What Church Leaders Can Learn From Uber and Lyft

NYC taxi
Roman Kruglov – Flickr

How long have you been driving for?

Anytime I’m in a Taxi, this is typically one of my go-to questions. It also inevitably turns into an opportunity for the cab driver to share their personal story with me (this is one of the 5 BLESS steps in missional living). Last time I asked this question, the driver opened up the internal world of the taxi industry, and gave me insight into how and why companies like Uber and Lyft are gaining so much ground.
It costs $300,000 to buy a permit to drive a cab in this city…
I couldn’t believe my ears when the cab driver told me how it cost to drive a cab in Edmonton (Canada). As I continued to pry into the industry, he continued…

A limited number of permits are issued once every few years, and when they are, it’s a complete lottery. Here’s the catch though, in order to enter that lottery, you need to have already been driving a cab for a couple of years, which is why I’m leasing this cab from someone else. If you’re lucky enough to have your name drawn, then it’ll cost you less than a $1000 to buy the license through the city. Once you get that license, you can either use it yourself, lease it out to someone else, or you can sell it for $300,000 – that’s the going rate these days.

If I was talking to a lawyer, doctor or a dentist and they told me that it was going to cost them $300,000 to buy someone else’s practice, I wouldn’t even blink. All you would have to do is crunch the numbers and it would make sense. However, how does it make sense for a cab driver to dish out $300,000 to buy a permit, when they might only make a couple hundred dollars a day, plus the cost of maintenance and fuel?

I was beginning to understand why companies like Uber and Lyft were gaining so much ground in the transportation industry and why taxi drivers and unions were trying so hard to prevent them from coming into their cities.

It’s basic math. Once Uber or Lyft comes into a city, you can say bye bye to that $300,000 price tag for a permit. The whole industry gets flipped on its head.

Here’s a quote from a Washington Post article on the topic:

“We will send this message to every country, every government, that Uber is not welcome,” said Mac Urata, the London-based head of surface transportation for the International Transport Workers Federation. “They have no place to hide. Everywhere they go, we will fight them, shame them, and get them out of business.”

As a result, the taxi industry is fighting for its life by using these tactics:

  1. Fear: “You can’t trust Uber!” According to this Washington Post article, “If an Uber driver does something terrible, such as rape a passenger, the company’s terms of service state clearly that it doesn’t guarantee the safety of its riders.”
  2. Empathy: “How can I feed my family if you’re taking away my customers?”
  3. Counter-attack: “Fine, we’ll just unionize and develop our own app to provide a safe alternative to Uber and Lyft”

All the while, Uber and Lyft continue to gain ground because of these tactics:

  1. Ease of use: They’re a couple of clicks away, the pickups are fast, and the payment is easy.
  2. Customization: You can choose the type of car you’d like to be picked up in.
  3. User-centric: The user is in control, since you can leave feedback and also split your fare easily.
  4. Viral: Everyone’s doing it.

Do you realize the same thing is happening in the church world?

There are some churches who are trying to get back to the “good ‘ol days” when church attendance was expected. They are trying to get back to a position of power and authority in culture, but sadly, that boat has already sailed. The West is becoming increasingly post-Christian – just look at cities like New York, Vancouver, Montreal, or London for example. It’s only a matter of time until the same thing happens in your city.

So what can church leaders learn from Uber and Lyft? 

  1. Ease of use: Make it easy for people to find your church, get into community, serve, and give. Also, make sure you have a mobile responsive website, since most people will visit your church’s website before they ever visit your church – and the majority of them will do it on their phones.
  2. Customization: You need to provide different avenues for people to grow in their relationship with God. At church, in community, and online.
  3. User-centric: At first glance, “user-centric” sounds bad. After all, the church doesn’t ultimately exist for the individual. So that’s why my point here is to be aware of how individuals best learn. When teaching, don’t just use monologue, use different techniques according to how different people learn. If you aren’t aware of VARK, then look it up.
  4. Viral: What would it look like to create a viral movement in your city? Where everyone knows about your church because your church was obsessed with blessing and giving?

What else would you add to the list?

4 Ways to “Flip the Classroom” in your Church

Common leadership dilemmas:

  • When’s the last time 100% of your leaders showed up at a training event?
  • Do you ever find yourself summarizing training for those who missed it?
  • How frequently do you hold orientation training for new leaders?

You wouldn’t have these problems if everyone just cleared their schedule for your training events (like they should!!), but sadly this just isn’t the case. So what’s the solution? Is it to hold additional training events? Or is there a smarter way to train all of your leaders?

The purpose of this post is to introduce the concept of “flipping the classroom,” as well as provide you with ways to use this in your church leadership.

Have you ever heard of “flipping the classroom?”

This is a hot topic in the educational world that is rapidly gaining ground as the new standard amongst educators. Let me explain it for you.

In the traditional classroom…

  • The teacher is the sage on the stage.
  • The classroom time consists of the teacher lecturing, possibly answering questions, and then assigning homework.
  • The teacher needs to standardize the lesson to the lowest common denominator.
  • Homework is completed at home. So, if the student doesn’t understand something, they have to either ask a parent, tutor, friend, or go back to class with their homework incomplete.

