Hello and welcome to Monday Morning Church. Today we have a very special guest. We have Chris Shore who’s joined us from Grace church. Hi Chris, how are you today?
Hey Neil, I’m doing great, thanks.
Very good. Well, Chris, thanks a lot for joining the show. I’m excited to hear what you have to tell us about, but let’s start with you. Give us a little bit of background about where you come from and how you got to be the executive pastor at Grace.
Yeah, that’s quite a journey. Actually, I grew up here in Indiana in a rural, very small town, rural community in east central Indiana. And I really didn’t have any spiritual heritage. My parents were not believers, I didn’t grow up in church, but at about age 11, I was invited to a children’s ministry outreach after school, and it was there that I was introduced to Jesus and surrendered my life to him, began to follow him. And it was a very serious, real transformative decision for me and immediately through my older brother in particular, got involved in little Baptist church there in our community. And that church became my spiritual family, the people there loved me and cared for me and began to teach me and got involved in a lot of things that you would think about kids being involved in, Sunday school, VBS, youth camp, and so forth. And those became the ministries and the people that really began to shape and transform my life, it was actually at the youth camp as a teenager the summer before my senior year in high school that I really felt God called me, impressed deeply on me, a call to ministry, which kind of came out of the blue from me since again, like I said, I didn’t have any spiritual heritage or background. So I ended up going to Bible college and right out of Bible college, went to a small rural Baptist church, and literally on the corner of a cornfield, in the middle of nowhere, Illinois, I pastored for about a year.
I think I’ve been to that church.
Yes, you’ve seen a lot of postcards, I guarantee you. And pastored there for about a year. And then, ironically, the little church that kind of adopted me and my home community needed a pastor and asked me to come. And I came back and pastored that church for about 10 years in my home community. So my background for 10 years, 10+ years was a solo pastor, if you will, in a small rural type community. During the last part of that time, about last four or five years, God began to work through people and circumstances and a lot of other things in my life to give me a heart for children’s ministry. There’s a whole another story we could talk about on that for a long time, but that led me eventually to begin looking around for the opportunity to serve as a pastor of children’s ministries. And my path crossed with Grace Church at that time. That was 22 years ago. In fact, this month 22 years ago is when we began seriously connecting and talking, and they took a chance on me. They were a church of about 1200 at the time, about maybe 400 kids needing a children’s pastor. And so that’s where I got introduced to Grace and came to Grace and served for about five years or so in that role. And as our church grew and changed and leadership needs changed, my role changed a few times. I served as what we called at the time pastor of life stages, where we kind of gathered all the age group ministries under me, and then as we continue to grow and change, I served as pastor of care and connection for a couple of years. And then, again, as we kind of restructured ourselves and so forth, the role of executive pastor was first introduced about 11 years ago in our structure. That seemed like something that really was a good fit for me. It really resonated with my heart and my passion, which I can talk about later maybe. But I kind of put my name forward and said, I think that would be something that I would really want to be involved in. And so for the last 11 years, I’ve been serving as executive pastor at Grace.
Wow, so go ahead and tell us little bit about where that passion comes from, what it’s directed towards.
Well, I remember a professor in Bible college who would either speak… I had him for church history and also for some pastoral administration classes. I remember his heart for the church. He would be talking about something in church history and just going to tears. He would be so passionate about the church. And I remember one day he was talking about Acts chapter two and talking about the birth of the church and the power of the church and the importance of the church, and that passion just captured me and the heart for that. And so that was my heart all along as a small church pastor, was to see the church be all that God intended for it to be for working together, everybody finding their place, doing their part for it to be a healthy representation of the body of Christ. And so that really captured me. That’s why I approached ministry both as a small church pastor, and even when I came to Grace, I came to Grace because I had this passion for children’s ministry, but my greater passion was for the church to be the church. And so my approach was, I want to figure out how the children’s ministry of Grace Church can be the best representation of the church and in particular Grace Church, and we can really be integrated together fully, not just a separate ministry of Grace Church. And so all along that passion has grown and grown in me and the background and the experiences I’ve had have led me to this place where now it’s my job to make sure we are that church, that everything fits together and works together.
Yeah, let’s back up a little bit and look at Grace Church itself. It’s a very large church in the area. How are you organized in terms of who else is kind of on that team? What falls under your responsibility? What are the other things that go?
