Courtney: Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Brian Snyder from Fellowship Alliance chapel in Medford, New Jersey. Brian, I’m looking forward to our chat.
Brian: Great, me too, thank you.
Brian, you are the executive pastor at Fellowship Alliance Chapel, a position you have actually held since 1999. Would you take us back and share the journey to you coming on staff?
Sure, I’d like to think it was kind of like actually biblical the disciples model Jesus said, “come and leave everything and go,” I was a businessman involved in the church and actually, I grew up… so this is the main church have been since I got saved, I got saved a year before coming to this church and I was an elder in the church formerly, senior pastor and I were really good friends. And he had asked me if I would consider this. We went out to Saddleback one year for a conference, and it was very clear that he needed an executive pastor. We realized when we’re out there, he realized. My wife and I have been praying about what would ministry look like for me, since I’m not really in ministry, prior to that, this was an answer of god to my prayers, that god had given as on the idea that this could be the path. And so we took time about a year and prayed about it and talked about what it would look like, and then we agreed to come on and we’ve been ever since.
Now, this is kind of in a time when the position of executive pastor was relatively new in the Christian world. So what was that like? Did you feel like you were in creating your own position or you felt like you had some good understanding of what the position needed to be?
Well, when it came to defining a position, I had a pretty good idea what we needed to do, but there was very little information at all out there on what to do and how to do it. As you stated, this wasn’t a position back in the day, and I remember the first thing I had ever gone to, there were only nine of us from across the country that gathered as executive pastors to try to figure out what is this? And we were all fairly new in the roles, and we’ve been developing them ever since then.
And you probably have nine just in your local area there now…
We do, we have several in the area now and in our district, and that’s one of the great things I get to do, one of the fun things I get to do is I get to help a lot of other churches mentoring in their executive pastors, their directors as well, which is just kind of fun.
So tell me a little bit about how Fellowship Alliance Chapel is structured?
We are an elder run church and the senior pastor is an elder, and I report to the senior pastor and up until a couple years ago, a few years back, everybody reported me about two and a half years back, and we took my job because we were in a mega building project and we split my job in half, and one of the guys I was on my leadership team Don Hay, we made him an executive pastor of ministries and we tried the new model that we were developing. So now there’s two of us there. So Don overseas, when I would call the day to day ministries of the church, and then I oversee the operations of the church. I oversee all the tech things, all the finance, all the different things that will be standard and operations like that. But we also have a cafe that we use for open to the public and that we use for catering for our ministry and things so I also have the oversight of that. I also have community engagements. I work really close with all the local communities and law enforcement and emergency management and things, and working them into our facility and back and forth. We also have a camp about fifteen minutes away from us, I oversee the camp, the activities we do there, the services that we do there, as far as like in summer time, we have worship services there and I oversee that. We also have an organization that we created as a separate nonprofit under us called FASA, which is Fellowship Alliance South Africa, so I receive that, and I’m on the board of the South Africa version and here, and then I work on stewardship, event planning, coordinating, bringing the teams together and the expansions of where we’re going to go, we have a lot of property that we’re trying to develop. So I’m always working on the future.
So between all of the operations, the cafe, camp, and nonprofit, event coordinating, how do you battle the administrative challenges that come just with your own personal duties and with managing all the different operations at the church?
Well, I think the big thing is you gotta have teams around you and you gotta have of systems. Systems is not uncommon, but if you don’t have teams, the systems weren’t very good, if you don’t have systems, the teams can’t really function, so to set up people well to get some clear objectives and directions to be able to communicate clearly with people to be able to have things available for them, whether that’s OneDrive online type of thing, shared documents and stuff. But it’s… the big thing is teams in meeting and caring and helping the people.
Do you find that most of your teams, are the staff filled or are there also in volunteers from the general church members?
A lot of it is volunteers, there’s some staff were you definitely have to have it. I have an administrative director that reports to me, and oversees the office staff and things, but the camp is all volunteer, the South Africa commission is all volunteer. There’s no other staff involved in those. The cafe is a joint venture with another guy that oversees that, who… it’s more like… joint ventures is the best way to word it, but he has staff in it.
Now you mentioned using shared documents, how are some other ways that you’ve incorporated technology into how you administrate all these different areas?
Technology’s probably been the most interesting thing for me here over the years here, because you have to change constantly. We have our church database program, which is a monster to change when you get to certain sizes in your database. And we got to change a few times trying to come up with what we like. So that has been good. We use a program now, Church Community Builder, and my administrative director does a phenomenal job, really helping all the ministries know how to use it well, training them up, meeting with them, going out to an event to get them started. And that’s a big plus, because at least now eighty/eighty-five percent of what we do is in one location we’ve been doing that for several years, but the technology, you can’t go without it there, so that’s just one of the softwares we use. But like I said, we’re always changing, our office suite, we use Microsoft office suite, we used to use google apps, we went to Microsoft office suites, shared documents, OneDrive, everything being live all the time for all of us not having to go find it is critical. So we use them there and of course, finance and things of that sort, but everything you do when you’re planning services at the main campus and over at the camp, planning center and things like that coming to play, what teams are on where, that’s kind how we use most of it. Then you throw another foreign country in it and you have to use technology for that for sure.
Yeah, most of you, you have this cafe and the camp and the nonprofit, do they operate under the same roof? Are they in different locations?
So the camp is in a different location, it’s in the next town over, the cafe, is under the same roof, and then the nonprofit literally is in South Africa, and then I have a team here that I work with that as far as meetings. But the actual nonprofit is in South Africa as well.
You know, I’m really curious, especially since you’ve been an executive pastor since 1999, if you step back and just look at your journey over the last nineteen, almost twenty years, really, how has this position changed for you in your specific church? And then just what you see nationally?
