Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Blake Bastin talking to us from Crossings Community Church in the greater Oklahoma City area. Great to have you Blake.
Great to be here, I appreciate it.
Blake, you are the director of finance and administration at Crossings, and you’re relatively new to the position. Would you share with us the path you took to get to Crossings?
It’s a fairly interesting path, I’ve been here at Crossings for almost a year now. I’ve never worked in the church world ever before. My last role before I got to Crossings was actually, I was the chief of staff to the CFO of the world’s largest mining company, which was in Melbourne, Australia. Been in Australia for a couple of years, and prior to that, I spent about a decade in Houston, with the same company and one other company within the oil and mining, gas business. So I’m definitely more of a corporate guy. I’ve done a lot of financial management, operations management over my career. I think I’m the first person at Crossings who is ever applied for the job while being in Australia. I don’t think anyone else can make that claim, but God did some interesting things in my life just over the last few years I was in Houston and my time in Australia, and it was pretty clear that I was being led to this role of this church in Oklahoma City, and I eventually humbly obliged to what I thought was god’s direction and made a big career jump and moved our family over here to Oklahoma City and start this role in October, October of 2016. So it’s been an absolute blast. We’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a great place, it’s a really good church, God does some amazing work through this church and these people, and we’ve really enjoyed our time here.
So not only moving to a significantly different industry or employment, you also moved across the world. So what was that transition like for you?
It was a big transition, we lived in downtown Melbourne, which, not too many people are familiar with all the cities in Australia, but it’s a second largest city in Australia. We lived right in the middle city, we didn’t even own a car, we walked or rode the train everywhere we needed to go and walked to my office and what you would expect a large multinational corporate office to look like and feel like. And so it was just a big move and I’ve got to say, it took a whole lot of prayer and meditation and bible study to convince me and the family that this move was the right thing to do. I was very fortunate though that Crossings went through a really diligent process to interview different candidates, interview me, pray with me, work with me through this process this decision process, and there’s some great people here who did such a fantastic job of helping me know exactly what I was coming into to set my expectations. Our Executive Pastor here, Terry Fakes, in particular, has a similar background, he had been an executive in the corporate world, and made the transition into this church a little over decade ago. And so he knew exactly what I was going to be going through and knew the pros and the cons and things that need be mindful of. And I think having those conversations and having him just help set the expectations right, really made for a much easier transition. Oklahoma was once home, I went to high school and college out here as did my wife. And so this was place we were familiar with, we just had never really been a part of this church. And we had family here in the Oklahoma area as well. So there were some comforts of home coming back, which also were very, very helpful in the transition.
As you mentioned, there is an Executive Pastor on staff at Crossings. Were you coming into a new position or had this position already been there? And if you could describe a little bit how your responsibilities differ from the Executive Pastor?
Crossings we’re a relatively large church, and Terry would probably describe it, we have a complex suite of offerings at this church as well, just in terms of, we are multi campus at this point. There is a Pre-K to 12th grade large Christian school on our main campus. We have a community center and a clinic in another part of Oklahoma City, and there’s a lot of things that go on here. So the role that I stepped into is a bit of a new role in terms of, we did have a person here who had done the director of financial for a long period of time, and he had been, business administrator as the church was smaller, and then as a grew, kind of took on more, just solely focused on financial. And so as I’ve come in, we reorganized the structure of bit, to where I’ve taken on the finance, and then all of the support functions of the church in terms of communication, security, technology, grounds, facilities, pretty much everything, I always like to tell people, “I’ll do all the non-God operations around here.” The better way to say, “ministry enabling operations.” And we do that fairly centralized, especially our support services, we provide central support to any type of anything that’s within the Crossings umbrella in a large degree. So it’s a large business administrative type role, our Executive Pastor has just a lot more responsibilities. I do report to the Executive Pastor, so he’s got everything that I handle under the umbrella. He kind of counts on me to help with the overall business guidance of the church, but then he is also in charge of a number of things. He has all of our congregational care and our counseling department, our missions, our ministries work, our mission’s ministry work, as well as he’s in charge of our first impressions our human resources department, as well as he’s a massive part of what we do from a teaching standpoint here at the church. So I try to take the business administration load off his plate and allow him to focus the best he can on everything else that we have going on here at the church.
Now, Crossing has two physical campuses an online campus, the community center, the school that you mentioned, and as director of administration, I’m sure you run into some challenges would you describe some of your more significant challenges day-to-day?
