CNLP 321: Chris Hodges and Brad Lomenick on the Incredible Rise of Church of the Highlands, Trends in Next Generation Leadership, and How Systems and Creativity Should Work Together

Chris Hodges was an unlikely church planter. After burning out at age 38, Chris found a renewed call and planted the Church Of the Highlands, which has become one of the largest and fastest growing churches in America.

Chris and Brad Lomenick talk about mentoring the next generation of leaders, what’s changing, and how systems and creativity can work together rather than compete with one another. Both Chris and Brad will be featured speakers at this year’s Rethink Leadership Conference in Atlanta, April 29-30th, 2020.

Welcome to Episode 321 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Guest Links

InstagramTwitter | Church of the Highlands

Episode Links


How have you been doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Was increased productivity one of them? Are you realizing you can use some help? Our friends at BELAY, the incredible organization revolutionizing productivity with virtual assistants and bookkeeping services for businesses, churches and non-profits alike, is offering our podcast listeners a free download of Productivity for the Win: Your Personal Guide to a Productive Work Week.

Take the step to help you reach your 2020 goals by texting
CAREY to 31996.

Pro Media Fire

Does your staff ever get overwhelmed with creative and media demands? I recently heard about a growing church with 9 campuses had a huge problem—the in-house team was overwhelmed with the demands of media requests for graphics and videos. They just couldn’t get it all done. So, to solve the problem, they reached out to Pro Media Fire to get a media bundle for each campus.

They knew that hiring Pro Media Fire they would get a media team for a fraction of the price of hiring additional staff. And whether you have a small, mid-sized or large church you may have this same problem. You can hire an entire creative team of professionals for a fraction of the cost of hiring additional in-house staff.

Get 10% off for life at


ReThink Leadership

The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

Full Focus Planner

6 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2020 by Carey Nieuwhof

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends That Will Rule 2020 by Carey Nieuwhof

CNLP 314: Louie Giglio on How to Take the Relentless Pressure Off Yourself as a Leader, and What’s Changing in Getting People to Attend Live Events

CNLP 288: David Kinnaman Busts Culture Myths Too Many Leaders Still Believe, and Shares Surprisingly Good News About the Faith of Some Millennials and Gen Z

CNLP 297: Gordon MacDonald Shares 8 Decades of Wisdom and Life Lessons, Father Wounds, the Dangers of Drivenness, Counselling a U.S. President, and What Leaders Struggle with Between Ages 32-42 and at Age 48 and Age 62

3 Insights from Chris and Brad

1. The right system is one that works

So many leaders argue for different models and different systems that they prefer to operate in. This is the wrong approach. Chris argues that the best system for you and your organization is the one that works best for you and your organization. Your preference shouldn’t be a factor.

A great example of this is that most churches have a vision to reach lost people, but they haven’t created anything that lost people are attracted to, because they have a bad system. Their system is great at attracting Christians but not lost people. When we fall more in love with our systems and our methods than our vision, the vision dies.

2. These two things will set your church up for financial success

One of the biggest challenges of leading a church is the issue of how to manage the finances. At Church of the Highlands, Chris and his team have learned that there are two major rules for succeeding in finances.

The first is prioritizing generosity. If you, as a church, aren’t able to be generous and show your people how you are being generous, how can you expect your people to be generous at all?

The second is keeping margin. At their church, their yearly budget is based off 90% of the previous year’s income. This allows them to have margin when disasters or unplanned opportunities arise.

3. On sabbath, just stop producing

One of the keys to Chris’ success is his strict policy of keeping a sabbath every week. He noted in the podcast that, “It’s amazing how many leaders would never think about murder or theft, but will disregard the command of sabbath every week.” Chris takes a full sabbath at the start of every week on Monday.

On his sabbath, he is very intentional about making sure that he doesn’t spend any time producing. For him, if he avoids anything digital altogether, and he manages to spend a significant amount of time outside, he will have a successful sabbath. A date night with his wife is usually involved, too.

