Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Today, we’ve got Bill Ferrell on the show, coming to us from The Heights Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas. Great to have you on the show today, Bill.
Thanks, Courtney. Very happy to be here.
So Bill, you are the Administrative Pastor there at The Heights Baptist Church. Could you tell us a little bit about your journey to come into that position?
Sure, Courtney. I was talking about this with a friend last week. There’s no set path to get to this job, and you probably already know that. And so for me, I’d worked in the business world for almost 10 years and, honestly, got tired of it. I guess it’s what I would say. And one day my wife just said, I think you want to be doing something else with your life. And I said, you know, I think so too. What are you thinking? And she said, I just think you had to be in the ministry, full time. And I was like, sounds good to me. And that was like a five minute conversation. I decided to leave my corporate job, which was in Detroit and to move to Dallas, to go to Dallas Seminary. And so I went there for a few years and got a Master’s in Theology, actually, in Pastoral Leadership. I still had no intention of being in the administration, but I went off to fame and fortune as a Senior Pastor, and just realized after a short time, that wasn’t what was in the cards for me, gifting wise or anything else. And so anyway, ended up working at the Heights part time, actually, in the business office, while I was in seminary. But when I went to graduate, I moved to Florida and worked in a church down there. And then after less than a year, actually, came back as the Single Adult Minister here at The Heights. And after a little bit of a time, the Business Administrator left. And so I started kind of doing both roles. We weren’t quite as big as we are now. And after a while, I just started realizing, you know what, my giftedness in administration and business really has a place here. And this, really, is something that I could combine my business background with my Theology degree and actually take this position on. And here I am, 18 years later, doing the same thing. And it’s perfect for me.
So how long have you been in this position as Administrative Pastor?
I would say 16, 17 years now.
Okay, okay. So did it feel like you’re coming back home, in some sense, when you were able to enter back into the business side, but from the church world perspective?
It really did. And I think the only reason I didn’t try to do that at first is because, like any career and you’re in seminary, people want to tell you, you’re good at this, here’s what you should do. And I kind of bought into that. But after I got into it, I knew very early on, you know what, this is definitely for me.
So tell me a little more about The Heights. How is the church structured and exactly what falls under your responsibility there?
Okay, sure. There’s a lot of big churches in Dallas, and I guess we’re fairly big. We run about 2500 on the weekend. We might have 6000 members. But we’ve got a fairly large staff. But the way we’re organized is, we have a Senior Pastor, obviously. And then under him, we really have four equal positions. So there’s my position in the administrative role, the titles are somewhat unimportant to us. Sometimes I tell people in the CFO, sometimes I’m the Executive Pastor of Operations, whatever, but I have a lane. And then there’s the education person. And then we have a teaching pastor. So we all sort of form this executive team. And so under me, specifically, I’m going to be handling all the operations of the church from the budget, any of the giving emphasis, any building and grounds type function, that staff, the hostess staff, the IT staff. I handle all of them, and really a bunch of the office personnel. So we sort of work in tandem on that. So I don’t do all the personal things. The one thing I don’t really supervise are the other ministers here. There’s another person that does that.
So what does the team underneath you look like? What kind of a mix of full time, part time volunteer do you have, that you manage?
So under me, just looking at the facility staff, we have three full time people there, and four or five part timers. Our hostess staff probably has five or six paid employees. They’re all part time. I mainly liaison there with the Head Church Hostess who also takes care of coordinating weddings and that type of stuff. The IT department, we have a full time person. Well, I say full time as full time as you can get, as a contract or a contract labor. And another part time person, and we have a volunteer team that’s maybe five or six really good IT people. Being in the telecom quarter, we have access to a lot of IT professionals, which is nice. And they like to volunteer in the church. And then as far as the office staff in the business office, I have one person, really, that works for my full time, handling all the book keeping, accounting type functions. Another person, a part time person, that writes all the checks, the accounts payable, the contribution records, all that. And then a pretty good team of volunteers that helps enter contribution data, take care of offerings on Sunday mornings. Maybe 10 people there, on that volunteer team that do that. And then I watch over the receptionist and several others, just the office personnel. And they’re full time, two or three of them, I suppose. I never really added it up, I’m going to be honest with you.
