Kevin Geer (00:00):
"There is more joy in heaven over the one that is found than the 99 who stayed righteous." Well, for the body of Christ our goal is to bring joy to heaven. It's not that Jesus didn't care about the 99, He just knew they will never reach their discipleship maximum potential if we're not focused on reaching the one. And that's who we are as a church.
Welcome to the Modern Church Leader, where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the Kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.
Frank Barry (00:45):
Hey guys, this is Frank, coming to you live with another episode of Modern Church Leader, or you might be catching the recording. Either way, today's episode is going to be a super fun one. We're going to be talking about crazy church growth, so I am joined by the Senior Pastor of Canvas Church out in Montana, Mr. Kevin-
Kevin Geer (01:04):
Come on, Kalispell.
Frank Barry (01:05):
Yeah. How do you say it?
Kevin Geer (01:08):
Kalispell. Kalispell, Montana.
Frank Barry (01:11):
Yeah, that's amazing. But Pastor Kevin Geer, thanks for joining us today.
Kevin Geer (01:15):
Yeah. Thanks for having me, love it. Glad to be here.
Frank Barry (01:19):
We had a pretty fun conversation about being a Jeep guy and all that that entails. But I'm not a Jeep guy, but I do want to go to Moab with you one day and ride-
Kevin Geer (01:31):
Going on Father's Day, so excited.
Frank Barry (01:34):
It's going to be fun. What got you to Montana? Are you born and raised there?
Kevin Geer (01:41):
Well, I wasn't born in Montana, but I would never tell anybody that. I was born in Washington, but I lived in Montana all my forming years.
Frank Barry (01:48):
We'll keep this podcast a secret. We'll make sure nobody-
Kevin Geer (01:51):
Yeah, everybody knows now. But I don't know if people know podcasts exist in Montana yet. But I grew up in Montana, moved my senior year to Washington. Spent 20 years in Washington, Seattle area. And then this is my first and only pastorate here as Lead Pastor here in Kalispell. My wife and I honeymooned at Glacier National Park, which is the backyard of Kalispell. So we're back since 2012, living our honeymoon, we love it here in Montana.
Kevin Geer (02:24):
But the reason I don't tell people I wasn't born here is because when you move to Montana, especially now, because so many people are moving here, there's a lot of Montana pride. And so I always say, "When I grew up in Montana," Well, whatever I say after that people believe is biblical truth.
Frank Barry (02:40):
Kevin Geer (02:40):
So, that's the card to play.
Frank Barry (02:42):
You've learned the secret of-
Kevin Geer (02:43):
Come on, yeah.
Frank Barry (02:43):
How to strive and thrive out in Montana. Well, I mean, look, we're going to dig into your... I guess not your but God's story, growing the church out there and the amazing things that have happened over the last 10 years. But why don't you, just for the folks that are getting to know you, how did you get into ministry and how did you get into becoming the Senior Pastor there?
Kevin Geer (03:10):
I'm doing what I love, I got to tell you that. When I was just real small, when I was eight years old, I knew I was going to be a pastor. My dad was a pastor, had an encounter with God-
Frank Barry (03:21):
Eight years old?
Kevin Geer (03:21):
Eight years old. I had an encounter with God that I go back to often, that would just was a hunger for people to know Jesus. And I never lost that hunger, that I really believe was supernaturally put in my heart because to love lost people.
Kevin Geer (03:37):
And so when I was 12, my dad was the pastor. The lady that did children's church got mad at my dad and left, which means I had no children's church director, so I started doing children's ministries when I was 12 years old. I asked my dad if I could. He found another lady that sat downstairs in that church, and I told Bible stories to kids that was my age. And honestly, I did that until I went to college.
Frank Barry (04:01):
Kevin Geer (04:01):
And then at college, I wanted to be a Lead Pastor. Always wanted to be a Lead Pastor. And when I was at college, Lord just spoke to me. He goes, "You're going to go into kids ministries." It's not where I wanted to go, but that's where he wanted me to go so I humbled myself and went there, and did children's ministries for a long time in the inner city of Seattle.
Kevin Geer (04:19):
And then I became part of our network fellowship of leading children's pastors. And then it was out of that, after about 20 years in kids ministries, the door opened up for me to become a Lead Pastor here at Canvas Church.
Frank Barry (04:31):
Kevin Geer (04:31):
It was Christian Center when I came here. And God knew the journey that I needed to go through to be able to be equipped, to be able to do what we're doing today. I have zero regrets of following God's call. The only regrets I have is when I don't follow His call. So has zero regrets following where He wanted me to go.
Frank Barry (04:50):
Well, I don't know. Is the story that being the children's pastor for that long taught you how to take care of the adults, because we're all just a bunch of kids anyways. I don't really know-
Kevin Geer (05:01):
Isn't it true? I just preach like a children's pastor, and we're all there, so-
Frank Barry (05:05):
Then it works.
Kevin Geer (05:06):
To have fun and go.
Frank Barry (05:06):
Then it works.
Kevin Geer (05:06):
Frank Barry (05:08):
Everyone understands. Yeah, you're using language that we can all understand, keep it simple.
Kevin Geer (05:12):
Well, I'm dyslexic so I can't say words over three syllables anyways, so it's just perfect for me. I have to break it down to simple terms just so I can say it, so that the worst.
