Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Dale Winson is joining us today from The Crossing Church in Costa Mesa, California. Great to have you on the show today, Dale.
Thank you. Glad to be a part of it.
Yeah. So, Dale, tell us a little bit about how you came to The Crossing Church, and if you are from Costa Mesa, or if you were just lucky enough for God to call you there.
Yeah, right. It’s kind of a long and winding road. I’m actually a native of California and there’s not too many of us. I guess there’s more now, but not my age, I guess. Originally from the San Fernando Valley, so probably 60-70 miles North of here. But I’ve been in Costa Mesa, Orange County area for probably 30 years now, I guess. So, most of my life. My wife and I both lived here and neither of us were believers. And when we got married, decided, maybe we should check out church. We actually got a flyer in the mail. That’s how we wound up at The Crossing.
So you get the flyer, and you go to The Crossing, and then what’s kind of the journey from there to being an Executive Pastor?
Yeah, right. I know. I just went because we were newlyweds. We’d just gotten back from our honeymoon and I just wanted to make my new wife happy because she wanted to check out this church thing. But it was a really good message and I could bleep out all the God and Jesus stuff, and it was good. They improved my life. But over time, I started thinking, well, maybe God and Jesus have something to do with what he’s saying. So we both started reading our bibles and I just wanted to figure out who Jesus was, and eventually came to the conclusion He could only be who He said He was. That’s the only explanation I could find for what the stories in the New Testament. So yeah. Both my wife and I came to Christ at the church, and got baptized at the church. Probably back in 1992, so a while ago.
So, then, yeah, you become baptized then, but this is still a big jump to becoming an Executive Pastor.
Well, I had been in business. I had my own IT consulting business, and the Senior Pastor started to get to know me. And at the time, he was building his first kind of official Board of Directors and he asked me to be on the board. And I said, dude, I haven’t even read the bible. I don’t know what you want me to say to the board. So I told him, no, I wouldn’t do it. He persisted, which he can do. So probably ‘93, ‘94 started serving on the Board of Directors of the church. Did that on and off. I spent over 10 years as a Board Member or Chairman of the Board. And in 2006, the church was continuing to grow, and the pastor felt he needed someone with some strong business background, a business expertise to take over the business operations of the church. So he asked me to come do that. I was crazy enough to say yes.
So then you’ve been an Executive Pastor there for, I guess, about 12 years now. What are some of your reflections? This is a pretty different environment than some kind of IT consulting industry.
Well, first of all, it’s great to be part of something where you feel like you’re making a difference in the world. Our church is about reaching people that are like me, that were like me, that are people that aren’t aware of God or don’t know God, but at the place where people can feel comfortable in getting to know God. So it’s great to see that we continue to reach people and to be a part of that. That’s a much bigger mission than just installing computer systems or helping businesses. So I like that. From a business perspective, the way the church runs isn’t all that different. We’ve got Payroll, we’ve got Accounting, we’ve got Marketing, we’ve got Computer Systems, we’ve got HR, all those things behind the scenes, the nuts and bolts, are very similar to running a business. We just don’t have Sales.
Well, I guess not, technically.
So what exactly does fall under your responsibility there at The Crossings?
I report to the Lead Pastor, Tim Celek, but as you mentioned, in transition to Andrew Brownback. So we’re on a succession process here. I am part of the directional team, so that’s our key leaders here on staff. And we went through a whole Strat Op process with Tony Morgan. So we’re using his template for managing both the short term and the long term direction of the church. So I’m part of that team. I’m responsible for the financial systems, getting financial reports to the board of directors, our church database systems. I do a lot of special reports to the Lead Pastor, if he wants to see giving trends, top givers, those kind of things. All of our computer system infrastructure from the land, to our Wi-Fi network in our servers, our marketing, our website, HR. I handle all our banking because we’ve got some loans here. Not that I deal with day to day transaction, but just the banking relationship, and then our audit as well.
So what is one best practice you have going on there at The Crossing that you really found success with?
Yeah. We recently changed over from Fellowship One to Rock RMS for our church database system. As part of this Start Op process, we built a dashboard that shows, here’s all of our goals, all of our key measures, both weekly, annually, and in five years. So we took Rock. We actually built a dashboard that shows, week to week, how we’re doing against the targets that we’ve set. So it allows all of our pastors to see based on our goals. They can just click a button and see this whole dashboard. It’s not super complex, but it gives them real time, hey, how are we doing as a church? How are we doing at reaching people? How are we doing at baptizing people, getting people into groups? How’s giving going? How are we doing getting volunteers and leaders developed? So that’s really been awesome for our ministry staff and for our leadership team.