That’s a lot of different pieces coming together. How do you stay on top of and organized in your communication with those different groups? Do you use certain technology, or is it a matter of you just have to be disciplined in terms of meeting face to face with people? What’s kind of your MO as a leader of so many different groups?
That’s a great question. I’m pretty organized. That’s one of my things. And so a lot of times I will keep tasks that come up and I’ll know what to do, whatever that task is. But over the last few months, I made a bit of a change there, and I think it’s a good practice. And we have sort of a monthly coaching meeting that I do with the heads of each of these departments. So there’s really four people that I sort of coach once a month. And so what I will do is, I’ll ask them to fill out a form ahead of time, and it’s going to be talking about what are the top three or four things they did over the last 30 days, project-wise. Who are they working on developing people wise? And then what are they planning on doing for the next 30 days? And so, by having that list — and I tell them, hey, just list you top three or four things. I know you do a lot. You don’t have to list everything in the world. Tell me the top two or three projects you’re doing. And so they do that. And then they also will tell me a little bit about what they’re reading, how they’re developing themselves, what peer groups they’re a part of it. So as we meet, at least in that one meeting, we go over exactly what’s going to be coming up, what we’re doing, those kind of things. And that really helps me stay on task and in touch with what each of them are doing. Does that makes sense?
Yeah. What has been the response from these team leaders, to this new way of doing the coaching?
Like any change, there is resistance. But I overcame that. I think, as we get into it more, they really see the benefit. A couple of things, I am not a micro manager by any means, but I think that it just helps us to not be surprised, and to really let me give them a little direction on what I think is important. And if there’s anything that I’m lacking in occasionally, maybe I’m not as clear as I should be on, here’s what I think the priorities are. And so I think that’s really let them understand what I think is important and what they need to be working on in case there’s any question. So, really, after a couple months went by, I think they warmed up to it. At least they told me they did.
That’s half the battle. At least they said it.
Yeah, that’s right.
Going a little farther and some things that are working well for you guys, what is some kind of solution or best practice that you’ve implemented there that you’ve really found success with?
Okay, well I think this is what I’m talking about, mainly. This idea of just monthly sort of coaching idea that we’ve done. I think another thing that we’ve instituted recently is we’re doing a little more with personality survey type things. And what I mean by that is, we’re — you’ve heard of the different ones, DISC, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, etcetera. We’ve been turned on to a new one over the last few months, called Culture Index. Similar in the sense that it’s measuring people’s natural giftedness, as well as it measures how they feel they have to be at work. And sometimes, there’s a disconnect between how a person naturally is and how they feel they need to perform at work. And so by looking at these diagrams and some of that, we’re able to actually help people work to their strengths. And if they don’t have a strength in some area, either to move stuff out of their realm or they don’t have to, or to encourage them that, hey, here’s how you can take your natural strengths and use that well. So we’ve been kind of changing our management style a little bit recently for that. And of course, as we look for new people, we design the job with some of these thoughts in mind of what are the strengths people need. And then we try to measure them before we hire them. So I think that’s been good all around.
It’s a great way to hire for your culture and to their competencies, at the same time.
So on the other side of this then, what is something you guys have got going on right now that you haven’t yet found a solution for?
Okay. Not find a solution, there’s probably a lot of those things.
You can only pick one.
Yeah, I’ll only pick one. Well, I would say, I don’t feel like we’ve fully developed out an online automated giving strategy. And what I mean by this, I mean, it’s somewhat pieced altogether. People can go to a kiosk here, they can give by debit card. They can go online, they can get ACH, they can get their bank account to do it. But we don’t have a real good solution where we teach people what we think is best, try to implement that. We don’t accept credit card at present. We’re probably one or the only biggies out there that doesn’t, and we’re talking about it. But I feel like we need to develop that better going forward. I think that the current generation is not using cash and checks like past generations. And so we need to be a little more forward thinking and how we’re going to move forward with giving strategies. I guess that’s what I would say.