Frank Barry (05:22):
Yeah, lots of activity-based youth group style.
Kevin Geer (05:30):
Frank Barry (05:30):
Kevin Geer (05:31):
Lots of emotion.
Frank Barry (05:31):
Kevin Geer (05:31):
So that's [inaudible 00:05:32] what got me here.
Frank Barry (05:33):
Yeah, that's really cool. And Montana, I mean, I don't know much about it, but like you mentioned, it seems like lots of people have moved out there. It must be a cool place to live?
Kevin Geer (05:45):
Kalispell in the last year, I just read this. Kalispell is the fastest growing [microplex 00:05:52], which is just smaller than a larger city. They're called microplexes.
Frank Barry (05:58):
Kevin Geer (05:58):
We're the fastest growing microplex in America right now in the past year. So fastest growing city in Montana, fastest growing county in Montana.
Frank Barry (06:07):
Kevin Geer (06:08):
It's beautiful. It's just beautiful here. You can't buy a house because there's no property, either land or houses, but people are moving here anyways.
Frank Barry (06:18):
Everyone's just got a tent, just hanging out until houses-
Kevin Geer (06:22):
I was out [Jeeping 00:06:23], it's true. I was out Jeeping out of a forest road and the amount of tents and campers, people are just planning on forest land living right now. It's insane. I'm not joking, it's crazy.
Frank Barry (06:36):
Kevin Geer (06:37):
So I mean, they need a church, we'll be their church.
Frank Barry (06:40):
Yeah. You're good, right? You get them all.
Kevin Geer (06:43):
Frank Barry (06:43):
So another thing before we get into the church story, you've got a big family.
Kevin Geer (06:51):
I got wonderful patient, never shaken wife, her name's Tiffany. And then we have five biological children, 21 all the way down to eight years old. And they're all girls, but the second who's my boy, Connor. And then we do foster care. And so we've had a lot of foster care kids through our house. And currently we have two foster kids living with us for quite a long time and they're three and four years old.
Frank Barry (07:17):
Kevin Geer (07:17):
So we have a busy life.
Frank Barry (07:20):
Yeah. From three to 21?
Kevin Geer (07:23):
Frank Barry (07:24):
Kevin Geer (07:25):
Well, two of them are out of the house, so we do celebrate that.
Frank Barry (07:27):
Okay. They're still welcome back for dinner once in a while, but they're not-
Kevin Geer (07:33):
We do, do family dinner every Sunday. Sunday at four o'clock, everybody comes back home and we have a big family dinner. That's been a ritual we started.
Frank Barry (07:42):
I want to ask one family question and that might be your answer or you might have something else, but you're a Christian family. You got a big family, you got all these kids, fostering. I'm a dad of three, they're 10 they're in [5th 00:07:57] grade, triplets. So I just always love to ask, what's your best parenting advice? Give me your-
Kevin Geer (08:06):
The first thing that came to my mind is also a trait that we use on our characteristic of our church as well. And that is, we were a no secret home. There's no secrets, everybody tells everybody everything. And my wife and I started that saying, "Mom and dad don't keep secrets from each other." And it sort of morphed into, nobody in our family keep secrets from one another. And so you always know where you stand.
Frank Barry (08:30):
Kevin Geer (08:31):
Which builds confidence in you. You always know what's going on, and so there's no games playing. We all are for each other because we all know each other. So it's a little different, but that's what we say probably three times a week, "We're a no secret home." And so that leads to great conversations and we know what's going on in our kids' lives.
Frank Barry (08:52):
I'm stealing that one, that's amazing. Good stuff. And you use it with the church. So your church went from 500 to over 4,000 in whatever, relatively short period, 10 years or so you've got five campuses.
Kevin Geer (09:05):
Frank Barry (09:07):
Let's just talk about that. I'd love to unpack that story. And you came there in 2012 and here we are in 2022, through a pandemic and all the crazy of the last couple of years.
Kevin Geer (09:17):
Frank Barry (09:18):
It's crazy, but your church growth is crazy through all of it.
Kevin Geer (09:23):
Frank Barry (09:23):
So yeah, I don't know. Take us back to 2012.
Kevin Geer (09:27):
Well, in 2012, the church had been without a pastor for over 18 months. And so whenever a church is without a pastor for 18 months, it's just difficult.
Frank Barry (09:38):
Kevin Geer (09:38):
And it loses his identity. And so, I had the church secret shopped before I came here. I had three friends that I paid to come to church here and investigate it for me. And all three said they wouldn't go back. And [crosstalk 00:09:53]. I was scared. I showed up my first week and I walked into Starbucks and I said, "Hey, I'm new to town. Where should I go to church?" And the barista listed three different churches, has no clue who I am and then says, "But I wouldn't go to this church." And the church he picked not to go to was my church. And so I'm like, "Oh". And so, I believe in no secrets. So in the first three weeks of the church, I read those reports to my church.
