Author Archives: Barby Ward

Vault Church Planting Conference in Las Vegas

Vault will bring you deep inside the thinking and methods Vince Antonucci and Verve Church have used in Las Vegas to reach atheists, pimps, prostitutes, bikers, Wiccan witches, Buddhists, strippers, lesbians, and many more of the the people Jesus called all of us all to reach.

How can your church go from attracting church shoppers to reaching people who don’t like church? That’s what Vault is all about, and you don’t want to miss the conversation!

This year John Burke, founder of ELI, will be leading three sessions of Vault. John will share principles you can use to reach people who are truly far from God. You’ll also hear from Will Mancini, author of Church Unique. Will, who teaches in ELI’s Cultivate training, is one of the best thinkers on vision in the church world today.

The cost is only $125 (or $100 for groups of 2 or more), which includes three meals and book giveaways! The conference is limited to about 100 people, which provides for an amazing dynamic that promotes learning and relationships. But it also means that registration will fill up soon, so register today!

Nuts & Bolts Church Planting Conference

The Nuts and Bolts Conference is an affordable two-day, how-to training for planters and pastors starting a new churches. No hype. No theory. No breakouts. Just solid step-by-step teaching from speakers who are experienced, in-the-trenches pastors/planters all donating their time.

The basics

  • Cost is only $29
  • Lunch & snacks provided both days
  • FREE resources galore
  • Immediate FREE one-on-one coaching
  • Ample time for networking with other planters
  • Host homes available (or Hilton $89 including breakfast)
  • A chance to take home $20,000 to start your church


  • Church at the Springs in Ocala, FL


  • August 9-10, 2011

If you’re still reading, ELI has 10 free registrations available. If you’d like one contact us for details.

It was time to try a new path

I had the privilege of interacting with Ron Mackey, who recently planted Harbor Community Church in Barnhart, MO – just south of St. Louis. His experience and insights were worth sharing.

What motivated you to take the bold step of starting a new church, especially one out of the culture?

I had come to a place in my own life, serving in a very traditional church culture, where I had a growing sense that what we were doing was not working any longer. The church I served was struggling – as were most traditional churches. As a result, I began to seek out answers from a variety of sources. I started with demographic study of the area in which I served and lived. What I discovered confirmed what I sensed when I went to the grocery store or out for a burger – our formerly upwardly mobile, very educated, upper middle class culture had changed drastically. The immediate areas were now more blue collar, less traditional in family status, and more ethnic (eastern European). I then studied the demographics of our church. What I discovered brought many things into focus. In 1997 85% of our church membership lived within 3 miles of our church campus. In 2010 those numbers had shifted dramatically with less than 30% of our membership living within 3 miles of our campus. The vast majority of those who now lived more than 3 miles away were continuing the suburban migration farther away from the city in which they worked.

Thus, when I would talk about reaching out to our community in new ways, the majority of the people could not see the needs I was talking about. The result was a period of real struggle for me personally. It became obvious to me that there was a real gap between our church and our community. It was at this time, I encountered the sociology work of Howe and Strauss in 13th Gen. It was then that I began to see my church more clearly. I was now faced with a church culture that was not prepared nor willing to reach the culture around us. I had watched a process where the established culture simply would not move to allow a younger generation a place in their fellowship. Some even said things like, “I know these changes are needed, but you can make those changes when I’m dead and gone.”

I came to the quiet and peaceful resolve that I was not the person to lead a traditional church down a road they did not want to travel. Oddly, my tenure of being with them for over 13 years made it very difficult for them to see me as a catalyst for change rather than the guy who had helped them grow their church and build the nice facility they had always dreamed of having.

I knew I was no longer able to lead in a traditional setting. I was not angry, but calm and assured that it was time to try a new path. So, at age 47 I set out with my wife and a few friends and we decided to see if this growing dream in our hearts could become a reality. Today, that reality is called The Harbor Community Church, “A Safe Place in the Storm”. We are a little over 1 year old. We have about 130 worshippers each week and have recently purchase an old daycare and are trying to reach those who have never been comfortable with the established church culture.

You got a hold of a copy of No Perfect People Allowed a couple years ago – are there any ideas or principles you learned there that have shaped how you lead at the Harbor?

No Perfect People Allowed has become the voice that has crystallized the dream God has given us at The Harbor. I have read and re-read the book on several occasions. In fact, our entire leadership team has read the book and we have recently used it as a study guide for our Harbor Groups (small groups) with great success and insight for our folks. I think the principle that stuck with me the most was the challenge of becoming a humble truth teller.

