e50 Adam Haugen

50: Pastor Adam Haugen Discusses Doubling Church Size in a Year

Listen to episode 50 of the First Customers podcast featuring Adam Haugen, an inspiring pastor who doubled the size of his church within a year. Adam shares his proven strategies for growth, offering insights valuable for leaders in any field. This episode is not just a success story; it’s a masterclass in effective leadership and community building.

Guest Info

Adam Haugen, Pastor at Glad Tidings Church of Leander, has a history of growing nonprofit organizations and building communities.

Key Quotes from Adam Haugen

  • “Understanding your why is key in any journey.” – Adam Haugen
  • “We need to understand cultures and subcultures within the church and the community.” – Adam Haugen
  • “We’re growing at 100%, a mix of people who have never been to church and those transferring from other churches.” – Adam Haugen


  • Adam’s journey from the business world to leading a church.
  • Strategies for growth and engagement in a nonprofit setting.
  • The importance of understanding culture and community in growth.
  • Adam’s three-step engagement pathway for new churchgoers.
  • Overcoming challenges and resistance to change.

Adam Haugen’s Book Recommendations


  • Knowing your why is crucial for attracting and retaining customers or church attendees.
  • Understanding the culture and needs of the community is essential for church growth.
  • Building relationships, offering small groups, and providing volunteer opportunities are effective strategies for church growth.
  • Gravitational leaders who create a positive and engaging environment are key to attracting and developing others. Being a gravitational leader requires adding value to others and being secure in one’s own abilities.
  • Loving the people that others love can build strong relationships and support.
  • Helping others win and having a clear vision are essential for leadership success.
  • Common issues in churches include resistance to change and lack of clear vision.


00:00 Introduction and Background

00:56 Alignment between Church Growth and Business Strategies

04:01 Mission and Why

06:42 Approach to Church Growth

09:21 Defining the Mission and Why

11:31 Growth in Leander, Texas

12:26 Creating an Engaging Experience

24:06 Gravitational Leadership

27:23 Being a Gravitational Leader

28:32 Adding Value to Others

29:26 Loving the People They Love

31:22 Helping Others Win

32:17 Having a Clear Vision

38:46 Gravitational Leadership and Church Growth

41:32 Common Issues in Churches and Improvements

50:32 Recommended Books for Church Leaders

53:12 Invitation to Glad Tidings Church

Show Transcript

Paris Vega (00:01.448)
Welcome to the first customers podcast. Today we have Adam Haugen with us. It’s a little different kind of episode today. Adam is a pastor at a church called Glad Tidings Church of Leander. He has doubled the size of his church in the past year and has a history of growing nonprofit organizations. Adam, welcome to the show.

Adam Haugen (00:21.926)
Hey, Priest, thank you so much for having me. Glad to be here.

Paris Vega (00:26.868)
Good to have you here. It’s, it’s been really cool talking to you and learning a little bit about your history and the different organizations you’ve been a part of and your kind of growth minded approach towards those organizations. And even though it’s outside of the usual, like business kind of profit focused conversations we have on here, I thought it’d be worth having you on the show to talk about some of your strategies and tactics that you’ve used growing a church.

because I saw a lot of alignment between what you’ve done and some of your ideas and approaches and the business world. And I think there’s a lot that people could learn from your philosophy and the way you do things.

Adam Haugen (01:11.474)
That’s wonderful, you know, and I can, I just kind of just jump into it a little bit. I’ve been in the business world, I’m now in the church world for the last 20 years, and there was definitely a lot of similarities. I think anything that you jump into, you know, for me to really be able to attract, you know, customers or, you know, church attendees, I think it first starts with you.

of just knowing your why. I think that is like the biggest thing. I think with any journey, it’s always gonna be a marathon. You need to know why you’re doing something and because when it first starts, it’s always fun. Every new adventure to me is always fun and exciting until it’s not. And understanding your why and be able to recite it just in a very simple sentence in those moments, I think is key. And when we first took on this position,

moving from rural Minnesota all the way to Leander, Texas, I will tell you it is a lot different of an area. I’m far away from home. People gotta get through my accent a little bit. So I apologize for those of you who are listening. I’ll try to talk real slow in all those things, but yeah, I think that for us was kind of like that first step is just kind of just knowing your why. And then when we got here, it was…

Just understanding your customer and understanding the culture of the people that are here and understanding the history. And so for us, you know, we were taking a church that has been around for about 25 years. It had a very great, you know, base of people attending the church, but they had been here, you know, for a long time and they just said, you know, we kind of just forgot how to reach new people, we don’t know what that looked like anymore.

We don’t really like to change, but we know we probably need to. And so I spent a lot of time moving slowly at first and then gradually moving very aggressive because we felt like there was a strong need of like, hey, we need to change now or this is not going to survive. But I think before we started to make some of those movements, we needed to understand cultures.

Adam Haugen (03:27.05)
and subcultures within the church or within the organization, and then to learn those within the community as well. And that’s kind of where we started Ground Zero.

Paris Vega (03:36.704)
So what’s the overall trend of churches in the US in general? Because I think you’ve told me before, there’s a decline happening in some places. So for the fact that your church has actually grown, you know, is kind of against the trend. So I think that’s why it’s another reason why it’s worth talking to you and getting your specific insights. But go over kind of that, the overall trend versus what you’re seeing.

