Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today we’ve got Dana Byers on the show from Mercy Road church in Carmel, Indiana. Great to have you today, Dana.
Thanks so much Courtney, I’m excited to be here.
Dana, would you give us an overview of who Mercy Road church is and some details into your role there?
Yeah, absolutely. Mercy Road church is about six years old, and we are in a really cool location in Carmel, Indiana that has a variety of socioeconomic folks, and really a lot of cool people around this community from a variety of backgrounds who come together into our church, we’re really passionate about global evangelism, local evangelism, and particularly mission, living on mission, what really attractive me to church was that we have a model of giving away up to fifty percent of our annual income to things happening, church planting in our local community or with international missions. This year, we’re going to be able to give away thirty-five percent. We’re working towards fifty, and that’s just a really exciting thing to get to be part of as we try to steward god’s bringing through the church. And I’m just really passionate about that and love that about Mercy Road. My role, in particular, is executive pastor at Mercy Road. And I’ve been here not quite a year, pretty close to a year, and it’s just been a really fun journey coming to experience what it’s like in a young church, who’s experiencing some fun on new different issues that happen when you grow rapidly and you process through those things. It’s just a really dynamic and fun time.
So as the leader of operations there, I especially latched on to the goal being to give away fifty percent of the annual income, which I’m sure will cause some draws to drop, who are listening. So as someone who’s in charge of the operations, which is a lot of the nuts and bolts and keeping the place running, how does that affect your management of the facilities of just the day to day there?
Yeah, well, we’d probably say something that my dad would have said when I grew up working in the family business, and that is that we run on a very tight ship and I love it because it’s very biblical. I don’t think anyone wants to be known for being maybe too frugal or cheap, but we love the ability to see how god provides when we let margin, kind of rule, what our budget looks like. For example, I’m getting ready to finalize details for next year’s budget and we don’t look at budgets and say, “hey, okay, let’s just increase that one in by ten percent.” We assume that should be good, actually, we’re trying to pull things apart, bit by bit and see, is this something that we have volunteered? Is this something that was effective enough according to our values that we need to continue next year? Because we really want to down to the detail, tighten up what we’re doing so that more of those funds go towards things that happen, what we call “outside the wall.” We really believe that we can experience the weekend services. We have two on Saturday two on Sunday. Those are very important, but equally important are what happens outside the church, those remaining days of the week through the people who are part of our community at Mercy Road, who we also consider ministers. So our hope is to empower them and some of those funds that we get to give outside the walls are specifically to provide grants or matching grants to ministries that they’re launching in our area to meet needs or causes that they’re particularly passionate about, so that we can empower them and those expenses that are incurred, and that ministry doesn’t necessarily happen within our church. So that’s one of the dynamics that is a challenge, but a really rewarding one to see god provide through.
With so much of your focus outside of your walls, as much as it is within the walls, what are the details of your day to day responsibilities at Mercy Road?
Yeah, well, day to day as the executive pastor, I oversee our HR and I’ve joked about that with some of our staff members, I am kind of the HR department because since we run on a tight ship, we don’t have a very large staff, but I get to oversee things like: role descriptions, annual goals, what that looks like as well as performance improvement plans and payroll, all those fun things, our finances, like I said, our budget and reporting to our operating team and working on a finance team that we have, which is some staff and some volunteers to stay on top of our annual goal of giving away as much as we can, as well as stewarding what god’s provided for us. I also get to oversee some of our communications and a little bit of our production that happens on the weekend. So with communications, that could be our weekly e newsletter, overseas, some of the people who manage our social media accounts, really blessed to lead our online campus pastor, church online is a big part of my history, a decade of my church pastoring history. So I get to lead our online campus pastor, and that’s very rewarding. I get to teach on the weekends occasionally do all the things that pastors do, officiate weddings and baptisms, but I’m really getting to dive a lot more into trying to create some criteria for our missions partners related to our generosity strategy, so that we’re able to connect with partners who are specifically working on the values that we have at Mercy Road, that we want to fund, not just financially, but also with people to provide resources to see those things come about either internationally or right here in Carmel, Indiana.
So I’d like to hear a little more. You mentioned ten years of your pastoring was with an online church. How did you come into your role at Mercy Road, what was that journey?
Well, like everyone listening this podcast, it was not a direct path at all, my journey and ministry actually really began when I went to college, I grew up in the church, didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus and like a good executive pastor, I like a good deal, and I was given an incredible scholarship to a private Christian university. So I decided, okay, we’ll give this a try. That’s going to save me some money, see how it goes. I was little concerned about going to a Christian university though, because I thought it my stifle, my life, and I actually went to Anderson University, very quickly, was affected in a positive way by the community there, committed my life to Christ and it was just a dramatic turnaround in my life.
