Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church Podcasts. Today our guest is George Freebersyser, who is coming to us from Triangle Community Church in North Carolina. Hi George, how are you this morning?
Good Neil thanks for having me.
Very excited to have you on the show. You have a lot of interesting stories to share with us I am sure. George is the director of ministry operations at Triangle Community Church, but walk us through how you got into the role you are in now? What’s been your career path to there?
Well, we started attending TCC back in late 2002, and the church was just starting out a new building around its 10th or 11th year or so in existence. And a couple of years I had been asked to do step on to the elder board. So that gets us to May 2005. So we were simply attending. We can get into what else I was doing at that point later if you want, but it was just an elder role. And we had a staffing change in 2006 and the elder board evaluated where we were at the time. We were in a pretty fast growth mode and we felt like we could handle the staff change that we had, which was a kind of education small group role more internally with a couple of key volunteers and part time, and what we thought we needed more of was administration. And so I was at a point where I had some flexibility. Apparently, there was some evaluation that I might be someone who can step in and help out based on my school test – made it possible, I just drew the short straw in the meeting, I am not sure exactly. But what we did was we identified some need that I had the capacity to at least address and make some impact on immediately. We evaluated the situation. We used David Fletcher’s XP indicator assessment and that was helpful. We kind of did it by evaluating the gap. In other words, we used indicator to have the other elder board members evaluate kind of the role of an XP, but more what did we think we needed. And I wouldn’t have any idea of the indicator personally, and it was a pretty good match. So what we tried was a 90-day trial, so to speak, not as much as being a task but hey, let’s see what we can get done and see if what the fit is like and see if this is a good direction to go – kind of a prototype. That worked well, that was of 90days. We started in May of 2006. We extended it to the end of what was then our fiscal year through December. And in January, we felt like everything was going well enough and the need was there that we moved it to a full time role in January of 2007. That’s how I got into the role. And it certainly wasn’t a career – predictable career thing by any stretch of the imagination. I think reflecting backwards, there is a lot of skill sets that were applicable but it wasn’t as if the resume was add up to that being my next step.
Alright. There have been a few guests that I’ve talked to that have taken a similar career path or a path to get into this place where they have started attending, especially you see this with new churches that are just getting off of their feet and are in that phase they need somebody to come in and they identify somebody like you who has a skill set or you volunteer or something like that, and kind of fit into that role really well. Give a little bit more background about what you were doing beforehand and a little bit of that skill set you were building in the private sector maybe?
Sure. Let’s see. I’ll try to be fast and rewind back to undergraduate degree in management and marketing, and I had played college basketball and actually went right into coaching college basketball at the division one level. Part of the entry there was working on and accomplishing a master’s degree in sports management right away. So the management bug, if you will, was there from early on. And I spent nine plus years in college coaching and a couple of the roles that I have had they were connected to that included the sports information director at one point, and then I was director of athletics at the last school that I also coached that. In between there I helped start a non-profit basketball player development instruction company here in the Triangle, Rollinsville Chapel Hill, North Carolina. And when I left college coaching that was still in his infancy and this was going back to 95 actually. And my wife and I decided to at least give part time effort towards that but I quickly became full time. So I helped to run that organization through 2000, then I started my own company to concentrate on basketball coaches training, employer development training, and I actually still do that part time. But that’s what I was doing when we shifted over and started attending Triangle Community Church in 2002, and that’s what gave me the flexibility to step into a part time role at the beginning here at TCC. It’s because the company or the business I was running was my own and I had the flexibility to make some decisions about how to spend my time, and it worked out that I could do that. So the skill sets I think are a lot of coaching skill sets that you might imagine, but there is also a lot of the management skill sets as well. And I think those are the things that I cross over and I apply every day, at least trying to get better at every day and bringing the values that I hope I am bringing to the organization here at Triangle.