Frank Barry (10:27):
Kevin Geer (10:28):
And I just said, "The leader in the room is the one that talks about the elephant in the room." Doesn't matter your position, doesn't matter your qualification, whoever will point out the elephant in the room in a loving, caring way to address it, people will follow. And that's what I did at the very beginning. And I just said, "Here's who we are." And unfortunately we had become a pretty unhealthy church. We had an orchestra, we had a choir and they were great. And people loved them. We did a Christmas musical that had 11,000 people go every Christmas. And that really was our identity in the community. And so we ended all of those within the first few weeks of me coming here.
Frank Barry (11:17):
Kevin Geer (11:18):
So you see that scar? No, it was brutal, but what we decided as a leadership team and I had a wonderful board. Since I was eight, I had been praying for my board because I knew my dad's board and I didn't want them. And so God answered those prayers of that eight year old. And when I said to the board, I said this at the very beginning and we'll get to the full story, but this so created those first six months were so fundamental of the trajectory that we went on.
Kevin Geer (11:47):
I told the board, I go, "I'm going to ask you a personal question." But it has an organizational answer. And I go, "If your heart stops right now at this board meeting, do you want me to put chemicals in your body over the next three to four months and slowly get your heart beating again? Or do you want me to shock you, even though innocent cells are going to die, but your heart will start beating immediately?" And when they went around the room, they all said shock them. And I said, "The heartbeat of our church is dead and we don't want to take three to four years to get it going. Let's shock our church. And this is what it's going to look like."
Frank Barry (12:23):
Kevin Geer (12:24):
And then I use the illustration, "We're going to rip the bandaid off, because I don't want to feel every hair get ripped out. Let's just do it."
Frank Barry (12:29):
Kevin Geer (12:30):
And this board, average age in their upper 60s, lower 70s, they said, "We're ready to go." Incredible. Some of those board members lost lifelong friends because of the decisions that they made. And yet God honored them.
Frank Barry (12:48):
Kevin Geer (12:49):
And God honored His commitment, we were going to reach people for Jesus. And so, as we began to make those difficult decisions, knowing that we were led by God, laid off 11 people within the first month and decided we're going to shift our culture, God honored them. And so every family that left, three families came in their place. And when you're leading change, one of the things that you have to talk about the most is what is not changing.
Frank Barry (13:15):
Kevin Geer (13:16):
Because change is fearful.
Frank Barry (13:17):
Kevin Geer (13:17):
So every week I'd get up and I'd grab the Bible, I'd go, "This is God's word. It does not change. It's the same yesterday, today and forever." And I'd watch people go in the midst of change, the important things aren't changing.
Frank Barry (13:29):
Kevin Geer (13:29):
And that was able to build some trust there as we began to move forward. And so that sort of began our journey. The other thing is we were very clear because I don't keep secrets. I'm telling the church everything we were doing, they were in on it. And we decided before we really were wanted to be a church that would reach out, we wanted to become healthy inward before we became part of the fabric of the community. We had to become who we needed to become. And as we did that, we just preached a couple of those messages. What is church and how should we think? And then we changed our name to Canvas Church and we reintroduced ourselves to the community. And we built a lobby, we got rid of pews and we updated our church. I mean, if you walk into your building and it feels like 1980, then the truth that you're speaking is 1980s truth. And that's the conclusion they're going to come to. But when it comes to the Bible, 1980s truth is just like 2022 truth.
Frank Barry (14:28):
Kevin Geer (14:29):
People aren't going to think it's relevant to their life. And so we really did that and then reintroduce ourselves to the community. And I'll say one more thing and then we decided there's two statements that I think are important to us. And one is we believe that the mission is more important than people's feelings or emotions or agendas, I'm sorry. We believe that the mission is more important than people's feelings or agendas. So we'll offend you for the sake of Jesus. And I would say that from the stage all the time.
Frank Barry (15:00):
Kevin Geer (15:00):
So we're going to have lights and we're going to do this, but we're going to offend you because we're going to reach people for Jesus. Then the second statement that we decided to be as a church is we are going to be a church that gears to the young and leans into the wisdom of the wise.
Kevin Geer (15:15):
So I target the 25 to 35 year old male. And the reason I do that-
Frank Barry (15:20):
That's on purpose.
Kevin Geer (15:20):
Because I'm a kid's pastor.
Frank Barry (15:21):
Kevin Geer (15:22):
On purpose. Because as a kid's pastor, I could put together a G.I. Joe party and the boys and the girls are going to love it. But if I put together an My Little Pony party, only the girls are coming.
Frank Barry (15:36):
Kevin Geer (15:36):
And it was just, we knew that in our culture.
Frank Barry (15:38):
Kevin Geer (15:38):
Fifth grade boys think like 25 to 35 year old boys. And so, we said we're going to talk, I'm going to talk about sports, [inaudible 00:15:46].
Frank Barry (15:46):
Kevin Geer (15:48):
And we're going to just talk to 25, 35 year old males that have brand new families and they're figuring out what to do with this new baby that just came.
Frank Barry (15:58):
Kevin Geer (15:58):
We're going to gear to the young. So our music is geared to the young, but we're going to lean into the wisdom of the wives. Frank Geer with The Miracle Story. I would've never predicted this. In the first seven years of our growth, the second largest baptism demographic was 65 plus.