I think the biggest challenge we have just making sure we work together well, that sounds very simple, but whenever you are a bit more complex, you really have to be very intentional and diligent about just how all the teams around here work together. Any decision we make around this place has a lot of unintended consequences. And so we have to make sure that we plan our events well. We plan our ministries well. We organize our support teams to be able to provide excellent service, timely, across a large array of different activities and the way you work together, whenever the church was two hundred people, has to be a lot different than the way you work together whenever the church is, six-seven thousand people. What’s interesting about us is we have a lot of people around here who were here when the church was two hundred people, and in similar roles. The great thing about all those guys is that they have carried the DNA of this church all the way through this place, and they are so experienced and we count on them for so much wisdom and just excellent work. We’ve had to really stretch how they work as we have grown larger and larger. So one of the biggest things I really try to do is make sure that our support services are very efficient, very well organized, planned very well, allocate the resources well. We’ve got to always stay week/months ahead of everything to make sure that we’re actually allowing and enabling ministry to occur and also allowing our pastors and our mentor staff to focus on the things matter most. I really don’t want those guys focused on how we’re going to be moving furniture around or whether not their wireless is going to work or whether not we can pay the bills. We want them focused on engaging our people and that is easier said than done, whenever you have such a complex suite of offerings that we do here at Crossings.
Absolutely. You mentioned the support ministry in wanting to strive for efficiency. How have you incorporated technology to make those things happen?
We have a number of processes we’ve put in place and technology that we use to just make us more efficient. And I think listening to the podcast, things are very similar to people. What we’re striving to do right now though, is take all the data is being captured through all of these ministries and everything we’re doing here. We capture so much data, we’re trying to do a much better job of taking that data and turning it into very helpful information to make more informed decisions of better conversations. And that has been a big initiative that we’ve had, especially over the last six months. And I’m very fortunate that I came into a very, very capable technology team here at the church who is capable of doing some amazing things. And that’s probably been our biggest emphasis, is making sure that not only do we have the underlying base infrastructure technology that you need to be able to do all the work around here, that were actually taking it and turning all that information around to help people make more productive decisions.
You said you have a technology team, so is most of your technology, most of taking the data that you mentioned and trying to turn into helpful information, is that done internally or have you turned to the outside for help with that?
I do, we’ve done a bit of both over the years where we’ve landed right now is we’re actually doing a whole lot internally, and that was something I challenged a little bit whenever I came in, as I started looking at the direction. But as I’ve gotten involved with these guys and seen how capable they are, we’ve been able to take some of the problems that are difficult to solve on a mass produced external market and really make them work, making fit for purpose solutions to this church. A good example is that if you take something as simple as tracking worship attendance, and a normal church that would be pretty easy to do, you just count heads and then go put it on the spreadsheet and put it in a report somewhere. But here on a Sunday between both campuses, we have seven actually nine, including online, different services that we do. And so we need to make it to where it’s actually easy for the people who are in charge of tracking that information, to respond, to capture that data, to put it in a proper data store put it in a data store that is verified and validated, and then automatically flows into reporting at the right time at the right speed with the right clarity and accuracy, and if you kind multiply that concept to all the different things that go on around the church, doing that in a highly efficient way, we’ve actually done a decent amount of internal development there. I’ve done a whole lot of this work in a past life, and I’ve actually been really, really impressed with the capability of what is a very small technology team here, just being able to turn around and amazing high quality product. And that’s something we’re really excited about.
That’s really neat and it’s true, it makes sense that with such a large church, there should be probably a lot of talent within the walls.
There are. That was something that as I came into the church, I was blown away initially, but just how much had happened in the church, even from when I drove past it when I lived in Oklahoma twelve years ago, and it was easy to see the growth of the church from the outside and coming on the inside. But I wasn’t probably expecting, was just the incredible human talent that existed inside the walls. And I keep thinking over and over again about Luke 12:48 “that those who have been entrusted with much, much will be asked,” summarized, “for those who have been given much, much will be demanded… those have been interested with much, much more will be asked.” And if you think about that, in terms of God gifting us this incredible human talent that are inside these walls, we’ve been entrusted with so much. And because of that, I think we have very high expectations of what we need to be delivering and what work we need to be doing in and around the city.
Absolutely, what a great challenge. Where do you go to be inspired and challenged in your position?
It was such a massive culture shock for me and just change in work style and lifestyle and everything coming into this church. I think the first four, five months I spent every day I possibly could making sure that I was increasing my biblical understanding of my own biblical wisdom, and just to make sure that I was capable of leading well here in this place with a much different perspective on things. And I’m so fortunate that I have our Executive Pastor Terry here, as well as other people on staff that have played similar roles at this church and other places that have been great great help for me as I transitioned into this role, the person who did this job before me on the finance side, still is with the church on a part time capacity, working with our endowment. And so I’ve been able to really lean on him a whole lot just for random questions and guidance. And so now that I’m in getting through the phase which is drinking through a fire hose type phase, that’s kind of the learning growth of the church, I’ve been able to do as much as I can to pay attention, different podcast, get out and visit some churches. And that’s going to be a big initiative for me going into next year, is really trying to get myself inside as many churches as I possibly can outside of Crossings to just walk through the people and see how they’re doing on the same issues that we deal with here. That’s just a normal part of any continuous improvement process too, is just making sure you know what’s important and go out and try to find what’s possible. Go find the people who are doing things better than you take a very humble approach and strive to find people who are better than you and then go and try to adapt as quickly as you possibly can.
