Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Doug Frazier is on the show today coming from Living Hope Church in Vancouver, Washington. Doug, great to have you on the show.
It’s good to be with you.
Doug, why don’t you share with us a little about how you came to be the executive pastor there at Living Hope.
I oversee a non-profit center and I still do today here in Vancouver, Washington. We have about 40 ministries and we take care of those ministries and give them an amazing facility. So I have deep connections into my area that’s just outside of Portland, Oregon. And getting to know Living Hope Church came through sort of a series of a sad situation. The church had gone through a scandal, and the pastors left abruptly and me and some people from this community center, we came together, we rallied together to come into this church and try to stabilize it. Because it was the largest church in Vancouver, Washington, and it was spiraling toward closure. And we felt led to jump in and play our part to build it back up.
So how long ago was this, that you all came on board?
It’s almost a year and a half, almost two years in between. So we came there in an emergency and we were just planning to kind of bridge the gap. But people have really taken to me and the senior pastor, and we’re real happy serving there.
For both you and the senior pastor, is this your first time on a full-time church staff position?
No, it’s not. Both of us have served and been in medium, small, large churches. I think this is the greatest challenge of working in a church because it’s a church, it was a mega church and it went through a disaster. And so we’re coming in to create trust again, to create effective ministry. And it’s been a challenge and it’s been an amazing almost two years.
That’s really interesting. So what was, gosh, I have a lot of questions now coming from a story like that, but in that emergency setup, you’re not… you’re working with your not-for-profit, this center outside of Portland, and this happens at the church. What was that decision making process like for you? Or was it just really obvious so that this was what you were supposed to do next?
Yeah, so God, He gifted man with dealing with, either building something or rebuilding, and He’s always put me in these kind of situations. And that’s what God gives me, these kind of impossible scenarios. And that’s what Living Hope Church was. It was a church that at its peak had about 5000 people and had a multi-million dollar budget, and just quickly and rapidly had just dropped to six, seven hundred people, and the budget was 90% percent reduced. There was no money in the bank, and it was just chaos. People had lost total trust and everything was falling apart. And that’s really when something like that’s brought to my attention, I either want to play a small part or be a consult to the situation, or to walk with people. And this was one, because of it being the largest church at the time, in the area, I knew, and a few of us knew, we needed to go in and play our part.
Now, it can take time to build back trust, but during that time there’s also, I assume, a large building to take care of that is a financial drain. And how do you keep the church going with such a drop in finances? But the demands are still there.
Yeah, so that’s part of our miracle story. So the church had a five million dollar due date for a loan that they had taken. When the time I came there, we had six months to find a way to pay that. And
when I came there, the church had 90,000 dollars in overdue bills and no cash in the bank. So this was a: okay God. Here we are. This is a Red Sea moment. And God, through the provision of just a generous family. It owns a Christian company in the area. We approached them and we explained our heart and our passion to keep this going, and they stepped up and gave us a 15 year, no-interest loan to cover that, to bridge that. Because what we work out of at Living Hope church is an old K-Mart store, and we own another building next to it. So we have about a 120,000 square feet to manage. So it’s a massive property with the parking lot. The whole property is 12 acres. We had no money, but we had this massive property that we were about to lose to bankruptcy and through that family’s gift and through just being stable leaders, trusting God, and speaking to clarity and direction and spirit-led direction. The people rallied, the attendance has come back and the givings come back and we’re stabilizing.
Wow. So tell me a little more about building back trust in a church that is really hurting. How do you build back that trust? How do you reshape the culture again?
Yeah, we rebuilt it not of our own. I would say every conversation in every teaching time, every time that we can engage, we did so. By saying, God, you have to use us in every conversation. We have to just be your vessels for everything we do, because we had to overcome scandal. This church was ruined by scandal, and there was moral failures and massive leadership failures, mismanagement of money. And so we had to contrast that by showing that we were not only going to say things, we were going to do them. So part of the reason I’m bi-vocational is because we don’t want to have big salaries, most of our staff are now by bi-vocational, because we want to keep it that way. We want to be people that take very little from the church and put all our money in ministry. And so we are committed to not only speaking this pathway to people that, hey, this is a new church, a new leadership. It’s also a group of leaders that whatever we say, we will live out, and do it with a humble commitment.
Now, this bi-vocational angle is not common in churches. So where do you find the staff who is willing and excited about the opportunity to have just a part-time role at the church rather than be happy and hired on full-time? Are these also community leaders like you guys were?
Yeah, I would say that most of us are, when I say the word bi-vocational, we’re still able to give a huge lot of time. As ministry goes, there’s no way to truly be ever part-time or bi-vocational that you have to be all in, you have to be committed to the job. So the word part-time or bi-vocational can sound a little misleading. We have staff that are at or near full-time to work, but we do so with the commitment that says, we’re in this 40 hours that most jobs require. We do so with a schedule that we work with them over a seven day period and most of us are able to accomplish all that we need to.
