I made the following comment to Tony McCollum’s post about Saddleback adding services and changing service times in response to the release of The Passion of the Christ. I figured since I commented there, I should share it here too.
I was with a group of mega-church pastors (actually executive pastors) at Saddleback the week they changed all their service times. Our meeting was February 26-28, 2004. The film had opened in theaters the day before on Ash Wednesday.
As I recall (and of course it’s been more than two years, so my recollection could be a bit foggy), Rick and his executive team decided only earlier that week to change service times. The movie was getting such a huge buzz, they were concerned about being overwhelmed the first weekend after the opening. So they scrambled to arrange for additional parking a few blocks away and got some shuttle buses. They opened up a new entrance onto the campus to allow for increased traffic flow. They identified the impact on everyone from Sunday School teachers, to ushers, to parking greeters and got the word out. It was an amazingly entreprenurial effort like you would see from a startup company trying to release its first product.
I’m an IT guy and I was in a breakout session with IT guys from the other mega-churches. Rick came into our session and told us that they couldn’t do church the way they do it without information technology. You see, since they hadn’t even announced the change to the congregation the prior weekend, the best way they had to get the word out was via e-mail.
The next week I heard from Eric Busby, Saddleback’s CIO, that they had blowout attendance that weekend. Instead of a great opportunity, the surge of people would have been a disaster if they hadn’t seen the wave coming and quickly adjusted to catch it. And catch it they did. People came to know Christ that weekend because of their extreme effort and willingness to change instantaneously.
Now that’s a lesson in dynamic, purpose-driven, change-embracing leadership. I will remember it always.