Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Albert Kim, chatting with us from Christian Assembly Church in Northeast Los Angeles, California. Albert, great to have you today.
Thanks, Courtney. Great to be with you.
Albert, you have been on staff at Christian Assembly for eight years and in the executive pastor position for the last five of those. Would you go back and share with us how you got to Christian Assembly and a bit about your transition into the executive pastor role?
Yeah, sure. I started at Christian Assembly about eight years ago, like you mentioned, and I started out as a community life pastor, and that basically is small groups. So I started out that way for a few years and then through a series of circumstances in different projects that came across my plate as well as the leadership team, their encouragement and advice to me was to go ahead and step into the executive pastor role. So that’s how I ended up to become an executive pastor. I really started out ministry looking to become an executive pastor, but as you know, God works in mysterious ways, and now I’m an executive pastor at the Christian Assembly Church.
Being an executive pastor is pretty different than being a community life pastor. So do you find that your skill set is more suited to this or was it kind of a difficult transition at first?
I think now looking back, yeah, I think the skills that I have and the way I’m wired definitely meets what an executive pastor role should really be about. So I do feel good about that today. Looking back, it was definitely a transition though, because when I started at the church, I was mainly focused on life groups, what we call small groups. So a lot of networking, a lot of developmental meetings I had. Then when I transitioned to the executive pastor role, I had to deal with more of the day in, day out operations or the functions of the church. So it did take me some time to get it under my belt, but we also had a good plan where we had a year of transition. So as I was wrapping up some of my community life duties I also was able to get training but also step into some of the day in, day out projects of the executive pastor ro1e.
Was that a role that was there before you came on, or was it created when you stepped into it, this executive pastor position?
Yeah, it was actually created. So as far as my understanding is we haven’t had an executive pastor before I. I mean there were probably different iterations of it, but never what you would call an executive pastor. Our co-lead pastors, we have two co-lead pastors, we have Tom Hughes as well as Mark Pickerill. They together probably took on some of the things I do now, but the role itself was never created. So as I stepped into the role, as there was a definite need for it, that was that year out of training as well as speaking now of kind of what is my job description. So yeah.
There are some people listening who are coming from churches that are kind of at the cusp of bringing that executive pastor role. What was it at the church or on staff that led the church to realize that it was time to bring in this position?
I think there were a few factors involved, Courtney. I think the first thing was the amount of work that was on the two co-lead pastors, particularly Tom Hughes, who’s the younger of the co-lead pastors, and eventually the lonely pastor. He had so much on his plate and the management team, which is our main leadership team, they were sharing the different responsibilities probably as well, doing leadership as a team. So they just really realized, particularly again, Tom and Mark, the co-lead pastors, we need to create a role if we’re going to sustain this, we need to create an executive pastor and find one. And then they really looked internally first, and so that’s how my name got thrown in the hat, so to speak, and eventually I was approached about the possibility of that role. I think the other factors were just the pace of the church. The church was growing every year, and as you know, if you’re growing, that means you need a staff to grow, and hopefully be even more proactive about that and even reactive. Then we had events like Easter at the Hollywood Bowl, and with all those different factors, that’s when this role really was essentially created along with me coming into the picture.
So what are your day to day responsibilities that fall under your position?
I was thinking about this. In a day there’s a variety of different things I do. I manage quite a bit of staff, so I also manage different departments like Community life. I manage that department as well as I work with one of the co-lead pastors, Mark, on amended ministry, projects on campus and even the larger church events. I work with key staff, but that definitely falls into my plate to oversee. I also help a lot with hiring processes and candidate searches, and along with the different apartments, including Communications, as well as First Impression and Tech, which fall into my plate, also every day there seems to be some sort of issue that comes across my plate, whether be a problem or a fire to put out or something even to do with operationally, like a website being completely down, that’s something that comes across my plate as well. So day to day it’s a little bit different, but I do enjoy the role and it’ll give me opportunity to work with variety, different departments and staff, and I love working with our staff because they’re great.
Do you find that most of your administrative challenges are weekend programming related or more than Monday to Friday scene?
