Welcome to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Today our guest is Doug Leddon who has joined us from Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois. Hi Doug, how are you?
I am fine. How are you Neil?
Doing very well. It’s great to have you on the show. You have a very interesting journey that I am excited for everyone to hear. We have a lot of people who we interview as XPs who maybe have spent a lot of time in ministry roles and then move into an XP role, but your experience actually comes from the private sector first. Why don’t you share a little bit about your journey to become an XP?
It has been quite a journey. I’ve been here at Community a little over seven years. Going back to the beginning, my whole journey in finding my way back to God has led me to meeting my wife and beginning part of our marriage, I was probably primarily going through the motions when I came to church and being involved and things of that nature. And through her pretty Stacey encouragement, I found myself getting involved in small groups and tiding and all those things that seemed that middle aged males tend to avoid to a degree. And our leadership pipeline in our path at Community is we look at it as that you are in a tender, you are doing things, you are starting to contribute, and then you become an apprentice to a leader, say in a small group or something like that. And you go through the steps of watching that and taking on bits and pieces of leaving the small group or whatever the thing might be. And then you eventually become a leader of that small group and you bring on your own apprentice. You do that for a while. You move on to them, become a coach. You are a leader of leaders and coaching those folks and at some point; the next step would be possibly joining staff and becoming a director, and then moving on to a campus pastor and then a network leader. I kind of followed that same path. It was one of those things where I was finding myself probably bored at work. I had reached a certain level that I was doing fine but I wasn’t exactly working hard every day and became interested in “how can I help the church from an operational standpoint?” I got to know the gentleman that was a campus pastor at our Yellow Box location, and I kind of saw that he was being buried with certain aspects of the job. And I thought to myself, “Man, what if I could take that operational stuff off his plate and let him do what Community had hired him to truly do and that is be a pastor?” And just prayed about that, talked about that with my wife, mentioned it to one other friend and then one day said it out loud. That’s kind of like that oh no moment, where it’s like okay, now it’s real. I said it out loud.
You can’t bring it back inside your mouth, right?
Exactly, you feel the words coming out of your mouth and you are like no, no, no, no, no, no. But yeah, so I said it out loud. He thought it a great idea. We went through some more steps just to make sure about things, and the guy, who was the campus pastor here at the box time, hired me and the rest is history.
Wow, so seven years you’ve been there. Give us a little bit of a background around Community Christian. You guys were one of the pioneers and the multi-site model and some of the things that went on – when you came into the picture, what was it like in terms of processes, in terms of operation type stuff? Was it extremely chaotic or do they have some rudimentary stuff set up and you just kind of tinkered with it? What was the situation when you started?
No, it wasn’t chaotic, but what you had at Community is you have a lot of vision, a lot of freedom, a lot of hard charging individuals. I am probably the most negative person, I would say, on staff. I like to call it realistic; others would call it negative. So I feel like what happened was lots of dreams and they are getting lots of stuff done – successful, you know I mean it’s not like things are going poorly, but I felt like hey, we can make some of these things better and we can do even more for the kingdom if we become a little more disciplined in certain areas and it’s okay to say no to good things if it’s going to help us accomplish at what our end goal is. So we would get probably distracted here and there throughout a year or so; somebody would come up with an idea yeah, let’s go and do that but it would take you off the path that you had set for yourself at the beginning of the year. So I think I helped be that voice for these folks to say, no, no, no. It’s okay to say no to that. I think I am probably also the DNA culture alignment type person here. So I would look at people or things that people were doing. And again, we really like to focus on the positive and I would probably move along the lines of “Hey, wait a second. Yes, this is really good, but this is slightly out of alignment with how we want to do this or the end of the day where we are going to go.” So I would help point that out to Dave and the rest of the lead team, sometimes more gently than other times. But I probably helped in that regard also. But things were running great. I just probably try to help bring a little more structure and clarity to some things.
Yeah, so share with us what, what do you oversee right now? What types of things come under your responsibility?
