Andrew Behm went from working in the business world to being the Executive Pastor of the church he had attended for years. Below are accounts of his joys and struggles during his first 26 weeks as an Executive Pastor. (By the way, his Senior Pastor, Mark Carey, wrote an article on “How to Help Your XP Succeed.”)
I begin my tenure as Executive Pastor with much excitement and a little concern. The question that is before me is, “How will I be accepted by the Pastoral Staff who have been in a leadership role over me?” I have been graciously and warmly welcomed by the entire staff. Many of them are unsure of my role and responsibilities within the ministry and, more specifically, how they will be impacted. My head is spinning a bit but I am glad to be here. The majority of my week was spent getting settled and up to speed.
The staff has quickly realized that they now have someone who can and will help them with administrative and operational issues. It feels like someone opened up a fire hydrant. It is a bit overwhelming but I have started to implement some basic procedures and processes that will help organize my time and duties. I realize that there are a number of “spot fires” that need to be quickly addressed. The hottest issue is the need to hire an Executive Assistant for our Family Life Pastor. I have started to make my “rounds” to meet with each of the staff. I would like the opportunity to get to know each team member better and let them see me up close and personal. The majority of my week was spent dealing with ministry spot fires and various facility issues.
Some of the “fires” of the previous week have been extinguished but a few new ones have flared up. I established a number of policies and procedures to help manage the staff, their issues and concerns. The Elders are delighted that I am on-board and begin to assign follow-up tasks to lingering projects. I am encouraged by the open support of the Senior Pastor and Elder Board. The top of my desk has disappeared. I quickly established a filing system that will make sense to me today and in the future. I am beginning to observe who the self-starters are and who will need a bit of direction. I am utilizing various opportunities to instill leadership skills within the staff. This will take more upfront effort but it will reap huge benefits in the long run.
I spent the majority of the week in preparation and visitation of a mega-church in Pennsylvania. I am calling the visit the “best practices tour.” The visit was set up by a good friend who is on staff there. I was given access to the entire staff and facilities. There were many beneficial conversations with pastors and staff members from a majority of their ministries. The most fruitful time was spent with two of their Executive Pastors. They gave me some wonderful insight into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. They both challenged me to look at my ministry and our church in a three to five year time frame. They encouraged me to evaluate positions and projects now, even if they are not currently on the boiler plate. This was time well spent and it accelerated my learning curve.
I attended my second all-staff meeting and I am beginning to play a larger role in the meeting. My main topics of discussion were administrative items but I did hint at some strategic plans. It is a holiday week and many of the staff has taken a long weekend. I am grateful for the quiet time because it has allowed me the chance to play catch-up and to do some reading. I am grateful for the extra day off. I wrote a summary for the pastoral staff and elders from my visit to the mega-church. I am starting to feel comfortable and more confident in my role.
This week was full and profitable. I attended my second pastoral staff meeting. The majority of the meeting was a brainstorming session on how we can do a better job of getting members and attendees connected and serving. This is one of our key strategic challenges for this year. I was also involved in some final logistic issues concerning the baptism service that will be held on Sunday. There are a lot of things happening in Children’s Ministry as they put the final touches on VBS which is in two weeks. We are also in final preparations for receiving an intern and his wife who will be our Middle School Pastor for the next twelve months. An offer was extended and it was accepted for the position of Executive Assistant to the Family Life Pastor. I am glad to have that finalized. I am encouraged by the comments of two of the pastoral staff as they expressed their gratitude for my being part of the team and utilizing my gifts.
My schedule has become filled with impromptu meetings; all are necessary but take a majority of the day. The “spot fires” have become minimal but now I have started to tackle some larger personnel and financial issues. I’ve started to appropriately delegate projects which allow me to spend more time on the strategic items. I’ve begun to work through the ministry plans of our staff. Each one is filled with good ideas and projects. The challenge will be to partner with each of the pastoral staff to transition their ministry plans from many good items to a few great ones that are simple and focused. The transition is going well. I am grateful to God for His goodness and graciousness with this process. I realize that many challenges lie ahead but I am thankful to be a part of this ministry.
This week the church was overrun by approximately 500 kids; it was VBS week. It was interesting to watch the kids interact with their teachers, as well as with each other. It was a blessing to see the kids singing the songs that they had just learned, each one singing praises to God. The entire program logistics ran smoothly, no major issues or problems. As enjoyable as it was, I am glad that it’s over. It was difficult at times to stay focused on the issues facing the church and my responsibilities. We continue to prepare for our new Middle School Youth Pastor. A couple of things have fallen through but we were able to send out a call to the congregation and the needs have been met. It is hard to believe that it is the end of my second month. I am more comfortable in my role each week. To date, there has not been a major crisis, for which I am grateful.
Staff vacations are winding down and everyone is starting to gear up for the upcoming school year which launches off our new ministry plan. The church’s fall calendar is filled with activities and events. Our new Middle School Youth Pastor is now on board and is quickly getting up to speed. The bulk of my time this week has been spent reviewing the employee handbook, finalizing the volunteer application form and implementing a new expenditure policy. I am somewhat amazed at the number of issues that pop-up each week. I’m coming to realize that this is the reality of being an XP. I continue to focus my energies on building my relationships with the Senior Pastor, Elders, Deacons, as well as the Pastoral and Administrative staff. It is exciting to see how God is working with this team; it’s exciting to be a part of this ministry.
