Nicky Gumbel is pastor of Holy Trinity Brompton, London, one of the largest churches in the UK and pioneer of Alpha, a ministry that’s reached over 20 million people with the Gospel and a former barrister (attorney).
In this interview, Nicky explains how and why he changed his mind about church online, why, despite his misgivings, it’s a better evangelism tool than in-person ministry, and how he repositioned his church and Alpha for explosive growth during the pandemic.
Welcome to Episode 343 of the podcast. Listen 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.
Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey gives his latest thoughts on why some churches are seeing online numbers drop, and what to do about it.
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Craft & Character
If you are looking for an event to really change your communication style, including how to speak online effectively, how to speak to an empty room, but probably more importantly, how to grow your character along with your platform, Steve Carter, Hosanna Wong, Dharius Daniels, Sean Morgan, and I are hosting an online event called Craft & Character.
Craft & Character, on June 4th, is an interactive dialog where we’ll be answering questions live and taking you behind the scenes.
Register for Craft & Character today at
Text willithrive to 33777 to get access to Carey’s Will I Thrive quiz
FREE report of Alpha and Barna’s study called Reviving Evangelism
CNLP 333: Ken Costa on Leading Through the Coronavirus Economic Fall Out, How to Make Decisions in the Midst of Uncertainty, Approaching Wealthy Donors in Bad Economic Times, and What’s Ahead for the Church
CNLP 124: Ken Costa on How to Discover Your Calling, Hope in the Workplace, and Connecting with Millennials
Why Are Your Online Attendance Numbers Suddenly Dropping? 5 Reasons by Carey Nieuwhof
3 INSIGHTS FROM NICKY
1. Online might be opening a door to your friends who would never come to church otherwise
For years, Nicky was opposed to doing online church in their ministries. He didn’t disapprove of other churches doing it, but he was worried that if they did it at his church, Holy Trinity Brompton, it might stop people from going to their local church wherever they were watching from around the world.
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, they were forced online. As a result, Nicky learned that he had been wrong for years. He has seen so many positive things come from online ministry. He is seeing non-Christian friends actually watch services for the first time in years, because online is easier to show up to than in-person. Alpha, his ministry that has led millions of people to faith in Jesus, is seeing even better results.
2. People will open up faster in a virtual group than even in-person meeting
Usually, when Nicky starts a 10-week Alpha class, it takes people a while to become comfortable enough to open up about their really big questions about faith. However, in the Zoom format, people are opening up about some of their deepest questions and troubles in week one. Nicky attributes this to the ability for everyone to feel comfortable in their own home while having these conversations.
As a result of this trend, maybe everything that we do as a church doesn’t need to be in-person. Maybe we can keep online small groups moving forward. What if our next-steps classes stayed online? If people will open up on a deeper level from their home, maybe we should give them that option!
3. The crisis is a gateway into something better and into a stronger church
According to a YouGov survey in the UK, only 9% of people said they wanted things to go back to how they were before the Coronavirus pandemic. Nicky thinks it’s because we’ve tasted something better. Our society has learned what it means to collectively sacrifice for the sake of a few, and we love it.
Moving forward, just know that some of our people love this new normal. What will you keep? How will you choose to move forward? Maybe after this crisis calms down, you can direct people’s attention towards a different tragedy happening around the world. Your people might be ready to sacrifice again for the sake of a few others.
Quotes from Episode 343Sometimes he calms the storm, and sometimes he calms us in the storm. @nickygumbel Click To Tweet This is what we've discovered: A whole lot of people who would never go to church are watching online. @nickygumbel Click To Tweet I would never go back to not having Sunday online. @nickygumbel Click To Tweet Just because the novelty of online church is wearing off for people doesn't mean there isn't a great long-term potential. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet Online ministry scales in a way that in-person ministry doesn't. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet What I really hope is that our world will wake up to the fact that things can be different. @nickygumbel Click To Tweet If you want to grow an audience, grow your ability to help people. The key to sustained, meaningful online growth, I think with integrity, is help people. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet As a leader, what you focus on expands. And if you're passionate about it, people tend to be passionate about it. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet
Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 343
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Next Episode: charity: water’s Scott Harrison
How long will the economic slump and uncertainty last? Scott Harrison of charity: water thinks leaders should brace for a long disruption, and shares why that is. Scott also talks about multiple pivots charity: water has done, how to approach high and low net worth donors in a down economy, and how to find opportunities in the chaos.
Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 344.