As most people are here at Community, people tend to wear a lot of different hats. Currently, we have ten locations and we have them divided into networks. I oversee one of the networks which is our neighbor Yellow Box location and three other locations. So I am overseeing those community pastors. I am overseeing our business catalyst – that’s our finance and accounting. I am overseeing communications, I am overseeing HR, IT, all the operational aspects of Community along with our facilities that we own. We’ve tried to bring that more under one umbrella where each campus or location is still responsible for their building, but we’ve tried to centralize some of the stuff to help that community pastor with his building because again, we didn’t hire him or her to run a building. We hired them to be a pastor. So I think that’s it. She may have to do something but that’s funny.
Yeah. If somebody thinks of something else, it can get showed on to you too, I am sure. With so many different campuses and different things like that, most of your things like HR, communication, finance – is that a centralized service you provide to all the different sites that are out there?
It is. Each location is responsible for their own budget but we are doing all of the work centrally. We are helping them put their budgets together, we are doing all the accounting centrally, we are sending out the monthly reports to them, helping them walk through it, letting them know, “Hey, we need to keep an eye on this, or we need to look into that area”. So yeah, we handle it centrally but we also push some responsibility out to the locations.
So speaking from an operational standpoint, what are some of the challenges you face not only as a large church but as a multi-site church, as a growing church? What are some of the consistent areas you find yourself working on from that high level perspective?
At Community we’ve always been – we value innovation, we value leaders, we value you being a go-getter, but then we also, we want any location you walk into at Community to have the feel of the community that you are in but also hey wait, Community at Lamont feels the same as community at Naperville to a degree. Hey wait, you know, I’ve been here before. So that tension we feel from a process standpoint is how much control you have over a location versus how much freedom you give. And that makes some of our processes difficult or harder than they might be. Communications – it’s we don’t centrally control each locations; say email from the community pastor each week. They put that together themselves. We help, we will supply graphics, we will supply all those things, we encourage it but we are not doing it, we are not putting it together. Sometimes those emails will happen, there will be times that those emails don’t or there will be times that they are not great. So you have that tension in the center of “Okay, hang on a second. I want this to be better. How can I do that without just taking control of the whole thing which then disempowers the community pastor?” So we are always kind of living in that tension here, which for me personally is hard just because of my background and how I am wired and where I came from – in the business world and so on and so forth. So it’s just always interesting for me to look at it that way and remember that it’s not something to control, put attention to manage type thing.
Yeah yeah. Are there any lessons that you found you learnt in the financial services world that you are able to directly apply to the church world?
I think to a degree church is a business and we need to either train and help pastors understand the financial side of things a little better. They don’t need to become experts by any structural imagination but we need people to come alongside them that understand that it has business aspects to it, to the whole thing but it’s not a business and they need to remember that too. It’s not a black and white saying and all of your decisions aren’t based on your balance sheet or what makes financial sense. So for me personally, my first three years were probably difficult and frustrating for me just because I came in with a certain mindset and I saw things that I felt could change and get better. And I had a hard time understanding why a pastor wouldn’t care more about his budget and so on and so forth. But I have obviously worked through the years that that’s not their strong suit night and the business mentality – well, it’s so important, you need to tamp that down a bit and remember why are we here in the first place? We are not here to make a profit; we are not here to do that. We are here to help people find a way back to God. Now we still need to exist to be able to do that but there is that fine balance but at the end of the day, we need to focus on helping people find their way back to God side. So I don’t know that there is any direct correlation other than helping people on the financial side, but also helping people – I think the other aspect is having that hard conversation with a person on staff about “Hey, we love you. We know you are harsh in the right place. We know you love Jesus, but the job we’ve hired you to do, you need to do better and here is how you need to do it better.” And having that conversation that was another area that would tend to get skipped over a little bit.
Right. Great, yeah – that’s really interesting to hear the things and just as much as you’ve been influenced, I am sure you’ve had an influence on Community Christian as well just to be able to bring in a lot of that mindset to pastors and other people on staff too.
No that I would say yeah, I’d like to think – you’d have to ask them.
Yeah, let’s shift a little bit to talk about technology. It’s something we talk about on this podcast every time. What are some of the things especially with a shared services model type deal, what are some of the things you depend on a technology standpoint to keep things running smoothly?
