10Q with Dave Gibbons of Newsong Church

10Q with Dave Gibbons

Dave Gibbons is the senior pastor of Newsong Church, an international multi-site church with 8 campuses located in California, Texas, Mexico, United Kingdom, India, and Thailand. He is an entrepreneur and owns YangDang and Xealot. And he is the author of The Monkey and the Fish.


Year Began: 1994
Locations: 8 Campuses – Irvine, CA / Culver, CA / Fullerton, CA / Dallas, TX / Mexico / London / India / Bangkok


1Q = What is Newsong Church’s chain of command from the senior pastor to the church volunteers?

The Leadership Team comprised of both volunteer leaders who represent the congregation and support staff guide the church but all under the submission to the Holy Spirit. The congregation affirms major decisions.

2Q = For big decisions, what is Newsong Church’s decision making process?

Depends. The big decisions can originate from our members or from the leaders of the church. But eventually, there is affirmation with Leadership teams, Management teams and the congregation.

3Q = How does Newsong Church market itself?

Mostly word of mouth and via technology.

4Q = What is the most effective thing Newsong Church has done to reach people?

Created an ethos that is dependent upon the Holy Spirit and empowers the people to be the front line of God’s movements locally and globally.

5Q = What is your leadership style?

Intuitive and collaborative.

6Q = Your book, The Monkey and the Fish, discusses third culture. What is it?

Third culture in a word is Adaptation. In two words, Painful Adaptation. The longer definition is “the mindset and will to love, learn and serve in any culture even in the midst of pain and discomfort.”
A short view of this can be found at 3culture.tv.

7Q = What is a Third-Culture Church?

It’s a church that is able to flow with the Holy Spirit, choosing to live out the two great purposes of the church: Loving God and Loving Her Neighbor. The Neighbor though being someone NOT like you even someone you would hate or not want to forgive. It’s a church that chooses obedience over passion  as well as radical sacrifice over comfort.

8Q = How can a church become a Third-Culture Church?

This process is definitely the work of the Holy Spirit! To ask people to enter into pain and suffering, eat foods they don’t like, hang out with people that make you uncomfortable is counter-cultural. I would say the key is for the one who does get it to start living out the third culture life. Personally, before the movement became church-wide, I felt God telling me I had to live it out more intentionally. So my family and I moved out to Bangkok. It starts with leadership and prayer.  As one engages real suffering and poverty, clarity emerges.

As you live out third culture, invite others with you on the journey. I still remember taking a group of friends with me on a third culture vision trip about 5 years ago. We have never been the same. The impact now goes beyond personal to people all over the world. These men embody third culture.

It’s a journey there are many other ideas contained in the book.

9Q = What is the greatest ministry lesson you have learned?

The Primary Task of a Leader is to “build trust and bear pain.”

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

Explore the world. Listen, Observe, Ask Questions. Do it now. Then be willing to give it all away to act upon what you experience. The whole time praying, “Father, break my heart with the things that break your heart.”

Be sure to check out Church Relevance’s “10Q” category to read previous 10Q interviews.

10Q with Jeff Hook of Fellowship Technologies

Jeff Hook is the CEO of Fellowship Technologies, a company specializing in web-based church management software called Fellowship One.


Year Began: 2004
Active Clients: 850
Staff: 65

Originally, the Fellowship One church management software was developed for Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX). Now, it is currently used by 32 of the top 100 largest churches in America.


1Q = What is a church management system (CMS)?

At a basic level, church management systems help churches track information about their congregations.

Traditional church management systems were primarily simple databases of attendees/members for tracking addresses and giving records. From that, modern solutions have evolved to be complete “operating platforms” for churches to not only track vital data about the members of the congregation but to also manage processes more efficiently from outreach and assimilation to event registration and check-in to online giving and group management.

As the capabilities of systems broaden, the church is able to use computers to streamline operations much the same as commercial businesses do.

2Q = What are Fellowship One’s most popular features?

The fact that we are Internet-based is a big advantage over the more traditional solutions. This allows church staff to access the information wherever and whenever they need the data using any computer that has a web-browser. As computing becomes even more mobile through devices like the Apple iPhone, this ubiquitous access will help churches provide better service to their congregation members.

Also, because Fellowship Technologies is a Software as a Service (SaaS), all of the technical heavy lifting (such as backups, upgrades, security, etc.) is performed as part of the monthly service by us. This cuts down on the technical resources the church has to hire and manage. Because we are native to the web, true integration from the database to the church’s website is relatively easy and allows the congregation more convenience in conducting church business like managing online giving, registering for a special activity, submitting questions and inquiries, as well as looking for the right small group to join and submitting a volunteer application.