Adam Haugen (04:01.694)
Yeah, this is a, it would be a huge conversation. So we can kind of just hit some of the highlights on it. You know, in the nineties, churches in America were growing like crazy. That’s kind of where the birth of like the mega church was kind of born, was in that eighties and nineties. And you saw just thousands of people coming to church. And that kind of continued until, you know, the early two thousands. And then things really started to slow down. And now we do see a general trend.

of churches declining and less and less people are coming to church or they may be watching online but we see that doesn’t really have any type of longevity or growth either. And so yeah, there’s a lot of things going against you and there’s maybe just a general stigmatism that church is not relevant anymore or why should I go and I think very much the church is…

very much alive and we do see worldwide growth of churches growing like crazy. And churches in America that we see that are growing, a healthy church has grown about 9%. We’re growing a lot quicker than that right now and we’re very thankful for that. And in these moments, we’re trying to figure out, all right, what are our inputs? Sometimes in churches, in organizations, in the prophet world.

We tend to think mostly on outputs. We’re looking at, all right, well, here’s my goal, and this is what I wanna reach. And we have been flipping the script on that and just trying to think of inputs. Do we know why we’re being successful in a sense? Do we know why people are coming and trying to identify some of those key things to make sure that we are continuing to do those things and even at a higher level?

Paris Vega (05:49.468)
So what’s the growth rate currently at your church? You said a healthy church is about 9%. What are you guys seeing?

Adam Haugen (05:55.562)
The church is about 9% per year. We’re growing right now. We’ve doubled in growth. So you could say we’re growing at 100% and some definitely in a lot of those categories. And so we’ve seen a huge influx of people coming in, getting connected, growing in the church and saying, hey, this is where I wanna be. And I think a lot of those have been a mix from people who have maybe transferred from another church, which those really aren’t our like target market. We’re really looking for the people. They don’t go to church at all.

You know, they don’t think it’s important, but they are willing to kind of kick the tires a little bit and check it out. And those are the people that we’re really trying to attain is people that they’ve never been to church before. They’re completely unchurched in a sense.

Paris Vega (06:42.092)
So what’s been your approach since you’ve only been the pastor at this church for, you said two years or, or is it, I guess one year since you’ve been, or a year and a half since you’ve been the full.

Adam Haugen (06:50.037)

Adam Haugen (06:53.63)
About a year and a half that I’ve been at this campus running this role that I am right now. And so you asked kind of like, what’s our approach? What’s our strategy has kind of been? Well, in addition to, you know, learning all the culture pieces and learning the people in the community, we’ve kind of just focused on reaching people through relationships and connections. And so we want people to, you know, find a spot where they enjoy a Sunday morning service that they feel connected.

They say that people looking for a church, the number one reason why they go to a church is number one is location. Same as non-profit, as for-profit, location, location matters. All right? Well, the second piece is, and this is probably the more important piece, people from the ages of 20 to 40, those people, they would say the number one reason why they’re going to come to a church is they are trying to build some type of relationship. They’re coming there.

Paris Vega (07:34.792)

Adam Haugen (07:51.114)
and say, hey, are there other people that look and maybe think like I do? You know, is there other people in my same age demographic that are there that I can relate with and build connection? And so we are doing that, we are in a very diverse area and we are seeing a lot of different people from different backgrounds come, but we’re finding, you know, to give them some commonality. And so in order to help with that.

We love doing small group ministry to help people feel connected. We love doing things for kids and for families that everyone can kind of relate with. And then we try to find a spot where they can serve in the church. And we find out when people do that, the whole vernacular changes, their language changes, and language creates culture. And so we see this thing where they say, hey, rather than that’s just a church I go to, they say, that’s my church.

That’s the church where I serve. That’s a church that I’m a part of. And so they get this ownership that this is something I’m a part of. I’m doing something bigger than myself. And I think that’s also something, not just this generation, but I think every single human being wants to do something greater than themselves. And as a Christian, as obviously as a pastor, I believe that’s something that truly the church has to offer. It’s what the Bible has to offer is that we have something.

that you are a part of that’s greater than yourselves and that really attracts the people is understanding that as well.

Paris Vega (09:21.896)
You mentioned that your mission, your why is kind of that first step. So what’s, what’s your mission and like, how do you define that for yourself and your church?

Adam Haugen (09:32.354)
Good. So as a, as a church level, um, you know, our mission is this, is to declare hope and develop people. Uh, we want to invest in people. Uh, we want to develop them so they understand, um, you know, why they believe what they believe and that they are, they’re called by God. And we also want to declare hope, uh, that no matter where you are, who you are, what you’ve done, that there really is hope.

in the Bible and the church and there’s hope in the gospel that we see. And so again, giving that to people and showing them those things, that really is our church why. Go a little bit deeper, another layer of that is just that personal why. And for me, I was at a very healthy church in a rural town. We had about a town of 4,000 people in Minnesota. The church was about 1,000.

mega church in a small town. I’ve been a part of it for about 20 years. My wife had been there since the church started, like her family was a part of it when the church started. And so to ever leave that place was a very difficult thing and thing that we never thought we would do. But our why became this, is why not? Here I am in the fastest growing city in the nation. And the majority of the people moving here are completely unchurched.

They’d never been to church before. And I think even a good chunk of those have maybe even had church hurt or things they’ve been heard about in the past. So why not? Why wouldn’t God be pulling healthy pastors from all over the nation to come and start or take over or work in churches in this area? And so that really became our why is just, you know, why not? There’s so many people moving this area, why not bring?

healthy passers-ins into an area like this.

Paris Vega (11:31.596)
And so Leander, Texas is a city outside of the Austin, Texas area for everybody listening. So that’s kind of part of the overall boom happening in the Austin, Texas area. And I guess Leander specifically is one of the fastest growing within the city in this area.

Adam Haugen (11:50.102)
Yeah, yeah, Leander is number four right now in the nation. They were number one Georgetown, Texas, which is right next to us. Their neighbors to us. They are actually have taken over the number one in the nation. And there’s one more city here locally, just in the greater Austin area. And so, yeah, you are seeing a huge massive boom of people, majority of them working in the tech field, you know, talking to major people in the.

business industry in this area, they say, this is gonna be the new Silicon Valley, or it already is, and that’s where all the population growth is coming from.