That’s really interesting. So what exactly falls under your responsibility as the executive pastor?
So we have a staff of about 30 and I work with most of that team, other than side-by-side with the senior pastor who oversees our worship, and our youth ministry. He comes out of that background, our student ministry. But the rest of the staff ranging from IT to facility management to all the pastoral teams and teachers, they work under my leadership.
And the Monday through Friday for you then, what does that look like? Is this mostly meetings with the staff, or is it a lot of administrative work?
Yeah, my days are long. I start at about 5:30 in the morning and I do some of my church meetings at that non-profit center I described previously. So some of the staff will come over for those meetings and we’ll do things and coaching there and week-to-week. And per week we have one objective we’re really trying to knock out with each one of them. And that’s kind of our focus because I do have a lot of one-to-ones. Beneath me, we try to hold between four to eight as far as direct reports. And so I have people that meet with people down the work chart. But my schedule’s long and I go into most evenings, so my heavy schedule is Monday to Thursday, and then I teach on Thursday night, and then sometimes I teach on the weekends as well to the general church. But it’s a pretty heavy schedule these days.
So what is one solution or best practice that you guys have implemented there that might be interesting to others listening?
Yeah, our best practice is again, we take one objective a week, over 52 weeks and we try to do better at that. We learn from what we did wrong. But as far as forward-looking, we’re always after that one thing, trying to do the one thing that is we can do better at. And with a church that’s come out of what we’ve come out of, there’s a lot to do better at. There’s a lot of trust to be gained. So we’re all the time working with: okay, here’s one piece of what we do, how can we do it better and how can that be measured? And then how can we hold there? So just one thing at a time, because too much overwhelms people.
And what’s one challenge that you have right now that you haven’t quite found a solution for?
I think our facility, it is an older building and we need millions of dollars to turn it into a more modern facility. And that’s not because we’re a church, our church is unique and we reach an audience of people in the northwest that are…it’s a very secular part of the country. So we’re very much an outward ministry. We feed homeless, we do things that are different. They’re very community-based and we’re serving people in a different model. So we’re quite busy in that way. But all that to say, we do that with a clear distinctive that we say, we make disciples who go. And that’s our measurable with everything we do. We don’t only want to learn God’s word, we want to have a go strategy with that. And so we’re always looking for ways to do that.
Now you have a large job. Executive pastor is a large job anyway, and especially in the circumstances that you guys found yourself in the last year and a half. Where do you go to be encouraged, to keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed, and just to learn more?
Yeah, we really teach that and surround ourselves. We have an amazing elders team at our church that forces that. And so my schedule, especially for that Friday, Saturday, Sunday, has a lot of: go rest, go find time. We hold that accountability bar pretty high, because a lot of what led to the problems we inherited was just burnout. People that were way too taxed for what they did. And so trying to keep things simple, like I touched on the facility needs. We want to pace the development of the property. We want to pace that. We don’t want to do it in six months. We want to carefully accomplish upgrades to our facilities so that over time and without burning me and several others out, we can improve our facilities so we can serve more people.
I would like to hear specifically what kind of encouragement you would give to other leaders who are in a similar situation that you came into a year and a half ago, which is, they’ve got a hurting church, maybe there’s been some kind of scandal. What would you say to them who are in the thick of it?
Well, to your question you asked previous is, who’s your support line? Make sure you have that. Because going through what we’ve gone through this last year and a half, two years, it’s been stressful. It’s been hard. And there’s been moments where it almost seemed like it wasn’t going to work. But what got us through them, what allows us to move forward and to continue to see improvement and growth is that we had people around us that were not as involved in the situation, and/or they had a role just to support us in that time. And it was a positive role. It was a role of, are you taking care of you? Are you taking care of your family? Are you finding time for you? And if you don’t, one of the marks that make me so sad again, because what I inherited was people were so well intended, they just burned out and they then made bad decisions. And I so guard against that, I’m actually complementary more to people and on my team, that take time with their family than I am people that tell me they worked 75 hours. We actually even make our full-time staff that are on salary, make them clock in so that we can judge how many hours they’re working and tell them: hey you know, back off, it’s too much. Because we don’t ever want to go there. So having, those kind of people in your life to watch you, to shepherd you, to care for you, is so important in ministry.
How have you built that team around you? Who are those people for you? Where have you found them?
Yeah, so we had a handful, maybe a 20% of our 30 that stayed on from the previous, which is very valuable because they bring a lot of context. But it’s been a complete rebuild pretty much. And we’re a multi-generational church, so we have everything from young 20s to one 70+ year old. And we do that because it’s just such a great team. And what happened was we insisted on hiring the right people and were patient and careful, and what that fostered is: others led us to others and led us to others. And it’s been amazing. Our team is so healthy and so good compared to what it was when we started.
That’s incredible. Doug, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Thank you. Thank you for having me.