure moves. You need to understand you’re measuring the right things. You need to put a target out there for your team to say, hey, this is where we’re going as a team. Cast that vision. I think that’s the first thing. I think that trying to figure out what that means in this hybrid world in particular is what people are going after right now. And I think that leads also then to having a plan. I think church leaders have been fortunate, right? It’s almost like we’ve been in a luxurious situation before that, “If you built it, they will come.” There are all these things out there. But now it’s kind of like, hey, we need to buckle down and have some strategic intents around the funnel, around assimilation, follow up, all those things.
Matt Steen: Yeah, so there’s a lot of people that are going to hear that and say, hey, that sounds like dirty marketing words.
Kenny Jahng: Yes.
Matt Steen: Which, you know, so be it. That’s another conversation for another time. As you’re thinking through what we need to be measuring, especially as we go from in-person to totally online, now back to this weird hybrid thing that they never taught us about in seminary, what are the things that we need to be considering measuring? What are those right things?
Kenny Jahng: It’s basic stuff that you would think about in the offline world, and then you just translate it into online. A lot of people have these huge expectations or they get all nervous and anxious, but it’s really… things like instead of just measuring headcount, which is just IP addresses online for example, I think thinking about how many people are taking the first intentional step that you’re trying to put out there for them. What does that mean in terms of my, not just being an observer, but when I start to engage, what does that actually look like? And then measuring those interaction points. That’s where I think the strategy comes into place because you need to start reverse engineer from the actual engagement side. Say, what is that first step where we’re going to say, “That actually means that Matt didn’t just drive by but actually started to walk up and do something with us.” Measuring that first step of that first interaction piece is something I think is going to become much more important to people.
Matt Steen: So for every church, that first step is going to be slightly different.
Kenny Jahng: Yes.
Matt Steen: What are some good first steps? Because there are a lot of people thinking the first step is they come in and sit in a pew, and that’s probably not the first step. What are some first steps that can help people think through what that could be for their church?
Kenny Jahng: Again, I think there’s the default stuff where leaders will say it’s when they sign up for a small group, they sign up to volunteer, when they try to get into the baptism class or membership class. But in reality, when you think of your own experience going through church, there are so many micro-steps before that or leading indicators that they will get to a point of those big commitments. Creating spaces where - it might be meeting the pastor, coffee with the pastor type thing, Q&As. Outreach, volunteering. We just saw - Barna put out a study with Alpha talking about Gen Z and what their world view of evangelism is. They are looking at what you do more than just what you say, and are you actually ministering to the community? Are you actually doing cause and outreach and things like that. I think those types of things, then, afford you the opportunity to say, open that up to volunteer experiences for brand new people. Don’t have volunteer experiences that are just for your insiders, your holy huddle. How do you craft - because not every volunteer experience is the same - how do you craft volunteer experiences strategically so that new people can get plugged in? That might be the beginning of a journey. That’s a great example I think of that first step.
Matt Steen: That goes back to that whole idea of people are much less intimidated being shoulder to shoulder with somebody than being knee to knee with somebody, right? So if we can lure - lure is probably a bad word, but if we can get them into working side by side with somebody, some cool conversations can happen.
Kenny Jahng: So one of the things I would say it’s a measure is, can we measure conversations verses conversions? Instead of conversation points. Like, I’m going to sign up for this. I’m going to actually get committed to a 12-week Bible study or life group. Can we talk about conversations? The engaging part. Can we actually pique their curiosity? Those are the types of things we need to start measuring and pay attention to so there’s next step, next step - there are options for them to graduate into different levels of relationship.
Matt Steen: That’s really cool. I feel like there’s been a conversation historically, maybe going back to Nelson Searcy stuff, when you have your dashboard and all these types of things. But I think a lot of times what will happen is churches will have a dashboard. “Great, we have a dashboard. Look at all the pretty numbers and charts” and all that kind of stuff. But we forget that there needs to be an actual plan in place when somebody is at a point on that dashboard. Right?
Kenny Jahng: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. So this is a place where instead of going from offline to online, going from online to offline might make sense. You have marketing systems on website. So if you look at these big retailers and big B-2-B companies, they have systems where they’ll say, “Hey Matt, actually we’re tracking you.” Matt came to our homepage, then went to a product page, then went to an FAQ page. They’re seeing, oh, they went to very specific places, and then there’s this thing called lead scoring. They’re saying, hey, if this is a sales lead, at what point does Matt instead of just becoming a lurker become someone who is actually considering our product? There are social signals. Like, if I’m actually reading the testimonials and the case study and the FAQs about a product, I probably am actually interested in that product, not just driving by. What’s the equivalence in all the things that you offer as a church, not just online, not just offline - both. What are those types of things that will increase “the score” to indicate that this person actually is going down that pathway towards coming to visit us, coming a second time, fourth time, that kind of thing.
Matt Steen: Man, that’s huge. And that’s getting into things again. We’ve never taught that in seminaries. We’ve never thought through -
Kenny Jahng: That wasn’t after your pastoral care? Right after that class, you went to… no?
Matt Steen: No, after that one was Pandemic 101. That was the highlight of the seminary experience in and of itself. So we need to be thinking like a marketer in so many different ways as pastors. Again, never taught in seminary, never taught in Bible college. I think you and I both have some business school experiences, so we’ve got a little bit of that. Where’s a good place if a pastor wants to lean into some of this stuff, what’s a good primer for them. Yes, they need to go to churchmasterminds.com and sign up for the one that’s coming up in September. But what would you put on a reading list for pastors?
