10Q with Mark Batterson of National Community Church


10Q with Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson is the senior pastor of National Community Church, a multi-site church in Washington, D.C. with 4 campuses located at Union Station, Ballston Common Mall, Georgetown (new), and Ebenezers Coffeehouse. Mark is also the author of ID, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, and Right-Brain Church (’08 release).


Year Began: 1996
Locations: 4
Weekend Services: 8 by October
Attendance: 1,250
Staff: 19 :: 1/66 attendees
Volunteers: 350-400 :: 1/3 to 1/4 attendees
Primary Audiences/Lifestyles Reached: 73% single twenty-somethings :: 25% unchurched :: 50% dechurched


1Q = What values and beliefs unify National Community Church’s staff and drive their performance?

We have a dozen core values.  And a few of them have really become touchstones for the way we do church:

  • Everything is an experiment.
  • Irrelevance is irreverence.
  • Pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you.
  • The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Love people when they least expect it and least deserve it.

2Q = What is National Community Church’s chain of command from the senior pastor to the church volunteers?

We have intentionally avoided bureaucracy like the plague!

We have an executive leadership team that functions as the board. For what it’s worth, it is a combination of staff and non-staff. We made a decision early on not to discriminate against those who are trained and called to full-time ministry. It didn’t make sense to us. So staff can serve in the highest decision-making capacity at National Community Church.

We also have a stewardship team that provides financial accountability. The staff comes up with the budget, but the budget is approved by the Stewardship Team.

3Q = For big decisions, what is National Community Church’s decision making process?

We don’t vote on anything except ratifying our Stewardship Team and Executive Leadership Team. We do, however, survey our congregation like crazy! But it is a different psychology and vibe. We get great input that is invaluable. But it’s not political.

We really let our leaders lead–all the way from the Lead Pastor to Small Group Leaders. We expect our leaders to get a vision from God and go for it. We have checks and balances in place, but we have a very empowering culture.

4Q = How does National Community Church market itself?

86% of NCCers come to National Community Church for the first-time because of a personal invitation. Because of that, we do lots of invite cards to help turn our attendees into inviters. Our motto is that church is a tag-team sport. When NCCers walk in they tag me and our creative team and say “go for it.” When they walk out we tag them and say “go for it.”

We also do direct mailings, outreach events, and our coffeehouse on Capitol Hill is probably our greatest marketing tool.

5Q = What is the most effective thing National Community Church has done to reach people?

While I love our creative sermon branding, I honestly think our servant evangelism is the engine that drives us. But the key is having lots of entry points. Alpha has been a big entry point for us. So has our podcast and webcast. Even my blog is a touch point for people who are checking out NCC.

6Q = You have mentioned before that National Community Church reaches mostly single twenty-somethings and has a high yearly turnover rate. Since your time to reach these students and young workers is limited, what does NCC do to create meaningful relationships with them in such a short amount of time?

We do small groups in a semester system which allows us to heavily and creatively promote groups three times a year. We also do connection points after our services where we encourage people to:

  1. plug into a small group
  2. plug into a ministry

We really try to keep assimilation streamlined and simple!

7Q = What is your leadership style?

I think I’m a team leader. I played sports throughout high school and college, and I probably function the same way. I try to motivate our team and then let go. I used to micro-manage, but as National Community Church has grown, it’s impossible to know everything about everything that is going on so I’m trying to do less so we can do more!

Our structure at NCC has been very flat, but we’re discovering that an organization shift is absolutely necessary for us to go to the next level and maintain sanity. I had eleven direct reports last year. With some of our restructuring I now have five.

8Q = Who has influenced you the most as a leader?

Honestly, my father-in-law, Bob Schmidgall, has had the greatest influence. He planted and pastored one church in Naperville, Illinois for 30+ years. I saw the impact of longevity! He set an example I’m trying to follow. Lord willing, I’d love to pastor one church for life!

I also have my fair share of guys I really like and look up to–Erwin McManus, Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, etc. So grateful for the great teachers and leaders that are pastors to pastors!

9Q = What resources have had the biggest impact on how you do ministry?

I used to read 150-200 books a year. And I still read about 75-100 books. I’m reading a little less now that I’m writing a little more. But I honestly think it is the cumulative effect.

I’m also a big believer in conferences. In fact, we take our entire staff to the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta every year.

And I love doing recon at other churches. It keeps us from becoming a closed system.

10Q = What is the best advice you have for church leaders?

You have to be yourself. You have to keep learning. And you have to have fun.

And don’t worry about church growth. Focus on personal growth. If you keep growing personally, you won’t have to worry about church growth!

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