At 29, John Stickl became the pastor of a church of 1500.

4 years later, the church is 4500 and is growing with millennials who are anxious to connect with God.

John talks about how his leadership team listens for the voice of God and how this journey has stretched him as a leader. Plus, he shares how a new generation of leaders is defining leadership and ministry to people inside and outside the church.

Welcome to Episode 29 of the podcast.


Guest Links

John Stickl on Twitter

Valley Creek Church

Valley Creek Church on Facebook

Valley Creek Church on Twitter

Links Mentioned in this Episode

The Orange Conference 2015


Jeff Henderson

Jenni Catron

Josh Gagnon; Episode 17

Andy Stanley; Episode 1

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Sometimes God puts you in a position to lead at a very young age, and when you do it humbly in the presence of wise counsel, you allow God to accomplish amazing things through you. Here’s how John stayed encouraged and didn’t let himself feel intimidated.

  1. Learn to listen for God’s voice in leadership. In the Old Testament, the cloud of God’s glory appeared to the Israelites to guide them. When the cloud moved, they moved. When it stopped, they stopped. John said that he and his leadership team relied on the same divine guidance to conquer the obstacles of transition. “We said, ‘Let’s be more like Acts II where everyone can hear the voice of God in a language we can understand, and if we’re seeing God together, God only has one thing to say about any particular issue.’ ” It forced John and his team to unify and seek God where they learned to trust each other. “If we’re not in unity and alignment with God, let’s stop and wait. Let’s pause and see if we’re hearing different things and hear what God’s really saying,” John says.
  2. Establish unity in the top tier of leadership. John set a precedence that his team has total authority as a group and no authority as individuals. “When we hear God together as a decision, it’s the ultimate authority as a group,” he says. If you’re seeking God together, you start creating credibility and consistency over time, and it builds trust and credibility in people’s hearts. You also have to look for people who have character, those who listen to God, who pray, who read their Bible, who seek God, and most importantly, have no agenda. If you can take the agenda out of the equation, you can trust that each person is hearing from God, and it creates unity.
  3. Decide you will not let circumstances define you. Don’t allow your sermons, your failures or comparisons to other church leaders shape who you are. The love of God in your life frees you from the praise and the rejection of man. You can heal your own soul, and the greatest gift we give is the healthiest version of ourselves. If you can be a person of honor, God will honor you because of it.

Want Incredible Training from Today’s Top Leaders?

Then don’t miss the Orange Conference 2015 on April 29-May 1st in Atlanta.

Learn from leaders like Perry Noble, Jeff Henderson, Jud Wilhite, Jon Acuff, Josh Gagnon and more. I’ll be teaching at the conference as well and have put together a senior leader track designed exclusively for senior pastors, executive pastors and campus pastors.

Register here today.

Quotes from John

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Next Episode: Karl Vaters

Is there a ‘best’ size for church? Why do so many people distrust mega-churches? Why do others look down on small churches? Karl Vaters and Carey Nieuwhof engage that debate on this week’s episode.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 30.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!

CNLP 029: Next Generation MegaChurch—How Transparency and Seeking God Reaches Millennials: An Interview with John Stickl


  1. […] both David Kinnaman and John Stickl have pointed out on recent leadership podcast episodes (episode 24 and 29 […]

  2. Links of the Week - Rookie Preacher on April 11, 2015 at 6:52 am

    […] Next Generation MegaChurch: An Interview with John Stickl by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  3. […] both David Kinnaman and John Stickl have pointed out on recent leadership podcast episodes (episode 24 and 29 […]

  4. […] both David Kinnaman and John Stickl have pointed out on recent leadership podcast episodes (episode 24 and 29 […]

  5. Christine Pitt on April 2, 2015 at 11:46 am

    John Stickl is my pastor and leader. Everything he says about unity, the presence of God, living in the identity God has given each of us as sons and daughters and as a church – all of that is our reality at Valley Creek Church. As one of his ragtag leaders – I was called into vocational ministry after a 30+ year corporate career – my heart is forever wrecked. I cannot imagine ever being part of a team that does not pursue this level of unity – setting aside personal agendas and preferences to see God move and His Kingdom advanced. John’s message helped me to realize that God has revealed, and is continuing to reveal, our personal heart issues through the difficulties and challenges we face as a team. And, that we have been supporting each other as we allow Jesus to heal those broken places. Being multi-generational is a large part of who we are as evidenced in the makeup of our staff and volunteer teams, worship gatherings, and small groups. We’ve seen that millennials desire spiritual parents and desire to be invited into the lives and homes of 40-50 year olds. Twenty somethings have been part of my small group life for several years – the current group that meets in my home range in age from 23 to 60. Our twenty somethings are the most faithful in attending and participating. Each of them are also making personal connections with other “older” women outside of our gathering times – so great to see those relationships develop! There is great joy in being a spiritual mom!

    Thank you, Pastor Carey, for this interview! Hope and pray it is an encouragement to many!

  6. Mike McAuliff on March 31, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    I feel like Stickl was reading my playbook. As a guy was put in charge of a longstanding ministry (in my late 20’s, now early 30’s) in the other mega-church capital of the world (Atlanta), I can’t begin to express how encouraging hearing the podcast was for me as I wrestle through similar things. Good stuff Carey.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 1, 2015 at 7:12 am

      Love it Mike. And way to go. So encouraged to see young leaders leading big things!

  7. Brian Mullins on March 31, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Great interview! I was John’s youth pastor back “in the day”. So gratifying to see where God has taken him and what He is doing through him :-).

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