Brandon Beard is the Executive Pastor of Campus Ministry at Compass Christian Church, a multi-site church in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. A great lover of his native Seattle sports teams and all things Star Wars, Brandon is also passionate about seeing people connect in genuine Christian community. Six years ago, Compass began to implement the curriculum Rooted and the rest, you could say, is history. Mariners Church in Irvine, California may have been the first church in the US to develop Rooted, but Compass has proven it works outside of sunny, southern California.
Brandon, you served a thriving, growing church in Southern California and now you serve a thriving, growing church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. You’ve served churches without a common curriculum, but your current church starts all new small groups with a set, core study. What is Rooted and why did you start using it?
Rooted is a 10-week discipleship experience that helps people connect with God, the Church, and their purpose. We implemented Rooted because we wanted to establish a more robust discipleship pathway and a more effective group launching system.
Since you have experience with and without a core curriculum, what have you found helpful through a common study?
Rooted gives us a consistent foundation to build a deeper and wider community at all five of our campuses. As a multisite church, having a common discipleship experience across all campuses helps us infuse our Compass DNA into those who are new and people who have a desire to get more connected. We do our Rooted Celebration at the end of each session all together. The celebration is an exciting and unifying moment for all of our campuses.
When this idea was first presented to your church, there must have been push-backs. It wouldn’t be church if people didn’t have a few disagreements. What were the barriers and objections you had to overcome to bring Rooted to your church?
The biggest opposition was the length of the experience and charging $50 per person to participate. What is interesting is those two things actually turned out to be positives. The length of Rooted helped build relationships so groups would have a better chance staying together when they launched. In addition, the cost of Rooted caused people to take it more seriously and committed themselves to be consistent and complete it.
We also found that some of our leaders were frustrated by the rigid guidelines of Rooted. For example, you cannot lead a Rooted group until you have been thru Rooted yourself. But we did not fold to pressure from people to make exceptions. Instead, we have stuck to the guidelines of the Rooted experience and the results have been astonishing. Our church will never be the same because we started Rooted. I am thankful for the staff who worked hard to follow the launch plan as taught to us by the Rooted network.
How integral to this process is leadership from the senior pastor and senior leadership of your church? Could you do this without them?
As with any effective all-church initiative, our Lead Pastor consistently talks about Rooted and invites people into the experience. Our Executive Team has also made Rooted a priority in the budget and church calendar. Rooted is not a small groups campaign that you can pull off on your own. It’s a church-wide experience that happens three times a year. You simply cannot do Rooted without the leadership and staff behind it 100%. Most importantly, we had enough people trained upfront in how to lead Rooted. Then before launching to the church, our entire staff went thru Rooted together. By doing so, it solidified the importance and verified the life-changing experience that is Rooted for our entire team.
We’re all familiar with the bell-shaped curve. There are a few early adopters who love new things who are followed by the large “bell” of people who follow the trend. How have you encouraged the late adopters to join in?
Our initial numbers for Rooted were huge because we launched and promoted it the right way. To keep the momentum of Rooted going, we have tried to consistently capture and share stories of people’s Rooted experience. The late adopters have heard and seen those stories, and that leads them to try Rooted—and they end up being the biggest advocates for it. Now that we’re a few years into Rooted, thousands of people have completed it. Each session will obviously have fewer people than when we started, but the impact is still incredible.
What is some of the fruit you’ve experienced in your church from integrating a core curriculum?
There are so many stories of transformational life change for people who are new to following Jesus and those who have been in church their entire life. When we get together in groups, retreats, or at specific events at Compass, we often ask people to share a spiritually significant moment for them at Compass. Nine times out of ten the answer involves their experience at Rooted. Hundreds of baptisms, hundreds of stories of people placing faith in Jesus for the first time, addictions addressed, strongholds defeated, relationships restored, prodigals coming home are just a few of the thousands of Rooted stories we continue to hear.
What is different about your small group ministry since you started using Rooted?
Groups are staying together longer. Now don’t get me wrong, Rooted is not perfect. As with any movement that leads people into groups, there are plenty of bumps in the road. There are no silver bullets with small groups that will make people act like Jesus and not have conflict. But overall, groups that start from Rooted stay together longer, have a stronger bond, and are more committed to living out the Rhythms of Rooted. We want to be a Church of groups but not groups that sit around. We want groups to get off the couch and serve the community. I love that Rooted equips our groups to be more than a Bible study, but instead an active growing faith community that is living out our Compass core values.
What’s next? If a group loves Rooted where do you direct them? Some groups may even work through the material more than once. For the deeply committed what’s next for them?
While Rooted is a discipleship experience, it is also a group launching system. At Compass, we invite people who go thru Rooted together to start a community group together. As I said earlier, it’s not perfect by any means but the percentage of successful groups that we launch out of Rooted is very high. We encourage our community groups to go back through Rooted together every 3-4 years. For the deeply committed, what is next is action. What I love the most about the Rooted materials is that it leads people to put their faith in action with others. At Compass, we say the definition of going deeper is putting God’s Word into practice. We are trying to avoid the trend of people being more excited about the curriculum they are going thru than sharing their faith, building stronger relationships, serving everyone everywhere, and practicing the Rhythms of Rooted together. If you’re wondering what the Rhythms of Rooted are, think “a series of spiritual disciplines done together in community.” Rooted is like a lab where we experiment with these Rhythms of Rooted. Our community groups become the place where we continue to practice these spiritual disciplines and experience transformation together.
What words of wisdom would you offer the ministry leaders who would like to use a curriculum such as Rooted in their church? Where do they begin?
Don’t take any shortcuts! Don’t rush into this like it’s just another short-term campaign for groups to complete. Rooted can and will change your church if you install it right. The key is to connect with the Rooted network through experiencerooted.com and get a team of people trained. Come to a Rooted Celebration at Mariners Church or join us in Texas at one. Experience it for yourself before you dive into it. Don’t put this on one person, make sure you have a team of people trained. Rooted has a student version, so get your student ministry involved. I often talk with people about Rooted and I can tell they are not ready to start Rooted. They are just looking for the next study to take their groups through. Rooted is so much more, and as a result requires a systematic, strategic rollout. If you find yourself rolling your eyes as you read this, I want to encourage you to go to experiencerooted.com and click on stories. Watch some of the stories of life change and you might realize that Rooted is exactly what your church needs to create a robust discipleship pathway.
Thanks, Brandon, for sharing your experience with us!