Now, that takes a lot of effort at the front end, especially gathering a team to determine what exactly those goals are going to be. So what did that process look like for you?
So that’s where we hired Tony Morgan with the Unstuck Group. So he came in and led us through a process, they call it Strat Op, Strategy Operation, where they do an assessment on the current state of the church, where we’re at, from everything from attendance, to staffing levels, to giving levels, to volunteer. Kind of looking at everything that we’re doing as a church, and then walking through what are the key goals of metrics that we want to put in place, and the key initiatives to get to those goals that we’ve set, that we want to manage to. We did that a couple of years ago with Tony for the first time, and then we did a refresher a year back. It’s a living document that we have, the roadmap, really, on how we want to see our church grow. So that was the first part, was really identifying what those key goals and then what those measurements were going to be. And once we define that, then we’re able to take our church system and create the measures and data parameters to pull in to show in our dashboard.
So I’m wondering what kind of reception this got from your staff, because you’re not only changing the database from Fellowship to Rock, but then also introducing these specific goals and metrics. What was the reception for that?
Well, that’s a really good question. One of the things that we did is we involved them in the process. So this wasn’t just the lead team or directional team going off with Tony for a few days and coming back and saying, here’s what we’re going to go do as a church. We had most of the staff, not all of them, but the majority of the staff involved. And we brought in some key volunteers and leaders as well to give us input and feedback on how we are doing and where we should be going as a church. So we took all of that, and the directional team kind of wean through it and clarify in some things. But everybody who was involved in the process, which was kind of unique and different for us. We used to do it more just as a directional team, but getting the whole staff engaged, gets buy in, that they’re on board and a part of the driving forward on that road map that we put in place.
Now you’re also doing this in the midst of transition in leadership with the succession. So what has that looked like for you? Is there a certain amount of time that this is going to be taking place before it transitions over to the new guy? What does that look like?
Yeah, also a good question. So our Senior Pastor probably started with our board of directors, a good 5 years ago. We’re coming up on out 30th anniversary, so he’s the founding pastor for our 30th anniversary. It will be in September. And he really felt led that it was at that time that he would be stepping down as Lead Pastor and handing it off to someone. So he really felt God leading him towards that 5 years ago. So he started working with our board on it. And they’re communicating with me, because there’s a lot of operational pieces from hiring staff, to reorganizing things, and getting finances in order to make sure that that goes smoothly. But we really went public with it, started telling our key leaders and volunteers and staff just about a year ago. So I worked closely with the Senior Pastor on how to craft a message, how to build a web page around that, and what information we’re going to communicate and how we’re going to communicate it. And as we presented to different volunteers and givers what are those different groupings looks like, because we kind of started with a small circle and then communicated outward to more and more people, over probably a three month time period until we announced it to the entire church. So it was quite the process, methodical process we went through. First, planning it all out, and then communicating it first to the staff, then the key leaders, key volunteers, key givers, and then to the congregation.
Now, succession plans can be pretty notorious. In this process, especially as you’re communicating with staff and volunteers, and then the church at large, did you have your eye on another church that had done this? What were some of the resources you used to kind of inform how you did it? Or was it mostly just you and the Senior Pastor kind of just praying through it and using your wisdom the best you could?
Oh, wow. No. Our Senior Pastor, he’s someone that will pick the brains of all those that went before him. He’s really good at that. I don’t know how many other pastors he talked to, probably 20 or 30, that have recently got through this process. He got engaged with the Leadership Network and they have workshops that he went through. Actually, I wasn’t that involved with that part of it. That was mostly the Lead Pastor. His wife wasn’t involved as well because that impacts her, as well as our Board of Directors. So they did a lot of footwork on learning what worked and what hasn’t worked in succession. And then we didn’t have the person on staff that we felt could take over. So then we had to enter into a process where we hired Vanderbloemen to do a search for us, to find the new candidate for that. Of course, I was involved with that as well, just with Vanderbloemen. And then they’re helping to find the role and candidates, and working with them, and seeing that whole search through.
Now, hearing you talk about Tony Morgan and Vanderbloemen, and then talking to these other pastors, it’s neat to hear a church that seems to be pretty receptive to information from the outside and guidance from the outside.
Yes, definitely. Before we do anything, any kind of big move, like even looking at our system, hey, what are other church is doing? How are they leveraging it? Meeting with other churches, doing our background work and research, and making sure that it’s the right choice for us moving forward, because decisions like this can impact the church for many years, succession, of course, being the biggest one. But of course, church database and accounting systems, all those things can really impact the health and function of the church.