And so I did get a business finance degree there, and was also very passionate about not profit work. So my first full time job outside of college was a nonprofit. After that, I kind of moved into a little bit of working in healthcare, and then life kind of hit frankly, my husband that I had our first child our son Blake, and when he was less than a year old, he had an ear infection spread to the membrane of his brain, and he nearly died. And because of that, we needed to do a bunch of therapy and have an in home nurse and a variety of other things, which led me to stay home for the following eight years. It was just such a shift and what I planned to do, because my intention was to work work work, become an executive somewhere be in the C-site, leave nonprofit and learn lot of things there, but eventually go to corporate life, and that just wasn’t god’s plan at all. And I’m so thankful that our son Blake was completely healed, but also that experience took me home to have some really sweet years with our kids and to use that time to dive into ministry and to learn more about what wired me. So during that time, our family was attending Life Church in Oklahoma City. We started attending there in probably 2001, I guess I would say, Crag Grochelle is the lead pastor there and we got very involved in some of their early years, and it was an incredible experience. All said and done, we were there about fourteen years, so we had an opportunity to travel to another state as volunteers, help launch a campus.
Shortly after that, we ended up and adopting our daughter Mackenzie from Guatemala, and when we were in Guatemala we really cut the vision for online church, which life church launched the first ever online church. Probably it around, I think around this was about 2006. So we weren’t able to attend our local campus in Oklahoma City because we were in Guatemala City, and my husband just said, “hey, let’s try this online church thing that our home church has.” And it was so incredible. We really learned that watching that message online, we were really not just watching, we were attending, we were hearing the great message, we are able to worship and the experience of that was something that impacted us dramatically, particularly with the desire to be able to have online churches in non-English speaking countries. So shortly after the adoption was final, god led us to sell everything we owned and we left my husband’s corporate job, our minivan, or Sedan or three-and-a-half-bedroom house, and preschool and all those things that we had an Oklahoma City and ended up going to London, and we used those years in London, about two years there and about a couple months. We also have been Poland, we used that time to expand life church’s online ministry, to try to reach people in other countries because we were awake and available during times of day to minister when people in America were sleeping or at work. So we tried to develop a community there. And then the other part of that two-fold approach was to connect with church leaders who speak English as a second language, but are living in serving and non-English speaking countries. And our goal was to provide them the equipment they needed to launch an online church as an evangelistic means to connect with people who are unable or unwilling to go to church, and then we would mentor them and equip them.
So the first online church that was launched outside of America was actually in Poland. So our family was there for about four months to kind of mentor for that project and it’s so very strong and healthy to this day. And we just made lifelong friends over the course of a couple years there. We, through the nonprofit that we started, not as staff on life church, but through nonprofit that we started, we were able to launch probably about ten online churches outside of the US in other languages. And it’s just a really rewarding time. But as that experience grew, god ended up leading us back to the states. My husband took a corporate job and I was invited to come on staff as pastor at life church. And so I had about four years there leading in their church online team as the associate online campus pastor. It was just so great because it really took the passion I developed during those years, I was at home mom of kind of relational ministry and connecting with people, and took that and connected it with all this administrative business knowledge and just love for business that I have. And it really let me be involved in a way that I could accelerate and be part of just an incredible team to learn a lot and it just frankly felt like, it was ten or fourteen years of this incredible kind of ministry leadership MBA and then my husband’s role changed a little bit to where he realized he needed to, that our family should be based in Indianapolis.
So that was at the end of 2015 and I resigned my position shortly, thereafter at Life church, we landed in Carmel and it was a tough transition for my kids, they were in middle school, and I was just thankful to have the opportunity to stay with them for a few months. And during that time, Josh Usman, who is the lead pastor here at Mercy Road, had reached out to me and talked about a position available, and I just said, “I didn’t really feel like god had released me yet to go back to ministry. I needed to be with my family.” And he also had mentioned the role that he had in mind for me just wasn’t something I was very interested in. And over the next couple months the church experienced some growth and changes and shifts, and he eventually called me back at the end of 2016 and just said, “hey, are you ready to talk about this again? We’ve got some new ideas…” And it was just really incredible to see how god had lined everything up for the church to be ready, for me to be ready, to be able to start working in the role, that I’m at at Mercy Road.
So you obviously have a very strong background in utilizing technology in church with your online church work. How have you incorporated technology into how you administrate today at Mercy Road?