Functionally, the really big draw for us is our best-of-breed check-in system that provides security for children and real time attendance tracking. This gives the staff a jump on following up on who did not attend a service to make sure they know they were missed. That is somewhat the irony – a church should track attendance not necessarily to know who attended, but who was missing; somewhat counter-intuitive. This personal care and interaction makes a big mega-church seem smaller through better customer service and follow-up.

3Q = Are there any downsides to using church management software?

  1. The biggest issue in using a robust church management system is the amount of information that can be tracked is new for some churches. But without that data, the information is not present and, thus, is not beneficial.
  2. We also see a problem in the discipline of churches in keeping their data relevant and complete.

Irrespective of the specific church management system used, a church needs to have a data strategy that helps determine what the minimum amount of information that will be capture and then how it will be maintained.

4Q = Are there any types of churches who do not work well with a church management system?

All churches need some sort of church management system, even if it is manual. In the United States, every church is required to report to the congregation their individual giving for IRS purposes. Computer systems are made to provide such reporting with ease.

5Q = What does the future hold for Fellowship One?

Fellowship One will continue to improve in both its depth and breadth of functionality.

  1. We will soon release the ability for a church to write its own reports. This is a request from a lot of our customers and will help them get information the way they want it when they want it.
  2. We are also rolling out a complete data warehouse and analytics tool for our flagship customers. This will allow church staff to slice and dice information for decision-support purposes over a set of aggregated time-based data. This will allow churches to make better decisions from real operating data. We think this is a first for the church industry.
  3. Finally, we will be releasing a new “Groups” module that will be the foundation for much of the system going forward. This will improve our ability to support small groups, yet also be foundational for website communications, social networking, and curriculum-based learning.

6Q = What are some well-known churches that use Fellowship One?

  1. Community Bible Church (San Antonio, TX)
  2. Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX)
  3. Granger Community Church (Granger, IN)
  4. Holy Trinity Brompton (London, England)
  5. Lakewood Church (Houston, TX)
  6. Mariners Church (Irvine, CA)
  7. New Birth Missionary Baptist (Decatur, GA)
  8. New Life Church (Colorado Springs, CO)
  9. NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC)
  10. Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, TX)
  11. Victory Christian Center (Oklahoma City, OK)
  12. Victory Christian Center (Tulsa, OK)

7Q = What is the Dynamic Church Conference?

The Dynamic Church Conference is our annual user and developer conference where our community of users comes together for education, training and networking with other users.

Last May, we had approximately 371 church staffers come to Frisco, Texas, to learn how to use Fellowship One to its fullest. Besides just Fellowship One training, we try to expand their thinking with speakers who address where they think the church industry is going and how technology will play a role in the future of church.

8Q = In addition to Fellowship One, are there any other resources that you would recommend for churches who want to be better organized and more efficient?

There are so many good resources out there now that a church staffer can almost get overwhelmed with new ideas. I am a real proponent of a church looking at its own congregation data to help determine how best to improve. Too often, a church is trying what works at other churches instead of examining the facts about themselves. This “cookie cutter approach” fails many times and then the staff gets disheartened.

By looking at the “real” data, churches can better gauge how to serve the people within the congregation, such as asking questions like who is the typical customer, what stage of Christian walk are they in, what “services” do they need (family, marriage, health and healing, stewardship, etc.) and how is the church fulfilling those needs? If the church tries to “copy” what worked somewhere else, they may execute the plan well yet miss the mark entirely because the congregational needs are different.

9Q = I believe studying data can give us valuable insights into trends, problems, and success secrets. In all of your years of helping churches process data, are there any insights and ministry lessons that you have learned?

I definitely agree with your supposition concerning data. Two of the biggest issues in churches today are:

  1. A lack of an overall data strategy (what information to collect when and how to keep it complete and relevant)
  2. A lack of repeatable business processes that result in metrics to determine whether progress is being made

Pertaining to the first point, we see so many churches that have many duplicate or incomplete individual records within their database. Thus, when aggregated for reporting purposes, the numbers are really meaningless. It is the old computer adage: garbage in, garbage out. Sadly, many of the churches do not realize that the quality of their data is poor. Defining a strong data strategy and then having the discipline to follow through on execution would go a long way in providing better information.