Frank Barry (16:17):
Kevin Geer (16:17):
Frank Barry (16:18):
Kevin Geer (16:19):
As we were reaching young people, old people started coming giving their life to Jesus because old people don't want to be part of a dead church, they want to be part of a live church and they want to be where their grandkids are at.
Frank Barry (16:30):
Kevin Geer (16:30):
And then while they're there, they're just hanging out. They figure out Jesus loves me too.
Frank Barry (16:34):
Kevin Geer (16:35):
And we have seen so much life transformation. Most of our growth is lost people coming to know Jesus or de-churched people who have just given up on church and they're slowly making their way back, so that's really been our story.
Frank Barry (16:50):
Kevin Geer (16:51):
I'll give you one more verse because I like to throw a Bible verse in there because it is a heart verse for me. When Jesus talked to the Pharisees and he said to them that they were all ticked at him because he was hanging out with sinners. He told them the story of the 99 sheep and the one that was missing.
Frank Barry (17:08):
Kevin Geer (17:09):
And at the very end of that, parable. Frank, this is such a... And I get excited thinking about it. Here's what Jesus says to those Pharisees, "There is more joy in heaven over the one that is found than the 99 who stayed righteous."
Frank Barry (17:24):
Kevin Geer (17:25):
Well for the body of Christ, our goal is to bring joy to heaven. It's not that Jesus didn't care about the 99, He just knew they will never reach their discipleship maximum potential if we're not focused on reaching the one.
Frank Barry (17:39):
Kevin Geer (17:39):
And that's who we are as a church.
Frank Barry (17:41):
I love that. So I've lots of questions running through my head. The one that started-
Kevin Geer (17:47):
Sorry, I was talking a lot. I was just going.
Frank Barry (17:49):
No, dude it's great. I just think hearing the story and how you went through it is a big deal. One of the things you said is you picked, we're going after the 25 year old male and you, unapologetically no secrets, told the church that's what we're doing.
Kevin Geer (18:09):
Frank Barry (18:10):
And when after that, not like I know every church in the world, but it strikes me as that's a hard thing for churches that have been around for a long time to do, because they have their existing membership. And especially if it's a membership that is getting older and that's normal for a lot of churches, maybe at one point in time you were young and those people stuck around and now you're a bit older and the youth aren't coming anymore and you're stuck wondering why and how do we fix this? And what do we do? And I've heard that time and time again. But I think churches, again this is a blanket statement, but they struggle picking like, "I'm going to focus on this."
Frank Barry (18:52):
Businesses are taught, pick a niche, pick something that you focus on and do really well and serve that audience and build your business that way but churches don't think like that. You did it and obviously have seen some fruit from it. Was that a hard thing to do?
Kevin Geer (19:11):
Frank Barry (19:12):
Was there a lot of resistance in going through?
Kevin Geer (19:14):
Frank Barry (19:15):
That kind of thing?
Kevin Geer (19:17):
Yeah. There is a lot of resistance. A guy wrote me a letter and he quoted the Bible and he says, "Woe..." It's Jeremiah, I think 23. It says, "Woe, to the shepherds that are scattering my sheep." And then it goes on to say, "And I will bring upon them judgment wrath." And that's all the note said.
Frank Barry (19:37):
Kevin Geer (19:38):
And then it said, "Get rid of John." Who was our worship pastor, who is still our worship pastor and an incredible leader. And I read that and I'm a brand new pastor, it's in the first six months of pastor in this church. And I'm like, "Am I a terrible shepherd?"
Frank Barry (19:53):
Kevin Geer (19:53):
But you know what happened is I looked up the verse that he quoted and he stopped in the middle of the verse and there was the word, "But". And then it says right after the but, "I will bring up shepherds that will bring back my sheep together. And I will prosper them." And I'm like, "Dude, the guy tried to be a prophet, he just shut up too soon."
Frank Barry (20:17):
Kevin Geer (20:18):
And the guy that meant to write this note to harm me had really encouraged me that day. In fact, I still carry that note with me and I've read it to the church a couple of times how encouraging it is. And so, the guy signed it J.D. And so I went through the pictorial directory. Do you remember those things? And I go, I'm going to find you J.D. I'm going to find you. And the Lord corrected me. And He said, "Kevin, I haven't called you to find wolves, I have called you to find lost sheep." That shifted my perspective. And I determined in that moment, that season, I'm going to be a better lover than they are haters.
Frank Barry (20:57):
Kevin Geer (20:58):
Frank, I have a guy that calls me on my cell phone for the last two and a half years, multiple times a day to tell me how much he hates me. And there's a story behind that. He was beating his wife and I got her out of that. We, our church, our team got her out of that situation and he hates me.
Frank Barry (21:14):
Kevin Geer (21:15):
I love this man and I pray for him. He calls me every day, I blocked his number, but it leaves, it still gets more. And we just want to be better lovers than they are haters.
Frank Barry (21:24):
Kevin Geer (21:24):
And so I'm going to smile and I'm going to reach lost people and people are going to shoot arrows. And I think, personal big picture, I think we've lost the command that God gave Joshua to be strong and courageous.
Frank Barry (21:36):
Kevin Geer (21:38):
And I think we're working so hard to keep 99 people happy, we lose the one. And there's more joy in heaven over the one. And I'm just sold out, committed to reaching lost people for Jesus.
