CNLP 012: Strategic Leadership Lessons From Disney – An Interview with Steven Barr

What can your church or organization learn from Disney? More than you might think.

Disney is not just a fantastic family vacation, it’s an amazing leadership organization that has sharpened many leaders.

In today’s interview, I talk to Steven Barr, Executive Director of Cast Member Church in Orlando—a church created to minister exclusively to Disney employees, who are known as ‘cast members’.

Steve and I talk about Disney’s leadership strategies, how his church is reaching millennials and how to do niche ministry for particular groups of people.

Welcome to Episode 12 of the podcast.


Guest Links: Steven Barr

Steven Barr on Facebook

Steven Barr on Twitter

Cast Member Church 

Cast Member Church on Facebook

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Disney World 


The Reedy Creek Corporation

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

It can be a challenge when you’re learning about the needs of your employees or the group within your church you’re trying to lead.  Here are three things that can get you started on the right track.

  1. Believe in your people.  Everyone needs sometime to believe in them. Disney instills that value in its employees, as does Cast Member church. Coming from a place of, “We want you to be successful” changes the conversation and the outcome. Every person is worth the investment, worth the coaching. When you tell someone, “You can do this,” it instills in a team member the desire to improve.
  2. Scale care. Just because you’re a large organization doesn’t mean you have to be an uncaring organization. Empower your managers and leaders to care for the people around them, and you will have a caring organization or church. People need to know they matter. And while you personally can’t care for everyone, everyone can care for someone.
  3. Share your vision, strategy and values until they are contagious. Disney is so focused on vision that it’s owned by all 67,000 employees. Every one of them thinks like an owner and picks up trash. The value of keeping the park clean is so contagious, even guests will pick up trash if they see it lying around. That’s a contagious strategy and value system.

Quotes From Steven

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Next Episode: Derwin Gray

So is success…empty?

From making millions in the NFL, to leading one of America’s fastest growing churches, best-selling author Derwin Gray shares how success disapoints, and also explains how he’s positioned his church plant in Charlotte to reach thousands across racial boundaries.

Subscribe now, and you won’t miss Episode 13.

Got a question?

Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Guest on December 8, 2014 at 12:24 am

    Absolutely awesome episode. I love the concept of taking what others are doing well and applying it to the church.

    And niche rhymes with rich. It’s not French.

  2. joshpezold on December 5, 2014 at 12:01 am

    Great podcast!!! Question, when coaching leaders to care for their “group” what do you coach them to do that’s reproducible? In other words, how do you coach your leaders to care for others? Keep writing!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 6, 2014 at 7:43 am

      I think one way Josh is to keep the groups small enough…have leaders to care for no more than 10-20 people. That’s doable. The other is to have each leader of smaller groups apprentice someone else. That can really help too.

  3. Chuck on December 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Scale care. LOVE IT!!! That’s where larger churches can stumble. Small ones too, BTW. Just LOVED how he went on about that.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 6, 2014 at 7:42 am

      The 67,000 employees thing blew me away. To scale care well on that level is a feat!

  4. Ron Hudson on December 2, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Just got back from Disney. I listened to Disney leadership books while I was there. The whole time thinking “Somebody should start a church for cast members!” But, as cool as it is to hear from Steven, at the 10 min mark you said “Yeah No Kidding Eh?” And made my day! Love you guys, and I appreciate so much the time you put into helping me go further faster!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 6, 2014 at 7:41 am

      So glad you got some time away Ron. It’s a pretty inspiring vision, isn’t it? And I love that my Canadian eh made your day.

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