Right. We have a governing board that’s made up of nine elders and three pastors, and I’m one of the pastors that sits on that governing board along with our senior pastor and our administrative pastor, and then the executive team, the staff team that oversees all of Grace Church is made of our senior pastor, administrative pastor, myself and our teaching pastor. So the four of us give oversight generally to Grace Church and all the ministries and the direction. But then our next layer of leaders are pastors, which make up our pastoral leadership team. And most of them report directly to me, everyone except our pastor of leadership development, who reports to our teaching pastor and our pastor of a stewardship and financial development. He reports to the senior pastor. But all the pastors, the pastor leadership team meet together on a weekly basis, and I lead that meeting. I’m responsible for that group of people in terms of managing our agenda and all the other pastors, pastor of children’s ministry, student ministries, adult ministries, worship arts and communications, outreach and care, and our three campus pastors all report to me and we all work together to figure out how do we integrate and coordinate our strategic ministries together as one church.
Yeah, so maybe you can give us a little insight about when you hold these big meetings, what are some tips that you’ve learned along the way, things that work when you’re trying to bring in people with very, very different focuses. How do you bring them all together?
Yeah, well, there’s practical things like I’m big on creating agendas and managing agendas well. I’m not super legalistic about it. If we get off time or off track, that’s okay. But I at least have a plan and stay on track. But then more importantly, it’s not just my approach, but it’s our approach at Grace Church to how we lead and we are committed to lead together in consensus, maintaining unity and moving forward together. So my goal and our goal anytime we have leaders meeting together, is that we are looking to… we want to be a community of leaders together, so we pay attention to our personal relationships and our relationships together and spend time building into those, but we then want to be in a pastor work together. We’re discerning what God’s spirit is saying to us and that we’re responding in faith and unity together. So we’re committed to consensus decision making. So we’re very committed to wrestling through the issues or the decisions or the topics, whether it be theological, practical, some kind of philosophical approach to a particular issue. Whatever it is, we’re going to listen to each other. We’re going to respect each other, we’re going to seek to arrive together in unity and consensus and move forward together. So my job is to manage that discussion so that we end up on the same page.
Yeah, that’s obviously a very important role in something that takes a lot of time and talent to be able to coordinate with all that. Very interesting. Chris, can you tell us little bit about some of the technology that Grace uses to stay organized, to stay aligned and on the same page with everything?
Yeah, we’re still learning and exploring some of the best technological tools, if you will, to help us. Obviously, we’ve got some financial and administrative tools that help us, some things to help us with payroll and HR administrative things, but beyond that, from a ministry standpoint, we’re actually in the middle of exploring some tools to help us both collect data and metrics and know how to gather them and then how to keep them in front of us in a way that are meaningful. So one of them that we’re looking at right now, and I think we’re going to try to use it is a free tool that’s offered by Life.ChurchTV, out in Oklahoma. It’s called Church Metrics, churchmetrics.com. I’m pretty impressed with that. We’re playing around with it right now, because what we found is we’ve grown bigger and more complex. It’s harder to have the right things in front of all of us at the same time showing us where we are, what’s happening, what’s important rather than having a bunch of Excel spreadsheets and things like that, that everyone has to access. So that’s one of the tools we’re looking at right now that I think will help us. Beyond the technology, there’s been some really important tools, if you will, in our toolkit that have helped us. And that is, one is Patrick Lencioni has been a great asset to us and some of his models of strategic planning and strategic…keeping a strategic scorecard in front of us. So we’ve used in particular his book The Advantage, has been a great asset to us. And the thing I’ve talked about earlier, our commitment to stay in unity with one another and leading in consensus, a great resource to us has been Ruth Haley Barton’s book called Pursuing God’s Will Together. We kind of joke that the Bible, Pursuing God’s Will Together, and The Advantage are our canon of resources around here that keeps us on track.
Nice, nice. That’s good. Do you manage to be able to keep paperwork kind of at a minimum, or is that something that’s a struggle for you guys?
We do keep paperwork at a minimum. I don’t print any documents for meetings. Everything’s managed. I try to manage everything through electronic documents and keeping all those things filed and accessible to people. And plus, it drives me crazy when papers start to pile up on my desk. I hate going to a meeting where someone gives me a stack of papers. It has to be done sometimes, some things are more easily taken in and discussed when it’s on paper, but for the most part, we try to really… we have great IT department here. We have great ministry tools in terms of phones and laptops and all that stuff. So there’s no reason why we can’t manage things without paper most of the time.
Nice, good, good. Chris, where do you go to learn new things? You talked about Patrick Lencioni, some of the other tools that you used, but in terms of networking, in terms of other places where you like to gather to learn more about the challenges of being an executive pastor, where do you go for that?
