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CNLP 343: Nicky Gumbel on Why He Changed His Mind About Church Online, Why Online is a Better Outreach Tool Than In-Person Ministry, and How He Repositioned His Church and Alpha for Explosive Growth


by Carey Nieuwhof: 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.

Guest Links

Headshot of Nicky Gumbel

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Alpha | HTB

Episode Links

Pro Media Fire

Are you or your team tired from information overload on how to do social this and digital that? We live in the information age, and you have probably learned more in the last 2 months than the previous 6 months with all the change happening.

If you are like most leaders, you don’t need more information, you need help with doing it. That is exactly where Pro Media Fire can help you with their Church Growth Program.

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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

Bible In One Year

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


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 343

Sometimes he calms the storm, and sometimes he calms us in the storm. @nickygumbelClick To Tweet

This is what we’ve discovered: A whole lot of people who would never go to church are watching online. @nickygumbelClick To Tweet

I would never go back to not having Sunday online. @nickygumbelClick 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. @cnieuwhofClick To Tweet

Online ministry scales in a way that in-person ministry doesn’t. @cnieuwhofClick To Tweet

What I really hope is that our world will wake up to the fact that things can be different. @nickygumbelClick 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. @cnieuwhofClick To Tweet

As a leader, what you focus on expands. And if you’re passionate about it, people tend to be passionate about it. @cnieuwhofClick To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 343

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.

Last 24 Hours To Save on The 30 Day Pivot

The current disruption is showing you how crucial it is to stay flexible as things continue to change.

With ‘normal’ still being elusive, the future belongs to the pivoters.

So…how well positioned are you for future pivots?

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Some organizations and churches will thrive in the new normal.

Others won’t.

While the future is uncertain, yours doesn’t have to be.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the 30 Day Pivot here.

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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.

CNLP 343: Nicky Gumbel on Why He Changed His Mind About Church Online, Why Online is a Better Outreach Tool Than In-Person Ministry, and How He Repositioned His Church and Alpha for Explosive Growth

The post CNLP 343: Nicky Gumbel on Why He Changed His Mind About Church Online, Why Online is a Better Outreach Tool Than In-Person Ministry, and How He Repositioned His Church and Alpha for Explosive Growth appeared first on CareyNieuwhof.com.

Source: CNLP 343: Nicky Gumbel on Why He Changed His Mind About Church Online, Why Online is a Better Outreach Tool Than In-Person Ministry, and How He Repositioned His Church and Alpha for Explosive Growth