Paris Vega (12:22.26)

Paris Vega (12:26.068)
take us through the kind of sequence that you go through. And I’ve talked to you a little bit about this before, but I noticed from going to your church and kind of being a part of some of that initial onboarding process, I started to notice, it seems like you guys are very structured with that and very intentional. And it reminded me kind of like a marketing funnel or a sales funnel, how a customer might move through.

engaging with the company. I was wondering if you could map out kind of those steps that you have laid out because it was so intentional that you obviously have a plan and a step-by-step process. You try to move somebody through. You touched on that a little bit like you want to connect with people, build relationships, but if you could put a little more light on the specific tactics and sequence that you go through.

Adam Haugen (13:05.452)

Adam Haugen (13:09.281)

Adam Haugen (13:17.074)
Yeah, I think it’s good to look at is where your customer comes from and how are they going to find out about you. And I think that makes sense in the business world and I think it makes sense in the church world as well, is we have to think about where people are coming from and how they’re getting connected. And so there’s a lot of traditional methods that we’re using, social media, website, SEO, those type of things. But I think the biggest thing is connection, building systems.

We were very system-less when I got here. And so we wanted to develop systems of just how to bring people in and get them connected. Bring people in, get them connected. When they first come in, how are they going to do that? And so what we did a lot is I helped us develop leaders to be able to help me create this. And so we had to create a culture within here, just creating an invite culture, that when people came in to the building,

Um, they weren’t immediately overwhelmed because they were the first person to walk in and a million people came up to him and say, Oh, wow, are you brand new? You know, Hey, you know, and so we wanted to be able to not overwhelm the person that they’re, that’s coming in, but still acknowledge them to be real with them. And so I worked a lot with developing a team. You know, we call it our first impressions team and that’s like our ushers, our greeters, um, our parking lot, our security.

They say on average, a person or family makes a decision if they’re going to come back to the church within the first seven minutes of arriving. And so that’s as soon as they pull onto the property, um, and they’re trying to figure out a spot to park and now they found a spot to park and they start walking into the building and, and maybe they got shuttled in cause we have like a golf cart shuttle and things like that. And then they walk into the foyer. Um, they’re trying to figure out where the kids ministry is or where the bathroom is.

By the time they’ve sat down, they’ve already reached that seven minute mark and they’ve pretty much already made a decision. And so we need to be able to make it easy because I think trying to find a church is very difficult. You know, a lot of our people, they’ll come in and they’ll tell us, hey, we went to like 16 different churches before we found this one, before like this one is home.

Adam Haugen (15:37.106)
So one, that gives me a lot of warning signs. I’m like, okay, what’s wrong with the 16 churches that you went through? Why did it take so long? How can I help those other 16 churches? But what are we doing well? And a lot of things they were saying is, we knew where to go. We were so warmly greeted. We didn’t feel like a number, but we really felt like they cared about us and our name. They weren’t overly personal. They weren’t trying to figure out everything about us.

But they’re just trying to find just one thing of just commonality to create conversation. Hey, is that your kid? And we find interest, you know, just in their kid and just kind of lead them to our kids church or give them a little bit of a tour of the building. And so I taught, you know, our first impressions team how to communicate rather than asking awkward questions like, is this the first time you’ve ever been to our church? That could be an awkward conversation because if they say, no, we’ve been here like a year and you don’t remember who I am.

that creates an awkward conversation. And so just teaching them just maybe things that they could ask. Just ask, hey, how long have you been coming to Glad Tidings? So whether they’ve been coming for 20 years or this is their very first time, it’s still relevant to matter who it is. And if they have been coming for a long time, it maybe helps develop a relationship that’s been missed or it never been developed before. And so it encourages our people just to get to know other people. And obviously if they say, hey, this is my first time.

Paris Vega (16:34.828)

Adam Haugen (17:02.694)
It totally changes the conversation of what those next steps are. I try to find cues and teach people cues. Like if you see someone with deer in the headlights, that’s probably a person you want to talk to and to say, hey, can I help you with anything? Do you need any directionals at all of where to go? And so we’re trying to make them feel like an expert before they walk into the building or as soon as they walk in. We have a lot of, just saying on our websites, that are just going to help people feel

a little bit more like an expert when they walk in. Everyone hates this. They hate the first day of school. They hate their first day on the job. So it’s the same thing in the first day of church. Most people I’ve talked to, they hate the feeling of walking into a church for the first time. And so if we can lower that stress, that’s the goal. Let’s lower the stress because ultimately we want them to be able to have a church home where they can make some, you know, some greater decisions in their life and their family.

Paris Vega (17:47.276)

Paris Vega (17:50.645)

Adam Haugen (18:01.526)
But we have to get through that first hurdle. And that’s the biggest step is, okay, hey, if it took 16 places for you to find me, then those first seven minutes, they mean a great deal. And so excellence is a big deal. You know, what do I do when I first go to a restaurant? Very first thing I do is I go use their bathrooms. If I’ve never been there, I’m gonna go to the bathroom. If the bathroom’s not clean, probably tells me that the cook’s not that clean either. And so everything in your organization, everything in our church is sending a message.

whether it’s a landscape outside, because some people told us when I first got there, they’re like, oh, I thought this building was closed. And so the landscape was overrun. That’s what the problem was. The parking lot wasn’t well managed. The roof was incomplete. There was just a lot of just maintenance things that were just past due. And so everything speaks in a church or everywhere you go. And so we wanted to be sticklers on.

this place needs to be clean and it needs to look exceptional. We need to try to modernize it with a very minimal budget. You know, again, we’re a nonprofit. And so we have to make those pennies get stretched a little bit. And we need to just incorporate as many volunteers as we can to make that happen. You know, bathrooms need to be cleaned, all those things. Most churches that I go to smell like urine. That’s, I don’t know if that’s EMI.