Well, it’s so important, I love technology, I don’t tend to be an early adopter, I don’t think just because something is new, it needs to be used straight away. I like to see a little bit of data on something before I switch a whole system, but I really enjoy using technology to streamline processes, the untangle knots so that our staff is freed up to minister more. There’s nothing, well, there are a few things, more frustrating than seeing a person who’s got a significant gift for ministry, a pastor who’s really gifted for ministry, stuck in his email inbox, and we’ve all see this happen even in the corporate world, someone who is geared in one way, but maybe not another, and how can we use that technology to shore them up in some way so that they’re able to use their gifts better. And I love being able to do that. It’s really rewarding when we see that happen. I think a good system is worth lots and lots of just effort to be able to get it installed and adopted. But I would say that I also am processing a lot right now about, “wow, do we have too many systems? Do we have too many things available, how can we simplify it, so it doesn’t get overwhelming for people who might be new to staff or volunteers as well.”
Dana, what are some of the more significant administrative challenges that you face?
Well, you know, I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few years in the different roles that I’ve been in, and I just say it’s a challenge probably to all of us who are administrative roles or executive pastors at churches, that there’s truly no technology out there that can directly address the need that we all have to be more flexible in our lives. You know what I mean? There’s never enough time to have coffee and dinners in the homes of all the wonderful people in our community. And administratively, I’m sometimes wrapping up call or working on a budget, while my daughter’s a taekwondo, my son is out at soccer practice and what’s wonderful that my role is flexible enough to allow me to be present at home in the evenings and during key family events. But I also find that I’m having to shift home to continue to be flexible in ministry too, life doesn’t happen on office hours a lot. And I don’t actually believe it’s biblical to try to strike a complete balance. I think we have different seasons for these things in our lives, but it’s been an administrative challenge to just try to learn to go with the flow more and more because there’s no app, there’s no software that can do that for me, but it really just requires a change of heart and a change in perspective. And I think that god is developing that in me and he does that for us, as leaders, the more we make sure that we aren’t so tied to the technologies that we love, and instead we’re tied to the call to love people and to love them well.
That’s great, what are your favorite resources to make sure you’re staying sharp as an executive pastor?
Oh, wow. Well, I have to admit, I feel like I really hit the jack pot a couple of years ago. I have a great friend named Nancy Beach, and I first met her when our family was living in London, I met her at a concert there. She wrote a great book that just really impacted my life called “Gifted to Lead,” and about three or four years ago, she opened up a certified coaching cohort of women in ministry, some of us for executive pastor’s associate pastors or women who are maybe executive pastors of nonprofit organizations in the US. And they were about ten of us, and we spent a whole year in monthly video calls together. Twice that year we met up in person for three or four days, and what was beautiful was I grew and learned so much during that time, not only practical knowledge, but really heart and spiritual knowledge as a leader, as a mom, as a wife. But even though that cohort ended, it really didn’t. I made lifelong friends, we still travel to see each other’s churches, we check in on each other. I get advice from them a couple times a month. And so we’ve really stayed in touch and that’s just been a great way for me to learn and grow. I also, I listen this podcast, it’s been so cool enjoying and learning and listening to all the other people that you guys interview. And I tend to listen to this podcast in the mornings when I’m driving to work, and it just inspires me as I had in. And I guess the other thing I would think I would say is just being a business nut myself. I usually find myself drawn to business books that executives would read, or magazines or blog posts, and I like to take what I read and just try to apply it to scripture and see if that flushes out to be biblical. And I also have to do that with a couple of the other podcasts I listen to, I really enjoy… there’s a podcast called, “Get it Done Guy” and their quick and dirty productivity tips. Gretchen Reuben has a great happiness podcast, I like a lot of those episodes, and probably just about any book I can find out in habits or simplicity I eat those things up.
Dana would you close us out with some encouragement to other executive pastors listening?
Yeah, absolutely. I would love to. When you’re trying to give encouragement like this, you try to think, what is it that we need remind ourselves? That’s probably what we’re actually doing here and I think of encouragement, I’d give myself and to anyone else who’s listening, no matter what your role is, but just be able to take your seat at the table, but no one really benefits if you shrink back from what you’ve been called to do, but really taking your seat at table. It only works if you’re truly open to others’ opinions and their input, that part of that is being a learner, we don’t have to have all the answers, no one really wants to be led by a know-it-all anyway, but I think the ability to engage when we’re called to lead and we’re called to listen is really important just in gaining that influence in that trust and the people we lead and those in our church, because that’s so important for us, so important for our family and also just important to god that we honor him in that way.
That’s great Dana, thanks for being on the podcast today.
Absolutely. My pleasure Courtney.