To the second point, Dr. Peter Drucker, a business guru and management consultant, is attributed with saying that “you cannot improve anything that you do not measure.” Churches are notorious at tracking attendance and offerings and that’s about it. To improve results, more data points within processes need to be tracked and reported so on-going improvement can be achieved. Repeatable business processes that result in metrics will allow churches to better know whether the results of their investments in certain ministries are actually paying off for the congregant.

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

The best advice I have for church leaders is to make change happen. Progress requires change and change requires leadership.

Too often, the administrative personnel (administrative assistants and operations) who run churches are comfortable with status quo. The only way churches are going to improve their ability to support the Christian walk of their congregation and thus grow in quality and quantity is to provide better service in meeting the “life” and “spiritual” needs of the people in the community. This has not been the mindset of the church historically, but in my opinion should be more so going forward.

To be successful, this change must be managed; driven even or the efforts will falter. Many times when we fail at change, we go back doing the same things we always have; however, expecting different results. Some people give that as the definition of insanity.

Be sure to check out Church Relevance’s “10Q” category to read previous 10Q interviews.

10Q with Kerry Shook of Fellowship of The Woodlands

10Q with Kerry Shook

Kerry Shook is the senior pastor of Fellowship of The Woodlands, a Texas multi-site church with 2 campuses located in The Woodlands and Atascocita. Kerry and his wife, Chris, are also the authors of One Month To Live.


Year Began: 1993
Locations: 2
Weekend Services: 8 (5 contemporary, 1 emergent, 1 traditional, & 1 Spanish)
Attendance: 15,600
Staff: 140 (100 full-time & 40 part-time) :: 1/111 attendees
Volunteers: 4,000+ :: 1/4 attendees
Primary Audiences/Lifestyles Reached: A consistent message is delivered in all services with the praise and worship varying to attract different age/cultural groups. Contemporary services are creative and seeker sensitive to reach all ages. The emergent venue is aimed at those in their 20’s. The traditional venue includes choir-based hymns that appeal to those middle-aged and older.


1Q = What values and beliefs unify Fellowship of The Woodlands’ staff and drive their performance?

Our mission statement is to help people experience Christ – rather than man’s creation of religion – so they can take the Christ Experience back to the community and the world. Our staff and church is driven by “life change.”

2Q = What is Fellowship of The Woodlands’ chain of command from the senior pastor to the church volunteers?

Senior Pastor shares his vision with our Pastoral Management Team (PMT), which is led by our Senior Executive Pastor. Members of the PMT work through associate pastors to enlist Volunteer Leaders and Volunteers. Small Groups are very important to our church — these are organized into Divisions with a Small Group Division Leader, who directs Small Group Leaders.

3Q = For big decisions, what is Fellowship of The Woodlands’ decision making process?

Senior Pastor and PMT pray and come to a consensus regarding how God is leading the church.

4Q = How does Fellowship of The Woodlands market itself?

TV commercials, direct mail, newspaper ads, Internet, websites, and word of mouth.

5Q = What is the most effective thing Fellowship of The Woodlands has done to reach people?

We provide an atmosphere of acceptance and recognize the difference between acceptance and approval. Based on this, regardless of who a person is or what they may have done, they feel the love of God and experience Christ from the moment they step on campus.

The Christ Experience is huge for us in all we do from the worship experience to the parking lot. Creative elements in each service communicate the truths of God’s Word in a fun way to penetrate the hearts and minds of those who attend or view.

6Q = What is your leadership style?

Purposeful and compassionate.

7Q = Who has influenced you the most as a leader?

My dad, Damon Shook, who has been a pastor all my life, has had the greatest influence. In addition, I have learned a great deal from Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

8Q = What resources have had the biggest impact on how you do ministry?

Many years ago, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church Conference helped me envision how church could be done differently and effectively to reach the unchurched. Based on this, Chris and I formed the initial vision for Fellowship of The Woodlands. Since then, we have refined the vision through a lot of reading and studying and most of all through continued prayer.

9Q = What is the greatest ministry lesson you have learned?

To always give away the ministry but never give away the leadership God has called me to.

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

Paul’s advice to the Ephesians Elders in Acts 20:28 issues a constant challenge for me to balance my personal life, family life and church life with all the demands of ministry.

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” The priority, as self-serving as it sounds, is to focus on my heart first, to guard my heart for out of it flows all the issues of life. If I do this daily, most of the other things take care of themselves without too much stress.

Be sure to check out Church Relevance’s “10Q” category to read previous 10Q interviews.