Paris Vega (19:05.353)

Paris Vega (19:18.688)

Adam Haugen (19:24.662)
But that’s what I find when I would travel to most churches, I’m like, I can smell the bathroom right from the foyer. And so everything speaks, people are making those assumptions about places before they even attend.

Paris Vega (19:35.296)
Right. So, the first impression is what you’re talking about here, that initial seven minutes, that obviously translates to any type of organization. Okay, so you’ve put a lot of effort into that, kind of honing how someone experiences you, trying to put an excellent first foot forward. Let’s say, okay, they have a positive, you know, first moment there. How do you move them further along that path?

Adam Haugen (19:42.323)

Adam Haugen (20:05.038)
It’s good. So we developed an entire engagement pathway. All right, so we named it just a three step method because three is easy to remember and I’m not that creative and so the titling is not that great. And it’s so the titling of the three steps is this first step, next step, big step, okay? My first step is, is when I can get them in the door, I want to initially just get them from making a commitment to come to like a newcomer’s dinner. All right, I want them where they can just

to get to know my wife and I, the rest of the staff, we have a meal, and then we just, for 15 minutes, we just share them a little bit of just vision in the heart of the church. Hey, this is what we’re all about. Here’s what’s important to us as a church. And so here’s just some real quick things, nothing major, nothing over analytical. And then we just tell them, just kind of what I shared earlier is, hey, what we would love, what we’re all about here is we want you to have a great Sunday experience.

We’d love for you to be able to get into like a small group. And when they get into a small group, they get connected. They build relationship, discipleship, all those things. And so get them a great Sunday experience, get them into a small group, and then get them into a spot where they can volunteer. And so that small group and that volunteer piece, that is that next step. So the first step is again, we wanna get them to a spot where they can come to like a newcomer’s dinner and hear some heart and vision.

That next step is we want to get them to a spot where they can be in a small group, they can find one, and they can get into a spot where they can volunteer. Looking for, and we’re very specific, we’re like, hey, it’s only gonna be, we’re looking for one hour a month that you can find where you want to volunteer and a place that you are like, hey, this is where I love to be. Not looking for people to overcommit and say, I’ll do it every single day or every hour. You know, we want to allow people, hey, just do one a month.

And if you don’t like it within the first couple of weeks or the first time you go there, we’ll get you out of it. And we’ll put you in a spot that you feel connected and we’ll make it easy for you. But that’s that next step. And then that big step is we want to really develop leaders within the church and help people really grow just in their Christian walk. And so that is through specialized classes or internships.

Adam Haugen (22:25.758)
We want to really develop leaders within the church. Wherever they are, whether they feel like they feel called into ministry or even just in the marketplace, that they see their calling on their life and how to act it out. We want to empower people.

Paris Vega (22:40.784)
Okay. So the transition from the next step where they’re just kind of getting involved, I guess, at the minimal level of being a kind of a member of a church or attending regularly, going to a small group, volunteering occasionally. And then, so the big step is. It sounds like more like a staff leadership role. So it might be leading the people who are volunteering.

Adam Haugen (22:52.289)

Adam Haugen (22:58.174)

Adam Haugen (23:07.122)
Yes, yeah, it could be a, either whether it is a paid position or a lot of people are just like, hey, would you want to be like an executive volunteer? And the time commitment of that can be big or small. I’m looking to make like gravitational leaders within the church. I think some leaders are likable, some are likable and capable, but there’s a rare thing where someone is also gravitational that they pull people towards them.

You know, a mission of the church is, you know, the great commission. We want to go into all the world and share the gospel. Well, I want to help develop gravitational leaders to do that. Regardless of personality skills, I think all of us are called to leadership. Um, and so if we can help people become gravitational leaders, uh, that draw people in and, and I was actually, you know, just putting a list together, what that would look like, but that, that is really that next step is, is we want to help people just become gravitational leaders.

Paris Vega (24:06.828)
speak more on what that means, that gravitational leadership.

Adam Haugen (24:09.426)
Okay. Well, I think there’s definitely things that pull people away from you. I think we all have done things or noticed things about ourselves or other people. I’m like, I don’t know what it is, but I wouldn’t call them magnetic or gravitational. They have something about them that pull people away. And so gravitational or leaders that do this, that push people away, I think one is that they tolerate an unhealthy environment. There’s things that need to be changed.

but yet they kind of avoid it. I’ve worked in the business world, I definitely had leaders like that, they were conflict avoidant, they weren’t self-aware of people and I’ve seen that even like in small groups, I got a church setting and a small group leader allows something to happen within a small group and what happens is the person that’s frustrated with it, they leave, they don’t say anything, church members leave, they don’t say anything, customers leave, they don’t say anything.

and the sticky wheel or the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease. And so I think it’s really big is that we don’t tolerate an unhealthy environment. I think other things that people have pushed people away is when they fail to keep their word. They say one thing, but they just don’t keep it and they don’t keep commitments. The little things like, oh yeah, I’ll meet with you next week and they never make a phone call.

You know, I think that’s just something that just really pushes people away and it speaks into about that leader. I think viewing people as what you wanna get out of them rather than really developing them. You know, we tend to just think of people, oh man, what could Paris benefit from me about this and this relationship rather than what can I really pour into you? And so I think that’s just one of those things that can really push people away.

Paris Vega (26:01.13)

Adam Haugen (26:01.866)
when we have attitudes or behaviors that are unpredictable. And so something I would teach a lot to some young adults, I’m like, guys, most of us have what I call a horrible default face, and that pushes people away. There’s words for this that I can’t say as a pastor, but I know in the business world, and so I’ll let people use their imaginations, but I’ll just say default face. Some people have a horrible default face, right?

