Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Today our guest is Dave Patchin who is coming to us from Raleigh, North Carolina. Hi Dave, how are you today?
I am great. How are you, Neil?
Very good, very good. Dave is coming to us as a coach, a consultant from – he has own website called Church Accomplished, and I was excited to talk to Dave about some of the things he’s learned both being an executive pastor and consulting with churches and executive pastors too. So Dave, why don’t you give us a little bit of your story, how you got into being an executive pastor in the first place, and then also what led you to do your own coaching?
Yeah that’s a great question. I was working for a Para church ministry for about 18 years or regional director and serving on the board of my local church, and we’ve been trying to hire an executive pastor for a while and hadn’t done very well. And our lead pastor came back from vacation one time and said we got to have breakfast. So he said, “I need your help in getting us executive pastor hired.” And I said, “Great. What do you want me to do?” He said, “I want you to take the job.” And I said, “No, I got a day job. I really like my job. I feel called there. It’s good. You don’t want me.” And he said, “Yeah, you do.” And I said, “No.” And so we had a little argument and then he finally said, “Well, you need to at least pray about it.” And I thought, well, that’s kind of at least thing I can do. That sounds spiritual, so okay, I’ll pray about it. Couple of months later the Lord had worked in my heart, in my mind, and took on the role and became an XP and the ride started then. Last year transition to serving churches because I really wanted to have a broader connection with the kingdom; being part of the kingdom is a big part of my personal theology and I want to serve churches on a wider range and help them accomplish some of the biggest things that they face, and I know they need help with. So that’s how I transitioned to church to accomplish.
Yeah, so describe what you noticed between that transition from that first non-profit you were working with; two joining into a church – what did you find to be different in terms of the administrative side of things?
Well, in my first church, there wasn’t a lot of administrative side of things, which is why they wanted to hire me. So I went from a really large organization with a lot of structure and systems and processes, and this is how you do this, this is how you do this to everything was getting done in a kind of a haphazard way. So I had to bring a lot of structure and systems to it, and that was a steep learning curve for me. I don’t like a lot of rules. That’s just my nature. So having to create systems and processes, help a little bit like rules, but I came to look at them as these are just the best way to get things done fast and help people move through without creating a lot of tension in the organization and missing big things that can cause us risk down the road. It was a tough transition. I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose, had to learn the culture, had to learn people, had to learn how to serve the lead pastor and he never had an executive pastor before, so we had to work that relationship out. It was a steep learning curve, but it was a great job and a lot of fun.
And then with that role, one of your specialties is talking about multiple locations, multiple service times. Is that something that you did at that first church or is that it come later on?
Yeah, it’s something I’ve done all the way along. My first day on the job we just moved into a new building phase one and we had phase two to complete and I was going on my first test. I was getting that done and we thought this would be the building would be in forever. And a couple of years later, we were struggling with two services trying to go to three to four to five services and eventually started saying, well, maybe we need to build another building. So when we started talking about doing that kind of thing, I sat down to elders and said, “Look, building not a building if we can sell this one, which I don’t think we can and move to a new location.” That’s a 40 million dollar decision. This was a number of years ago, I said, or we could think creatively and start launching new locations and even if we spent way more money than we needed to; I gave Mike a really crazy number, like a million dollars which nobody spends a million on a launch location if you really, really have a lot of money. But I said, if we did launch for a million, we can launch 40 locations before we spent 40 million building one big new multi-site building. And that kind of resonated and that kind of started us on the journey of moving towards multi-site and I have been on that multi-site multi-service journey ever since.
Yeah. Well, let’s go a little bit deeper into the multi-site mindset and model. Do you feel like it’s in general an approach that most growing churches should look at considerably or is there is kind of a situational thing where if it works out?
Well, I think every growing church should look at it; doesn’t mean its right for every church, doesn’t mean its right in every context. There are plenty of contexts where doing multi-site is not a good decision, but if you are a growing church and you are thinking about the cost of expanding new buildings, new land, those kinds of things, then you really should look at multi-site because the cost savings are huge in terms of infrastructure. And so doing that it’s one thing, but it does have a downside. It is much more complex in terms of your organization. It requires tremendous amounts of leadership development to raise up new leaders who can take on these new roles, these new locations, and it takes a tremendous amount of communication to keep everybody on the same page. If you think about trying to run one church and one organization, spread that over three locations and three different in-effect congregations, it can get really complex really fast.
Yeah, so what are some of the ways as a coach as a consultant now, how do you recommend four of our churches to improve that communication, to make sure that everyone is on the same page and it does feel like one church?