And how does that reflect the demographic of your church?
We have a nice mix of people here, but I think that a lot of what we’re drawing from now are people, young families. We’re really good with that. And so we get a lot of people in their 20s and 30s. And it just seems like any time they want to give something like, oh, wait a minute. I can’t just give you my credit card. I can’t just go on the app and use Apple Pay. It means, all the things they’re using in other places and they come in on here, like, what’s going on here? I just see that disconnect. Now, the older folks? Hey, we write checks. We’ve always written checks. We’re happy to write checks. When I say older, I think of people older than me. I’m 50. And I write a few check but also, I don’t want to write checks. I don’t like writing them. And so I get it when people don’t want to anymore. I’m thinking we need to make it — we shouldn’t have a barrier to giving, is what I would say. And I think we have a few.
So where do you go to just make sure your staying sharp in your role as an Executive Pastor?
I try to read a lot of stuff that other guys put out, other thoughts. I wish there was one big training source we can all go to, right? But I’ll tell you, I think the most helpful for me is I’ve sort of developed a group of pastors. We’re just called the Metro Group. It’s a group of other Executive Pastors, administrative guys, who work churches our size, who get together maybe once or twice a year, and literally just bring up our issues and talk about them. And we hear, oh, so you’re using them, they’re doing this. That, to me, has been the most helpful. And just changing practices and stand up on what’s out there, what we’re doing. These are guys that I trust. If they’re using it, I know it’s been researched, that kind of thing. Other than that, there’s obviously a few solid publications, Church Law and Tax Report. If I got a legal problem, I’m reading what Richard Hammar is writing. If it’s other stuff along those lines, there’s a few place that we go to. But I think that peer group, honestly, is the best for me.
So how did you come upon this peer group? Did you start it to someone in the area or is it through some outside group?
Yeah. Yeah. Good question. So there is a national group called The Church Network, used to be called The National Association of Church Business Administrators which I’m a part of. They have a local chapter and then they have an annual conference. And so I started going to some of these conferences, once in a while. Once, they all be in Dallas, which is super convenient. But other ones are in DC, or Nashville, or Philadelphia, wherever. But anyway, as we started going to that, it turned out that at these sessions, we found out that while there were thousands of people showing up, there just aren’t that many people that are coming from larger churches. When I say larger, budgets of upwards of 5 million, 1000 or 2000 attendees, that kind of thing. And so they started having a session at these national conferences that they called Alpha and Omega. And it was basically just for a large church administrators to get together and talk about their issues. And out of that was born this kind of metro group idea where, hey, you know what, we can still meet on our own a couple other times a year. And so we try to have one on the east coast and one on the west coast, once or twice a year, where we would go to. And that’s kind of where it came from, this organization called The Church Network.
So, Bill, what kind of encouragement would you give to others and church leadership?
Encouragement, I would say, our job is a delicate balancing act, as a minister of the Gospel really in this day and age. So I constantly tell other people around me, when they want to be making a point on something, hey, listen, we’re not about making points, we’re about making a difference. And I said, I think that we all have different skills and abilities, to try to understand others before we’re understood. And so I would just say, hey, try to flex where you can. Obviously, same message. I wouldn’t compromise on the message of the Gospel, but a different methodology for the times. And to try to remember, we’re all on the same team, we’re working with people all the time who maybe aren’t good at budgeting or they’re not good at handling something. Well, that’s our job. We try to coach them, come alongside them as a brother or sister in Christ and work together. I just say teamwork. That’s really what I want to be about, and about helping others and trying to say yes more than no, which isn’t always easy. But you got to have goals, right?
Something to work towards.
Well, Bill, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
You bet. I really appreciate you asking me. I’m happy to talk to you guys.