And it may look like I had people approach me, they’re like, Adam, I can’t tell if you’re mad at me or happy with me. I’m like, oh no, dude, we’re fine. We’re good, we’re great. But it was just my default phase. My attitude did not match my behavior. And so it was unpredictable. And so that sometimes can push people away. And so I had one mentor, he just did this. He wrote on a screensaver for two years, it just said on his screensaver, hey, you need to smile more.

and add value. When you’re around people, you need to smile more and you need to add value with every single interaction of people that you have in your organization. The last thing I think that kind of pushes people away that doesn’t make them a gravitational leader is if they have insecurities that keep other people around them from shining or excelling.

Paris Vega (27:07.968)

Adam Haugen (27:23.17)
So, you know, I’m a pastor and let’s say I bring in a speaker and that speaker is within the church, but he can speak better than I can. If I’m insecure about his strengths, it’s gonna keep me from being a gravitational leader. So I have to be secure in just in my own abilities. I need to be self-aware of what I can do and realize that, you know, there’s other people around me that can do it better. And I need to learn from those things rather than trying to push those people away.

I don’t know if you want any more clarity on that and I can flip the script and I can show you what page. All right.

Paris Vega (27:53.656)
That’s cool. That’s all good. Yeah, that’s all good. I mean, it’s, I think it relates to leadership in any type of organization. So yeah, you can keep going. Let’s see if you got more.

Adam Haugen (28:03.918)
Okay, so here’s what I think, just real quick, what I think makes a gravitational leader. Number one is that you are consistently on the flip side, you’re adding value in other people. That I think good intentions are just not good enough. We have to be finding ways to be able to add specific value. And so with people I meet, so one way I love growing the church is I rent out an office.

I spend $6 to rent out an office space for three hours. It’s called Starbucks, okay? People are like, man, how can you spend so much money on coffee? I’m like, again, I get coffee a lot, but I’m renting their office space, and I’m meeting with people, and I’m finding ways just how to add value. One of the easiest ways for me to add value is I find value that I can add into their kids. What do people value?

I value my kid. And if you speak something nice into my kid and you speak value into them, I will go to bat for you anytime you want. And so again, I’m not doing that to get stuff out of them, but I want to just be someone that consistently pours value into others. I think the second thing we can do to be more of a gravitational leader is love the people that they love and they will love you. If I love the people that you love, you’re going to love.

me and that kind of goes on to that first one is I want to add value to you but then I want to add value to the again the people that you care about.

Paris Vega (29:33.824)
How do you do that without being kind of disingenuous or like not genuine or whatever? You know what I mean? Like if it because you could take that as, hey, I’m just a kind of a yes, man, to whatever somebody else says or is interested in. You know what I mean? There’s because it seems like there’s a level of. Kind of honesty that has to be there for it to seem real. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Adam Haugen (29:55.002)
Yes. I think in today’s world, I think you hit on something really good. In today’s world of AI, people are starving for someone who’s authentic and genuine and real. You know, we can, you know, the, the term uncanny valley, you know, that’s the thing that kind of looks real, but it’s, there’s something off. And I think in churches, sometimes that could be the same thing. I’m like, you know, there’s a, there’s a message I always want to do called.

you know, beyond our Sunday smiles. Like sometimes I think in a church world, hey, are you okay? Yeah, I’m great. You great? Yeah, I’m great. And we do that in the office world too, you know, we keep everything at the surface. And I think, you know, for me, I don’t shy away from confrontation. You can still add value and not be a jerk. You can still confront someone and not be a jerk and genuinely care and say, all right, hey, there’s some things that I notice about what you’re doing and.

Paris Vega (30:29.184)

Paris Vega (30:44.37)

Adam Haugen (30:52.682)
and to be able to bring them out. I think sometimes we can shy away from confrontation and sometimes in the Christian world, we feel like confrontation is, well, that’s just not biblical. You’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to be nice. You’re supposed to be able to say yes. That’s not true. I think that’s a disservice to people. You know what? I’m not there to judge and criticize, but I am there to help train and equip. As a pastor, my whole job in the Bible says, I’m supposed to train and equip people. And so sometimes that is

pulling something out of someone or, hey, there’s some things that, I built a relationship, so I built a respect level. I’m not gonna do that until I’ve done that. I need to build a relationship first. But once I build that relationship, I think there’s definitely some things that you have to be able to take those next steps and to say no, or say yes to. I think this, having good vision as a leader, as a pastor,

gives me permission to say no. When I got here, the more successful you get, the more wins you get, the more people have different ideas that they wanna shower to you and say, oh, you should do this, you should do this now. And they may be good things, but they’re not the right things. They’re not the great things that we’re supposed to be doing. And vision gives us the permission to say no, so we can say no to good things and yes to the great things.

Otherwise, we just live in mediocrity because we don’t have any type of focus. Guardrails are good. I forget what the analogy is, but there’s things that like power a river because it gets funneled through one spot. You can’t be so wide where there’s no current, there’s no flow. There has to be good, healthy structure. And just having a very strong, compelling vision gives you the permission to say yes and no to the right things.

Paris Vega (32:22.795)

Paris Vega (32:36.937)
I gotcha.

Paris Vega (32:47.452)
I think this would be a good, I know we interrupted the deeper discussion on gravitational leadership, but you mentioned before we started recording that actually when you first joined the church and you started doing some of what you’re talking about now, the harder things, you know, kind of casting a clear vision with a set direction and saying no to the things that were outside of that, the church actually shrunk at first before the growth happened. Could you speak a little bit to that moment?