Yeah so you’ve been there – I think we’re out at that 10-year mark that you’ve been serving at the church, serving this role. Describe a little bit about what you do, how that rules change over the last 10 years and what’s your focus today?
The role from the beginning, I’ve tried to kind of shorten it up to trying to create systems and knock down barriers so that ministry gets done. And so I really try to keep my concentration on how I am serving the rest of our staff – from elders and pastors to our other staff, but also extending out towards our volunteer ministry team leaders and making sure or trying hard to make sure that the management or the administration that it takes to execute whatever ministry that they are responsible for is as efficient as possible so that they can concentrate on what they feel like God has called them to do and to keep them in their skill sets. And so that has created a situation where I am touching a lot of what we do in some small ways, in some big ways every single day, every single week from top to bottom. And that means I can be a catalyst for us to go on but it also means I have to really guard against being a bottleneck for what’s going on too. I think that’s partly due to size but also it’s something that I have to work at to make sure that delegation is occurring and that we are building systems that are scalable and not just dependent on one person. So that’s a little bit – a constant challenge is to evaluate what we’re doing and hopefully make it better, but also make it so that more people can be involved, and the people who are involved are staying in their skill sets.
Yeah, when I hear you describe all of the stuff that you are doing, the word friction comes to mind in terms of – if somebody’s experience in friction on your staff, they are going to come to you and say, “Hey, can you help me out with this? Can you figure out a way that this can be a little bit smoother?” But then at the same time, you are also trying to stay out of the way and not get too involved to where you are creating too much friction in their lives. Is that pretty accurate to what you do?
Yeah, I think so. One of the questions I ask on individual basis and also in meetings is what has your attention, and another way to ask that question – what’s causing tension and over friction? And so I try to be on the lookout for that, but also yeah, that’s coming to me and then hopefully we are addressing those tensions or what has people’s attention or the friction in a way that smoothes it out so that they can get back to doing what they do better. So yeah, that’s a good way to put it. And you are right. I think the challenge is in terms of speed or effectiveness or efficiencies to work at it so that I am not so friction in terms of something getting done or someone being able to do what they ought to be doing. So yeah, that’s probably daily – that’s a part of the challenge.
Yeah, what are some of the consistent administrative challenges that you face in your role?
I think it’s the determination, day to day for sure, maybe even sometimes hour to hour is – am I working on the right thing at that moment? Because there is a bunch of right things I could choose to be doing and which one is the best one at that moment, and that’s not always the black and white choice. And so communication then becomes key. So I’ll talk about renegotiating our agreements. Hopefully, I’ve got my eyes up on the horizon a little bit more. So if I see something is coming up that’s not going to be delivered, then I can start the renegotiation process. Hey, this isn’t going to happen at this time, or hey we are working on it, be patient. And just make sure the communication lines stay clear. I think when you do that, that allows people to exercise patience and understanding; and if you don’t, then that’s when frustration can kick in. So I think it’s that day to day, sometimes hour to hour management of what I should be working on. And it gets back to the important versus urgent paradigm and in our situation, we are just about our – after out 25th year of existence and there is still infrastructural things that may be objectively you would expect that they would be in place and kind of smooth running things behind the scenes. But there is things that we still need to be either improving or instituting so that the background stuff that’s happening and supporting what is out front and more important, but at the same time you are still doing the day to day stuff to get from Sunday to Sunday. And a lot of times certainly is the most important thing you should be working on. But the other stuff that isn’t screaming out for your attention is important. Yeah it’s like okay, how can I make progress in those areas without going back to use your word causing friction on the more week to week stuff that are working on in their ministry area, where they have an event coming up or they have something that needs more pressing attention? I think that’s where I have to either exercise my patients or realize that I’ve got to find a way to – I am using the word delegate but that’s an interesting word to use in a volunteer-driven organization – and it’s like how can you build teams around, I talked about building a circle around a set of either a ministry area or set of responsibilities. When you don’t have the person, you can say hey, go do this or do you need to do that. But you have someone who is the point, then you have to kind of circle around what should be happening in that area or where we want to be happening in that area, and then start to put together a team that can tackle each of the tasks in that particular area and then make some progress on the sidelines, so to speak. While the game is still being played, you can’t stop the game. So let’s take a few months off and figure this out. So I think that’s where I wake up and say alright, what are the things we really need to make progress on in the background that are important but aren’t urgent at the moment and at the same time stay out of the way of the things that are happening day to day, week to week.