We have been probably, we probably be playing a little catch up in that area – just from a church wide standpoint, we’ve just rolled out a church app in the last two years. That has been a shift for us but a good shift from – I don’t know that it’s technology per se, but just I mentioned campus emails earlier. We have worked to streamline some processes through Google Drive and things of that nature where we are creating things centrally that everybody could access and use in their emails or use in their pre-service slides and things like that and just opening it up a little bit more for folks to access things more easily.
Yeah, have you been a Google apps customer for a long time?
We have, we have – we emailed the whole bit. We shifted away from – we were on Outlook when I first started. We’ve shifted everything over to Google. We pretty much live on that.
Great, great. I know there is always more things to look at when it comes to technology, but that’s an interesting take just to see especially when it comes to sharing, collaborating obviously Google apps is an asset in that aspect to be able to share things with people, allow them to contribute to it and to get out there to everyone.
We have it at the Yellow Box and now also at our playing field location. We’ve also tried to set up a number of our meeting rooms with more technology and ready to do zoom calls, or Skype calls and rolling carts that are equipped with a Mac mini, a TV and internet camera and stuff like that. So you are not doing your conference calls with somebody’s laptop or something like that. So we’ve tried to upgrade a number of the rooms, so pretty much any room you meet in you can do a nice conference call and stuff like that.
Yeah that’s a great idea. Doug, when it comes to learning about being an executive pastor, where do you tend to go for information? Do you stay in the business world? Do you go to other resources online? Where do you go to get encouragement and to learn more about your role?
When I first started, I did a coaching network with Tim Stevens and he is now at the Vanderbloemen group – so that was six years ago or so. And that was extremely helpful at the time and it continues to be helpful just because there is an ongoing alumni group via email that you throw a question out there about pick a topic and there is back and forth on that site every day. So I find that to be incredibly helpful. And I’ve stayed in touch with a number of the folks that I met at that group. I try to just network with and get to know some of the other operational executive pastors in the area and just stay in touch with them on a monthly basis. I have at least two people that I try and well, not try, do – we do a monthly call just to touch base, see how each other is doing, what we’ve learned, something new that we’ve tried. And I have found that to be just incredibly helpful. I go back to that coaching network and I remember like I said in the beginning, my first few years, I’d be very frustrated about things. And next thing I know I am sitting in a room with nine other folks in the same sort of role and it’s like hey, wait I said. We all have the same issues. We are all trying to solve the same problems. It’s not just me, I am not just alone, it’s not just Community. We are facing these challenges. So that was need and encouraging, and that’s just talking to other folks in the role. When we go to exponential conference, meet another folks again, like I said that are doing the same sorts of things. We are not reinventing the wheel here. We are all facing a lot of the same issues and the need to see how other people are facing that. Books and stuff are probably more in the leadership business world. I love reading all the Lencioni books but I also love stuff like creativity ache and there is a book out there called “Making Ideas Happen” – things like that more on the creative side to try and help you work with and understand the creatives in the organization also.
Yeah, these are some of the great resources. I know the consistent that we hear – networking, connecting with people, being approaching even in a small local group is very important to learning. So I am glad you mentioned that too. Doug, why don’t you close out here for us by giving a word of encouragement to other XPs listening in? What do you want to say to them?
What I’ve run into is a lot of XPs who were wired like I am, and were not necessarily the vision folks, were there to help make the vision happen. And that’s how I look at my role. I want to take what Dave and John’s vision is, and I want to help implement it in making a reality, the best that we possibly can. And it’s a – you are usually behind the scenes, and it’s definitely a number two role. And some of you have come from places where you haven’t been on number two role but I look at it and think about what we are helping the folks like Dave and Johns of the world, the vision folks that are really spreading the word of God. We are helping to make that happen and that is an important role. They could do it without us. They probably couldn’t do it as well. And we are there to help keep steering the ship, to keep it pointing in the right direction and keep it afloat financially. And again, that’s not what we are all about but it is a really, really, really important part of the puzzle.
Fantastic. Well, Doug it’s been a pleasure. I am sure Community is very blessed and happy to have you in your role and serving like you are. And thank you for that and thanks for being on the show.
Alright. Thanks Neil, I appreciate it.