In the “flipped classroom”…

  • The teacher is the guide on the side.
  • The student watches the lecture at home via video, and then completes their homework in class. So, if the student doesn’t understand something, they can ask their teacher.
  • The classroom time consists of homework, case studies, discussion, projects, and processing.
  • The teacher is able to customize learning to every student – spending more time with those who don’t get it, and in turn, catalyzing forward the students who do get it.

——- There’s an infographic at the end of this post for more information ——-

What does “flipping the classroom” have to do with leadership development in my church?

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How to Develop a Church Planting Farm System

spruce grove community garden
My kids and an MSC harvesting their community garden

How do you feel about these statements?

  • Being excited about becoming a church that plants churches is not the same thing as doing it.
  • Picking the low hanging fruit (the already developed seminary student) and sending them out to plant is not the same thing as having a process to develop a new believer into a church planter.
  • Setting aside a percentage of your budget for church planting is not the same thing as developing future planters.

What would it look like if God answered Matthew 9:37-38 through your church? How would you feel if God raised up harvest workers and church planters through your church?

Now I know many of you might be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I get it. I need to start a residency program or an internship program.” But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

This post is about developing a church planting farm system that starts before any type of internship or residency program. This is ultimately about developing the type of leader that you would want to accept into an internship or residency program.

–> Enter: Mid-Size Communities (MSC)

When I started the mid-size community movement at my previous church (you can watch the MSC intro movie here), I said that it was going to be a way to get more people connected into community (which it totally did – 700 more people into community in three years at three campuses). However, the underlying reason I was so passionate about MSCs was because I saw them as a farm system to raise up future church planters. This pervaded the way that I developed the MSC leadership development curriculum, training strategy, roll-out plan, and everything else that accompanied it.

In fact, when you consider what makes up a healthy farm system, there seems to be three common factors:

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Four Church Planting Tips with Lesslie Newbigin



Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), while being best known for his work in missiology and ecclesiology, actually has a lot of advice for church planters. In fact, each of them is an extension of his quote in the picture above, or of my paraphrase below:

The church – a healthy church – is the hermeneutic of the gospel. It’s the way that the gospel comes to life. It’s the way that people can taste and smell the gospel.

When planting a church, it’s easy to go the way of the herd and get so caught up with the details, that you forget the values or the underlying ecclesiology that you’re trying to develop in the life of your church. After all, without those details getting done, you wouldn’t be able to plant a church. But what if, for a moment, you put those details aside and re-examined the type of ecclesiology that you’re developing in light of these four church planting tips that were inspired by Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society?

1. Cultivate gratitude, not entitlement.

Newbigin suggests that churches need to be communities of praise and thanksgiving and that this, perhaps, is the church’s most distinctive character. So how are you cultivating a culture of praise and thanksgiving in your church? Are you being intentional with your preaching/teaching and the rest of your ministries? If you cultivate that culture of praise and thanksgiving in your church, you’ll actually see that translate into a heart of gratitude – and with gratitude, you’ll be slaying the idol of entitlement. If that happens, you’ll see your church’s “me” culture translate into a “we” culture, where the focus will be less on personal comfort and wellbeing, and more towards the wellbeing of your city and the salvation of those who are far from God.

2. Share truth, not gossip.

The fuel that drives pop culture seems to be gossip and scandals. This isn’t just true for entertainment shows, late night shows and sitcoms, but this pervades the news as well. If this is the MO (mode of operation) of our culture, this will naturally seep into the life of your church. So instead of calling your church to reject pop culture outrightly and burn all their “secular” CDs and DVDs, what if you cultivated a sense of skepticism towards it? After all, this skepticism would enable your congregation to, in the words of Newbigin, “take part in the life of society without being bemused and deluded by its own beliefs about itself.” This sense of skepticism would allow your church to be aware of pop culture, so that they could speak truth into it by being an alternate community of truth apart from it.

3. Be for your community, not just in your community.

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5 Things to Ask Before Getting a Masters, Doctorate or Ph.D

Alan Levine from flickr
Alan Levine – Flickr

Education and degrees tend to open new doors and opportunities. They’re most effective at qualifying you for a particular line of work, but once you’re in and have experience in that industry, you better think twice before going back to school. In fact, you should ask these 5 questions before sending in your tuition deposit.

Now just to get something clear. I love school. In fact, I’ve studied at five different graduate schools in three separate countries. And no, I didn’t flunk out of any of them, nor was I expelled. (You can read about my story here, “Why I ditched the M.Div…and am still a pastor.”) So I’m not writing this post as a manifesto against higher education, nor am I trying to sway you away from getting a masters, doctorate or Ph.D.

I’m writing this post because I want to help you make a wise decision.

That’s it. No agenda at all.

So here are the 5 questions that you need to ask before going back to school:

1. Will this additional degree open doors that further years of experience wouldn’t?

There are two ways to advance your career – further experience or additional education (formal, informal and/or nonformal).

If you somehow made it into your industry without the minimum education requirements, then my suggestion is for you to go get your degree (part time via online education), while you’re still working. For example, if you completed a residency or internship program at your church and were offered a staff position, but you didn’t have the right degree that would’ve traditionally qualified you for that position, then go get that degree part-time via online education or through a local school. If you don’t, then your lack of education will eventually catch up to you and be a lid on your leadership.

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