That’s a great question. So for me, I think when I came in, it was number one, I was not think of the traditional route of schooling seminary and into ministry. So twenty years ago, that was not as common either, and what I look at is, for me, one of the big changes been to see how that’s been embraced and changed since that. Majority of our staff that I’ve hired, I’ve hired from within, that whether we have to get biblical training or whether we have to do additional schooling and things of that sort, we’ve been able to do that, but it’s taken and to be opened up the door for a big shift in bringing up the laity to not just a volunteer in the church disciple, but to be a full time person in ministry where there’s needs to be able to have people come out of the church and become missionaries and supported oversees and be trained well and equipped well… That’s been, I would say, one of the biggest changes I’ve seen is being able to find that alternative route to bring in people into ministry, which is the way I came in and the way it seems pretty normal now, but twenty years ago was not. For our church it helped because the senior pastor, he got freed up to do what he was called here to do, set the vision, lead the church, lead the charge and that’s critical. He doesn’t have time for that. The church is just not there, and his gifts and strengths are not where mine are or vice versa. And so we complement each other very well and you see a long term relationship last, it’s just been a great joy and we’re still great friends to this day and I just really enjoy that aspect of the. So I think they’re a couple of the changes that I’ve seen and then nationally, I think, again, I get involved with different groups nationally, so to see how this position has gone from literally nine of us that used to get together to where there’s not enough room to hold everybody. It’s been, just exciting, to be on the cutting edge and then to see it actually come to fruition across the country. And there’s so many great people out there to learn from, that’s been excellent and just really a lot of fun to see.
Now, I’d like to go a little more into your relationship with the senior pastor, because it’s notorious as the executive pastor to be people say, leading from the second chair and the dynamic relationship with the senior pastor. And you have not only been on staff since 1999, you’ve been in a very close partnership with someone else since 1999, so how do you protect that and foster that relationship with the senior pastor?
So, I think again, since we were friends before, it was very beneficial because we weren’t just surface friends, but to keep the relationship solid and strong and honest is one of the biggest things that… we made a commitment before I accepted the position, that our friendship was critical, that our relationship was critical and that we couldn’t damage that in the process and that we always had to stay the same way we would be as friends, and that we would share with each other what’s going on in our lives. We would be able to hold one another accountable on things and we have met once a week for every week, almost for the last twenty years. And we continue to do it to this day, we have a lunch together all the time and we talked what’s going on. We talk about our lives, our kids, and our grandkids, all the things that have changed and we’re able to have the honest conversation because he knows I love him, I support him, I care for him. And the only thing I am here to do is to fulfill where he is leading us as a church and so on. If we have a tough issue to go through, then it’s not so hard because we both have the same goal and when he has to speak into my life on tougher stuff, he loves me and cares for me, there is no question, he has my best interest and the church’s best interest at heart. And so I think to have the relationship component is the most critical part so that you can speak truth daily.
That’s great. I love what you brought up about how important that trust is. How do you say fresh in your role as an executive pastor?
Well, there’s another good question. The majority of the time you get your dry spells, but the majority of the times, is where do you go to learn? What do you go to be fed and things? And so things like… even this blog is something I listen to regularly. There’s things like leadership network I’m involved in, there’s an xp conference with David Fletcher there is you know we have a thing, even in our denomination, we call network nine hundred, because our church is over nine hundred. So I have guys to meet with on a regular basis. And even if it’s picking up the phone because we’re across the country is one of the big ways that I think I stay fresh and charged about it, but I think also it’s knowing that I’m called to do this. I really a lot of time off the lord and just feel blessed that I get the opportunity to do it and being able to just talk to lord about that. And so that’s, I think, one, the biggest refreshments for me is knowing I’m doing what I’m called to do.
What kind of encouragement would you give to other executive pastors? And I know that you wouldn’t necessarily say there’s there some secret to you lasting as long as you had, but what is some of that formula? Maybe you can share, especially to those who are just starting out.
Well it goes back, to what you were talking about the senior pastor’s relationship with mine, it goes back to that. And I would say the number one thing is to love the senior pastor, to know you’re there to hold his arms up, you’re there to serve it his will if you will and to appreciate that. Never look at this as a stepping stone. Always look at it as a calling, but you have to love him and support him 100% because he’s going to make mistakes the same as I will. The other thing I think is, love all the staff, we’re all quirky, and so you’re going to have quirky people on a team and you might be the one to them that’s quirky, and so to love them and to respect them and to spend the time you need to developing them meeting with them and caring for them, it’s not just administration, you are shepherding people’s hearts in this role. And so to make sure you’re looking at it that way, then I think to love the church. Because if you love church, love your people and you, this list, the staff, the senior, you’re going to run into problems. But you know what? It’s great because you know you’re advancing what god wants; you love them all. And a problem is only a headache. It’s not a big chasm to have to worry about. God takes care of the big things, he takes care of the little things, but it’s really loving them all, and knowing that you’re there serving them and loving on them.
That’s fantastic. So as we close, because you’ve been at this position for so long and so many people listening are relatively new to it. If you just want to end with some kind of verse has gotten you through or anything that can be an encouragement to those who are starting out.
Sure. So for me, my life first, and it really became my life for shortly before I got this role, I was seeking out to what I would do in ministry. It was Matthew 6:33, “seek ye first the kingdom of god, and all these things should be added.” So for me, when literally everything I am doing, I wanna seek first the kingdom of god. And that to me is the biggest encouragement you can have. If you’re seeking the kingdom, you know you’re doing what you need to do. If you’re trying to accomplish stuff, that’s not it, but you’re seeking the kingdom. It’s great. So that’s my biggest encouragement. Seek the kingdom first, everything else gets taken care of.
Brian thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Thank you for having me.