Frank Barry (21:52):
Kevin Geer (21:52):
And I have to, because that's what disciples people.
Frank Barry (21:56):
Totally. Yeah, you get outward focused, right? Like you're outward, focused on other people. And then you see that working, you see God's plan working and the miracles in people's lives, and that gets you motivated and excited.
Kevin Geer (22:09):
Frank Barry (22:10):
It builds your faith. It builds everybody else's faith. You're studying the Bible with people and you're watching God do things in their lives and that's absolutely contagious.
Kevin Geer (22:23):
A phrase that we say around because we want cussing in the hallways. I love that because we don't want perfect people coming, we want screwed up people. I want someone to come up to you and say, "That was a [blankety 00:22:31], great worship service." No, I don't want my staff doing that personally.
Frank Barry (22:38):
Kevin Geer (22:38):
And we're working on that, but I want cussing in the hallways and then I want people around that are going to walk with them and encourage them and love them where they're at.
Frank Barry (22:48):
Kevin Geer (22:48):
God's big and people are screwed up, but we're okay with that.
Frank Barry (22:54):
Right. That's [crosstalk 00:22:54].
Kevin Geer (22:55):
Frank Barry (22:56):
Kevin Geer (22:57):
Frank Barry (22:59):
So talk me through some of the biggest challenges along the way, right? This is a 10 year journey.
Kevin Geer (23:05):
Frank Barry (23:07):
I'm sure there's lots that went on, but what were some of the biggest challenges along the way?
Kevin Geer (23:12):
Well, I think one lady, we have a lady who probably sacrificed more for our changes than any other individual in our church. She stood up in a board meeting once and said, "Don't tell me you guys don't like change." She goes, "Oh, you 60 year olds go to the hospital and you're thankful for change." That she said. And I quoted this from the scripture, from the platform later. I go, "You guys want 21st century medicine, you guys just want 1960s church. And it's time you start changing." I'm like, I can't say that.
Frank Barry (23:43):
Kevin Geer (23:44):
She can that.
Frank Barry (23:44):
Kevin Geer (23:49):
And so, well, I think some of the key things that we did is I always told the people I'm very transparent. They always know where I'm at, our staff is transparent. We're very open and honest and there's no secrets. What we talk about in the boardroom, our facility people know. And so, that's allowed this, there's no politics, there's no game playing, there's no climbing the ladder. We are just doing this together in the messiness of... Now sometimes there's a person walking through a private thing, there's wisdom there.
Frank Barry (24:20):
Kevin Geer (24:20):
But for the most sake, we're just talking about where we're at. And I think that allowed people to trust us when they wanted to question us. I also didn't chase down people who were upset. We just kept moving on and being who we were being. And when we were just focused on the mission, a lot of the smoke chasing I could have done never really became fires.
Frank Barry (24:45):
Kevin Geer (24:46):
And what we found is, many of the people that left at the early, I would say, good 60% of them have all come back. They sort of come back [sheepish 00:24:56] but we give big hugs and love them as they come back.
Frank Barry (25:00):
Kevin Geer (25:01):
Because we have proven that we are faithful to who we are saying we're going to be, and you can trust that.
Frank Barry (25:09):
Kevin Geer (25:11):
So I think that was it. Now let me speak organizationally. That's where it's been the hardest.
Frank Barry (25:16):
Kevin Geer (25:17):
Most of the staff that we started with though, we still have, and that's remarkable.
Frank Barry (25:24):
Kevin Geer (25:26):
And we want to bless our staff. Everybody starts with about five weeks vacation. I was going to go unlimited vacation, but I read that when you go unlimited, people feel guilty taking it.
Frank Barry (25:39):
Kevin Geer (25:39):
And if you give it the five weeks, they'll use it. And that's what we wanted because we push our people hard, our gathering start on Wednesday. So we have a gathering here at Kalispell Campus. We have a gathering Wednesday night, then one Saturday, then three on Sunday. I preach all those live. So it's a fast turnaround.
Frank Barry (25:56):
Kevin Geer (25:57):
So we're generous with vacation and we let people go. So we have a fun culture to be in.
Frank Barry (26:04):
Kevin Geer (26:05):
They know what's going on. And the other thing is, and I love this aspect of our culture, we want to hear people's dreams. And then I feel like my job, my number one job right now is to help people fulfill their dreams.
Frank Barry (26:19):
Kevin Geer (26:20):
And if that's here, great. If that's at another church, I'm the biggest band to help them get there.
Frank Barry (26:24):
Kevin Geer (26:25):
And they know that. And so I'll pull people in. And one lady came into my office, she sat down. I go, "Tell me your dream?" And she goes, "I want your job." And I said, "Let's figure out how to make that happen."
Frank Barry (26:34):
Kevin Geer (26:34):
So we're all for each other. And so we're going to get her at the next board meeting. I'm going to have her cast her dream and we're going to have fun with it, but people will give you everything if it's Jesus' model.
Frank Barry (26:47):
Kevin Geer (26:48):
Jesus said this before He died and He said, "The world will use power for their own good." And He makes this statement, "But among you, it will be different." And then He washed their feet. That's how I want it to be in our culture.