This week was filled with minutia … and when it rains, it pours. It took an extra effort not to get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent. At times, I have found myself working on items that were not truly value-added. During the second part of the week, I attended the Leadership Summit Conference, along with a group of men made up of staff and lay leaders. The speakers discussed many poignant points on leadership. I came away with a few items that I believe will strengthen my leadership skills. The most profitable time of the conference came during the 1½ hour van ride to and from the event. The discussions and fellowship with the six other men were extremely valuable. Discussions included our families, our personal challenges, our passions, and our heart for ministry. Getting to know each of them more deeply was a blessing; the time together will bear fruit in many ways.
Time management continues to be a critical aspect of this position. This week I spent a large amount of time working on ministry and operational budgets, retirement plans, funding operations, vehicle policies, the employee handbook, the church calendar, insurance policies and numerous daily issues that will always exist. I did not spend enough time reading, planning, vision casting or working with the pastoral staff and elders. The right things are progressing in the right direction but I would like to see things move at a more rapid pace (don’t we all). My spiritual challenge is that I am pushing for things to progress in my time and under my power and not God’s. It is easy to allow for plans, process and programs to start to take precedent over the will of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit. I am grateful for Friday afternoons. It is a time to reflect, contemplate and recalibrate.
As a leadership team, we are in the midst of reshaping/refining the process that we utilize to move people down the path of greater spiritual maturity. The challenge before me is synthesizing each separate ministry plan into the overall mission of our church. Each ministry plan is strong and has many good features and benefits but is laden with many activities that demand much of our congregation. The opportunity and long term benefit for this congregation lies in focusing and aligning each ministry plan to include only those items that draw people into a closer relationship with Christ.
As we approach the Labor Day weekend and the “end of summer,” the atmosphere in the office has been similar to the lull before the storm. School is back in session and the new ministry calendar begins next week. I am expecting the activity level around the facility to be in a heightened state and activities in the office to be at a frenzied paced. I have been grateful for a relatively quiet three months to get up to speed. The upcoming months will allow me a firsthand look at all of our activities and programs. My new perspective will afford me the opportunity to evaluate whether each activity and program are truly value-added or are just a drain of our resources. If we are going to truly impact others for Christ, everything that we do must present the Gospel of Jesus Christ and draw people into a closer relationship with Him. We need to do this in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
The first week of the new ministry year started off with a bang. It seemed that on most nights every nook and cranny of the church was occupied. It was encouraging to see men, women and the youth engaged in fellowship and the study of the Word. This week has allowed me the opportunity to see all of our pastoral staff in action simultaneously. I consider it such a blessing and privilege to serve these wonderful servants of God. They are truly remarkable men and women. The contrast between my corporate experience and my present situation is very dramatic. The attitudes, focus, priorities, and overall atmosphere here is simply amazing and so refreshing. It is my charge to preserve this environment while preparing and positioning us for growth.
This week I had the opportunity to participate in team meetings of two of our ministries. On Monday I met with our Family Life ministry team. Our discussion focused on evaluating the results of a Family Needs Survey taken by our church in the fall of 2005. As with most surveys, there was good news as well as discouraging news. The report reaffirms just how much the Christian family is under attack. On Wednesday I met with our Primetimers group. This was the monthly gathering of those in our congregation who are 60-years-old and up. What a blessing it was to fellowship with them. It was encouraging and informative. I hope that I will be invited back. My follow-up goal for this week was to find out if our Family Life ministry is utilizing our Primetimers.
It has become all too apparent that there will never be enough time in the day to complete all that I want to accomplish. My operational responsibilities are consuming fifty percent of my time but, according to my job description, it should account for only ten percent. To that end, this week I scheduled bi-weekly meetings with each of the pastoral staff. This thirty minute meeting every other week will give me the opportunity to watch, listen, and learn what is the heart of each ministry and what the key issues are that drive them. Before I am able to effectively serve each of the pastors, I need to understand their heart and the ministry to which they have been called. I believe that as the year progresses and the operational demands lessen, I will be able to focus more on my role as chief of staff.
This week was a relatively light meeting week. This allowed me to spend a large amount of time reviewing our finances. I am in the process of developing a three-year historical review for the elders. The objective is to give the elder board a clear perspective of our past finances with the final goal of giving recommendations for ministry funding for next year’s budget. It is encouraging to see how God provides for our needs. This past Wednesday, I was given the opportunity to participate in that evening’s ministry activities. I spent approximately 30-45 minutes with each ministry. My goal was to see the ministries in action. I played games and memorized a verse with the grade school, fellowshipped with the middle school, worshipped with the high school, and listened to a missions presentation with the young adults. The time I spent with each group was insightful and a blessing.
