Ben Pilgreen

The Nuances of Urban Church Plants

About The Episode

“If you don’t value team, and if you can’t build a team, it’s going to be lonely, and it’s going to be limiting.” Meet Ben Pilgreen, founder and lead pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco, CA. Today, we get to hear a unique perspective from Ben on his experience planting a church in the urban setting of San Francisco. Discover with us the core church planting elements that stay the same along with the nuances that come with a large, urban context.

Welcome to Episode 016 of The Unfair Advantage Podcast with Mike Hickerson and Andy Wood.

Insights From Ben Pilgreen


  • The diverse demographic is both the best part and the worst part of this church plant. The congregation is made up of a range of homeless to multi-millionaires. 
  • Parking – Epic church validates parking from a parking garage because the resource of a parking lot is not available. 
  • Working through local calendars/city events 
    • When are the parades/races?
    • Game days at the Giants stadium will mean less parking opportunities.


  • #1 Will I stay true to who God has called me to be?
  • #2 Will I be a learner in this new place?
  • Only say yes if your spouse is on board. 
  • The right team is significant. 
  • Great mentors/friends


  • Planting for the wrong reason
  • Not enough money
  • No team (or the wrong team


  • Necessary skill sets (musicians, etc.)
  • People who can get stuff done
  • People who can lead and build teams
  • Good questions to ask yourself if you’re lacking a good team:
    • Why isn’t anyone joining my team?
    • Am I “followable?”
    • Do I genuinely care about people and want to see them succeed?
    • Do I believe to my core that people matter? (Does my time reflect this core belief?)

Episode Links

Bring It Out Podcast

The Ideal Team Player, 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, and The Motive by Patrick Lencioni

Who Not How, by Sullivan

The Synergist and Predictable Success by Les McKeown

Good To Great, by Jim Collins

Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman

Rocket Fuel, Gino Wickman 

At The Table with Patrick Lencioni Podcast

The Working Genius Podcast with Patrick Lencioni

Do ministry together! Three gatherings, nine planters, one cohesive journey. Checkout the Ascent Leader Church Planter Cohorts. Get more information today at:

Who is Ben Pilgreen?

Ben Pilgreen is the founder and lead pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco, CA. Ben loves coaching leaders, whether in church or in business. Ben is the host of the Bring It Out podcast. Ben and his wife, Shauna, have four wonderful children and make their home in San Francisco. Read more at


Thanks to our sponsor: Food For The Hungry.

Combine your church’s heart for the poor and Food for the Hungry’s global experience at

Quotes From Episode

“It takes so much to launch a church, but you have to have a life outside of the church.”

“There’s no invention in the history of the world that’s better than compound interest.”

“What is in your story that should keep you humble?”

“If you don’t have anyone who wants to follow you and be on your team…we probably have to ask why am I not followable?”

“Great leaders invest in people. And it’s at the core of church planting.” ~Andy Wood 

“If you don’t value team, and if you can’t build a team, it’s going to be lonely, and it’s going to be limiting.” 

Our goal with the Ascent Leader and our church planting cohorts is to help church planters win early and finish strong. We want to resource you so that you can avoid common pitfalls and simple mistakes. Being involved in a community of leaders like our church planting cohorts is one of the best ways to wrestle through these questions. We’re here to help you, if we can be of assistance to you please feel free to reach out.

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