Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Today, our guest is Chris Marinello who’s coming to us from Evangel Church in New Jersey. Hi, Chris. How are you?
Alright, great. And yourself?
I’m doing awesome here, enjoying the summer time in Indiana. How are things out there in New Jersey?
Well, it’s been quite cool lately, very mild, but it’s starting to heat up. This 4th of July weekend, I think, we’ll be getting some really nice hot and humid weather as we usually get this time of the year on the East Coast.
Great. Great. Well, Chris, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you become the — you’re the Director of Operations at Evangel Church. So how did you get into that role? What were you doing before that?
Well, my wife and I moved out here in New Jersey around 1995 and we started attending Evangel Church in 1997 with our three young children at the time. And we got immediately ingrained in the culture. We’re participating in ministry, our kids were in the children’s program. We have a great children’s program here at the church. And soon after that, I guess by 2003, I was elected on to the Board of Deacons and continued on in the role, overseeing buildings and grounds facilities, helping to budget for capital expenditures and the likes. And when my term ended after five years, in 2008, the board approached me and asked me if I would like to take on the position of Business Administrator. I prayed on it and consult with my wife and then decided to take it. And that eventually evolved into the Director of Operations as the church continued to grow.
Wow! Your experience beforehand was in the corporate world or what were you doing before that?
Yeah, I had worked on Wall Street. I was a Commodities Broker. I worked down at the trade center from the early ’80s and mid ’90s.
Was that like the commodities, like the typical crazy scenes you see in movies or something else?
Yes, exactly. They made that movie with Eddie Murphy some years ago, Trading Places. That’s exactly where it took place. Everybody hollering and screaming. It’s basically organized chaos.
Wonderful. And then you moved into the church world, which is the same or different?
I can say that it is organized chaos at times, here. People come in and everything looks like we’re running around and we don’t know what we’re doing. But there is a lot of planning that goes on behind the scenes and we are trying to be intentional, trying to stay focused on our mission and vision and that’s what it’s all about because we have a calling to touch the Body of Christ and to bring people to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
Yeah. Well, tell us more about Evangel Church. How’s it structured? What’s under your responsibility right now?
Well, Evangel is a board run, staff led church and the senior pastor is empowered by the board to cast visions and construct the leadership team to implement that vision as a shepherd to flock. Then my position is to take care and monitor day to day operations of the church. And being a servant leader, to effectively find ways of working with the pastors, and staff, and ministry leaders and managing the usage of the entire facility as we try to facilitate ministry to advance the senior pastor’s vision. Part of my responsibilities also include, obviously the administration and risk management of all the church finances, and human resources, communications, and facilities.
So you have a hand in lots of different things going on. Tell us about where Evangel Church is going, what are some new things coming up for you guys? What are you gonna plan for for the next 5 years?
Right. Well, there’s a couple of things on the horizon. First, it’s our senior pastor’s vision to open up 5 satellite churches within the next five years and, God willing, draw 5000 people to those venues. So with that, we’ve been doing some counseling with the unstuck group to try to set us in the right position to go forward on that path. We’re learning now what’s important in setting, making sure our mission, vision and values are in place, and that we have all of our systems solidified where they’re replicable and we could just continue to be ready and confident to know that when we opened up the first site, if Lord wills it that we have the money to open a second site, we’ll be ready to just move forward and continue on in that path. Some of what I’ve learned through listening to podcast is that if you’re looking to branch out and do open up satellite churches, you should have your systems in such a place where they’re so replicable that you have the ability, if you had the financing, to open up 10 branches at once. And that would put you in a better position to know that the first branch that you would open up would be successful.
Yeah, so as the Director of Operations, what are those key systems that you’ve been focusing on building to prepare for this new launch?
Well, we’re always trying to make sure that our assimilation processes, our Evangelism processes are all in place, our hospitality processes are in place. We’re still working on that, trying to define that. We’ve also lately been working with another consultant on our branding to make sure that when we do duplicate ourselves, that everyone knows that we are all from one church, one system and just in different locations.
So that’s kind of been a focus for you to get those things. It’s almost feel like, like you said, when you walk into any church, it’s gonna have the same feel and that feel comes from those processes you’re setting up. So that’s a big thing for you, right?
Yes, yes. Definitely. Technology is another very important aspect we have in place and meets one of the most difficult parts of the job, dealing with technology, because it’s always changing. As soon as you sign on to something, there’s something better out there. And there’s so much of selection. It used to be that we used to use one vendor for all our needs, for all the apps that we needed, whether it was financial or people management attendance. But now, we find ourselves using 5 different vendors. Would be great to consolidate unto one umbrella to avoid the integration problems that come up when dealing with multiple vendors but that’s difficult to accomplish nowadays. But it’s an ongoing challenge. And currently, we use FellowshipOne for our church management system and small groups and attendance. We use Shelby for financials and general ledger, accounts payable and depreciation. And then we use Google Calendar and Drive and Docs for all office and staff communications. So those are some of the things we use and try to work with to help expedite ministry about the church.
