I had the privilege of hanging out with Pastor John Atkinson of Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi tonight. I read his book, Go Big With Small Groups (Co-authored with Bill Easum) a month ago or so, and have read his blog for awhile now too. I e-mailed him and asked if he’d be willing to chat over a cup of sbux, he replied and said that for a fee he’d be happy to (just kidding John, thanks for the drink!). It was a great time just chatting for about 4 hours about ministry and people and life.
It’s so interesting to see that many pastors are struggling/working through the same things even when their churches are way different in size (his church has 5-6000 people). It’s amazing to hear what God is doing there- he was telling me about a series they did where around 250 people were saved in a 4 week period. We even chatted about ways to connect other guys in ministry with each other to support, encourage, and challenge one another.
Here are some things I took away from the evening:
• The man appreciates a good cup of joe
• He was very humble and super excited about pouring into other ministry leaders, which I think is just amazing
• He has vowed to do that (pour into other leaders) for the rest of his life (which again I think is just amazing)
• This man is not just some theorist, he’s definitely a practitioner!! John did not take this job as an expert in all the varying philosophies of small group ministry (he hadn’t even been a Christian too long) – he sweated through the tough times, made a lot of mistakes, and developed a system for group life based on what worked at their church… mostly learned the hard way from keeping up with crazy kinds of growth- think about if your church was growing 6-800 people a week and you were responsible to keep them connected… they went from 16 groups down to 8 to now having 200+ groups!!!!
• His heart is turned towards his family and he seems to really want to honor his family with his time (other than the fact that he let me keep him out until 1 in the morning) ☺
• He loves the staff he serves with and had some great things to say about what it’s like to work with other pastors that you like hanging out with- just great great things
• He is an encouragement freak- I entered this evening hoping I could encourage him (I know how hard it is at a church my size so I knew it would be even harder at a church his size) but left feeling very encouraged and lifted up. Not sure how that table turned but I can say I needed it.
• We both agreed that blogs have made some of the “big boys” accessible in a way that never seemed possible before and appreciated the humility shown by several guys who make themselves available, and it has created a really cool way to network and share the load together.
All in all it was a great visit and I’m looking forward to getting to know him better and developing our friendship. If you haven’t read a copy of his book, I’d strongly encourage you to do so, it’s worth the price of the book just to hear his heart for leaders and to see his own struggle laid bare for you to see and glean insight from). You can get that here. Also, John is a power blogger (okay, he is like me and blogs whenever he remembers and feels like he has something worth saying). You can check his blog out here. I’d also check out his church here.