Yeah. George, there was one thing on your important but not urgent list – what’s going to top up there, and you talked about infrastructure still needs to be set up. If you had two weeks to pause everything at the church and get this done, what would you start with?
We are working on, really driving our core documentation from top to bottom down all the way from the review of our doctrinal statement which has been completed and all the way down to how does that show up in a day to day policy, procedure, facility use, HR types of things. And so a lot of that is when you drive it down to that level, it’s missing. And occasionally then it becomes a point of friction where you can’t open up the playbook and say well, this is how we do things and have a middle ground to move something forward to resolve a problem. And so that’s that core documentation. It would take more than two weeks but I am working with the couple of guys on our legal team to help with that. And then I am also working with my assistant and our administrative manager to tackle some of the more at the procedural level things that help make things happen but no one really sees them. And so I’m trying to tackle it from both ends from that top down and then from bottom up and making sure that things stay aligned as we work on that project. So it’s a multi faster project that always just has my attention, at least in the background every single day that I’d love to make some faster progress on.
George, one of our various topics is technology. What are some of the things that you guys rely on at Triangle to stay organized and to get your systems and processes running?
Sure, probably the first thing to start with is we are a church community builder shop to a lot of what we do either revolves around that technology platform of that CRM or is connected to it. So that’s a constant learning process on how to use the tool. In some ways we are a bit of a Google shop too in terms of Google docs. We house a lot of our meetings and projects there so that we can have real time collaboration when necessary or a synchronous collaboration when people are apart and away from each other. So a lot of our organizing is done there and a lot of our work is done there. And that’s not everybody here is on top; I mean is on the Google ship, so to speak. But we pull things in as we need them, especially if I am collaborating with our senior pastor or our associate pastor on something. And I get a Word doc sent to me. We just convert it right away. We are going to work on it here. And then – like this is where the original is going to reside, here we can’t be passing documents back and forth like who’s got the latest one. So a lot of our project management and a lot of our documentation is there, but we use a bunch of different technology platforms – from our website is WordPress, and then in our worship and creative hour’s team uses Planning Center online for a lot of what they do including their scheduling. We are slowly bringing a lot of our ministry teams into to the CCV platform for scheduling with volunteers. Then there is a lot of other technology pieces that get connected in. Almost everything we do is in the files, so there is virtually nothing that we are doing that’s dependent on been on someone’s device. And when we add new platforms or evaluate what we are doing, I am always evaluating through the filter of integration – can we synchronize it what we are already using and doing? And then is it obviously secure, but is it cloud based in mobile so that we can work with a little more flexibility? Some of that is driven in that when we built our first building that we are in right now, it is a multi-purpose facility like I don’t have an office. For example, I office – I guess that’s a verb.
I like it.
Yeah in one of our children’s ministry classrooms. I have to set up and take down at least once a week, and we try to not schedule that space for anything else but at the same time, that’s the way our building was set up from the beginning. And that’s a little bit of a DNA thing here too. So even when we build our next gen center which was our student ministry center, that was a big like how can we make this so that it’s flexible use space and not chopped up and tied down for isolated reasons. So that makes the work a little bit more environment, need to be a little more flexible. And so that drives it a little bit. But I think that is just the way everything goes these days. And so all of our technology, almost all of our technology is cloud based so that we can have that collaboration going on and accessibility.
