Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Greg Poss, who is joining us from Calvary Baptist Church in North Carolina. Really happy to have you, Greg.
Thank you for having me.
Greg, you’ve been the Executive Pastor at Calvary for nearly 3 years now. Is that right?
Would you go back and share a little bit the path you took to get to your current position?
Sure. Well, I took the business route to get to Calvary. When I graduated from college, I graduated with a Degree in Finance and Accounting and thought that I would probably end up in some type of Federal State law enforcement. But when I got the Accounting degree, I did an internship with a corporation and I really enjoyed that. So I stayed with the corporation for about 20 years, 3 different ones during that period of time. I got a lot of great experience. Then when I got married back in 1987, my wife and I began to pray about what the Lord would do and I liked together. And I began to feel as though I was being called into the ministry. And my wife, being a pastor’s daughter, she knew what ministry was all about. And funny story, when she was in college at Dallas Baptist University, she would not date a guy that was going into the ministry. She wasn’t mad with God and she loved the Lord, but she had seen that lifestyle first hand and just said, you know what, I think I would rather have something else. So when we met, I was a VP of Finance at a plastics company. So she said, he is safe. So about a year or so into the marriage, I really began to feel like the Lord was calling me into the ministry. And I remember, we were living Atlanta, and I remember I needed to tell her this because the feeling was just getting strong and stronger. And we were at a restaurant in Gwyneth County and I was trying to get up the nerve to tell her and I said, honey, I think the Lord is calling me into the ministry. And I just sort of held my breath for a minute. And she said, oh, I know.
Yeah. So she knew it too. So from that point, we made it public and we ended up going out to — we ended up at Houston, Texas. I went to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Satellite Branch there at Huston Baptist University. And I served at a church by bi-vocationally for 7 years. And then left there and went to Virginia to serve at Baptist Church in Stafford. And from there, just felt like the Lord was calling me to do something else, to have a different challenge. So I called a search firm, actually, William [?Banderbaum] and I listened to his podcast this morning. So from there, I got a call from — to say, would you be interested in going and talk into the people at Calvary? So the rest is history. I’ve been here for almost 3 years now.
Would you go into a little more detail about how Calvary is structured and what things fall under your responsibility?
Sure. Well, Calvary is what I would call a very traditional Southern Baptist legacy church. It’s been around for almost 100 years. Of course, you have a senior pastor and staff. And the staff predominantly, most or all the staff report to me. We’ve got a couple of guys that report directly to the senior pastor. And then we have a deacon board of about 30 or so men that we run things through before we go to a church vote. But my responsibilities are primarily leading the staff, making sure that we’re moving in the direction of the pastor’s vision, and working with him. So it’s been really, really good since I’ve been here. It’s been hard work, probably the greatest challenge of my ministry life, but it’s been really good for the last couple of years, two and a half years.
So I’m curious, you are a multi-site church, right?
You got three different sites?
Okay. I’m sure there’s plenty of administrative challenges you face being multi-site. Could you go into a little more how you’ve incorporated technology into how you administrate?
Sure. One thing about Calvary, we’re sort of a transitionary church. And I think, probably, most churches are or should be transitioning from one thing to the other at any given time. But Calvary is certainly a transitional church. And what I mean by that is Calvary has been around for nearly a hundred years and most churches left to their own devices. The gravitational pull is inward and that’s kind of where Calvary has been the last few years. It sort of turned inward. And our senior pastor, Rob Peters, has been here for 4 years, and I came in three years ago. We’ve been building a staff to actually come in and really help the culture turn that to a much more evangelistic model and begin to grow again. So that has also affected the internal operations of the church in terms of the technology, because the technology is sort of plateaued 15 or 20 years ago. And there have been some improvements in it. But when I came in, most of my experience in the corporate world were transitional companies, troubled companies, companies that may have been acquired by the company that I was with and we would deal with, and try and turn that company around. So I found that my business experience and working with Calvary has really come into play because in the technology piece, we’re looking at every single thing we do in terms of this. The right technology for us, is it the right process, is it the right system. So we made several changes. One is — my flaw is that the church is not an expert in every single area of a business. It should be an expert in reaching people for Christ. But there are certain things that we’re not experts in and those certain things that we should allow companies that are expert to come in and help us with those. So we’ve done that in two or three different areas. Our IT area is one that we’ve outsourced a large part of that. We do have an IT person on staff but we’re just now beginning to rebuild the infrastructure of our IT system. And after that, we’ll be looking at our church management systems and seeing what my work best for us there. But we just recently outsourced our payroll system. And basically what we did was we went out and found a company that had great technology, and we went with them and it has improved our efficiency and our customer service with our employees just very dramatically, in a very short period of time. So we are trying to use technology to increase our efficiency and productivity so that we can really concentrate our efforts on the things that we do best which is trying to reach people for Christ.
Would you go into a little more detail of some of the specific administrative challenges that you face?
Sure. I think any time you throw people in the mix, that can be a challenge. One of the hardest things to an organization is changed culture and around that, are our people and staff. So probably the biggest challenge has been on the staffing level. Over the past four years, we have had about 50 percent of our employees transition out for one reason or another, and we’ve been working very hard to bring in new staff. Some staff positions are easy to bring in and some aren’t. Like a children’s pastor, those are very competitive, very difficult to find, but we’ve been able to fill that position, and several others. So changing culture with staffing has been a challenge. Changing things that had been in place and been working the same way for many years is always very difficult to change. We have a saying that we’re trying to fix it without breaking it. The art of change is really an art. It’s not as much of a science. Sometimes you have to determine if you’re going too fast. Sometimes I slow it down. Sometimes you’re going too slow and you need to speed it up. We are certainly in a change mode, right now, to bring about really healthy cultural change within the church.