Frank Barry (27:05):
Kevin Geer (27:05):
I just wanted to be different. And the communities recognized that Frank, we've been voted the number one place to work in our valley.
Frank Barry (27:13):
Did you go back to that Starbucks?
Kevin Geer (27:14):
That's pretty cool.
Frank Barry (27:15):
Did you go back to the Starbucks barista like 10 years later and be like, "Hey, which church do we..."
Kevin Geer (27:24):
That Starbucks, nobody from that church... Starbucks can be like a church. Nobody went to church at that Starbucks, in the course of three years, 70% of that Starbucks and the manager would be baptized in our church. And that's just a Jesus thing. That's just Jesus.
Frank Barry (27:42):
That's so good.
Kevin Geer (27:43):
Frank Barry (27:45):
I mean, [crosstalk 00:27:46].
Kevin Geer (27:46):
Frank Barry (27:48):
That's a cool story. Give a few more of those.
Kevin Geer (27:50):
There was a man who was the shop teacher. He's the best cusser I've ever met in my life. The guy can cuss like... And he's a drinker. He can drink so much. And he was the local shop teacher. He had to quit because he liked to throw kids up against the lockers. And he walked into church-
Frank Barry (28:08):
I worked in [crosstalk 00:28:10] by now.
Kevin Geer (28:11):
Yeah. Perfect. And he just had a reputation in town. It's just a hard drinking, rough, tough guy walked into church one day, gave his life to Jesus. I don't even know how. And we have a saloon, what's our most famous saloon here in Kalispell, it's called Moose's Saloon, sawdust floor. And he gave his life to Jesus. He would go drink his beer at that saloon and invite everybody to church. And he had a battery pack that kept his heart going, but he wanted to get baptized. Came in, "I got to get [F-ety 00:28:47] baptized. How do I do this?" So we figured out how to baptize him, but he loves Jesus.
Frank Barry (28:52):
Kevin Geer (28:52):
I did his funeral a couple years ago and his brother stood up and he goes, "I knew my brother as a drinking jerk till he walked in and met Jesus. And now he's just a drinking Jesus lover." And I'm like, "Okay, we'll figure all that out." It's crazy. But I mean that, that guy has led so many people to our church.
Frank Barry (29:16):
Kevin Geer (29:16):
And so, there was a lady and let me give you a news story because we like to think our wins expire within a week. That's a phrase that we say you always need a new story, so here's a story from a week ago. A lady came to church, walked in the first time here. And I said, "What brought you to Canvas today?" Because I'm in the lobby meeting her. She goes, "I was drinking the night before and I woke up this morning. I never wake up early and I just thought I should go to church. I never go to church." Here's what happened. It's pretty awesome when the Holy Spirit is waking people up and He's inviting them to your church, which is really His church.
Frank Barry (29:53):
Kevin Geer (29:53):
But He trusts that we're going to take care of them, that we're going to love them. And that we're not going to compromise a truth that will set them free, so that was last week. So this lady sat in the church, I met her when she was coming in and I hugged her when she was leaving. Will she come back? I think so. And I'm praying. Her name is Suzie. But I'm hoping so.
Frank Barry (30:12):
That's so cool. Well, I don't want to take all your time, but I do want to talk about like, you've woven it in, so we'll just see where it goes. But like-
Kevin Geer (30:21):
Yeah, go ahead.
Frank Barry (30:21):
Staff culture and creating, attracting that top talent and having a great staff culture. I would imagine over the course of 10 years that's a big focus of yours to make sure that your staff is killer.
Kevin Geer (30:36):
Frank Barry (30:36):
And you have a great culture there and you have mentioned some things, but what do you do to make sure you're hiring the right people and you're creating the right culture on your team?
Kevin Geer (30:44):
Yeah. A couple quick things, a more very collaborative culture. Sermons are written together, people have voice. In fact, let me say it this way, I'll start here. I think in two different ways, we have an org chart that everybody answers to somebody. I answer to the board, very transparent but I believe a person who's above being asked questions will do questionable things.
Frank Barry (31:07):
Kevin Geer (31:07):
And so everybody is accountable to somebody. But the org chart, and this is key, the org chart doesn't determine the team chart. The team chart and how we do teams here is based on who's the smartest people in the room to handle those kind of things. So for example, the gathering team, we have a team that puts together our gathering. I don't serve on that team. So I find out what our gathering is going to look like. Now, when we first started for the first seven years, I was in the gathering team and I led the gathering team.
Frank Barry (31:40):
Kevin Geer (31:41):
But it came to a point as the church grows, my job is just to give everything away. I'll say this. It's more fun to pass through a church of a thousand than 4,000 because you just give everything you love away. I think I should be on the creative team, but they don't want me. So I don't get it beyond the creative team, I have to give that away. I'll tell you the three things I do in a minute.
Kevin Geer (32:01):
But so the guy who runs our gathering team, his name is Justin. His direct supervisor serves under him on that team and because we build teams based on gifting and that allows no matter who you are, you can take your gift and you can find a place to serve and you're going to have influence. So we're very quick at giving influence away. That has been wonderful because everybody can dream.
