Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Jay Hancock from Carmel Baptist Church in the greater Charlotte area. Great to have you today Jay.
Thank you very much, great to be here.
Jay, you’ve been the Executive Pastor at Carmel Baptist Church for ten years, but filled a different role on staff prior to that, would you share with us your journey to becoming the Executive Pastor at Carmel?
Sure, when I came to Carmel in 1998, I came here as the education pastor, so I was in charge of overseeing the adult ministry as well as all the other education staff or what we now called our generation staff, which is our different age groups, as well as our Christian school, which we have a weekday preschool and also a K-12 school, at the time it wasn’t K-12, but it is now. And so it was about the halfway through my tenure of that, that in 2007, our church continued to grow and our senior pastor and some of our other folks, saw the need of taking some of the load off of him, especially all the people who reported to him and to reorganize the staff. So that was an opportunity to bring on an Executive Pastor, and our senior pastor asked me to take that role. So that was back in 2007, we had doubled in size from about twelve hundred to twenty-four hundred by that time. And it was just time for a change in structure. So I’ve been serving in that role ever since, we’ve brought in a new pastor since that time in 2012 pastor Alex Kennedy came here, and I’ve continued to stay in that role.
So your church is doubled in size in the last fifteen years or so, you said, and you brought in a new pastor, so it’s quite a bit of transition for one church. Could you go into little more detail of what it was like to walk through some of those transitions?
Yes, our pastoral transition was surprisingly wonderful. We actually had, our pastor who left us, was retiring. He had been here for about twenty-two years, so a very long tenure and our pastor prior to him, had a long tenure as well, and a lot of our staff members have a pretty long tenure like mine being here almost twenty years now. But when our pastor was retiring, we set up an intentional plan to pass the baton and perhaps have him and a next pastor lay over and have some overlapping time in their time of service, it turned out that it didn’t quite work out that way. But we only had about a four-week gap between the final goodbye retirement day of our senior pastor and a new pastor coming. So that worked out really well. Some people would say that’s a dangerous, and maybe it is. But I think that depends a lot on the personalities of the people coming in. I would say our pastor who was leaving, he left and he spent a year away from the church, even though his family was still here. He said, “I’m just going to be away for a year.” And I admire him for doing that he stepped to it even though I think about six months in, I said, “you know, you could come back.” But he did, he stayed away and he’s not kind of got a meddle in anything. And so he and our new pastor, they developed their wonderful relationship and he is here Wayne Poplin is his name, and he is really still part of our church family right now and teaches and does a lot of neat things. And our pastor before him is actually a member of our church as well. So we have two former pastors, retired pastors, and our senior pastor here with us. And that’s unusual, but really a wonderful relationship between all those guys.
I would say that’s incredibly unusual.
I agree, but it’s worked well. I tell you one story. I remember talking with our former senior pastor, we actually… Wayne Poplin, who was here before Alex, we were sitting in a meeting and he asked, our pastor who is his predecessor was considering coming on our staff to actually work together with our new senior pastor. And he asked us, the current senior pastor, said “How would you all feel about bringing Don back on to our staff as our missions’ pastor?” And we all looked around to each other and said, “Well, it’s not us, it’s you, how do you feel about him coming back on as a pastoral member?” He’s like, “I’m great with it” and so those two guys actually worked together for about four years before Don, the predecessor retired, and then Wayne Polin a few years later, retired. So I know that’s a little confusing, but amazing that two former senior pastors were working together on the same staff, and that just says a lot about our church family and about those guys really in particular, take special men to be able to do that.
Yeah it really does. Ten years in this Executive Pastor role. And then you have twenty years at the church, I’m sure this answer has changed quite a bit over the last ten years, but what things fall under your responsibility?
Well, here at Carmel, as I mentioned, we have a couple of schools, and so that’s a big deal, but we also have our ministerial team, and I’m kind of a, I see myself as a COO chief operating officer, but operating officer of the ministries. We have a church administrator who does a lot of the practical operations, but I oversee the ministerial team, which is twenty-three full time folks on our ministerial team. Then also our heads of schools in our weekday school, which is eight hundred people in our weekday preschool and another nine hundred fifty in our K-12 school. So this space here, and one of the big challenges we have is that our facilities are used 24/7 between the weekday schools. We made a big investment in weekday discipleship of children, and that cost us, and that’s something that’s a wonderful cost, but it’s a big investment and our facilities are used all the time. In fact, we just completed on hundred thousand square foot facility that houses our student ministry for the church, as well as our middle school and high school for the school, and a large gym about a $20 million project, which will be our last thing that we do, last big thing we do on this campus, because of the size.