Probably the two greatest resources to learn from that I personally found, and that we as a church have found, are obviously The Willow Creek Association and in particular, the Global Leadership Summit. I think I’ve probably been to the last 20 of those or something like that. And we’ve been a host site for the last… I can’t remember, 10, 15 years. And it’s a really important opportunity that we really take advantage of it. Obviously, it’s where we were introduced to Patrick Lencioni and many other resources that have been helpful to us. And then Leadership Network is just an outstanding organization, both for some gatherings and events where they…what I love about their approaches, they’re about bringing leaders together from various places and at various stages of ministry development and learning together. They facilitate some content, but mostly help you learn from one another. And then give you the opportunity to work together with your own team to develop plans to move forward. So there are conferences, they’re learning opportunities and the many resources that they offer have been just a great asset to us. And then I’ve got a relationship with a couple of executive pastors close by that I stay in contact with, meet with regularly, and we bounce things off of each other and try to learn from one another and encourage one another. So those are some of the main… of course, there’s a lot of different conferences and resources that we’ve tapped into over the years. But the consistent go-to has been the Leadership Summit and Leadership Network.
Nice, very good. And like you said, it’s important to have people locally, too, that you can connect with and share ideas with, that’s really good. Great. Chris, what do you feel like is, as you look over your whole role, what do you feel like are the biggest challenges that come at you, particularly as an executive pastor?
The overall biggest challenge for me is living between managing the minutia and the larger strategic picture. Being a part of both of those and kind of happen to bridge those two worlds together. So the minutia would… sometimes there’s… we have a large staff, and so there’s a lot of staff dynamics that have to be paid attention to and have managed. I would love it if it were true that because we’re in the church, everyone is always behaving well and getting their job done, and we don’t have to deal with any issues. But the fact is we’re people, and that happens. There’s a lot of relationships that have to be managed. Sometimes it’s the minutia of figuring out, okay, which room are we going to use for which event. I’m out of most of that these days, but once in a while it still falls back to me is that we can’t figure this one out, which gets priority. Those are more rare these days, but then the bigger picture of keeping multiple ministries, multiple pastors focused together, working together on a common strategic direction while everybody is also managing the whirlwind of normal regular day-to-day ministry activities. And so, kind of keeping people focused on the big picture while they’re trying to manage their own micro world as well.
Yeah. Wow. Yeah, that is a big challenge.
Yeah. And honestly, what helps me is because of my background of being the only guy in a solo pastor role for many years, and then being responsible for an area of ministry like children’s ministry, and then a subsection of ministries, it gives me a perspective. I understand what our ministry leaders, our staff are experiencing in those places when it’s hard to get volunteers, when it’s hard to figure out how we’re going to get our ministry calendar to fit with everything else and to find a space to have things. I get what it’s like to be there. So I’m not oblivious to all that. I’ve been there. And then there’s just… and then you throw into that because we’re church and we’re ministering to people, then there’s personal pastoral crises that come up in the midst of all that. I’ve lived with that for 32 years. And so I understand when our younger staff are wrestling with those things. I’ve been there. I get it.
Yeah. It’s so important to be able to have that empathy to be able to see it from so many different angles. That’s really powerful. Well, Chris, why don’t you, you’ve kind of done it, but don’t you end us with just a short little snippet of some encouragement you would give to other executive pastors out there? What would you tell them? Just in a few words.
First of all, if you don’t love and bleed and have a consuming passion for the church, if you don’t believe that the church is the hope of the world, that it is God’s instrument for bringing his kingdom to this Earth, then you probably shouldn’t be an executive pastor, or you need to do something to develop that passion in you to renew that. Or if it’s waning or if you’ve lost it, then do what it takes, either in the scriptures or some renew or something to make sure that that is the driving passion of your life. I think that’s critical. And then in addition to that, I know executive pastor roles are different in different churches that are organized maybe differently. But I think it’s important to make sure the staff and leaders that you lead know that you care about them, that you love them, that you understand what it’s like to be in their shoes, that you’re not in some kind of ivory tower or corner office, oblivious to what it’s like to be on the front lines of ministry and to make sure that you connect with them, you listen to them and you honor them and celebrate them appropriately. But at the same time, you can’t let up on the strategic vision that God’s given to your church. You’ve got to keep pressing forward. You got to call people to more and more commitment and intentionality and accountability to those things. At the end of the day, I think we are all stewards of the mission that God’s given to the church and to the resources that he’s entrusted to us, and that includes people resources. And at the end of the day, I think we want to be good stewards and faithful stewards of what God’s given to us.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a fantastic way to end this. Thanks so much, Chris, it’s been a pleasure to get to know you a little bit better and to get to know what’s going on at Grace Church, too.
Thanks, Neil. It’s been fun.