Ryan Britt on Assimilation in a Young Church with Explosive Growth
Ryan is the Executive Ministries Pastor of Church of Eleven22. Originally beginning as a young adults service at 11:22 AM at Beach Church, the service had such an incredible turnout, it eventually launched into its own church, led by Pastor Joby Martin. The reference to Eleven22 stuck and so became the name of the church. They are now just three years old and average about 6,000 people on Sundays in one location, but will be opening a second location in January 2016.
Moving beyond a goal of growth. // How did the Church of Eleven22 connect so many people and gain 6,000 attendees in just 3 years? Ryan says that growth was never the real goal. The Church of Eleven22 has never done outside marketing or sent mailers out to advertise themselves. Instead their growth has come from word of mouth, with hundreds of first time visitors coming each month. As Ryan says, “That foundation of people being missional and inviting their neighbors is key to assimilation.” Once they get to church, these people who have been invited already have a relationship and the beginnings of connection.
Assimilation and growth through next steps rather than a formula. // Church of Eleven22 is located in an old renovated Walmart and doesn’t do light shows or anything fancy to draw people in, so Ryan says that it really is an encounter with God that the church gives them through His Word that keeps people coming back. Church of Eleven22 doesn’t preach a formula that people need to follow, but instead preaches verse by verse with steps connected to each other.
Work together to move people along the journey. // The Church of Eleven22 is all about helping people take their next steps. In the example of baptism, getting baptized is not the end of the journey, it’s just another step along the way in your relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s very easy for the baptism committee to be focused only on baptism, but forget to remind people that this is only one piece of the overall puzzle. So the Church of Eleven22 takes this opportunity to remind people that it is only one step on the path. Ministry leaders need to work together to help others remember to take their next steps even if that “next step” isn’t in the area they manage.
Use response cards for assimilation at services. // Church of Eleven22 uses their response cards each Sunday as a way for people to take next steps. Prior to the message, one of the pastors will talk through announcements and remind the audience to fill out the response card as the Lord leads them during the service. Response cards contain a place for prayer requests, but also ways to take a next step, such as becoming members, giving their hearts to Jesus or learning about serving or giving opportunities. There is always a focus on “How will you respond?”, encouraging people to do what God is calling them to do at that moment.
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|Download a sample of the Church of Eleven22’s response card.|
00:42 // Rich introduces Ryan Britt and welcomes him to the show.
01:15 // Ryan talks about the history of The Church of Eleven 22.
05:03 // Ryan talks through the services at The Church of Eleven 22.
06:05 // Ryan gives us an example of how they are able to connect so many people with the church.
09:26 // Ryan talks about baptism and how they encourage people to take the next step.
10:56 // Rich comments on the intentionality of The Church of Eleven 22.
12:10 // Ryan talks about how the response card gets people directly connect to the church.
16:55 // Ryan reminds us of The Church of Eleven 22’s formula for success.
Helpful Tech Tools // Wunderlist
Influential Book // Leadership Pain by Samuel Chand
Inspiring Leader // Mark Driscoll
What does he do for fun // Playing golf, Movies
Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. My name’s Rich, the host here. I’m so glad that you’ve decided to spend some time with us. Happy Thursday, we hope that you’re having an incredible week as we get ready for this coming weekend at your church. We know you’re busy, we know you’ve got a lot going on and so it’s an honor that you would take some time out today, to spend some time with us.
Today, I’m really I’m pumped about today’s guest, I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. We’ve got Ryan Britt from The Church of Eleven 22, so this is going to be a great conversation. They’re a fantastic church, one of the fastest growing churches in the country, just three year’s old and I’m going to let Ryan tell us a little bit about their growth. They have one location, they’re in Florida, which at this time of year is about when I start to think, “Gosh it would be nice to be in Florida.” So Ryan welcome to the show.
Ryan – My pleasure to be here Rich, thanks for having us.
Rich – Ah, so glad. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Church of Eleven 22, starting with your name?
Ryan – Well my name’s Ryan Britt.
Rich – Yes.
Ryan – I’m the Executive Ministries Pastor here at The Church of Eleven 22 and I’ll just give you a little history of the church and how we got to where we are.
Rich – Yeah.