Kenny Jahng: The issue is that there aren’t any resources here. I think that’s why seminaries and institutions are not teaching this stuff. Those institutions are geared or set up to teach things that have been codified. What we’re seeing right now is this is all innovation fronts. And if you look at what innovation is about, it’s about communities of innovators. If you look at the start-up world, there are communities of entrepreneurs and stuff. Same thing here. It is literally about talking to other forward-thinking leaders and seeing what they’re doing, giving your teams the ability to actually experiment, and being a part of the conversation. It actually means that you have to be a little bit more proactive than usual and reach out and connect with other people. Two are better than one. Three are better than two. As a church online pastor in the past, we used to always say if you’ve met a church online pastor that tells you, “This is the blueprint for how to do church online. If you’re not going to do this way, you’re not going to succeed,” you’ve got to run. That person is a fool. We are all learning together. Again, this is why we built these mastermind groups. It’s kind of like the old seminar conference thing, for this type of topic, is a little bit moot because those types of venues are teaching things that are mainstay stuff from years ago. Peer-to-peer learning is the place. That’s the answer in my mind, and that’s why we’re investigating it. How do you connect with other leaders to do that? Honestly, you don’t need formal structures. It’s looking up peers that you’re seeing and hearing about, calling them up - this is the secret of this whole industry, Matt - those church leaders are open to a call. Most church leaders are open to sharing what they’ve learned and what they’ve failed at, what they’ve succeeded at, what they’re dreaming about. It is surprising how many leaders we challenge to actually go back and call one new contact a day for thirty days and how hard that it. Because it’s not built into our culture. Our culture’s always about I’m building my little micro empire over here with my church. My IP, my intellectual property. It’s my secret sauce. I think this is the one place where secular marketplace has good influence on the ministry space. Where in the marketplace, that type of innovation, community sharing is the norm. Bringing it to the ministry place is definitely one of the calls that I have. Just stuff like this. Talking shop together and then sharing with other people so that other people can glean from it, and hopefully, we’ll be able to learn. Because you and I don’t know everything.
Matt Steen: No.
Kenny Jahng: I love to see the comments of people who actually reach out to me, which happens often, and we learn from each other. This is how we learn today.
Matt Steen: Absolutely, and that’s awesome. I think you nailed it with this idea that everybody will take your call. If you call another pastor. So much of this is we’re so isolated, we’re so alone in so many ways. And we’re all yearning for it, but we all can’t get over ourselves and just make that phone call and say, “Hey, help me think through this.” That’s so sad, but it’s so true. I love the idea that you guys are giving people an excuse to come together, break out of that shell, and really learn together for the sake of the kingdom.
Kenny Jahng: I’m telling you, it’s energizing. You hear about Zoom fatigue. I just looked up on my Zoom account. Last month, I think I did 157 hours of Zoom last month.
Matt Steen: Oh Lord, I don’t even want to know where to look for that.
Kenny Jahng: 157 hours, and that’s usually over five days a week. So 20 days. That’s a lot of Zooms. But I’m energized. Because what we’re doing right now is not depleting, it’s energizing because it’s about relationship and it’s not task-oriented and there’s some sort of growth that’s going to come out of this conversation for me and hopefully for you too. As long as you attend to those things, relationship and growth, I do believe that this type of virtually mediated conversation is life-giving and life-serving, and that’s the antidote to Zoom honestly.
Matt Steen: Absolutely, absolutely. Kenny, that’s awesome. Thanks for taking some time to sit down and call. If I’m taking anything away from this, it’s let’s get over ourselves and let’s actually get together with one another and hash through this stuff and learn together. Like I said, so you’re doing churchmasyterminds.com, which people can go and check out and buy everything on there. Part of what you’re getting ready to do is I think you’re doing an XP group in beautiful city of Orlando, Florida at the end of September, which sounds like it’s going to be a pretty cool gathering. It’s a handful of guys coming together to talk through what they’re experiencing in church and learn from one another. No talking heads, nobody is being platformed or anything like that.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah, absolutely. You see a lot of these coaching groups or cohort learning, etc. And that’s usually still a sage for the stage type of thing, one to many. What we’ve seen honestly, especially for executive pastors - so Brian Buford who is an XP at Grace Church in Boston is the one who is partnering with me to build this network of masterminds. What we’ve seen is, especially for executive pastors, it’s a lonely vocation. You’re sitting there, and you’re basically doing anything the senior pastor doesn’t want to do or doesn’t know how to do or hasn’t thought to do. It’s a challenging position, but the perspective is very unique. Not many people in that ministry team understands and feels what you’re challenged with. Getting into the room with other people that know that unique pressure, responsibility, and challenge is completely transformative - if you’re able to plug into a community like that. It’s been wonderful. It’s a little bit over a dozen people at a time. The last time, we were in Austin. We’re doing one in Gatlinburg. We’re doing one in Florida. It’s just one of those things I think is - if you’ve never been part of masterminding, which is a very specific form of collaboration - it’s amazing. It truly is an amazing experience.
Matt Steen: That’s awesome. Well Kenny, thank you so much. We’ll drop the details on churchmasterminds.com down below if anybody wants to dig into that some more. But thank you Kenny so much for the time, man. Appreciate what you’re doing for the kingdom.
Kenny Jahng: Awesome. Thanks for being here, and I love what you guys are doing for all church leaders out there.