Adam Haugen (32:50.962)
Yeah, no, that’s good.

Adam Haugen (33:14.346)
Yeah. Well, I think everyone in the church world, business world, we all hate one thing and it’s change, right? And I always tell people, I’m like, you know, I know there’s two things that are constant, we say is death and taxes, but I think, you know, in the church world, I say there’s two things that are consistent, and it’s always the same, and it’s God and it’s change, you know, and that’s okay. And so you have to be able to manage and work people through change.

When we initially made the change, yeah, we started to decline as a church and it wasn’t a shock to us at all. We knew there was gonna be some people that say, I’m not gonna be on this journey and that’s okay. We’d help them actually find a different church and I wanted them to succeed, I wanted them to do well and find a place where they could connect and grow. But we wrote down like, hey, this is who we are, this is our vision, our direction. We told people.

saying, all right, hey guys, this is the mission of the church. We wanna grow the church, obviously, but we wanna reach people, we wanna reach the lost. We’re not a country club for the saints, we’re a hospital for the hurting and the broken. And so that’s our mission, right? And I would just kinda just, I would bring all these influential people together, some I’d meet in a group, a lot of them at Starbucks, I just kinda met them one on one, and we did that pretty intensively for the first six months because we knew I had a…

manage it and work people through change. So I had to be able to share vision to be able to do that. And I had to build a relationship. So I had a little bit, maybe a little bit more momentum. And I said, all right, here’s the mission. Here’s the direction. This is what we’re all in the grants. Let’s just know that method is, let’s not be married to method. Let’s be married to mission. And it’s okay if the method looks a little bit differently if we are still achieving the mission. And most people can buy into that.

And we would do some things early on. Like, you know, in the church world, the piano is a big sacred cow. You know, don’t get rid of the piano, don’t do this, you know? And so within the first few months, I got rid of the grand piano. And I knew people were going to be against it, but it created good conversation. And I think conversation is a great thing when you know how to manage it and be able to share a vision and just allow people to be heard.

Adam Haugen (35:35.19)
And so I had one gal and she was an elder lady in the church and she just goes, pastor. And I’m like, hey Joyce, how’s it going? And I’m like, you okay? Are you all right? She’s like, do you really wanna know? And I’m like, well, sure I wanna know. And she’s like, no, I’m unhappy with you. And this is where we could say, all right, I’m just gonna do whatever this person wants. But again, Vision gives me the permission to say no. And she said this, she’s like.

I’m unhappy because I hear you’re gonna get rid of the grand piano. And I’m like, I am gonna get rid of the grand piano. Can I tell you why? And she’s like, it’s not gonna matter, you know? And I’m like, okay, Joyce, let me tell you this. You know, that grand piano makes a beautiful sound, doesn’t it? And she’s like, I know, why would you ever wanna get rid of it? And I said, hear me out. This grand piano with our sound system is very difficult for us to be able to mix. And you have people, like, I don’t understand.

all the sound of stuff, Joyce, but people sitting on this side of the sanctuary and sitting on the opposite side of the sanctuary, they are hearing two completely different notes because we can’t properly mix it. And so what I’m gonna do, we’re gonna sell this piano and then we’re gonna buy like the best keyboard that money can buy, right? And now we’re gonna be able to hook it up into our sound system. You wouldn’t even be able to hear the difference. Like if I played a note on this piano and I played a note.

on this keyboard, you wouldn’t be able to know the difference. And now that it’s mixed, Joyce, for the very first time in the church, when we play a note, the person on this side of the sanctuary, the person on this side of the sanctuary will hear the exact same sound. And she looked at me and she thought about it. She’s like, oh, pastor, why haven’t we done this before? And I’m like, Joyce, I’m still trying to figure that out. If you could help me, that would be great. And I added that last part of, man, if you could help me.

Paris Vega (37:19.756)
Thank you.

Adam Haugen (37:30.018)
That would be great. And now what I did is what most people would say, this lady is gonna be a liability. Now she’s gonna be an asset. And I love turning liabilities into assets. And what she started to do is she started to advocate me in front of other people within the church, behind my back she would advocate me and she would tell me things. Immediately after that conversation, she’s like, hey, if anyone gives you a hard time in this church, you’d send them to me. I’m like, sounds good Joyce, you’re the boss, you know.

just kind of empowering her. And now, and I kept on doing that with other relationships and connections. I’m like, let’s just create advocates that they can understand the vision, that they got heard, and that’s what Joyce did. She got heard, and I listened to her, and I listened to her heard, but then I showed her the why and the reason where she could be able to grab ahold of that. I acknowledged her hurt, and I showed her what some next steps were, and then she sold into the vision. And now she’s a great advocate for the church and what we’re doing.

Paris Vega (38:27.688)
I think that’s powerful. Turning enemies into friends and liabilities into assets. That’s awesome. And there was a point there I thought was really good, but let’s go into gravitational leadership a little bit more and kind of finish out what you meant by that.

Adam Haugen (38:43.562)

Adam Haugen (38:46.806)
Yeah. So hit on the first two, you know, consistently add value to others. Second one is when you love the people that they love, they will love you. They’ll go to bat for you. And the third, fourth and fifth, we kind of actually just hit them on this previous topic matter, but when you help other people win, help other people win within the church, within the organization, within your staff, that you are investing in them and you want people to succeed. One of my mission statements for my life is

I wanna help people become more successful than I ever could be in my life. I wanna help those around me succeed. I want to not just pour value into them, but I care about their exit strategy and their next steps and where they’re going in life. And so I wanna invest in people and I wanna find specific ways that I can always do that. So I wanna help people win. Number four is I wanna be someone that they can count on. When I say something, when I set up a meeting, when they tell me, hey, will you pray for me?