Quotes from Episode 321

The right system is one that works. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

I think the church has to get bigger because lost people matter, but it has to get smaller because individuals matter. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

The opposite of depression isn't happiness, it's purpose. @cathyheller Click To Tweet

'It's only the delivery of the product that determines the success of the company. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

When you get larger, you can do more. And just because you can, doesn't mean you should. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

This year's budget is based off 90% of last year's income. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

I never want to go into Sunday morning needing that day’s offering. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

God has more and he's not giving it to everybody. He gives it to those who know what the more is for. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

Money margin is important, but time margin can change your life. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

I don't get up from the chair until I've kind of reduced my whole day down to, 'This day will be successful if I can have these three tasks accomplished.' @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

I think everything you do first matters. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

I even find more joy seeing them succeed than anything that I do. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

I just don't let leaders defend something that's not working. @Chris_Hodges Click To Tweet

The medium that represents mediocrity, or average, is what's gone away. @bradlomenick Click To Tweet

Even if you win the race to the bottom, all you get is the bottom. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 321

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Watch Back Episodes of The Podcast on YouTube

Select episodes of this podcast are now on YouTube. Our new YouTube Channel gives you a chance to watch some episodes, not just listen. We’ll add select episodes to YouTube as time goes on.

Motivate Your Team. Deepen Engagement. Attract and Keep the Best Leaders.

Wish your team was more engaged at work? 

Most leaders do.  

According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged at work, and the most talented employees are heading off to do their own thing.

How do you attract, motivate and keep high capacity team members in a changing world? 

My new online, on-demand course, The High Impact Workplace: How to Attract and Keep High Capacity Leaders In A Changing World will give you the edge you need to win the talent war for the best leaders. 

Smart employers know how to respond to growing requests for more flexible work: flexible hours, the ability to work from home or a coffee shop, and more freedom and autonomy. 

In the course, I give you the exact strategies you need to:

  • Attract and keep high capacity leaders who would otherwise start their own businesses.
  • Identify and leverage the currency that motivates young leaders.
  • Navigate flexible work arrangements that result in deeper productivity.
  • Master the 5 questions every great manager asks their team for deeper engagement.
  • Create workplace environments that multiple generations can thrive in.
  • Learn how to keep your company or organization relevant to the most talented leaders.

Here’s what employers are saying about The High Impact Workplace: 

“Each time a unit ends, I look over my notes and think “that was exactly what I needed, the rest of the class is just a bonus.” BUT I repeat that EACH UNIT!”

“The course got me to talk with my team about things I wouldn’t have considered talking about.”

“This is exactly what I needed.”

Learn why the future workplace is the flexible workplace, and how to keep your company relevant to the next generation of leaders.

To enroll now or learn more about The High Impact Workplace, click here.

Subscribed Yet? 

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from world-class leaders like Brian Houston, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Nancy Duarte, Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni, Francis Chan, Ann Voskamp, Erwin McManus and many others.

Subscribe using your favorite podcast app via

Apple Podcasts


Google Play



Spread the Word. Leave a Rating and Review

Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn as well.

Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: James Emery White

In an age where many churches and businesses are opening locations, James Emery White decided to close all of his…and experienced the biggest growth they’ve had in years. Jim explains why they did it, how it happened, why he’s investing so much in digital outreach and how to grow your church younger when you grow older as a leader.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 322.

CNLP 321: Chris Hodges and Brad Lomenick on the Incredible Rise of Church of the Highlands, Trends in Next Generation Leadership, and How Systems and Creativity Should Work Together


  1. GHD Sports for Android on July 27, 2020 at 9:02 am

    I love reading through and I believe this website got some genuinely utilitarian stuff on it!

  2. Alec Hopkins on May 9, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    Really loved this episode! For a young church leader like myself, knowledge and wisdom from seasoned pastors is a great help in positioning for success in ministry. I found Chris Hodges take on systems to be especially engaging and relavent to healthy church operations! I’m a systems guy myself, so those tips were really great. Thanks to Carey Nieuwhof, Chris Hodges, and Brad Lomenick for all you do to advance the Kingdom of Heaven and equip leaders!

  3. Chris Ball on February 23, 2020 at 9:18 am

    I really enjoyed this episode. I have a question that maybe somebody can get an answer back to me. I would like to attend re-think but I’m not a senior pastor and the president of the movement of 250 churches. Is there a spot available for me and my wife to attend? How do I register off so the questions are pertaining to senior pastors.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.