One thing you might be able to share a little bit more on just to let everyone else know is that process of choosing a software vendor. When you have so many options that are out there, what are the key things that you look for when you’re selecting a new one?
Yeah. First you try to get a trial run when you speak to salespeople. Obviously, educational videos that they have available to walk you through it, having someone on the phone that can explain capabilities of the system and then also running it by some of the key stakeholders on the staff, get their input and they’re buy in, whether they think this is what we do need, if it’s gonna help us or it’s gonna hinder us. Because, remember, anytime you switch any kind of new app or software, there’s a big learning curve that goes with that. And sometimes, that can frustrate a staff and slow down productivity. So we don’t wanna do that often. When we do make a move, we wanna be very sure that we’re gonna buy into it, and work it, and learn it because we’re gonna have to live with it for a while. And we needed to make sure that it’s the right tool on our tool belt.
Yeah. It’s a big decision because you’re giving something that’s gonna be used by all the staff. And so if they have a problem with it, it’s gonna come back to you eventually and it’s a problem to solve. So that’s a big challenge to yourself. Chris, let’s talk about some other administrative challenges that you face. What are some other things, just in the course of everyday church life, that seems that come up on your plate a lot?
Something that we’ve been learning is that as an organization, we have to be very effective to be purposeful in our calendar scheduling and resource utilization, making sure that ministry and event that we place on the calendar is consistent with our mission, vision and values. This way we could stay focused on how and where we have the greatest impact for the kingdom. We recognize that if we fail this level, we’ll just tend to fill up our schedule of many good ministries and events instead of honing in in what’s best and most impactful for us to be able to lead people into life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
Yeah. Obviously giving those schedules good and, like you said, look at what is good and what’s great, and what you really need to focus on is a big challenge that’s there. I also wanted to ask you, just in your situation, you have a lot of business experience. You’ve been at this operations role for a while, and you’re actually working with a Senior Minister that’s younger, or at least with less experience, perhaps in that world. We talked to a lot of different ExPs, directors of operations about that importance between that roles. How do you and your Senior Minister work together? What are some great things that you do to complement each other?
Well, we try to sit down weekly for a one on one meeting where we lay hot topics out and discuss those. But we have a relationship where we could always pop in on one another which I really appreciate because that’s the way I like doing business. I feel like there’s never any surprises that way. The more you talk to somebody, the way you are interacting with somebody, even how you do meeting for one or two minutes, the more you learn about them, the more you hear their heart and their vision, and then you get to start thinking like one another. And that’s really the key to any great team is being on the same page, being committed to the same vision and then operating and thinking for one another. So we’ve been cultivating that over the past number of years and were voracious learners. We’re constantly reading, and like I said, listening to leadership podcasts that available out there, whether again, it’s most North Point Church, Life Church. There’s great resources out there that you can learn from and then we share it with one another, and then we try to implement it, and try to also feed it to the staff and get everybody thinking in one way and moving in one direction.
Yes. So you talked a lot about a lot of the resources you are already plugged into, yourself learned a lot, but it sounds like you’re trying to have a learning organization too with the rest of staff and Senior Minister and everything. How do you go about that and making sure that all the staff is building in their knowledge, and their capabilities, and their skills? What are some ways that you encourage that learning throughout the staff?
Yeah. Well, that’s something we’re working on and we have different meetings throughout the course of the month. So at times we’ll meet with a group of 4 called The Cabinet. At other times we’ll meet with a bigger group called the Ministry Team and we try to expand it that way. That’s where we’ll offload some of the information that we’ve been coming across and downloaded to them. senior pastor is always handing up literature for us to read. Most recent book that we’ve received is Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. So we’re in the process of cracking open that book and then we’ll go through that every so often over the next few months and discuss that and try to apply the principles that they teach in that book.
That’s great. Being able to learn as an organization, being able to connect together is a great thing. Chris, why don’t you close at our time here with some encouragement you’d give to some other executive pastors listening here around the country? What would you have to say to them?
Yeah. I guess what I’ve learned through all the networks that have been involved in, the resources that I listen to and read, and what I’ve experienced here is that everybody who works in the church in this executive pastor or a Director of Operations position experiences the same, day in and day out. So if you’re in a situation where you’re finding challenges and you don’t know how to figure out a solution, you don’t know where to begin, again, reach out to somebody. Get involved in a network, sign up for a podcast, get a group of people, go into your community. I’m sure there are other large churches in your community, or even small churches. Reach out to the person who holds that position in that church and just network with them and speak to them. And it’s very comforting to know that someone else has already gone through what you’re experiencing. They might have the solution, they might not, but they could walk you through it and maybe they know someone else that does have the solution for it. So that’s what I would encourage people to do. It’s so great. Back in 2008, when I first started in this position, there weren’t many resources out there. But now there’s such an abundance of resources. Just Google something and you can find an answer or some place that can help you solve your problem.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. There are resources out there which they would have been there for a long time but it is nice to hear about that. And you mentioned so many good ones. We’ll make sure to put a lot of those in the show notes for this. But, Chris, thanks so much for being on the show, for sharing your experiences and what’s happening there at Evangel.
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Neil. I really appreciate your podcast.