I was raised in a very conservative and traditional Christian church and denominational framework. I went to college and seminary within that same framework. What I took away from that training was the concept that we are in a battle for the truth and when we encounter our culture we must engage in that battle and seek to win the argument. I really identified with John’s story about sharing the gospel with an individual who’s response was, “yeah, I believe what you’re saying, I just don’t want to be like you.” When I read that, I sat down and cried. God convicted me that I was more interested in being right, working for the passage of legislation to protect my vision of culture, and making sure everyone knew what I stood for, than I was interested in the brokenness of the culture right in front of me.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is, “God changes people”! It is not my job to defend the truth – what a ridiculous notion! I am a broken, frail, messed up human trying to follow Christ, how on earth can I, one who stumbles daily, defend truth. It’s God’s truth. My job, I think, is to seek to live to best of my ability with a radical trust in the grace of Jesus. And in living that out to do so humbly as I interact with my culture.

I had inadvertently became a barrier to people finding grace – that is hard to admit but it is the reality. Today, I want to serve and lead with a new sense of honesty. A confessional honesty about my struggles, fears, lack of understanding, and to encourage others to join me in following the one who provides hope, trust, healing and most of all grace.

Is there a person whose story would summarize what the Harbor is about?

There are many stories of lives being transformed in our fellowship, but the one that has inspired me the most is the story of one of the members of our band. We were in need of another instrumentalist in our band, so one of our band members posted that need on Craigslist. Craigslist should be a key component in the educational process of all church planters! Our ad included the following statement, “We are just a group of broken people who love playing music together and enjoy leading people in worship. The greatest quality we are looking for is a sense of brokenness.” We had a guy respond and he came to practice for a tryout with us. Before he unloaded his equipment we set down and talked. He shared with us that he had just recently been released from jail because he had some issues with not paying tickets, not keeping his car properly licensed and an alcohol problem. He shared his frustration in trying to find a church where he and his family could worship together. They were frustrated because they felt like they were constantly on the outside looking in.

We all prayed together and then started playing. It was amazing! Musically he fits us better than any other lead player we have had. Spiritually he has grown so much and now sees his opportunity to play music has having a much more important role than it has ever had before, because he is playing to help people worship God! God has blessed his faithfulness in many ways, just this past Sunday we baptized his youngest son and a relative who is living with his family and is trying to start life over again as well.

We still have a lot to learn

Insight #6 –What we’ve Learned from Online Assessment

By Craig Whitney

(Note this is the sixth and final post in a series. See Insight #1 for background on the research project.)

When ELI began our recent research into church planting outcomes our primary goal was to see how the results of the Church Planter Profiles online assessment matched the actual experience of individual church planters. I’ve been sharing the lessons we learned in this series of posts. In the process of looking at individual church planters, we inevitably ended up with data that gave us insight into the effectiveness of church planting as a whole. The results were consistent with the most research of this type conducted by Ed Stetzer in 2007.

It was encouraging to discover that 17% of churches in our research had grown to over 200 people in attendance. Half of these grew past this commonly recognized barrier in 12 months or less. On a strictly numerical basis, these churches represented the fastest growing and largest in our survey. It was discouraging, however, to discover they do not represent the typical church plant. Half of the churches in our study had started with 30 or less people and, at the time of our survey, had 60 or less people attending. The sentiment of our interviews further confirmed that small and struggling is a more typical church planting experience than growing and thriving.
Beyond the number of people attending a new church, we really wanted to know how many people involved in the new church were formerly un-churched. This ratio gives us at least some insight into how effective the new church is at making new disciples. Regardless of the size the church, the average was 20%. On a personal level, I’m grateful for every person who finds new life in Jesus. As a church planting leader I can only conclude we still have a lot to learn. We need to continue to improve our ability to:

  • Discover leaders with the ability, gifts and desire to start new churches.
  • Develop both the character and competence of church planters.
  • Direct vital resources to church planting.

The most critical improvement needed, in order to reach the hundreds of million people in the US alone who do not know Jesus, is our ability to start new churches that are even more effective at making new disciples.

Never stop Learning

By Craig Whitney

Insight #5 – What we’ve Learned from Online Assessment

(Note this is the fourth in a series. See Insight #1 for background on the research project.)

In 1998 the Gallup organization published StrengthsFinder™ – a tool to help people identify their talents. Church Planter Profiles encourages potential church planters to use this assessment and share their results. In our recent research project, one of the questions we asked was which talents were most common among highly effective church planters. The top four are listed below:

My reaction to 3 of the 4 was that makes sense. Strategist create alternative ways to proceed. Communicators are good conversationalists and presenters. Futurists inspire others with their visions of the future. These talents intuitively connect to church planting. Learner surprised me, at first, especially since it was a talent found in almost half of the highly effective planters. Learners are drawn to, and excel at, discovering and absorbing new ideas and new ways of doing things. It’s easy to see how this talent for learning propels a leader forward. Church Planting challenges become just another opportunity to learn something new.

The adage is leaders are readers. Reading is merely one form of learning. What our research reveals is that leaders are learners. The good news is even if you don’t have this talent naturally, you can develop this habit in your life by creating regular time and space for acquiring and testing new ideas.

(If you have never completed a StrengthsFinder assessment, it would be well worth the small investment of time and money. You can learn more about Strengths, and receive a code to complete the assessment by purchasing either StrengthsFinder 2.0 or Strengths Based Leadership.)

Next: It’s Not Enough