I want them to know I am. I want them to know, hey, I have your back. I think our integrity is the most important thing that we own, and I think it’s the number one thing that will try to get destroyed. I always tell people our church is just one decision from stupid. It takes a lifetime to build your integrity within a community. It takes a second to destroy it. We have to be people. What we say…

is what we do. We have to be people that people can count on. And so that makes, I think, really just gravitational leaders. And then lastly is that we have to have a vision we’re following that other people will look at and say, Hey, that’s something I want to be a part of. People are looking for that in other people. And so we want to make sure that’s very easy, very memorable, spoken often. I think vision is spoken on the top.

It’s withheld on the bottom, but it’s lost somewhere in the middle. And so we have to be able to speak that often within the organization, within the church, wherever it is, that people can remember it. And that people say, you know what? I wanna advocate that vision. I want to continue to build upon it and support it.

Paris Vega (41:02.704)
So you’ve grown this church over this past year, and I know you’re in the process of kind of implementing these strategies overall, and it’s an ongoing process. Speak a little bit to what you see in other churches, maybe some of the common issues, because I know you’ve told me before, you kind of have this goal of helping other churches grow as well. It’s not just about growing your church, but just Christian churches in general.

wanting to see them be healthier churches. Maybe talk about some of the common issues and things that ways that maybe pastors that might be listening to this could improve their church.

Adam Haugen (41:32.886)

Adam Haugen (41:37.996)

Adam Haugen (41:44.451)
Well, thank you, I appreciate that. It is something I’m very passionate about, is not just the church where God has me, but I love helping other churches succeed. And so something that I ask a lot of pastors, if you were not paid to attend the church that you pastor, would you still attend? You know, if you weren’t the pastor, would you still attend that church? If the answer is no,

you need to make some changes. It’s on you. Some people say, well, I don’t have enough resources or I don’t have enough of this or I don’t have enough of that. You’ve got a better building than I do or I can’t speak like you do. There’s gotta be something that you can own. And if you can’t own, then you need to get mentored or coached or taught. You need to bring people in your life that are gonna pour into you. And so sometimes I’ll tell leaders, I’m like, hey, find people in your life that you look up to.

and just make this simple investment. Hey, could I take you out to lunch for like one hour and just ask you questions on leadership? Chances are they’re gonna say yes, and they may be so flattered by it, they’re probably gonna buy the meal for you anyway. If they don’t, maybe you’re out like 50 bucks, but it might be some of the greatest conversations that you have that can help develop you as a leader. And so that’s always the first thing is if you were not the pastor of that church, if you were not the main leader of that church.

Would you still attend? Would you still go? And if the answer is no, then you need to make some changes very quickly. The second thing is if your church was closed, if it didn’t exist, would the community, would the people notice? Would people be sad? Certainly the people within your church, they would be really hurt, they’d be really sad that your church all of a sudden closed, but would the community care?

And that’s something in our early stage of being here, I’m like, all right, hey guys, we need to work on this. This is something that we need to develop. We have not arrived at that. And so 100 years ago, the church was the center of the town. Everything happened at the church. You voted at the church, you did meetings at the church. It was the biggest building probably on the area. And then over the course of the 100 years, that’s changed, right? There’s like, oh, let’s have separation. We don’t want to feel late with the church. We don’t want to mess with the church.

Adam Haugen (44:05.746)
I want that to be kind of centralized again, where if someone in the community is struggling, the police department knows, hey, you can give this church a call. You know, if there’s a need here, this church can help you meet it. If the school district says, man, we need a big building to be able to meet in, you can have our building free of charge. You know, we’ve opened it up to the police department, the fire department, they know that they can do it for any type of training they want whatsoever, our building is free of charge. If there’s ever a funeral in the area,

We will open up our building free of charge. There’s not any person in the world I wouldn’t do a funeral for. No matter what their background is, we wanna be there and maybe a family’s greatest need and minister to that need. And so we really want this to be a place where, even businesses can do large meetings. If they wanna do training meetings, any business in this area can do it for completely no charge at all. I’ll even turn on the lights for them. I’ll do all their tech.

We want this place to be a place that’s used, not for sales. We don’t want a business to come here for sales. And so we do have some structure with that. But if it’s for training or you want to do stuff here, go for it. We want that to be the centerpiece. And so I’ve been kind of working with a lot of churches of, okay, what are some of the things you need to change to make your church more attractive? And we look at that first seven minutes. We look at those initial systems that they have in place. Do you have like an engagement pathway that’s going to help people grow?

Paris Vega (45:13.585)

Adam Haugen (45:33.394)
every single person in your church, no matter if they’re a new person or they’ve been there forever, there should be a next step that you’re helping them grow in their relationship with God. And so those are just some key things. And we look at vision. There’s a lot of leaders out there, a lot of pastors, organizations that really struggle with vision. It’s not clear, it’s not concise. It’s very vague at best, or it’s been copied and pasted from another organization.

It’s in their head, but it’s not really in their heart for that reason. And so it needs to be something, do they believe what they’re doing? Like, you know, when I was in sales, I always had to tell myself, do I believe in what I’m selling? Same thing as a pastor. Do I truly believe what I’m selling? And if I don’t, I need some work. I need to realign some things of how I prioritize. I need more coaches and mentors. I think all good leaders.

