Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is David Chase, who is joining us from Lake Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Really happy to have you David.
Thank you, pleased to be here.
David, the Executive Pastor role is a new role for you. Is that right?
It is the first time I’ve been in the role. So yeah, it’s very new.
Would you share a bit about the path that took you to get to your current position.
Yeah, absolutely. The position that I’m serving is new to me, the concept of it is not. I first probably learned of the role of Executive Pastor, probably early 2000s, kind of when I first heard about that. And so it’s been in the back of my mind since probably 2003-ish. Something that seemed interesting and had never pursued it per se until recently, but it’s been there as a thought. But prior to all of this, I started out in education. I started out as a schoolteacher and then served in the educational technology space, working for a company out of Austin that went into schools and you have a variety of things that have technology. Went from there, on church staff, for a year at another church in Arlington.
After I learned some valuable lessons, which I’ll mention that in a second, and then went back to educational technology for a little while, and then ended up going into business. I worked for…in Texas, electricity is deregulated, and so I went to worked for electric company. Did that for seven years. In the course of that seven years, met the gentleman who owned the company, along with several other energy companies that they had. And got to know him real well, in the course of working for that. Ended up serving as vice-president of operations for that company and reporting to him and through that relationship, and just the trust that was built, he gave me a lot of responsibility and opportunities that I wouldn’t have had at probably a lot of places. But we ended up selling that to another energy company in Texas. And then the next several years continued on the path of operations serving with him in his various companies. He’s what I call a serial entrepreneur, and he would say: hey, let’s try this, or, let’s do this. And so we…oh goodness, I say we but he had the ideas, and I would try to put it all in place. We had a software company for a little while, most recently, until I left in December. Well, I left in April, but we started talking about it in December about my leaving there. But up until that point, I was working with him in his…he had a Texas-sized cattle ranch, and he wanted to convert it from grain-fed to grass-finished beef. And so we went into that venture. So it’s been a wild ride working with him, but in that, working the operation side, he gave me a lot of flexibility, a lot of opportunities. Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have had before, but the biggest lesson I will say back to the church and then what was different between the church and working for this gentleman I call the serial entrepreneur. When I went to work for the church, I was kind of told: okay, do A, B and C. And that’s exactly what I did. But their desire was for me to finish on to go to Z. Finish this all the way through, or take this project all the way to the end. At that point, I don’t think I had really learned how to take something and run with it, and really understand, what’s the end goal in this. But with working for this gentleman in business, he would give an idea, and he would start with Z, when that’s kind of the only direction he gave. And so then it was up to me to get from A to Z, so that was a new learning experience. And that really has served me well coming into this role. But yeah, education, business, a little bit of church experience. And then landed the Executive Pastor role.
Okay, I want to come back to some of that in a minute. Before we get there, I want to know how is your church structured and what things fall under your responsibility?
Yeah, so the role is not new for Lake Arlington, but it is new in its current structure. In the past, it’s been a little bit differently focused on just some of the ministry pieces. But with my coming on board, and what their intent was, as pastor, and beacons, and the rest of the staff, what they wanted to do was truly have someone that could free the pastor up to kind of give some vision and preach and teach and lead, that kind of thing. And so I have four main responsibilities. The first is chief of staff. So I oversee all the staff, except the pastor. Of course I report to him. Then the business administration side of things, I oversee finance and the operations chief, HR, that kind of thing. And then strategy and planning, really going back to making sure that all of our ministries do coordinate with what the pastors are wanting to do. And making sure that falls in place. And then lastly, are just pastoral responsibilities. Whatever is needed, not so much from the pulpit, but to more just loving on people,caring for, and praying with them. Being a resource in that regard. So those are kind of four main areas that I report to and am responsible for.
So how do you find your experience in the corporate world, and in the education world also, influencing how you lead in those areas and influence processes?
Well, it all revolves around people. That’s been the common theme through all this stuff. And you don’t get anything done without people. And if you don’t have people there, you’re not doing much either. So people are involved in every bit of this. And so one, I say the biggest lesson I learned coming out of education was: we have a love on people. I worked for, perhaps one of the best principals I’ve ever been around. Coming out of a working Arlington school district. And she was amazing. Just working with folks and looking for the best in things. Having a culture of ‘yes,’ saying yes to impossible requests that she could, and having her staff trained in the same way. And that’s been huge for me, bringing that into the church as well. Requests come up from the pastoral staff or even some other folks just encouraging, let’s say yes. Let’s say yes to support one another. Don’t get stuck in our own ways and and, “well that’s not really my area,” but yes, let’s figure out a way to do this.’ Let’s figure out a solution to that.