Frank Barry (32:30):
Kevin Geer (32:30):
The second thing that we do is we're a high feedback culture, and I have to model this. So Wednesday night after I get done preaching, whoever on our team wants to come to it. So this is wide open. They come and critique my message. Was I clear enough? Did I make up words, because sometimes I make up words. Were my jokes not funny, because every once in a while, I guess they say, I'm not funny. And they critique it and I have to listen and accept that.
Frank Barry (33:01):
Kevin Geer (33:01):
And so it gives everybody a voice to the primary thing that we do. That just creates ownership. The other thing, here's the third thing and then I'll talk about the things that I do. The third thing that we do, because we've been ongoing growth and then even through COVID we sort of plateaued a little bit, now we're growing out of that again. And we're above where we were before COVID. One of the things that we do is we have to re-org, we've done a reorganization or reestablishing of teams and positions about every eight months, except through COVID we did not re-org. But besides that in the last nine years, we've done 11 re-orgs.
Frank Barry (33:44):
Kevin Geer (33:45):
And here's why we can do that. We have a culture right now, it's called our Smack List. One of them is called, "Hold on Loosely. We hire you for the mission, not your position." And we tell people that the mission is to create opportunities for people to experience God a life changing way. Currently we're going to hire you to do this, that could change three months after we hire you.
Frank Barry (34:10):
Kevin Geer (34:11):
I've had one guy here whose role has changed. His name is Phil, his role has changed every re-org and he's loyal and committed to the mission as can be. He used to be a communicator, but now he's not a communicator. And we've shifted that around and he's just like, "I'm committed to the mission."
Frank Barry (34:27):
Kevin Geer (34:27):
"My friends are getting saved." So those things [crosstalk 00:34:32] big picture things, but we just keep hitting those and hitting those.
Frank Barry (34:34):
Yeah. And did you-
Kevin Geer (34:36):
The three things I do. Go ahead.
Frank Barry (34:38):
Just real quick on those three things. Over the course of 10 years, somewhere along the journey, did you write those down? Did those crystallize in terms of how you were going to operate and do hiring and run the restructuring and re-orgs and was that something that you really said, "Okay, we're going to do this, this way."?
Kevin Geer (34:59):
No, not this way, precedence means absolutely nothing to me because what got us here is not what's going to get us there. I'm just happy to reinvent the wheel. Here's how we define leadership, to make the wisest decision with the information you have right now.
Frank Barry (35:18):
Kevin Geer (35:19):
And that's the best thing we can do. And then to take people where they don't know where they want to go.
Frank Barry (35:24):
Kevin Geer (35:24):
So, we have structure enough so that we can be flexible. Because if you don't have structure, then your flexibility's chaos, so you do need structure, but we have just enough structure, we always keep it thin so that we can flex and do what we need to do in the moment to achieve the greatest return.
Frank Barry (35:43):
Kevin Geer (35:44):
Do you know if you get the greatest return every time you make a decision over the course of nine years, you're going to get massive amount of returns.
Frank Barry (35:50):
Kevin Geer (35:50):
Because you're making the best decision all the time. And I don't want three years ago decision to have an influence on what I need to do today to reach the people that I need to reach today.
Frank Barry (35:59):
Kevin Geer (36:00):
Especially after COVID, everything's changed.
Frank Barry (36:01):
It's all out the window.
Kevin Geer (36:05):
So we sit down as a team and we go, "What do we need to do today?" And we came out of COVID, we're going to plant 12 churches in the next 10 years and [rural 00:36:13] America and in three up cities and we'll figure out how to do that.
Frank Barry (36:17):
Kevin Geer (36:19):
I think I can say one more thing, I talk a lot.
Frank Barry (36:19):
Kevin Geer (36:20):
One more thing is we did started a School of Ministry five years ago and we decided that was going to be part of the DNA of our church.
Frank Barry (36:31):
Kevin Geer (36:32):
And that we would serve the students and have that kind of an attitude instead of the students served us. And that's exploded to over a hundred students now that are getting a four year accredited degree. And that is our pipeline.
Frank Barry (36:47):
Kevin Geer (36:47):
That we continue to hire from because they know our culture, they know we love them and we serve them.
Frank Barry (36:53):
Yeah. That's beautiful. Man, I could keep chatting forever. This is such a cool story. So last question on this topic. So it's 2022, we're not out of COVID and all the crazy, but we're on this different phase of all of that kind of stuff. What's going on like right now, what's top of mind for your church as we're middle 2022?
Kevin Geer (37:18):
Well, there's a couple things going on. I really need to get our people back on some mission trips because we haven't had mission trips for a while.
Frank Barry (37:24):
Kevin Geer (37:25):
And we partner with an organization that we sponsor a lot of kids through. We want to take our people there. I think that's something that we've been talking about as a team. We've extended our worship time. So we used to have one hour gatherings. We just felt coming out of COVID, we needed to emphasize that a little bit more. And so we've extended our worship time a little bit more and we're making moments of pause. It's just good to sit there and pause, so that's been something that we've been intentional on.
Frank Barry (37:51):
Kevin Geer (37:52):
And I think the other thing is I'm preaching truth with more boldness. Last year I was praying personally in my own life and all of our communicators, but I was praying for boldness and the Lord said, "Good, be humble." And that boldness really comes out of humility.