Well, one of the things that any church that goes beyond two or three locations really really need is clarity on where decisions get made, clarity on whose role it is to do any particular task and clarity on how things like hiring get done, budget gets spent, those types of things. And that could be difficult than just a regular church. When you start multiplying times four, five, six locations; five or six key leaders in each area that have different personalities, different styles, it can get really confusing and it can end up being a meeting nightmare. We have to have meetings about everything because no one really knows who gets the side. So getting clarity on this is my decision – I know how to make it, I know who has to be involved, I know who is not involved. Those are the kind of things that multi-site structures really have to get crisp on. And once they do and they know what level decisions to get made and by who and how, then you take out some of that need for tremendous amounts of over communication or just asking questions or people deciding things they don’t really have the authority to decide, which really is where things go wrong. The other thing is, if you want to replicate your culture, you have to really zero in on what is it that’s essential to who we are as a church. Every church is about the great commission – you want to live in, it might be the great commandment – those kind of sense is everybody’s mission, but your particular DNA and who you are as a church and what makes you uniquely you. Once you figure what that is, that’s the kind of stuff you have to reproduce and letting a lot of the other staff become a periphery and not central to your reproduction is really critical because you can’t reproduce everything. In fact, most churches you don’t want to reproduce everything. There is plenty of groups that you got to say which brother, just get rid of them, reproduce them. So that’s a couple of things that multi-site structures really have to focus on, particularly if we grow bigger.
Yeah, why don’t you give us a little bit of story, some context? Tell me one story about a story of some church that really did this poorly and some church where it really went well. What can you expect? What are some indicators?
Well, doing it poorly usually means everything starts to feel painful all the time. The maps generally find that multi-site is not working well. At my second church, one of the things we had to do in my first year there was close a location because we, the church had planned at a location, really had great ideas, really great leader, great teacher, all kinds of things. But it was a suburban church that really understood how to do ministry in a suburban context and they try to do it in a little more urban context, and it wasn’t working. And it wasn’t because it wasn’t good people and the leaders; it’s just that the model didn’t translate very well to the urban context. And obviously over time it was declining, not growing. There is discouragement there, and first tried to find a new location, couldn’t find a suitable one that would work, and eventually had to close that location. So I’ve had experience both good and bad with great launches and difficult launches and turn-around and those kinds of things, but when it’s going bad, you know I mean same way you’d measure effectiveness anywhere else you can measure that on a multi-site location. So that’s when it’s going back; when it’s going great, you launch and you have good numbers and you start reaching the community and people are coming to Christ, and the body begins to grow and people who weren’t serving are serving and people are getting baptized. And it feels like any other church location where the Holy Spirit’s moving and you see lives being changed and it’s just happened in one particular location of a church.
When a church is moving to a multi-site model, what do you think is one thing that hits them later on that they didn’t expect to come up when they were first making the plans?
Leadership development is one of those things that most churches and myself included – when you first start, you don’t think how critical that’s going to be. But when you multiply locations, you end up having a need for a huge influx of leadership. And if you’re not developing leaders, well, all of a sudden you start looking around realizing you don’t have people to do these things, not for people we don’t trust enough to do them or people having developed skill set or they are good leaders but they just don’t know our context. So you end up having this leadership vacuum that is really difficult to overcome. So I always tell people who are thinking about going multi-site – get your leadership development process and systems and your pipeline running and running well. And when you feel like you have more leaders than you could ever need them on some new location or two, then you will start thinking, we got to double down on our leadership development again.
Yeah, another area where you have a lot of expertise is in mergers, which is not typically a term you hear a lot with churches, but it does happen quite frequently. Can you tell us more about what that means in the church context?
Yeah, in this same age, we have a lot of churches that have great strengths in one area and great weaknesses in another, and often nearby there is a church with a very dissimilar or complementary strength and weakness. So you have a growing church that’s reaching to new people but short on money, short on space. And you might have a church that’s got a great history and has lots of space, but isn’t really reaching people in their neighborhood. So that’s kind of a complimentary merger or you can look at another church nearby with similar mission, similar theology, similar structure and say, “Hey, we could be actually better together than we are individually.” And that’s when mergers become a great strategic approach to growing the kingdom – is what can we gain by working together rather than just saying as individual churches operating separately a couple of hot spot.
Can you tell any success stories that you’ve seen happen?
Yeah, one of the – actually both the churches that I’ve worked at have had really successful mergers, and what that comes down to is having a really clear messaging of here’s why we are better together because any merger is difficult. It’s painful to experience loss, things aren’t the same as they used to be, there is new people, there is new structures, there is new leadership; lots of things change. And if you don’t understand why you are doing the change – that pain becomes the focus. Well, we never did it this way before. So you have to help people move past the – the pain of change is difficult, but here’s why we are doing it. Here’s what we are getting for. So celebration of wins becomes really, really critical. And I always encourage people and then one church when you see a win you celebrate it. So my second church had a merger older church with the facility, but wasn’t really reaching people the way they wanted to, merge with the younger church growing – needed facility space, needed to reach new areas of the city, and the merger became a great benefit for them, and they’ve really done well together. And you end up seeing folks who were in their 30s and 40s with the growing church and folks who were in their 60s and 70s were seen together, seeing baptisms – they just had a baptism recently in Southwest, a new baptism. So it becomes this big win for the kingdom. And I hardly encourage people if you are experiencing any kind of significant pain that you think another church coming along side, you might help. That’s a great opportunity to begin a merger conversation.