Being a church in transition, and you mentioned fixing without breaking, what are some of those things that you want to hold on to in the midst of all this change and keep going?
Yeah. Calvary has a very strong history of missions work and our people just love to do missions around the world and they get to it and they go on mission trips. So we really want to keep that part. We have a great fellowship of people that have been together for many, many years, and we just have great people. They have really embraced my family since we’ve been here and embraced the other staff members. So that’s the piece of it that I think it’s probably working really, really well, and we want to keep that great heritage moving forward.
Where do you go to learn more about being a great executive pastor?
Well, several things, several ways. I tend to read a lot and there’s several books that have helped me through the years. But I go to a Mega Metro conference every year. It’s the group of Executive Pastors that get together and talk about the issues that we face and trying to see if we can help each other, see if someone’s doing a best practice that we can incorporate into our church. It is a close community and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of that group for the last few years. So I really enjoy reading about leadership, and about understanding people, and how they operate, and how they feel about the trends that are happening within the country or within churches, or really within business. I ran across some very, very helpful books in the past that I really dug into and made a part of our leadership development within the church and our staff.
I’m curious from your business background, you mentioned how much you can go back and rely on the wisdom you gain from that experience. What are some really specific things from that kind of previous life, I guess, that you find are really helpful to you now in this season?
Well, it’s kind of interesting. When I first went into the ministry, I was doing bi-vocational work, I kind of had the attitude that I had been very successful in the corporate arena for several years at that point and not really thought that church work was going to be just a piece of cake. And I found out that it was a little different than what I thought. And I’ve thought about that through the years of how church is different than business. And I’m not sure I have a great ability to articulate what it is, but church is much harder than business. As a matter of fact, I said for years that if I ever went back in the business, it would probably feel like a vacation compared to the work that I do in church. But there’s a lot of similarities. You want to make the right decision at the right time. You obviously want to treat people well. And I’m a very relational leader. I love interacting with people and I love working on a team, and I love being in a very collaborative atmosphere and environment with our team. But when we look at our staff, we just try and to lead them well, make the right decisions at the right time, really modulate the right speed at which change is occurring. Another thing that I’ve noticed in my first position at a church, the pastor was very much a visionary. And I really struggled with that because on the spectrum, he was a visionary on right side and I was an accountant and administrator on the far left end of that scale. And I really struggled to understand visionary leaders because they would do things that just didn’t quite make sense to me. And over the years, as I struggled with that, the Lord really helped me with the book. And the book, I was in seminary at the time, and I was really just kind of walking on campus, really praying and saying, Lord help me to understand this visionary leader. And this was 20, 25 years ago. And I went in the bookstore and I found this book. I just picked it up and I started reading it and it began to explain visionary leaders and different kinds of leaders and organizations. And a light bulb just went off and I began to really begin to understand visionary leaders. And from that point forward, I just kind of decided that I didn’t want to work for anyone unless they were a visionary leader, which can really be uncomfortable for some people because the visionary leaders just think and operate in a little different scale. But over the years, I’ve grown to just appreciate pastors that are better visionary leaders. I just want to help them to really accomplish the vision that the Lord has given them.
Wow. That’s great. What encouragement would you give to other Executive Pastors?
Well, for many years, and I struggled with my role as sort of a behind the scenes leader, and I think we looked at other leaders and we see their gift, and their giftedness, and their talents and skills, and sometimes we say, I really wish I had that skill. I would love to be a great communicator, like some of the great communicators around the country. But that’s not my role. I’m not a preaching pastor. And every time I say that, I think, praise God I’m not a preaching pastor. Because Sundays always come. But when I look at what I do, and I think it’s just come after years of doing it, I’m very confident that what I’m doing is really playing a very vital part on the team. Because most visionary leaders, most senior pastors just aren’t really wired to do what I do. And if I can do it well, then it frees them up to really do what God has called them to do well. And I think that’s the relationship that I’ve strived for in the past. And, certainly, the relationship that I have now with my senior pastor, in some ways, we are very much alike, in other ways, we are just incredibly different. And in a situation or relationship like that, it is ripe for conflict. We’ve just decided, and I decided in my heart that even though there are great differences between us, God has called us to do different things, and we’ve just kind of both said to each other, we are not going to allow conflict to enter into our relationship because we are so different from each other. So I would just encourage executive pastors to really appreciate the senior pastors, appreciate the differences between them, and be encouraged by the fact that what we do is incredibly important in the life of the church, and it should be in the life of the senior pastor. So that’s what I would say. I would say, be encouraged that what you’re doing is of great value to the church and to your senior pastor.
That’s fantastic encouragement. And I think, especially coming from someone like you who had a lot of experience and waited through plenty of your own thoughts and things you had to struggle with, it’s a big encouragement too, especially those who are new in the Executive Pastor field.
Yeah. It’s a hard job but if you’re called to it, there’s nothing better.
Greg, thank you. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and some of your stories. And I think it’s really going to resonate with a lot of people.
Great. Well, thank you very much.