And of course, coming out of the business side of things, the responsibility that I have with the church while they’re new in, gosh, some of the content, for sure. I’m on a learning curve here, but the best practices though are not new. Having led staff, having managed budgets, having built budgets, having worked with compliance things. All those types of endeavors. And of course, customer service, we have a whole aspect of that in the church world. To deal with all those things in the business definitely prepared me well for what I was going to face. But again, some of the questions are unique and didn’t apply necessarily coming out of business world, but definitely I felt pretty well-prepared coming in. And frankly, I couldn’t walk into a much better situation, we have a very good staff. They’re very tenured, not as tenured but still effective. And there’s a difference between having been tenured and being effective, but we have tenured staff and they are effective. So that’s a wonderful thing. Good lessons coming in to all this.
Yeah, I’d say so. Would you share…you talk about the ‘saying yes’ culture and thinking about Z, would you share some of the administrative challenges that can pop up in getting from A to Z?
Yeah, well, I think there’s two pieces with this. One, it’s kind of the initiative of things and the execution of it as well. We want to do something. And that’s often where we stop. Yes, is a great idea, but we don’t always execute that well. And so making sure that we are on top of that, making sure we’re driving that. That is the role of the Executive Pastor. One, that you’re the primary driver in a lot of ways to: hey, we’re going to get better. We’re going to be excellent. We’re going to have a culture of ‘yes,’ whatever it is we’re trying to drive. We’ve got to be the one that’s staying on top of that. And so that is definitely a key thing to make sure that we want to execute on something. We’ve gotta be the one to initiate and drive it. But the other is just the communication aspect. So from administrative piece, again, we’re talking about people, we’re talking about redundancy in our communication, talking about being intentionally redundant over and over. Say it once in a verbal face to face conversation, and following up with email, or telephone call, or text or something will continue driving that. And that always helps drive to that execution. You say it once; we think that’s enough. And we think our authority or whatever would say, well, this is all we had to say. It was just once. But now the reality is we all do better when we hear something once, twice, three times. And that keeps us a little more accountable as well. But the communication piece of all this is huge, and that is regardless of industry, regardless of ministry. Wherever there is communication, it’s hugely important. And I’ve learned that communication is every organization’s problem. That is, are we talking about the same things? Are we understanding the same things? And there’s great…my brother-in-law and I, I gotta give him more credit on this, but he and I talk about this quite a bit at family, meals, thanksgiving, whatever it is. But he and I would talk about the beach and in Texas, we have what we call the beach, which is Galveston, which is not really that attractive. But if you have been to Hawaii and I’ve been to Galveston, which is dirty, and there’s trash, and it’s not pretty all. If you’ve been to Hawaii and I’ve been to Galveston and we’re talking about our summer vacation and we say, oh, I went to the beach and you say, I went to the beach too. We’re talking about two different beaches. I mean, it’s not the same thing. So that’s the key to communication as well in the church or any industry. It’s okay, you’re saying one thing I’m saying one thing, but we’re talking about completely different things. So that being if someone asked me or I asked someone else: hey, will you take care of this? Well, in my mind, I know what take care of this means. It’s run it from A to Z, finish it out, whatever that is. But in someone else’s mind, it’s short of that. Or maybe it’s better than that. But understanding what we mean when we’re asking things and taking the time to clarify. That’s a hard thing for us to do because, again, I say it once, I think I know what I’m saying. I think you understand what I’m saying. I’ve only had to say a once. I’m good, it’s done. I walk away and then I’m frustrated because it didn’t get finished the way I wanted it to get finished or to some other expectation or whatever. And I realize: oh, I didn’t communicate it well. And half the time it comes back to me not having laid out: okay, here’s what we’re talking about, here’s the time frame, whatever that means. So communication is key, and that’s one of the biggest administrator roles, is just making sure we’re all on the same page, working towards the same goal.
Yeah, I think that will resonate with a lot of the XPs who listen. Yeah. So I’m curious, how have you, or how are you looking to incorporate technology into how you administrate and maybe even solving some of these communication issues?