Right. So I’ll give you a break from succession talk, and I’m curious, what is something right now that you haven’t quite found a solution for at The Crossing?
Yeah, that’s a good question, as well, because we did the move to Rock and we’ve really got that working well for us. I feel pretty good about the data and the reports that we’re getting, and we were able to automate a lot of processes that were manual before. We also changed our accounting software. We went off from the church based system to a marketplace system called Zero. And when you go to a marketplace solution, you get all the really great add-ons that enable you to even make a kind of system easier to use for staff. So I’m trying to get these systems in place so that we can do more with less. And the next thing that I’m looking at is getting rid of all of our hardware servers and moving everything to the Cloud. Both Rock and Zero are on the Cloud right now. It’s really just our main church data, all of our documents and files, so I’m looking for a solution to just get that off of our internal systems and in the Cloud, so that we don’t have the manager pay for hardware servers and things like that. So, yeah. And another thing that I would like to be able to leverage is it’s really hard to — church attendance is always kind of difficult for, you know — We know who kids are because they check in, we know volunteers, but who’s really in the auditorium and how often do they come back? I know there’s retail systems out there that allow you to use Wi-Fi to track attendance. You don’t necessarily know specifically who the people are, but you know how many times they’re coming back. And so there’s certain metrics you could get. So I’m looking for some type of a Wi-Fi solution for doing that as well, just because there’s a little bit more measures on attendance patterns.
Yeah. The better data you can collect, the better decision making and programming you can do.
So, Dale, what are some of your favorite resources or places to go to make sure you’re staying sharp in your role?
Well, I mean, with other Executive Pastors in churches in our area, probably once a quarter, if not more frequently than that. So the churches that are about our size, or maybe larger, and we get together and just talk about challenges, and solutions, and as well as just personal relationships. It is always good to just be able to chat with others that are in the same situation you’re in, basically. So that’s a key. The Church Network, it used to be the NACBA or something like that. It’s a church administrative types that we have quarterly meetings, where we meet and we discuss either everything from legal issues, to accounting issues, to IT and technology. I’m part of the local team that manages the meetings, and what the topics are, and so forth. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I like Carey Neuhoff and of Craig Groeschel, and Andy Stanley. These guys are always inspiring and help keep you sharp. I try to learn a lot from what businesses are doing, especially in the areas of leveraging social media and the internet to reach people, and how can we learn from business best practices and systems as well, and use those here in the church.
So, Dale, what encouragement would you give to others in church leadership?
I think, well, specifically in the area of operations, which is where I spent a lot of my time, it’s really easy to get stuck in the transactional side of things, all that has to get done day to day. And I know on the ministry side too. Every week, you’ve got a message that you got to present and you’ve got a service that’s got to happen. I think if you just turn that crank day to day, it’s easy to not have God in that process, because you get so focused on the task. I know I always have to take time to just stop and offer up in prayer, even small things. A spreadsheet I might be working on for a report, or what systems we’re going to choose. It’s trying to keep God. I have to be really intentional to keep God in the middle of all of it, and maybe to give some of my business background. I’m just used to making the business happen, right? And God wants in on all those details. That’s a constant reminder that I need, and to just, throughout my day, to stop and pray through things. Pray before I go into meetings. Pray about decisions I’ve got to make. Pray about some of the things that are frustrating me and allowing God to really work in it through that. The other thing, too, is when you’re in my side or you’re in the operation side of church, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes that makes the church run that we’re aware of. Right? And the Ministry staff, they just really don’t know. They have no clue on all the stuff that happens, kind of behind the curtain, right? Like the man behind the curtain, pulling on all the levers, making it all happen. And that’s the way it should be. Because if they knew about it, then things aren’t working as smoothly as they should. So whatever we can do, I really see our job is empowering our pastors and our people that are on the stage on the weekends, and reaching people. Allowing them to do that with all the resources and all the focus that they can, and not having to worry about what bills are getting paid, and payroll, and how we’re collecting data. What information can I give them that helps them do their job to reach the most people for Jesus? And I love being able to do that.
That’s fantastic perspective.
I have one other thing.
Just in general, for all of us in the church. Business has a lot that they can teach us. And, I guess, because I came from the business world, I tend to just watch best practices the businesses are doing to leverage technology, to be efficient, to be streamlined, to reach people. They know how to reach people to buy their products. How can we take what businesses are doing and reach people for Jesus, and be more efficient and more productive for Jesus so that we can put more and more resources into ministry? That’s what I like to do.
That’s great. Dale, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Sure. Thank you for having me.