Frank Barry (38:07):
Kevin Geer (38:07):
Because boldness without humility is arrogance. And so we really in a loving, humble way are trying to be bold with biblical truth that sets people free. So we're just preaching to a very illiterate congregation. We're preaching biblical truth. We're doing calling the Jesus story. Start at Genesis and we're working our way through Revelation, hitting the big capstones of faith.
Frank Barry (38:35):
Kevin Geer (38:35):
Oh, people are eating it up. They just have no idea.
Frank Barry (38:38):
Kevin Geer (38:39):
And it's been great.
Frank Barry (38:40):
Kevin Geer (38:41):
So, that's really where [inaudible 00:38:42]. Now, that's spiritually. Organizationally we're planting churches. We're we're looking at planting a church in Missoula, Montana coming up here very soon. Our campuses are taken off. Every campus is growing by conversion growth right now. And I will say this, in rural America, the way you do a church plant is just like, you would do it in the metropolitan area. We overthink culture sometimes, people are people.
Frank Barry (39:06):
Kevin Geer (39:06):
We all breathe oxygen, we all have issues, just preach truth, stop playing all the culture games. You'll reach a whole bunch of people for Jesus.
Frank Barry (39:13):
Yeah. I love that. All right. Three quick questions. What's a book that everyone needs to read?
Kevin Geer (39:23):
Right now I'm in my doctorate, so I'm reaching a whole bunch of books I would recommend you don't read.
Frank Barry (39:33):
One that you've read that you're like, "People, this is a book that I just think everyone's got to read." Bible of course. Give me another one.
Kevin Geer (39:36):
Yeah, Bible. You know what? This is embarrassing to say, but it's a book I read every year, so that's probably the one I need to say. And that is John Maxwell's Leadership Gold. The guy is just-
Frank Barry (39:48):
Kevin Geer (39:49):
He's just so good.
Frank Barry (39:51):
Two weeks ago, I was in Florida with John Maxwell.
Kevin Geer (39:57):
Frank Barry (39:58):
In a small little gathering with Scott Wilson, who you might know.
Kevin Geer (40:02):
Oh yeah, I know Scott. Yeah.
Frank Barry (40:04):
And I got to hear John Maxwell for an entire day, dinner at his house. Probably the best speaking I've ever heard in my life.
Kevin Geer (40:15):
Frank Barry (40:16):
Just incredible to just listen to and just soak it all in.
Kevin Geer (40:20):
Yeah. So I buy his audible books and the way he writes and then he'll talk to you in the audible book. The audible books, he'll say, "Friend, I know this is the end of the chapter, but because it's just you and me, I want to share with you a couple other things that aren't in the book."
Frank Barry (40:36):
Kevin Geer (40:37):
And you feel like grandpa's talking to you.
Frank Barry (40:39):
Kevin Geer (40:39):
And it's just like you and he and his heart is so... I just love him. I read Leadership Gold. I know it almost memorized. I read it every year. It is a phenomenal, fundamental leadership book.
Frank Barry (40:51):
All right. I'm going to go get it. I've read a bunch of his books. He's written 90. If you didn't know that, which is absolutely crazy.
Kevin Geer (40:58):
I do not know that.
Frank Barry (40:59):
I wouldn't know that either.
Kevin Geer (41:00):
Well he's a great author because he just says the same thing in different ways in some of the same books, but in Leadership Gold, the reason I like it is he waited until he was 60 to write that book and then he thinks it's his best stuff.
Frank Barry (41:15):
Yeah. Very cool. Okay. Next one, what's a podcast that you're listening to right now?
Kevin Geer (41:23):
I just got done listening to the Mars Hill, I forget the Christianity Today.
Frank Barry (41:29):
Kevin Geer (41:29):
Frank Barry (41:30):
Kevin Geer (41:30):
I just listen to that one and you so navigating through all of that, it's fascinating, great stuff there to learn from, lots of opinions. So we had our staff listen to it and we're discussing it together. Do you know another podcast that I just think is excellent is The Bible Project.
Frank Barry (41:46):
Kevin Geer (41:49):
I use a lot of their material in my sermon prep. I love their heart for the word of God.
Frank Barry (41:53):
Kevin Geer (41:53):
And sometimes they challenge me and I that's a great one.
Frank Barry (41:57):
Yeah, I love watching their YouTube videos with my kids.
Kevin Geer (42:01):
Frank Barry (42:01):
Kevin Geer (42:02):
Yes, that's a brilliant idea. Excellent.
Frank Barry (42:05):
Yeah. Okay. Last thing. Where can folks go just to connect with Canvas Church and learn more about you?
Kevin Geer (42:11):
Yeah. Well, canvas.church how simple is that? That's our website.
Frank Barry (42:16):
Kevin Geer (42:17):
I do a podcast called LifeNGeer, that also you can find that on canvas.church website and that's just how to live life with join adventure.
Frank Barry (42:26):
Kevin Geer (42:26):
And so we have a lot of fun with that and we do that once a month release that. So, that'd be the way to do it.
Frank Barry (42:33):
Man, I love it. Thanks for your time today. This has been awesome.
Kevin Geer (42:36):
Good. I hope so. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.
Frank Barry (42:40):
Yeah, absolutely. All right, everybody. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Modern Church Leader, we'll catch you next week.
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