Ryan – Our Lead Pastor Joby Martin, moved to Jacksonville 12 years ago or so, to be a Youth Pastor here in town and worked at a really great church at the beach called Beach United Methodist Church, known as Beach Church here in town and he grew a youth ministry there and was a part of a really vibrant and alive ministry through the whole church with Pastor Jerry Sweat and over time he ended up becoming the Executive Pastor there.
Rich – Okay.
Ryan – He and Pastor Jerry had a real heart for reaching the generational gap between the students that were leaving Joby’s ministry and their parents that were filling Beach Church. So they decided to start a new service for this generation that they hadn’t quite tapped into yet. They started it and they picked the service time of 11:22 am and Eleven 22 just kind of stuck. So it started as a service in 2008.
Rich – Yeah.
Ryan – Easter of 2009 they opened the doors and about 15 hundred people showed up.
Rich – Wow.
Ryan – That was the largest service they had ever had to date. So that’s where the growth began and over a couple of years of that service really taking off, Pastor Jerry, through a lot of situations and God led circumstances, felt like it was time for Pastor Joby to launch out and start his own church and be the Lead Pastor. So Pastor Joby and the elders and a team started to build and planted The Church of Eleven 22 in September of 2012. When they left Beach Church they had about 15 hundred or so in regular attendance and when they opened the doors to Eleven 22 it was about 3 thousand people showed up the first Sunday.
They were able to open in a fully renovated facility, it’s an old Walmart, we’re neighbors with Hobby Lobby, go blessing. They’re so overtly Christian they make Chick-fil-A look like they’re in question sometimes. So they’re a great neighbor to have and they’re closed on Sundays and so we have all the parking available to our team here.
So a fully renovated space. When they first moved in about 40 thousand square feet and over around 18 months, the church was growing so fast they had to renovate the back half of the space. So man God’s really blessed us with a great facility and we’ve got a great team here.
Three years later we are… So September was three years our birthday and we’re averaging about 6 thousand on the weekends right now.
Rich – That’s incredible.
Ryan – We are one location, we have two venues, two worship venues in one location, so we have the live preaching room with Pastor Joby and then we have a video cast room and we’ll start our second full location about 15 miles south of here, it opens January 10th.
Rich – Great.
Ryan – We’re scouting out locations three and four right now. So it’s a real exciting time. I’ve been here for about 18 months, I moved down, I was at 12Stone Church in Atlanta for five years before I came here and I’ve been friends with these guys for a long time, so when the opportunity came to help come and serve here, I just jumped onboard, my family and I have two little girls and my beautiful wife Jennifer of ten years. So we’ve been loving it man.
Rich – Fantastic.
Ryan – It’s a great ride.
Rich – Well I’m sure as people are listening in, this is one of those churches you need to be following. The Church of Eleven 22 is doing some incredible stuff and you’ve moved off of just having services at 11:22 in the morning. You’ve got like, what is it, is it five or six services, something like that?
Ryan – Yeah we have a Thursday night service at 7:22, 9:00, 11:22, 1:30 and 5:22 on Sundays.
Rich – Okay great.
Ryan – Our Thursday night service is crazy, it took a few years to catch on but it’s about a thousand people every Thursday night that come in here to worship.
Rich – And is it the same service that’s on Sunday?
Ryan – It’s identical.
Rich – Interesting, that’s really cool. I was just talking to a church recently that does the same thing on Friday nights, but they do Friday and Sunday, so interesting, very cool.
Well with a church that’s growing so quickly as The Church Eleven 22, I think the obvious thing would be like, gosh how are you getting the word out there? How are so many people finding out about your church? One of the things that I love about what your church is up to, it’s really, we want to talk about assimilation. How is it that you’re able to connect so many people so quickly, to really go from start to six thousand people in three years, that’s incredible? Let’s talk about that, how is it that you’re kind of moving people along from just being in the crowd ultimately, to be being part of the core and the community?
Ryan – Well that’s a great question Rich. I think for us there’s two things. One, growth was really never the goal. Obviously we want to grow and want to reach our community but we don’t do any marketing, we have never done any outside marketing, we’ve never sent a mailer out, we’ve never done any kind of radio or press or anything like that. God has really blessed us with incredible people here who live on mission in their workplace and just in their fear of influence and they invite their friends. Hundreds of first time visitors pour in a month, and everybody that’s got here either got here via some random Google search or they were invited by somebody and the majority overall was invited.