Yeah, that’s fantastic to think through, you know how can we – you as kind of a gate keeper of some of the new technology that comes in needs to make sure that everything is, like you said, integrated. You don’t want to add a new software stack that has to exist on an island that you have to go into but then also that it’s collaborative, it’s available in the cloud anywhere you go and it’s secure. It’s a big responsibility. But I think the biggest thing is just like you said, being firm in those decisions. We are not going to use something that doesn’t integrate; we are not going to use something that’s not accessible. If people are still using the old ones, burn down the ships that got us there, and let’s move forward with the new stuff. So it’s a big challenge but then it’s encouraging to hear your answer to that.
I think there is the pressure of the cultural use of technology and bring your own device and all that. You have to not put your pull on the breaks in a controlling way but how do we as an organization function? And I think that you want to maintain some of that personal flexibility but at the same time, if we are working together, we have to be working across platforms that are connected. And so yeah, that’s how we evaluate bringing something on or evaluating whether we keep something. And so those words come up a lot with the integration and whether its cloud based and collaborative, that’s why it’s usable. So yup, that’s kind of interesting to us. It’s a little bit fun to see how that all works together and try to figure it out. But it also gets back to the core documentation stuff and it is secure, and so it creates some backend administrative stuff that you can’t ignore. You can just, can’t use the stuff and not pay attention to how it’s being used or is the data secure; that type of thing. We are actually building an IT security team; so to speak, so that we can make sure that we are protecting ourselves in that way. And for us it’s fortunate that they were located in a pretty high tech area with our TP here. These are Triangle Park. And we get a lot of people here who work in that industry whether it’s the CISCO type of organization or even others – they have expertise in those areas. So I am actually starting to build a team together that we can lean on to them for IT decisions and also if we are going to make an IT decision, how safe is it or secure is it? So that’s something we are working on right now as well?
Big decisions but it’s kind of like the role of XP or a director of administration, so it just comes with the package now, so it’s a big thing.
Sure. Yeah, I think so. Yeah.
Yeah well, George thanks so much for being on the show. Why don’t you close us off with a little bit of encouragement to give to other XPs and administrators out there?
Well, first of all, just a thank you to you for what you’re doing because I think this is one of the things that folks in our roles need is to be hearing from other people and how they are doing things and whether it’s struggles or whether it’s wins that we can learn from. So I appreciate what you are doing. So I think that’s one of the things that we ought to be doing and any kind of networking that can go on through people that I really depend on Dave Patchin here locally – you’ve had him on the show. He is very experienced and his organization is so accomplished. And then David Fletcher, an XP. And I think it’s just trying to make sure that you are connecting with other people who are in similar roles to be able to bounce things off them and learn from. I think that helps you keep a part of your vision up and out so that everything that’s going on around you doesn’t distract from learning and distract from improving because I think a lot of what is at the heart of this role is helping other people get better whether it’s a team that gets better or whether it’s individual with the senior pastor if the XP is a real second chair role or administratively, but it’s usually about serving others and how to help them get better. So that means, I think we have to be on the lookout for good resources and good people that we can depend on and call out to see how they are doing. So I would encourage everybody to continue to do that. And again Neil, I appreciate what you are doing with this podcast because I think that’s part of the package.
Yeah, you are very welcome. I mean it’s a pleasure to be able to get it. I mean I love this and talk to people about this. I don’t know if anyone else listens to every episode than I do. So I get it on and.
That feels great.
Yeah and like you said, it’s all about any time we are in a kind of role that has a specialty to it, a unique personality that requires it – the more time you can spend talking to each other, listening to each other, to do that is great. And I am so encouraged when I hear people have local networks that they speak to and they get together, but it’s also good to hear from people on the other side of the country, other side of the world, that even see what they’re doing too. So it’s a great thing.
Yeah. Well, thanks George. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you and all the best at Triangle Community Church and what you are doing there.
Thanks Neil, keep up the good work – very appreciated.