Yeah, great question. I think primarily in terms of the way I work out my calendar even, or how I prioritize the different tasks that I need to do, the first thing I would think about is the weekend. So even if, for example, the bulk of my week is a Monday to Friday, a day and day in operations or staff related issue, or administrative task, I always look at the weekend as being the most important thing. So if an issue is pertaining to weekend that just jumps up to the top of my priority list, whether be a tech issue and working with the tech director, whether be ensuring the correct programmatic pieces are in place for the weekend service. So I would say I lean toward weekend service in terms of administrative tasks, but there are quite a bit of, you know, maybe Friday tasks, that I’ve got to take on, whether be hiring or stock evaluations, budgets, that probably takes most of my time in terms of literally like a 40-hour work week. But in terms of my brain, I’m always really concerning myself mostly with the weekend service and the weekend experience.
What are some of those specific administrative challenges you face?
There is a wide variety, whether be like for example something as simple as evaluations, there’s a million of administrative tasks, but making sure that the process has been updated accordingly, whether be the actual staff that we inform, whether be training new managers on how to do an evaluation well, some of those things that you can sometimes assume that people would know for the staff or just generally speaking, that can be somewhat challenging and time consuming. I think the other thing for me, you know, we live in such a digital world, so if I have a meeting about, say, community life or life groups, and I leave that minute I can delegate some of the things out like a recap of the meeting. But generally speaking, if I’m leading that meeting, I have to not only call a good meeting and get the necessary people around the table, which can be a challenging aspect, but also to make sure that after that meeting is done, you’ve got to get on an email and send everybody the notes to the meeting or the next action steps. I think those are administrative tasks that are a reality, and certainly you can delegate some of that out, but I find if you’re the leader of that meeting or you’re the point person of a project, it’s best coming from you in terms of emails and communications, let alone verbal conversations.
Have you been able to incorporate technology into answering some of these administrative challenges?
Yeah, certainly not only the basic things like email, as well as Google sheets and different things, planning center, something we use quite a bit for our weekend services, and we’ve been using that more and more in training our staff to utilize that. Then the main thing for me, actually, I just recently purchased a new smartphone, I’ve got a Note 8 and I’ve made the pitch shift from Apple to Android, which is no small thing for me.
That’s no small shift. Yeah.
Yeah. Exactly, I own a MacBook still, and I love that product, but I’ve got a Note 8 and actually it has helped me even in the last month pick up seamlessly some basic things, like keeping notes and reminders and scribbling that down on my phone, which a Note does allow me to do, so I can work on spreadsheets and different things on my phone and it’s so essential now, I think, a smartphone is as everyone knows, but even for me, I don’t even use a tablet anymore, like an iPad, because my phone can do it all. So it has helped me. At the same time, it’s also challenging, honestly, on the other side of that coin, not to get too reliant on my smartphone or on technology. At the end of the day I’m still a pastor. So I had to make sure, even though I’m the executive pastor, to still wave to people and have basic human conversations, dialogue with staff and people in the church.
We can laugh about that, but that is a legitimate balance, that is something that especially executive pastors are faced with, is bouncing the admin with the pastoral role.
Yeah, that was actually…I didn’t talk about it earlier, Courtney, but that was also a challenge for me when I moved from the Community life pastor role to the executive pastor role, because in Community life in the way we do it at Christian Assembly is we are highly relational. So we have four different service times, but within those services, we really encourage our staff, who aren’t community life pastors, but our whole pastoral staff to still mean high touch with people in the church on a weekend experience. So for me, shifting from the Community life pastoral role to the executive pastor role was hey, there’s all these different projects that I have to do, whether be oversee Easter or hiring a person or whatever it might be, and so I had to shift in terms of my mind as well, that there are times when you have to become just really task-driven. But like I mentioned to you earlier, the title of the executive pastor, I would almost call it pastor executive, if I could, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue as well. So for me, I have had to go back to that. So if there’s certain seasons where I’m running super hard and fast with various tasks and projects or hiring people to remember that I’m still a pastor at my core, my being, and why I do this is to help people make a more complete commitment to Jesus and you only do that through relationships. So as much as I enjoy performing different tasks for the church and getting on the phone and emailing and texting, at the end of the day I still want to make sure that, “hey, is what I’m doing still pastoral, am I still shepherding people in some form or another?”