So that foundation of people being missional and inviting their neighbors is key actually to assimilation, because once they get here they’re here with a relationship and they will follow that relationship into the next step, or that they have someone who will walk through that next step with them, depending on what the step is. So for us, once they get here, getting them connected to belonging is how we would say it. We really don’t want to be about disciples making disciples, we want to see people who are just relentlessly passionate about following Jesus. We preach the Bible verse by verse, we sing and we preach, we don’t do anything fancy, there’s no light shows or anything like that, not that that’s bad, that’s just not what we do.
Rich – Right.
Ryan – We’re in an old renovated Walmart, so when people show up it really is an encounter with God that we are trying to give them through the word and we kind of build our assimilation around this model of preaching that we have, that we preach verse by verse and everything kind of follows the sermon direction. What I mean by that is that we don’t have a formula that says you need to take step one, step two, step three in place, like we don’t have spiritual formation 101, spiritual formation 201.
Rich – Right.
Ryan – We just have next steps and all of those steps, I think one thing that’s maybe unique to us or maybe not unique but really working for us is that all of our next steps are connected to each other.
Rich – Okay.
Ryan – What I mean by that is, let’s just say baptism is something that we celebrate twice a year here.
Rich – Yeah.
Ryan – We’re able to baptize, man praise God we were able to baptize about four hundred people last year, four hundred adults.
Rich – Wow that’s incredible.
Ryan – Every adult who goes through the baptism process, they hear multiple times through the process, which is a baptism class, baptism meetings and then the actual baptism day, they hear about joining serve staff teams, joining a disciple group, going on a mission trip, finding a next step that baptism is not the end, it is just one step in growing in your relationship with Jesus and with the church.
Rich – Right before we move on from that, let’s dig into that example, I think that’s a perfect example because all our churches can miss those opportunities to be super clear. So let’s talk about that baptism example particularly. How is it that through that process you’re talking about, that basically in every class, every interaction, how are you making it super obvious that here are your next steps?
Ryan – So in the class we talk a lot about, we kind of have three primary steps that we’re trying to get everybody to.
Rich – Okay.
Ryan – One is a disciple group or a serve staff team we’re both or go on a mission trip. We found that mission trips are a really straight fast line for catalytic discipleship.
Rich – Interesting.
Ryan – That’s really the primary focus for us is that the short term sending as seeing God change our people through it. So those three things, we talk really specifically about it in class, we have print materials that support it and we have opportunities for people to sign up in the class for their next step.
Rich – Right.
Ryan – We also shoot a video for every person who gets baptized, they shoot a video and at their video we remind them again, “Hey we want you to take a next step, what are you considering? What do you feel like God’s leading you to do?” Then we help them through that. Then when they get baptized, after they come out of the tub and get changed, we pray with them and we talk with them again and give them another chance to sign up right there and that’s usually on a Sunday or in the environment that we’re baptizing.
So I think it’s just about being specific and have the materials to support the step. It’s one thing to say, “Hey join a disciple group, when you get home go online and check it out,” we lose people there. So we try to keep it right in front of them to help them, not make the step for them but to give them real straight access to the opportunity that’s in front of them.
Rich – Yeah I just want to highlight what you’ve said there, I don’t want people to miss it. I think sometimes what happens when we run various events or classes or ministries or small groups, what happens is, the people that lead them are very concerned about their thing. So you’ve got baptism people who are very concerned about baptism and they do a very good job at leading the baptism class, in fact they’re amazing at it, they’re great, it kind of becomes their whole world. But the reality of it is, the people we’re serving, this is one piece of their spiritual journey and we’ve got to work to move people on into other pieces of the puzzle for them.
So working with our people, part of what I love what you’ve done is you’ve made it super intentional to say “Hey even within baptism, we’re going to be talking about short term missions, or we’re going to be talking other discipleship opportunities,” which could be a disconnect for some people who are running those classes because they’re like, “No wait a second, baptism is the most important things.” We’re like, “Yes baptism is incredible important and we’re so glad they’re on this step right now, but during this process we want to help them take their next step and a part of your responsibility is to do that,” I love that.