Paris Vega (46:16.332)

Adam Haugen (46:27.554)
You need three different types of people in your life. You need people that are above you that are gonna pour into you. I have two people in my life, it’s really grown into three, that they have the ability to say whatever they want to me to develop me. They can challenge me, they coach me, they teach me, they help me to know what I don’t know. And so I have those type of mentors and coaches in my life and I meet with them on a monthly basis. But I keep that group small.

for a reason. The second type of people is I need people on the same level as me. People that I can do life with, people that I can laugh with, people that if I’m struggling or I’m going through, you know, something that they can give me a kick in the butt or they can say, hey dude, great job. We all need, and that’s, you know, I guess the simple word for that is we need friends in our life. Okay. So we need people above us. We need people on the same level, like we’re doing life with us, like our friends. But then we also need people that

we’re pouring into that we’re investing, that we’re coaching, that we’re mentoring, that we’re bringing alongside of us, that we’re bringing out an apprentice. And some people are worried about, well, if I bring this person on, they might replace me. You know, if you get replaced that easily, you probably maybe don’t have a great leader above you. Any person I hire that can reproduce themselves, I’m never gonna fire them. I’m probably gonna give them a raise, okay? I’m probably gonna promote them.

Paris Vega (47:53.196)

Adam Haugen (47:56.43)
because they’re great at developing people around them, that they can, they just develop systems that they have less work to do, that their job is really just multiplying themselves. And so now they’re the greatest employee that I have.

Paris Vega (48:10.9)
That’s good. That’s a really good point. The value of people who can develop other people. I really like that, that framework of having someone that you’re looking up to people, you can just kind of live and do community with, and then people that you’re helping bring up. I think that’s, that resonates. You know, that seems right. Kind of like the natural order of things of how a healthy life should be structured. And I guess

you know, at the kind of most fundamental level, that’s how a family is supposed to work. Ideally, hopefully you have elders in your family, you know, or given guidance, you’ve got, you know, the people you’re at the same level with, and then your children you’re bringing up. And it makes a lot of sense for businesses as well, and all types of organizations. I think that’s really cool. I definitely see gaps in my own life, especially.

Adam Haugen (48:57.983)

Paris Vega (49:01.72)
us move into Texas and everything. It’s like you have to kind of rebuild some of that, even though the digital technology lets you stay connected in a lot of ways. Your existing relationships. But there is still something about that in person side of relationships that it seems like no matter how digitized everything is, you can’t replace that gap fully of having physical friendships, relationships.

Adam Haugen (49:08.846)

Adam Haugen (49:19.105)

Paris Vega (49:30.621)
mentor relationships with people.

Adam Haugen (49:33.194)
Yeah, it takes time, frequency, intentionality, really to make it happen. And you have to be focused on it like, all right, hey, I’m going to add value in other people. And again, it makes you a gravitational friend, right? People love the people around them that make them feel good about themselves. It’s the number one subject that all of us love to talk about is ourselves. And if I can find something that you really like, I can…

Paris Vega (49:37.835)

Adam Haugen (50:02.766)
try to see if I can be intentional in developing those good healthy relationships around my life. But it takes intentionality, frequency and effort.

Paris Vega (50:10.848)
So back to looking at pastors who might be struggling or church leaders or whatever around the country who might be trying to grow their church or rescue it from being shut down, that kind of thing. Are there any books that you’d recommend or any other kind of closing thoughts around that topic?

Adam Haugen (50:32.946)
Yeah, so I have Christian books and secular books that I love looking at. There’s a newer one that just came out that I’ve really, really enjoyed. I just started reading it and it’s called When Your Church Feels Stuck. It’s by Chris Sonksen. A lot of the stuff I’m even talking about, I’ve been mentored by him and even pulled some of the stuff from his book, but it is a really great book just to work on some of the things with you. And then as a pastor,

Another one that I really enjoyed when I first moved here, I read Communicating for a Change. And it was really just how do you communicate change well and healthy within an organization? And that was just a really great read. That one’s by Andy Stanley. Another one that I love is called Leading Things You Didn’t Start. Most leaders, we are part of an organization that we weren’t maybe the first person to take it over. And I’ve…

someone always pushed me like, Adam, don’t you want to start your own thing and do your own thing? I’m like, you know, there has to be someone that does the baton toss and takes that baton. And it’s cheaper and it’s more efficient, it’s an effective, it’s not always, you know, the business term, it’s not always sexy to take over something that may need a lot of change. But I like to be able to honor the past. One of the things I think in that book and leading things you didn’t start.

is you honor the past and you understand it and you learn it and you understand that culture and the subculture and then you wait to take it towards that next step. And then two more real quick, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, probably one of my favorite books, absolute favorite books. Five Dysfunctions of a Team, another really great.

I’ve had a lot of people read that and said, okay, that hit maybe a little bit too close to home. And so, again, I love books. I think great leaders are readers. And even better leaders are ones that ask questions and take notes. And so, find good books, find other people that have read good books. And so yeah, those are some of the books I just love to read and look through.

Paris Vega (52:27.17)
Thank you.

Paris Vega (52:48.692)
Cool. All right. So let’s say we’ve got everybody in Leander and whatever the surrounding areas that you serve happen to find this episode. Cause usually I’ll let a business kind of give that last pitch. Like why should someone use your product or service? So what’s the pitch for people coming to your church?

Adam Haugen (53:12.174)
It’s real great. You know what, if you’re looking for a church in the Leander, Texas area, we would love for you just to come check us out. You can just go directly online at gladtidings.org and forward slash Leander specifically for this campus, but we do have five different campuses in their greater Austin area. And so you can check us out on that website, but we really do think you’re gonna love church. We want to make it a spot where you can grow, where you can come and know who Jesus is.

but you can grow in that relationship as well. And we’d be excited to have you. So always welcome.

Paris Vega (53:47.796)
Awesome. Adam, this has been really good. I think there’s a ton of principles in here that can be applied to the business world. And obviously if there’s any pastors that come across this episode, hopefully they gain some, some good insights that may help them as well. But thanks for your time today.

Adam Haugen (54:04.13)
My pleasure. Thanks, Bruce.

Paris Vega (54:06.288)
All right, everybody, we’ll see you on the next episode.


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