Tony Morgan and Church Marketing Resources

September 27, 2005 by

Tony MorganThis weekend is the fourth annual Innovative Church Conference at Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind. In 2002 Granger started, a resources and training arm of the church that seeks to share what the church has learned with other churches. Tony Morgan is the Pastor of Administrative Services at Granger and the Executive Director of I talked with Tony about and the Innovative Church Conference.

What prompted you to launch

Tony Morgan: We were starting to get overwhelmed with leaders from other churches contacting us to ask about how we were doing ministry at Granger Community Church. We decided rather than trying to help leaders on a one-by-one basis, it would make a lot more sense to be proactive about offering resources and training experiences to help equip other churches. I’d like to say we were forward thinking with the whole deal, but was really a reaction to a problem that needed to be fixed. Now, I think other church leaders get better help, and I think our team can stay more focused on our primary mission: helping people in the South Bend area take their next step toward Christ.

What does offer?

Morgan: really offers two things: ministry resources and training experiences. The ministry resources are varied and include messages, books, small group guides, dramas, graphics, videos and ministry manuals/forms. Our most popular resources are actually the ministry manuals and forms that we provide in electronic formats so leaders can download them instantly. It’s kind of like iTunes for ministry leaders. You can download these resources by item, by topic packages, or you can download the entire resource library. These are the ministry tools we’re using at Granger. We’re just trying to offer as much as we can so other churches don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Likewise, our conference and our workshops are designed to be very practical learning experiences. There’s not a lot of theory that’s shared at these events—particularly the one-day workshops. The workshops are offered to give other churches a full day to hang out with our staff leaders. We focus on specific ministry areas and offer what’s working and not working at Granger. There’s lots of time for dialogue with our leaders. And, the fun part is that these days are designed for an entire team to attend together. We typically offer four different topics on the same day so an entire team of staff and volunteers from a church can attend together and still get focused training in specific ministry areas. The conference is getting bigger every year, but it’s the one-day workshops that are really exploding for us.

How many people attend the Innovative Church Conference and where do they come from?

Morgan: We’re expecting 400 to 600 people to attend this year’s conference. We’ll have church leaders from throughout the country. Primarily we’ll draw from the Midwest; however, we’re starting to see more and more leaders from the far reaches of the country and Canada that are making the trek to South Bend, Ind. We’ve had a number of churches attend from California, Florida, New York, Texas—really all over. And, we see churches of every size—from new church plants to churches of 10,000 or more. I’m really surprised at the variety of churches that are represented.

Do you know of many other churches doing something similar? (Fellowship and Willow Creek are the ones that come to mind for me)

Morgan: There are several other churches that are helping to equip other ministries. You mentioned Fellowship and Willow Creek. North Point (Andy Stanley) and Saddleback (Rick Warren) also come to mind. We’ve learned a lot from all of these ministries.

The niche we’re trying to carve with is “specific” and “practical” training and resources. That’s why we’re focusing on the ministry tools downloads and the one-day workshops. Neither the downloads or the workshops are very sexy. Even the conference itself is very plug-and-play oriented. As an example, we’ll walk through how we develop a weekend message series. Then we’ll take you step-by-step through the arts programming process. We’re trying to give leaders some tangible tools that they can use in their churches.

The conference is a lot of fun, because we also get to share some of the arts elements that have been most effective in helping to reach people for Jesus over the last 12 months. Our arts teams are incredible, and it’s pretty enjoyable to turn them loose for a couple of days to encourage and equip other church leaders.

Of course, you also get to hear from what I think may be one of the best teaching teams in the country. You’re not going to find a better communicator, in my opinion, than Mark Beeson. The guy is one of the best storytellers I’ve ever heard, and he’s certainly gifted at making biblical truth easy for simple guys like me to understand and apply to our lives.

You’ve also written a series of books called Simply Strategic. Tell us more about this series.

Morgan: Well, this is probably a natural extension of what we’re hoping to accomplish with the ministry of The three books, Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers, and the new book, Simply Strategic Growth, tell the story of Granger Community Church. Each book contains 99 bite-sized nuggets of ministry strategy. This is the stuff that’s worked at Granger. We tell people all the time that these same strategies may not work in your ministry environment, but we’re hopeful each of them will lead to a dialogue that will help churches take their next step in helping people meet Jesus and become fully-devoted followers of Christ.

Stuff is focused on all the infrastructure that becomes the foundation for ministry growth including organizational structure, staffing, budgeting, technology, systems, etc. It’s not a book about administration. It’s more of a book about foundations for ministry.

Volunteers is all about helping church leaders build and empower volunteer teams to carry out the ministry of the church. I think this has been one of the keys to ministry success at Granger, so this was a fun book to write.

Growth is really about helping leaders attract the biggest crowd they can to their weekend services so they can introduce people to Jesus. We focus a lot of this new book on the weekend service experience. I think Growth captures the real personality of Granger Community Church, so it’s probably my personal favorite of the three books.

A frequent complaint is that you’re just sharing what worked for Granger. How do you apply that to other churches in different communities and of different sizes?

Morgan: First, let me say Tim and I tried to write the three Simply Strategic books so that any church of an size could learn from them. Hopefully we accomplished that. And, as I stated above, we also try to make the resources and training experiences practical for as many churches as possible.

On the other hand (let me get on my soapbox for a moment), I’ve heard this same comment from time-to-time, and I personally think it’s a little bogus. When I go to Willow Creek to hear Bill Hybels, as an example, I don’t want to hear him try to translate his message for every size ministry that’s represented at his conference. I want him to tell me what’s working and what’s not working at Willow Creek and in his personal leadership. Then I can translate those learnings and apply them to my leadership and my ministry. Some of what Bill shares obviously doesn’t work for a church like Granger that’s four times smaller than Willow. But I can figure that out on my own. I’d rather just be stretched by what Bill’s thinking about and learning than have him filter what he shares just because I happen to pastor at a church that’s really small compared to his.

I guess I just figure I have the Holy Spirit in my life to give me wisdom to discern how to apply (or not apply) what I’m learning from other leaders. I don’t mean for that to sound condescending. I just think we all know our ministry settings better than Bill Hybels or Rick Warren or Ed Young do. With that in mind, I’d rather hear the unfiltered learnings, and I’ll translate what they share for my much smaller church in small town Indiana. (OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

What’s the most important thing someone should walk away from the Innovative Church Conference with?

Morgan: Primarily, the conference is all about stretching ministry leaders with specific strategies for bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to a world that’s far from God. We want people to hear the unchanging message of love and forgiveness, but we know we need to use new methods to capture people’s attention. At the Innovative Church Conference, we share some of the new methods we’re using to reach our community for Christ in a rapidly changing culture.

For more insights you can check out Tony’s blog.

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Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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