What about on Sunday mornings, how are you kind of helping, you’ve got a very large crowd, you’ve got a lot of people who are there, how are you helping those people? Are you teaching assimilation in that environment?
Ryan – Every Sunday, we teach assimilation every Sunday, We have, in every seat back in our worship center and in our sanctuary video venue, we have a very large respond card. It looks really similar to what a connection card may look like, just like you can’t miss it, this card’s so massively big. So we have those respond cards and before we do the sermon, we have what we call a pastoral moment where myself or one of the other pastors, Pastor Joby come out and we set up the sermon and we talk about maybe one really important announcement but during that time we hold the respond cards up or we tell people, “Hey grab your respond card and be ready to fill it out as God stirs your heart during the sermon.” On there there’s a section that says, “We want to pray for you,” and they write prayer requests.
A lot of times we get a lot of prayer requests and one of the beautiful things about that respond card is that we actually, as staff, pray over every prayer request that comes in via those respond cards. People writing prayer requests gets them used to engaging that way and so they begin to fill in next steps. There’s probably six or seven steps depending on the season that they can take on that card, whether that’s, “I’m a first time guest, I surrender to Jesus. I want to join a disciple group. I want to serve. I want to go on a mission trip. I want to become a member.” Whatever it may be, we have the opportunity for them to respond.
We also have the opportunity for them to respond to giving on those respond cards, they can give and we teach giving as a response to the Gospel here. We don’t call our last song the benediction song, we call it the response song. So everything in our language is built around respond, respond, respond. God speaks, you respond. God speaks, you respond. That’s the appropriate reaction to God is to respond, an obedience to him.
So we don’t pass the giving bucket either, we have giving boxes all around the room and during the last song we tell people, “Hey we respond through prayer, we respond through giving, so now is the right time to go to the kiosks or to the giving boxes and drop in your response to God’s faithfulness in your life. So everything little thing in our culture says response.
Rich – Interesting.
Ryan – Pastor Joby teaches it and then in the benediction, the last part, Pastor Joby will get back up or our Location Pastor or Campus Pastor at the video venue, they’ll stand up and say, “Hey in the back of the room there’s the connect center,” it’s an actually fully built out, fully constructed space that’s like an information hub where there are highly trained volunteers that know about all the different things that we have going on and we say, “If you want to get connected, the connect center is where you need to go and somebody there will help you find the next step.” Every Sunday, dozens and dozens and dozens of people pour in the connect center. For a lot of people, going and talking to a stranger about a spiritual decision is a little weird and that’s the beauty of the respond card, you can drop them in the giving boxes, you can leave them in your seat, you can give them to somebody on the way out or you can take them to the connect center and talk with somebody. It gives you a lot of opportunities for us to follow up with you in a way that makes sense, based on your personality and where you are in your spiritual journey.
Rich – Absolutely, I love that. A couple of things, would you mind sharing a copy of that connect card, I’d love to be able to put that in the show notes?
Ryan – Yeah I’ll email you a PDF.
Rich – Yeah if you email me a PDF of that, we’ll put that in the show notes so we have that for folks and they can see that. Now what about, do you do a specific call out to kind of first time guests or folks that are new here in that response card? Like, “Hey if you’re new here check this box?” Some churches will do like, you know, they’ll give a gift away to first guests or anything like that, are you doing that or no?
Ryan – Well we have not until this point. We mention first time guests every few weeks, it’s definitely a priority in the messaging on Sundays.
Rich – Yeah that’s fine, that’s cool. You’re obviously growing at the rate you’re growing, you’ve got a lot of them and it seems to be working. The thing I love that you’re doing is pushing towards getting people connected right away. In some ways I think sometimes maybe we slow people down too much on the front end as opposed to saying, “Hey we want you to jump in,” building a culture of anticipation and trying to get people to take those next steps.
Man this has been fantastic, I have been fiercely taking some notes here. Is there anything else you’d love to kind of talk about before we jump onto the rest of the episode, anything else that you want to share with our listeners?
Ryan – No I think it’s just important to note with Eleven 22 that there is no real magic secret sauce here, it’s just super simple, we sing three songs, we preach the word verse by verse and the rest of it we’re just trying to figure out as we go along, we’re just trying to hold on a little bit for what the Lord’s doing.