Nice, great. Let’s talk a little bit about technology. It’s a theme on our podcast about how churches can use technology to the benefit. What are some of the tools that you feel like are really essential as the church is growing and as they are, especially considering these multi-site models.
Oh yeah, technology plays a really big role in – the more technology that works the better. I think every church have to make really serious consideration about their church management system, their database, and finding ways to leverage that decision to its maximum impact. I always encourage executive pastors, whoever is the best person in your database, you need to sit down with them and have them teach you everything they know so that you can become really proficient. I think things like expense reports and those kinds of things can be moved to a technological side. I’ve used expense file before and there is a lot of products like it. They just make, pick the pain out of expensing things off a credit card or all those kinds of things. The Google platform, phone systems, zoom for video conferencing, WordPress for blogs to do with is a great task manager that I use, but first you use the sign on base camp might surprise it. So try more tech than we are aware of and I am not a real tech guy, but I’ve got tech people around me to make sure that we stay on the cutting edge.
Great, great. As you look at the landscape of just the United States, the culture around us, what do you feel like are the key things that executive pastors need to be preparing for in the next five years and maybe they’re not ready for?
Well, yeah it’s really hard to predict the future, but some of the trends that I think every church is facing is that the spiritual landscape in the US is shifting. Lack of belief is far more common. So the things we did even five years ago just to draw out crowd often don’t work near strongly if they did. I think the average 20 something is spiritually minded, but doesn’t really look to the church for answers. And people are open to going to church at times, but the landscape is just changing. So for executive pastors, I always encourage them to lead their teams towards innovation, towards really getting to know non-Christians around them, listening to them, paying attention to what they are saying and what they are doing because people vote first for defeat. They just stop showing up to things. So we really have to stay out on the edge of what is connecting with our audience, with our peers, with the people around us, and how do we take the timeless Gospel that doesn’t change and help it be relevant and applying to the lives of people who feel like – with technology, the change is just constant. And my kids are different from me and my kid’s friends are different from them, and my kids’ children will be different even more. So we just have to keep looking at what is going on in our culture, paying attention and innovating. And I always tell people, if you are not failing, you are not trying hard enough. We just have to keep trying things. Some of them will fail spectacularly, but that’s the way we learn. That doesn’t work, what else will work. And eventually you stumble onto the things that can really be leverage going for transforming our culture.
Great. For other executive pastors out there, what are some of the resources that they can go to? What do you feel like are some things they nearly be clued into in terms of websites or books or conferences or any other resources you can think of?
Yeah, my first one is just you have to adopt the mindset of a learner. If you are not a learner you are going to get passed by very quickly because there is somebody out there who is, and because of the pace of change and lots of fronts, we just have to stay in this mindset of, “I am learning, and I am learning how to be a learner”. There is a lot of groups for executive pastors, some within denominations, some just out there. There is xpastor.org that David Fletcher runs. He’s got a Ph.D. and the executive pastor role kind of helped to pioneer that whole role and shift for churches. And he’s got a lot of resources on his website, XP online with Kevin Stone. He’s got a lot of resources there. My website, churchaccomplished.com got a lot. Most of what I write is aimed at operation in executive leadership, that sort of stuff. But my biggest thing that I will tell people is develop relationships. Like when I became an executive pastor here in Raleigh, one of my first tax was I just started calling executive pastors at other churches and saying, “Hey, I am here. I am new. I have no clue what I am doing. Can we have lunch? I’ll buy.” They just want to pick your brain at some things. And by doing that I built a ton of relationships that served me in the kingdom and done really, really well over the years. So I would tell people – build relationships, particularly outside your church, particularly people who are doing similar kind of roles at similar kind of churches.
Excellent excellent. Why don’t you close us out with just a word of encouragement you would give to all the XPs out there listening?
Wow, I would just say this. I think the scripture is really clear that we are building Jesus’ kingdom. And often times when we get into building a church, it really can start to feel like we are building our kingdom. So I really encourage people that every time you see passages of scripture that talk about the kingdom is to think in its widest terms and let that shape how you live and how you work. When I think of classrooms 3, 12 or talks about that or God’s chosen people or Holy nation, we are loved, we should put on compassion and kindness and humility and generous and patience and bear with one another and above all we should put on love, and that binds us in unity and a piece of Christ is then going to rule on our hearts because we are members of one body. And I would just encourage executive pastors to remember that they are members of one body. They are not different from other people in their body. They are not different from the lead pastor, they are all together, but are also not different from the church down the street. We are all part of Jesus’ kingdom and anything you can do to help a church down the road, you are building Jesus’ kingdom. You can make them better even in one simple way by helping them or they can make you, then you’ve contributed to building the kingdom on a much wider scale than you ever could just by focusing on your one church. So my encouragement is keep doing your job and keep looking to help other people along the way because that’s what the kingdom’s all about.
Fantastic. That’s great advice. Thanks a lot, Dave for being on the show. Dave’s website is churchaccomplished.com. Please feel free to check them out, get some good guidance from his blog and his services too. Thanks a lot, Dave.
Thanks Neil. It was great being with you.