The responsibility that lies before us is the complete assimilation of visitors, regular attendees as well as some of our members. We are developing a clear and deliberate plan that takes each individual through a process that, with each step, calls them to a greater commitment. The process starts with the initial visit, goes through discovery classes, a spiritual assessment, membership class, and then into a small group. The challenge is getting people to commit to a small group. There are many activities inside and outside the church that vie for people’s time. Our goal is to simplify what is happening within the church and continually raise the value and benefits of biblical community. We are asking our members to simplify their lives by eliminating many “good” activities to engage in the “best” activity of spiritual growth so that they may be presented complete in Christ.
In order to become better acquainted with each of our pastoral-led ministries, I have scheduled half-hour meetings, twice a month, with each of the pastors. The close of this week saw the completion of the first round of meetings. Each meeting allows me the opportunity to get to know the man behind the ministry. These times together are giving me the chance to see their hearts, to better understand what drives them and to come alongside them to better serve them. This first round of meetings has been very enjoyable and beneficial. In each of them I have seen a great burden for those to whom they minister. Each man is extremely gifted and truly humble. It is a blessing to work with them and I am excited to be a part of their ministry. It is a high calling for an Executive Pastor to lead such a group.
It was another full week that led up to a busy weekend. Updating the assimilation process is progressing nicely. The team gave a status update to the pastoral staff and, as expected, they gave us excellent feedback on how to further improve the process. We incorporated the majority of the suggestions and with these new ideas gave a second update to the elder board. We are on track to have the new assimilation process in place by early spring. This weekend we held “Trunk or Treat.” The weather was perfect and the neighborhood turnout was outstanding. The number of new and total visitors was up from last year. It was a wonderful opportunity to share with many of the visitors who we are and what are we all about. I hope that we are able to match names from the Trunk or Treat visitor list with upcoming Sunday service visitor lists.
This past week the final touches were put on the financial analysis project. In preparation for working with the pastoral staff on their 2008-2009 ministry plans, there has been extensive review of the financial data from the past three ministry years. In the process, the finance team has also completed the projections for the current ministry year. The analysis has included uncovering minute details of the operational and ministry expenditures. We have also examined the trends in donations. This financial analysis is an excellent resource in the planning process. Planning is good stewardship but the successful implementation of any ministry plan is through the guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Spent the majority of this week focused on two items; new hire ninety-day reviews and stewardship. It was such a blessing to go through the ninety-day reviews with our two most recent hires; Nancy, the Administrative Assistant for our Family Ministries, and Greg our Middle School Pastor. Both of these individuals are doing an outstanding job. They are meeting and exceeding our work expectations and they are both a delight to be around. They fit in perfectly. The other item of the week was stewardship. We continue to develop our new assimilation process. A vital part of this process is to communicate to believers that part of our spiritual maturation is seen in how we prioritize our time, talents and treasures. This topic will be addressed in an upcoming Audio Magazines (CD).
It has become apparent that we are not doing a good job of effectively or efficiently communicating the vision of our ministry. Our procedures vary greatly and our modes are inconsistent and often ineffective. We are not always taking the time to examine our message in light of our audience; whether they are a member or visitor, new believer or non-believer. The responsibility for church communications has come under my oversight. We assembled a team consisting of members with unique and diverse communication experience. Our goal is to bring consistency to our methods and clarity to our message while having an effective impact. The main objective of our communication strategy is to clearly present our ministry vision. I believe that the most important result will be an increase in the level of congregational engagement in all areas of ministry, as well as in the area of stewardship.
Over the past five months, I have participated in the monthly deacons meeting. This group is made up of ten godly men who truly have a servant’s heart. Coming into this position as the church’s first XP has been beneficial to them in many ways but at times it has also been a challenge for this group of men. Because of my role, they have been given a greater amount of attention and they now have an advocate before the elder board. This has also brought them a greater amount of scrutiny. This week I met with the deacon board chairman to discuss ongoing projects and activities and to take the opportunity to hear what was on his heart. I shared with him the bigger role of the deacons as our church grows. It was a beneficial meeting and I came away encouraged.
We continue to refine our Assimilation Process for potential new members. We are in the final stages of developing the curriculum, choosing teachers and finalizing launch dates. A critical part of the process is the initial impression by a visitor; we have an outstanding greeting team, the coffee ministry is being revamped and the guest reception is warm and inviting, especially with a welcome bag of fresh baked rolls. Each of these opportunities to minister requires volunteers willing to serve behind the scenes. These are the “first serve” opportunities that we promote that require little training and little commitment but will have huge impact.
This week was spent visiting with pastors from churches located in metropolitan areas. These churches were chosen based on the following criteria: 1) larger Sunday adult attendance than what we experience, 2) currently experiencing rapid growth, 3) strong local outreach, and 4) similar beliefs and doctrines. Though the DNA in each church was unique to its location and leadership, there were six key items that were consistent throughout: 1) continual communication of vision, 2) clear assimilation process, 3) development of community, based on a geographic area, 4) multiple worship styles, 5) continual development of leadership, and 6) simple and focused ministries. These findings were both encouraging and enlightening as we are in the process of working through all of these issues. Spending time with these men was a blessing and benefit to me as I continue along my journey as an Executive Pastor.