Welcome back to the Monday morning church podcast. David McReynolds is joining us today from Stonegate Fellowship in Midland, Texas. Great to have you David.

Hey, great to be with you Courtney.

David you are the minister of church operations there, Stonegate. How did you come to your position there? What’s your story?

Yeah, we started Stonegate Fellowship about 18 years ago, and prior to that, I had my own telecommunications company, so I had a business background, but I took a little different route. I was the worship pastor here at Stonegate for the first 14 years of our church. Worship has always been the other thing I was involved with. And the other thing I did was my time as a servant leader or volunteer at previous church and a little bit of part time staff, maybe as a worship guy. But as we started this church, as this church was planted, we just had a small group of about 200 people and I stepped up and I volunteered to lead the worship ministries and it just grew into something I never dreamed that it would as the church continued to grow. Eventually the opportunity was presented to me to come on staff as the worship guy, and it just has gone on from there from that little church plant, to quite a sizable church now. And eventually I got to the point where I felt like I was probably become one of the older guys, and it was time to let the young guys have worship ministry. So about four years ago, I handed that baton to a couple of great worship leaders that we have here. And because of my prior business experience I kind of migrated naturally into a gap we had at the time, and there was really operations and some administrative roles that were open here and they allowed me to slide into that as well. And I just love that transition. It’s been great.

That’s a pretty interesting career transition from telecommunications company to worship pastor now to executive pastor.

I think it’s kind of a dream. You know, when you have your career and in music and worship is the other thing when you’re young, it’s that thing you spend all your money on in your time on when you’re not doing your regular job, it’s your dream to some-day to be able to do that. And I was really fortunate that God really opened up a place and allowed me to serve in a capacity and make a career out of something that was sort of a hobby. But really it was always a dream, but never really thought it would come to be. It’s amazing how it worked in those kinds of situations.

So I have a couple questions then, just based off the story you just told. One is, four years ago when you became the minister of church operations. Was that position existing before you came into it or were you in train and existing raw?

So it had been all sorts of different looking positions over the years for us. We had an executive pastor at the time here, and this role of operations was a role we had had, but it had been baking for a couple of years, and we really weren’t trying to fill it intentionally. We try to see how it would work to let the… our executive pastor at the time maybe absorb some of those responsibilities. But as I made the move out of worship, it became really clear that he was able to hand some of those things off to me and we kind of flipped seats. Now that executive pastor has since moved on to be the senior pastor at another church. So I’ve now absorbed his executive pastor duties, so we kind of switched places. So now I’m kind of operations and I do some of those executive pastor roles as well. Now that since he is gone, and we’re not really actively looking to fill that position here either, we’re trying that as well right now just to see how it works for us.

So what exactly does fall under your responsibility now?

As I’ve heard other operations pastors on your show, talk about… it’s pretty typical, finance, IT, communications and facilities. Everybody’s calls it a little something different. I call us the underbelly of the church or the infrastructure, all the non-glamorous things. That’s so critical and so crucial to the operation of ministry. So, I do all of those things. Those four components mainly make up my role here.

Okay, now I’m curious just for you personally, how has it been transitioning from such an up-front role as the worship pastor to the under belly now?

It wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you there was a transition period where it was quite a shock to my system to be a very public person in the only works at pastor here for most of those first 14 years. So as prominent a role as a senior pastor, that speaks and teaches each weekend, I grew up with this church as it grew up in that role. So, there is a very public place that comes along with that. And as much as we hope and try not to be too absorbed by that, it didn’t really become that evident to me until I started showing up here on Sundays and nobody missed you, and nobody knew. What do you do now? And everything that you tell people that you do now is something they really don’t see first-hand for the most part. But there was such a public role that I kind of enjoyed not having the pressure of, I guess you could say a spotlight, but just such a public platform that I was on for so long. It was kind of nice to be able to be behind the scenes and recover from all those years, a pretty hard push and worship.

Yeah, that makes sense that it would probably be a mixed bag for you.

There were a roller coaster of emotions, especially for that first year of transition.