Yeah, well, of course we have a variety of things in place right now that again, we’ve been at this location for 40 years and it existed before that in another location, the church. And so there’s a lot of legacy, kind of history, where we are. So there’s some things that were already in place when I came. We use ACS across the board, they have for the last several years. Then they also use Planning Center Online for the worship arts and worship ministry. But some of things that we’re looking at and incorporating…I personally love Trello and Evernote, both two sources I love using, and I’ve introduced our senior pastor to Trello. And so he and I are sharing some boards right now, we’re kind of getting him adapted to that. And I envision that being one that we move forward with all staff at some point. But I’m kind of slowly, ‘milk before meat’ kind of thing as we get a few people onboard and then both can go onto a larger use of that. And again, Evernote is just wonderful for all sorts of things. We’re an office 365 environment; we have the Microsoft Suite of things, but with that, of course we have Sharepoint. And while I’m relatively new to Sharepoint itself, I’m definitely familiar with the concepts, I’ve used Onedrive and cloud storage and that kind of thing. So right now I’m taking all of our ministry teams, our missions team, our stewardship, personnel teams, all those things along with each of our ministry areas, and we’re getting Sharepoint set up for them, so they have to the central hub to collaborate and have those files they need, and that kind of thing. So that’s one piece for sure. We use some Google Docs and forms for a variety of things. So there’s things that are already there, but there’s definitely some opportunities to introduce new technology because it’s been a pretty… I won’t say, well, there’s definitely stability in the church but there’s also some stagnation in terms of: hey, we’ve done the things the way we’ve done them. And they’ve worked and they haven’t really looked for a lot of other opportunities or more efficient things. So there’s some opportunity there.
Where do you go to learn more about being a great Executive Pastor? Where do you find out about Trello and Sharepoint, and maybe some of the communication issues you talked about?
Well, coming out of business, there are a lot of things. I was always looking for resources and always things to learn. Learn about what would make life better, what would make life easier. And so there’s…I look at Harvard Business Review quite a bit, a number of blogs I came across, but I’ll tell you, one of the interesting resources I learned about is PriceWaterhouseCoopers. They have a strategy division, called ‘Strategy&’, and they have…you can subscribe to it too. There’s a digital magazine, just strategy in business. And they have a lot of information just in terms of some strategy things. And they often have some of those tools. You might come across some articles and have some of these technology tools that are listed in there there. A lot of it is just, I find myself a lot on Twitter and I come across things that, here’s a neat idea, here’s some new tool, or app, or a piece of information. And so I’ll just research that and track back to figure out where that came from and what that looks like. Michael Hyatt is one I listen to a lot, in the years past. And Michael Hyatt, goodness, he’s just a technology adopter. And so I can look to him to see, what did he try most recently. And he always gives some good ideas too.
That’s great. I think your experience outside of the ministry setting, I like your list of resources, it’s a little more diverse than what we can sometimes hear. And I think that’ll really come in handy for some people to hear where you are used to going for your further education.
Yeah, it’s definitely served me well, and there’s lots of…there’s XPastor.org. There’s all those things, that are wonderful and definitely good resources for me, especially being new and probably when I’m seasoned too, I’ll go back to that. But yeah, I definitely appreciate that there’s some things I learned along the way coming into this too.
David, what encouragement would you give to other Executive Pastors?
I would encourage continuous improvement probably. There’s so many…I know the role has been around for a lot of years, for a lot of people in churches, but at the same time, there’s a lot of churches that the Executive Pastor role is brand new. They brought it in for the first time. And so anyone coming in with fresh eyes especially, and even if it’s not fresh eyes, it’s just: what’s that role? And I think it’s one to drive continuous improvement. Well, how can we improve things, not throwing the baby out with the bath water, that kind of thing. But if we look around and we’re going to see things that nobody else sees, and not because we’re genius or smart, it’s just because we’re the first ones to see it fresh in a little while, and we were willing to say something to challenge it. And so I came across a good article, just the other day, Kevin DeYoung, I think it was in ‘Gospel Coalition.’ It was talking about customer service in the church. And I took that article and I used it with our staff. And he asks questions, using the thought of: if you were to say that our members of the church are our customers and he goes well to define that that is not the case, but to think of it this way. If you have people coming in your organization for the first time, they’re meeting your staff or they’re going through your process, or going through your facility, is it the best it can be? So he’s driving for a culture of excellence, which really goes into that continuous improvement thing. And so I think if I were to encourage anyone I would say, look for for continuous improvement. How can things be excellent? How can we do things well? And then we’ve gotta be the ones to communicate what that looks like, if it’s not there and then drive and initiate to the point that we actually execute on those things. So yeah, I just encourage them to keep on at it, really.
That’s fantastic, David, thanks for being on the podcast. And it was really, really great to hear your perspective today.
Thank you. I enjoyed being on here and I love what y’all are doing.