This episode of Monday Morning Church is sponsored by KiSSFLOW, the church workflow solution.
Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Andy Hahn, who is joining us from Far Hills Church in Dayton, Ohio. Really happy to have you, Andy.
Thanks Courtney, it’s good to talk with you.
Andy you are the executive pastor at Far Hills. Would you describe the path you took to get to your current position?
For sure, I can start back, I guess it’s been about twenty years I’ve been in church ministry now, started back in youth ministry, have done some roles as associate pastors, but I think the reality is, no matter what position I’ve been in, I’ve tended to always migrate toward the role of executive pastor, even if it wasn’t called that some type of organizational leadership. And so I’ve been in four different churches and the one commonality that each church had been in, the senior leader has left after I’ve arrived. So throughout those various forms, I’ve always ended up in the second chair leadership role, and so now I find myself here and Dayton as an executive pastor, and this is actually the first church of the four that I’ve worked in that I’ve been hired on staff intentionally to become the executive pastor. And I was actually hired through the Vanderbloemen Search Group.
When you came to this, how long have you been at the church you’re currently at?
It’ll be four years this full.
So when you came to this church, did the lead pastor also leave soon after?
He left about a year after I arrived.
Okay, so could you go a little more into what it’s like to lead a church through that kind of transition?
Sure, I can talk about different aspects of it. Probably it’s different when you know the senior pastor is leaving early so it was that way me, I’ve had a church where I had a senior pastor leave, and I knew he was leaving, it was a good leaving –God simply called him to a new path. And so in preparation for that, we were able to set a course for who would be filling the preaching role, who would be covering some leadership duties. And the tendency for me then is to step in and do some of the teaching, but really become the point leader for all things and just take on the non-preaching portion of the senior leader goal. But most recently here, where I am now, it was a little bit more of a challenge in that the senior pastor didn’t know he was leaving, it wasn’t a bad leaving, but it also wasn’t a great leaving. And so there was a transition that happened and it kind of came upon us in a matter of weeks. So in saying that it became an all hands on deck situation. I carried some of the preaching role at least quite a bit, probably half time. And so I found myself probably more in a lead pastor position than in the executive role, but at the same time, that’s where I lean on other staff, pulled in different people. And like I said, kind of an all hands on deck mentality.
For how long were you in that transition?
This time was nine months.
So now that you have that position filled, how is Far Hills structured and what things fall under your responsibility?
We’ve had a new lead pastor here for about two years. And the one thing about our lead pastor, his name’s Chris, he’s younger, very energetic, very charismatic, a good leader. But one of his things is that he brings a very what call very flat organizational chart with him, kind of a very fluid job description kind of place. So we don’t have a sense of hierarchy. We don’t have a sense of specific clarity of job roles. So even as a team we’re very flexible, very change-oriented. So I carry the role of executive pastor, and in many things, what I would say first, I think is… my role is actually pastor first, it’s part executive, but it’s part pastor. And so a huge chunk of what I do is actually still what I consider to be the pastoral roles. So I’m still an active part of the teaching team for Sunday mornings. I do quite a bit of counseling, whether that’s working with married couples, pre-married couples, doing weddings, doing various things of that nature, so all things pastoral, that’s a huge part of what I do, but certainly the other big components would be strategic planning, I do a lot in terms of ministry development, dreaming up ideas, figuring out how to do things more effectively, better different styles, all of that. And then I also handle all of the internal systems of our church, whether that staffing, to HR, to finance, to buildings. And so our church is still, I guess, at a broader level, our church is congregational and governance. And so one of the biggest things it’s happening right now internally in terms of restructuring, is we are moving toward becoming an elder-led church and really a staff-led church. So at a macro level, our church is really changing at all kinds of different levels.
What are some of the administrative challenges that you face within the internal systems that you lead?
Good question again, if you want more specifics, I’m kind of thinking at a macro level. Some of the challenges are simply these: that our systems that we currently have in place, they tend to not match the size of a place that we are. Usually, we have not enough systems to manage the size and the dynamic of our church. So it feels like no matter what happens, we’re always playing catch up in terms of administrative things. And with that, I think coupled with that, we are always changing. As I said before, we’re a very changed ready church. And even with our new lead pastor here, two years in, we’re still finding our feet, we’re still working through our values and what kind of culture we’re going to have. So part of it is that the way that we do things changes constantly, and therefore even the systems that we try to build, long term systems, consistent systems, it’s very hard to do because every time we are just about to implement something or create a system, the whole thing changes. And then we have to start over to create different system to match the new change, and so that’s a big part of our challenge. Personally for me, one of the biggest challenges is not letting all of the administrative parts of my job overwhelm everything in my time schedule. Because if I did, I would spend the entirety of my day just working the small details of administration.