That’s interesting. You had also mentioned that the executive pastor, you’re kind of absorbing some of those roles, are there some kind of oversight of staff that’s also in your position there?

There is, some of those HR components have now fallen to me? However, we’ve got a couple other guys here on staff when that executive pastor left, we really distributed some of those things amongst the three of us. We have the pastor here who’s in charge of all of our adult spiritual formations, and it’s really in his will house a little bit for staff care and staff leadership training, and some things like that. So, he along-side of two, three other of us really lead in that effort. We’re probably not as strong as we’d like to be there. We’ve identified some things that we really need to focus on this next year, especially in that realm of leadership training for our next generation. But that guy alongside me and one other person, our staff are sharing the load of staff leadership. It usually falls to an executive pastor, but some of the other HR duties of just working with one of our person here that leads our HR staff. There’s not really an HR staff. She’s really our controller and finance person, which is, I think probably not too uncommon in organizations, but she leads the way with any HR items as well, but I support and work with her along that and hiring on-ramping, those kinds of things. And then just in the general staff, email’s gonna go out about policy changes or reminders, things like that. I’m usually the guy that sends those out to the staff.

Now you’ve got two campuses, Stonegate Fellowship has… are you primarily at the main campus at Midland campus, or are you doing operations for both locations?

So we provide operations for both locations. My role, especially this year, we built a building or really finished out a building. It’s kind of an interesting story. We bought the largest bar in our two cities of Midland and Odessa, Texas. We bought a big bar and we converted it to our church side location for the 0dessa campus. They’ve been meeting in a junior high school.

Aha, neat.

It’s a great story of transformation that we love just a picture of it, but it a huge 35000 square foot building. There were multiple bars. They had about seven different themed bars split up in this building. But the real beauty of this building is that it has a huge outdoor amphitheater that has a stage and just a great area to have outdoor events, and we’re excited about all the potential of that as well. So my year, this past year, has been helping that building, rebuilding and process happened, and being in charge of that.

That’s no small task.

No, it’s been a big thing on my plate for the past year to help us both… just from the beginning of acquiring the property and then working with architects and then with our church body on a whole campaign to pay for the project and then seeing the project through. We had a building team of servant leader volunteer leaders that helped us with that whole process. But I was the one kind of driving that keeping us all in motion all the time.

Now you’ve got a fairly large staff there at Stonegate. And now you’ve got two locations. So I’m sure you maybe could give a couple answers to this about what are some of the administrative challenges that you face Monday to Friday.

When we had everyone in the same campus as it probably is the case with everyone, it’s easy to… it’s easier, not ever easy, but it’s easier to communicate. When you can walk by everyone’s office or you know where everyone is and it’s easy to get to make changes and to make adjustments in any kind of procedures and policies. Everyone’s right in front of you. It’s pretty easy to call a staff meeting and make some things happen. But our challenge that we’ve noticed is really always keeping that other staff in mind cause any change we make on this campus or in anything that we’re doing in any ministry affects that campus as well. That’s probably been our biggest learning curve, just remembering and keeping them in mind for any kind of event planning, big kind of policy changes or anything that are going on is thinking about our Odessa campus at the same time. It’s been our challenge.

Lots of cc on emails, I assume.

A lot of that as a matter of fact, just this past week, you have this all-staff email, this group email. We just set up our Odessa campus to have their own email and Midland campus have their own group email. Because if on our staff there were extras in the break room, some kind of treats for our Midland campus that someone has brought by, the email would go out to say, hey, there’s cake and cookies in the break group.

That’s just not right.

No, it’s just wrong. The Odessa campus would get those and not be able to participate and we just had to make a change and stop their suffering.

Okay, well, that can lead into my next question or just request, which is, this is kind of a bragging moment for you, if you wouldn’t mind being open, but what are some of your best practices, or maybe one or two things that you guys have implemented there that you’ve really seen success with? It can be on a very small scale or it can be very large scale.