Yeah, that’s great. What encouragement would you give to Executive Pastors or other directors of finance, or the administrative side, or both, in their job, in their life and their perspectives?
So I think the thing that’s been so great here in America, in particular, and just in the churches you guys talk with on very normal basis is, you think just simply the fact that we actually have these roles called Executive Pastors and business administrators, and that in itself is just so awesome that we’re in churches, that had been resourced in a way to make sure that they function well. We had a young lady, who was visiting our church from France, and she was just blown away that we actually had full time employees at the church. She said, just where she’s from, that’s just not a normal thing. And so I look at that and I go back to Luke 12:48 and I think about how much we’ve been entrusted with, and just the sheer fact that our roles exist at all is just so encouraging and so exciting about what we could possibly accomplish with God in our churches. And so my thing, I think it’s so easy to get bogged down in day to day details and to almost lose sight of just how exciting it is that we’re here that we’re able to work full time, doing god’s work, in these amazing places and it’s just exciting to me, and I think that if you’re in the role for a long time, it’s easy to lose that perspective. And also to know that there’s so many other people that are doing the same things and that’s, and I listen to this podcast almost like a counseling session each week. It is like, aha good I’m not the only person who’s dealing with it, and just that sheer fact alone is always encouraging to me.
So I would like to end with giving you a chance to speak to those who are new to the church ministry and who are coming out of the corporate world, which is quite a bit of Executive Pastors and directors actually, what are some things that were really helpful for you, or what were some things that maybe you would have liked to have heard leading up to that transition?
I think probably the most important thing that I was told coming in was to be very mindful of the fact that whenever you come and actually work inside the walls of a church, that you’re going to look behind the curtain and not everything you’re going to see is going to be one hundred percent Christ-like behavior, both in terms of people you’re dealing with in the congregation and outside the congregation. And just to set your expectations, that you’re going into a real world with real people and you’re going to deal with real problems and to be ready for that and not to be discouraged by that. And I was told that over and over and over again by so many people, just to make sure I was ready. I think one of the biggest dangers that people have when they work for the church is that if they don’t take care of their own faith and their own walk with god, that it’s very easy to actually slide, slide in your own rigger in your own faith. I was really counseled up front to make sure I took care of myself in that regard. Make sure I really was dedicated to my daily bible reading, my daily meditation and prayer, that I had good accountability groups that I was in a place that I knew what I was walking into and I wasn’t going to be scared away whenever some things went wrong or I saw some behaviors that weren’t one hundred percent biblical, right? I think that’s probably the most important lesson I had.
The other thing just more practically, I suspect is, I came in here and I tried very hard not to take this perspective that I knew better than anybody else because I don’t, but it was very easy to come in and go, well in the business world we do it this way, this is how we’re going to do it. And that’s a very dangerous perspective to have. I think the guys that are guys and girls are coming from the business world need to make sure they do all they can to learn for as long as possible before they start making changes. And that was something was very intentional about, I tried to not make any change whatsoever for three months, if I could avoid it, I just really wanted to learn, absorb the culture and see what was going on and one of the biggest things I found was that the vocabulary I use, the way I spoke, some of that what I assumed that people knew was not always the case. I would say things that in the business world we said all the time and people would nod their heads and make me think they understood what I was saying, but you go and realize that they actually really didn’t understand what I was talking about and same on my side… I would hear more things about on the pastoral side that I really didn’t understand.
So I think there has to be a strong desire to make sure that you’re both communicating well that you try as hard as you can, to speak the same language. For me I had to learn a bit more grace, it’s not such a hard edge like it is in the business world. It’s okay if every now and then people mess up on their expense reimbursement, there’s things like that, that you just have to take a bit differently than I did and more of a bit more cut culture of what most people are coming out of in the business world.
I think I’ll get some Amens from that.
Every now and then it be easy to slam the hammer down and get really mad and angry at people, but you know what? That’s part of the biggest thing. You have to practice more grace. And that’s actually a good thing. We have such amazing pastors on this staff, who are creative and inspiring and so relational in nature, and they see numbers on the screen, they don’t know what to do. We’re doing a series of “you’re in the budget process” right now, and I’ve got six separate meetings that set up toward people can come in in a small environment and choose one meeting, and we can just have a good discussion on why it is that we do a budget and how we can help them to the process and why it’s important to have some of these conversations. And if you plan and just do some things, that business world, everybody knew. But here, let’s actually explain some of this stuff so that you know it’s not for no good reason. It’s not just an exercise where you fill out a template and send it in. It’s actually a good time to have good conversations to plan well, and to make the ministry side of this as well as finance and administrative work together. And that’s been a long fun for me.
What a great way to respond to that difference in styles. Blake, thanks so much for the podcast today and sharing your experience.
Not a problem good luck to you guys.