So you’re in the midst of transition as you said, can you describe a little bit about where you’re coming from and where you are heading?
Sure, we are church that is actually very historical in nature, we’ve been around seventy five years and given our denominational background of where we’ve come from actually, there’s a lot of tradition attached to it, and there’s also probably a lot of expectation attached to it all the way down to ministry methodology as to how we might preach how we would function in music, how we would function in our governance and our structures, and literally every one of those things is undergoing construction right now and transformation. It sounds simplified to say that we’ve become much more modern, but that’s without question. We’re very much modern, but at the same time for many of our people, it feels strange to them. And so the way in which we’re reaching our community is different. The style and the format of our Sunday morning experiences are very different, the way we manage kid’s ministry looks different, so we’re changing all of our ministry functioning to match a different culture for a different day, and that’s butting up against the history of the church.
Now technology can be a big part in becoming more modern, so how have you incorporated technology into how you’re administrating?
Yeah, I thought about that since it was on one of the questions to think through, but the reality is when it comes to our administration, I would say we’re not utilizing a lot of new technology at the moment. We use some of the simplified things that I know many people use, whether that’s planning center, to logging in volunteers, to creating systems like that, figuring out how to send out our email, text messaging, all of that. Nothing real new or novel for us, that may not sound really innovative, but we still tend to do things in a very personal way, a very of non-automated way in all of our administrative type stuff. One thing we are starting to do is Facebook live. That’s one of our newer additions for us, is now we’re streaming our services live so that people can be all over the world at live time.
Where do you go to learn about being a great executive pastor?
There’s another question I wish I had a fabulous answer to, but I don’t know that I do since I’ve moved here, in these four years, there is not a real cohort of executive pastors that I get to spend time with. One of the most valuable things I’ve ever had in my life is in a previous church, we had a peer network and it was nationwide, but then it was also regional wide, and there would be a group of executive pastors, that would gather once a month for like a half a day. And we would encourage each other, we would share ideas, we would share stories and we would really just go community. And those were probably the greatest moments for me as an executive pastor and learning to be an executive pastor. But right now, I don’t have that type of a group. And so for me, I feel like I’m a little bit wandering its self-study, it’s books, it’s seminars, catalyst, things like that. But I really do miss the connection to other executive pastors, weekly and monthly.
Yeah, that seems to a common theme with a lot of executive pastors, is really enjoying that connection with their other xp peers. What are some of these books or conferences? What kind of a focus do you usually gravitate towards when it comes to the self-study and becoming better?
That’s interesting, it’s actually evolved, I would say, I spent a series of years going to leadership summit at Willow creek and just ate that up and all that was with it and all the variety of people. And now maybe catalyst has replaced that for me. But at the same time, I used to be much more into the technical aspects of leadership and reading leadership books and manuals from not only the business sector, but church sectors, all different places. And I would say in the last maybe three, four, even five years, that has transitioned for me to where I am much more apt to pick up stuff that has to do with his practical hands on real life stuff with people. Not that the technical aspects of leadership are not important, but I think I found for me in my evolution right now that I have a lot of information, but executing all of that is what is probably closer to my heart. So any books, any resources I can find where it’s really about actually executing leadership, not just knowing more about it or how it’s supposed to work, but actually somehow doing it in the real world. Those are the kind of things that I’m being drawn to.
What encouragement would you give to other executive pastors?
I think in a broad sense, if I were to say one thing, and again, I don’t know that I have all that much to offer other execs, but this is what I would say is, I guess, make sure that the pastor part of your executive pastor stays intact. For me, that takes work sometimes and yet for me, it’s probably been the most valuable aspect. When I think about being an executive pastor, I really do want to be a pastor first. And so what that means for me is no matter how much the mountain of organizational leadership that’s in front of me, all of the administrative tasks, all of those kind of things that need to get handled. I will always make space in my calendar and in my time to be with people and to do things even as simple as whether it’s preaching or stopping and visiting the hospital or managing a pre married couple, those kinds of things. Because when I’m with the people and when I’m actually pastoring and I’m in the messes of their life and seeing what God’s doing in them, that always keeps me grounded to the ultimate reason to why I’m doing what I do, which is handling this behind the scenes organizational task type things, it just always great for me to always keep faces on that. And so I realize there’s a greater purpose to it other than just efficiency and function. So I guess in short, I would say as an executive pastor, always be a pastor group and function as an executive and not maybe the other way around.
That’s great encouragement. Andy thanks so much for being on with us today.
Absolutely. I appreciate being asked.