Sure, something kind of original that we’re trying right now and I don’t know if it’s really best practice or if it’s something we tried. Our leadership, our senior staff leadership, cause some people call it executive leadership team, we refer to it as that at times, but right now that’s a large group for us, and it’s about 10 people. So to keep that group organized and moving forward with agenda items in our meetings and such we’ve actually hired a virtual assistant that listens into our meetings through video conferencing and takes notes and minutes. And if there are items that come up in those meetings that need to be future agenda items, she tags that for us and keeps it out there for us and make sure it hits an agenda whenever we have asked for it to hit. If there are action items that come from those meetings that need to be followed up on, she has spearheaded that. That’s really been an interesting thing for us to try. A lot of people would probably have that maybe on their staff. And we’ve had that as well with where it’s been a member of our staff, but to tell you the truth we really like the fact that it’s someone that’s not a part of our staff, who is outside of us. It gives us freedom to have deeper conversations about maybe sensitive issues, with personnel issues that come up. We can have those who were really not concerned about any kind of talk around the office or hurting someone’s feelings or anything like that. We feel much freer to just have some really good conversations. She’s off in another part of the country, think she lives around Baltimore, but we don’t even know that cause she’s just virtual with us, and it’s a beautiful thing so far.

How interesting. Now I wonder how did you find her and what made you all consider this option?

In our community, we’re in oil community, so our economy is all based around the oil field. If the price of oil is up around here, activity is flouring, our business community is in flouring. What we have found is, it’s difficult for a church to compete in the marketplace for employees, when oil money is flowing in our community where an admin assistant in our city, in the last boom an oil cycle boom about three years ago, they were making 30 to 35 dollars an hour, in some cases. We as a church couldn’t compete with those kinds of wages. So as we had some kind of hiring skill sets that we were trying to fill some things in our staff, we realized we may not be able to hire those skill sets to be a permanent part of our staff. But, I did some experimenting with a virtual assistant just on my own. I didn’t have an admin here for me, so I kind of experimented. I didn’t really feel like I needed someone full time, but I just needed a few hours a week for someone to help me with some of my organization. And that experience was really good for me. It went really well. So I just moved it over to our executive staff and thought we try that just to see if we can find someone who can… just confidentialities that we need, can operate at a pretty high level like that. It really is difficult in our community to hire that kind of talent. Not that we don’t have those kind of people and staff. The other thing was we didn’t wanna take them away from ministries that currently had them. When we do find those kinds of folks and everyone on staff is so good, we didn’t wanna pull them away from what they were doing. This allowed us to just try that. So it’s kind of an experiment. We’re pretty open to having these kinds of experiments and to be honest, we’re only probably nine months into this one, but we’re still pretty happy with how it’s going.

Yeah, really, when it comes to new technology, nine months in is pretty far, and if you’re still happy with it…

Yeah, we evaluated about every three months, we stop and evaluate, and so far we’re still pushing the go button with this. We still like it.

I think that’s gonna be a pretty interesting option that maybe a lot of people haven’t thought about. So I appreciate you sharing that.

Yeah, you bet.

So David, where do you go to learn about being a great pastor, whether it’s the ministerial side or just the administrative side?

Like so many churches in this next generation of churches, (???) that have started in the last 10 to 20 years. Typically our staff is not made up of professionals. If I could say it that way. They’re not typically, weren’t theology degree professionals, but most of our staff came from the business community. They were members of our church that were pretty passionate about doing ministry. And it was the other thing they did similar to me before I became a worship pastor. And we were able to pull some of those people out of their marketplaces and add them to our team. And that’s been really great. But the downside to that is sometimes we aren’t as equipped as we need to be in some other areas. So I try to think of what would be some of the things that we do to try… we have a lot of ground to make up within our team ’cause we may not all have these theology degrees, but we’re all passionate about making things happen here. We don’t have a lot of local resources to draw from. We read a lot of books together as a team. We, right now in particular, are going through a book called ”God dreams” by Will Mancini and I feel like our church is in like an individual. We’re about an 18 year old church, and we’re about like an 18 year old person. We finished that stage of getting our education, and now we’ve gotta figure out what we’re gonna be when we grow up, and this is timely for us. It’s time for us. We’ve had a ton of energy and a ton of growth where we went from 200 people when we started to have between 4000 and 5000 people on our campuses on a weekend now. For a city our size it’s a pretty big deal. It’s the largest church by far in our area. Well, that’s been a fast moving hamster wheel for us for those 18 years, their treadmill, if you will. And we have not done a great job of being ready for what’s next. We just had our head down and we’ve been plowing ahead just trying to keep up with that growth over the years. So what we’re finding is that we’ve kind of woke up this year and we’re looking up and we’re going, okay, so what are we gonna be when we grow up? We’re kind of in that adolescent transition from being a teenager to, okay, now we gotta put on our big boy pants and figure out what we’re gonna be next.