That’s fantastic. I notice you had mentioned having two co-pastors, and you also have one of the most diverse staff that I’ve come across at a church. Were these intentional visionary decisions or was this an organic case of that’s just what we’re growing to in our reflection of the community world?
Yeah, first thing, Christian Assembly is a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church, and it’s a really great strength of our community. I feel like I have done that or accomplished some of that. And I’m not saying we’ve arrived in terms of “Hey, I’m at the mountain top or anything like that, but we really remain gospel centric, gospel driven. So at the core of what we do, our values are grace, worship, family, kingdom, and as we focus on those values, as we focus on the gospel leading us, that has seemed to really draw people from all walks of life, but particularly our community, like you mentioned, we are located in Northeast Los Angeles and the actual town area is called Eagle Rock, and it’s a very diverse area, but particularly it has a high degree of population of Latinos as well as Filipinos, and I’m so glad and proud that our church has actually grown and has a lot of people who reflect our very own community. In the same way, in terms of our hiring processes, we definitely welcome diversity in terms of our staff. We don’t make that though the only thing on how we hire a position. For example, I’m Korean American, but our co-lead pastors, Tom and Mark, didn’t just look at me as a Korean American and said, hey, we need to hire whatever staff and he seems to be okay or can do possibly well as an executive pastor, it’s more of “Hey, what do we see God doing?” And of course, we want to have as much diversity in our staff, so we do want that, but at the same time we don’t make that the only criteria on hiring a particular person.
That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. Albert, what are some of your favorite resources for being educated and encouraged as an executive pastor?
The first thing is why you’re actually doing this podcast, which I think is great, is hearing from other executive pastors in the role is really critical, I believe, both in terms of just like a podcast part of the thing, but also getting in front or meeting with other executive pastors. So I have a circle of executive pastors I know in the LA area, at really great churches, that I can call on the phone, I can talk to or lunch with or even email each other on best practices, or even just questions or problem solving. I actually do that quite a bit. So I access and contact other executive pastors when I’m facing a particular issue that they may have solved already or have faced, and I can glean some wisdom from. So those are the best ways, I believe. I think reading books are good too, but I also know that the executive pastor’s rule is very unique and every church’s executive pastor, if they have one, probably function in a different way. I think contextually, sometimes leadership books which are great, and I love leadership books and even books by executive pastors, but sometimes their experiences are maybe vastly different than my church context or my executive pastor role currently. So I really love to just try to talk to different people who have either done the role in the past or are currently doing it, that can give me some good tips and wisdom or just even encouragement.
Yeah, absolutely. Now to end with, I would like to know, what encouragement would you like to give to other executive pastors who are listening?
I would say a couple of things. I would say, number one is just to receive this as I’ve received it from the Lord, in certain things in my life, in my role as an executive pastor is to say what you do matters. I think sometimes you can get so caught up in the day to day and making sure that the ship stays afloat or putting a fire out or doing whatever is necessary for the role and you can lose sight, hey, you know, and sometimes you even question “what I do does it matter at the end of day?” And I think sometimes the executive pastor’s role too is also very much behind the scenes. I know some executive pastors actually preach and step into preach or do other public things. I’ve done that in the past as well, but most often than not what you see from the executive pastor is not publicly seen, and sometimes it’s tough. Being in a ministry, no matter whatever role you’re in is difficult, it’s you’ve got to be in it for the long haul, there’s a lot of high, but there’s also a lot of lows as well. And I know that for a fact for whatever leadership position you have in the church. But the executive pastor’s role, you know, to all the executive pastors out there, what you do matters, whether it’s seen or unseen, it’s so invaluable to the kingdom. And that’s what I would say number one. The second thing I would say, Courtney, is that I think the executive pastor definitely is like all of us, but specific for the executive pastor, I would say this is you need good two or three people who both know the challenges of the role, but also could really listen to you whether it be here you have bent or here you just share, you know, you’re tired or just to receive prayer, encouragement from people that you can trust to have them listen to you as well and give you good advice and encouragement. So those are the two things I would really encourage executive pastors out there with.
That’s fantastic encouragement. Albert, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Thank you, Courtney. Appreciate it.