And this book is really instrumental in helping us with that journey. It really is great for a church to work through its vision. You asked about what we do about learning, growing as a team, but that is just a season that we’re in right now. I’ve really trying to figure out, what is God doing in this place? We were really clear about that for the first 10 to 15 years, but the last few years, we’ve really had to reevaluate that because it’s one thing when you’re growing from nothing to the size organization we are, but it’s another thing then to figure out, okay, now what’s next? So we are on that journey together as a senior staff team, and we read a lot together. We pray a lot together, but we go through books together and try to… this is one we’ve landed on that we’re gonna stick with for a while. And so far, it’s been pretty transforming for us.

I’m thinking about all of those high-schoolers who graduate all of the insecurities and excitements that come with that. So it’s kind of exciting to be an 18 year old with a lot of potential.

It is. Sometimes you think, oh man, we’re getting old, but we’re not old at all. We’re just now hitting a stride in our maturity where we feel like God’s been preparing us and growing us to a point where now he can really unleash us for what he’s got next. So we’re excited about that. We were not before we started this transition, we were a little down because we weren’t sure where we were headed and what we’re supposed to do next. But this has given us a spark in some insight. We feel like we’re on a great track to explore like God’s got for us next. That’s great.

David, I wanna end with you just being able to share. What encouragement would you give to other operations pastors or executive pastors?

Yeah, after spending my first career of 18 years out in the business world and being able to spend 18 years now in this venue of ministry, people call full time ministry. There’s such a difference in those cycles and seasons. What I’ve learned over these 18 years is to really take your breaks, find your rhythms in ministry so that you can refresh, ’cause ministry seems to have seasons of intensity, and then there’s some seasons where you can pull back a little bit. For most of us in churches, we’re finishing a big season. Our Falls are usually so busy because it’s the first of a school year. There’s so much ministry activity that culminates in Christmas for our churches, and then we have a season of being able to hopefully take a break for a few weeks between Christmas and the time we really get Spring going and we start working toward Easter. After Easter you start working for student camps. For us, student camps are huge as well. So there’s this loss in activity and then there is intensity of activities. Self-care is something I think all of our ministry leaders have got to really be careful and build into their lives. I think part of a mistake I made when I was in worship ministry was really put me in a place of burn out, was that I just moved forward and moved forward and moved forward and didn’t take time for good soul care and self-care. So that we could be strong and could feed the people that were supposed to feed spiritually around us. And as I’ve gotten older and less prideful, to be honest, I’ve learned that stepping back and making sure that a feed myself as a leader makes me much more prepared and much more effective as a leader when I’m backing it again, when it’s back into seasons of high intensity. So I really encourage church people to think content, who especially put themselves on the back burner in the name of ministry, and I would encourage them to not do that, I think we all have to be sure that we take good care of ourselves. First and foremost our families and our homes have to be the model to the people that we serve around us in the community and in our churches. And if we’re not taking care of ourselves, that example that we’re supposed to be to them is gonna really fall apart or have some serious issues. So I’d encourage folks to take care of themselves to take care of their families and be great leaders, because you’ve taken good care of yourself. Not because you’re burning the candle at both ends and because of the quantity of what you accomplished.

That’s great encouragement, David, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.

Hey, Courtney, thank you for having me… I really appreciate it.

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