You talked about being a chief operating office officer for the ministerial side. What does that look like? Is that mostly you guiding the staff interpersonally, or is it kind of helping them develop visions for the ministries that they’re leading? What does that look like?
Well, every Executive Pastor I think, has to recognize they have strengths and they have weaknesses, and each church has to look and say, what is it that you’re looking for in an Executive Pastor? I can’t remember the five different parts of it, but I know expastor.com has a really good profile of Executive Pastors. And one of the things I’m not so great at is the mentoring side, that one on one personal side, I’m more of an introvert and the detail guy and an administrator. And so I do a lot of that kind of stuff where I’m looking at the mission and the vision, and I’m saying, “okay, pastor, who is a real visionary, here’s the big plan, here’s the big direction, here’s the big picture of where we want to go as an Executive Pastor.” I say, “okay, how are we going to get there?” I’ll liken in it to a exo on a ship where the captain says, “take us here.” And the exo says, “okay, now you do this, you do this, you do this.” And the exo’s job is to make sure that we get there without blowing ship up. That’s really what I see, when he comes up with a big picture idea, in my mind, I’m working through the details and thinking too to talk to what resources are needed, budget, personnel, what’s going to take us there, and how can I keep the team all cohesive and happy and moving in that particular direction. So it’s important to know your strengths and just know what you’re good at, and then to have some other people who come around you and help with some of those other areas that may not be as strong.
Definitely. As more of an administrator, what are some of those administrative challenges that you face?
Well, here at Carmel, like I said, I think because our facility is used so much all during the week, and then also with a big Wednesday night and main Sunday morning programming, we deal with some of the typical things you would, that campus security is an issue for us because we could have fourteen hundred kids on our campus at any given moment. And so just campus security, facility upkeep, those are things that we have to pay a lot more attention to than maybe some churches that don’t have that kind of programming taking place. We deal with cost allocations to the schools. You gotta make sure that the church is investing in those ministries because they are ministries of Carmel Baptist Church.
But at the same time, you can’t drain the churches resources for church-based ministries, Sunday and Wednesday, kind of ministries. You can’t drain those resources by trying to invest in everything from the cleaning of the rooms to the upkeep and the paint and the different things that you’re going to do. We’re always struggling with that. And I would say the other one is HR, we are a church that has almost five hundred employees. There’s a lot of part time and full time as well as full time in that group, but with our Christian schools, there’s a lot of employees. So if you don’t have some kind of employee crisis going on any given moment, you just praise the lord and say, “that’s great,” but you could have anything going on in given moment. And we have a HR director who handles that, but it could affect the moral issues within the church and the reputation of the church and public relations kind of thing. So, so many things that could be affected when you have that many employees and you’re pretty well known in the community as a place of ministry.
So with the school church, a really large number of employees coming in and out of your facilities each week, how have you incorporated technology into how you administrate?
Well, technologically for security, just as a side, we have a security program that people use, that when they walk in the door, they have to get a badge and they use their driver’s license in order to check in. So they put the driver’s license in front of a screen, it checks it. And immediately that computer program does a background check for that person. But for criminal background check, I believe and it immediately also does a background check for any kind of sexual misconduct or things like that. Immediately we’re trying to determine – we’ve had a case where someone tried to come in off the street and wanted to see one of the pastors, but it turned out that they were on a sexual predator list.
So you get all those kind of issues. So technology, there is very important, a lot of cameras around here. We spend more money than I wish we did on cameras in rooms and hallways and buildings, and so that we make sure that we’re able to play back and take a look at something. We’re not monitoring every camera all day long, but we are able to play it back and figure out what happened in a particular place, we recently made a pretty big investment in that, when we put in our new building where retrofitted in our old buildings, a whole lot of classrooms with that kind of technology. So that’s just an expense that you have to have, if you’re going to have that many people on your campus all the time.
Having that large of a facility and, like you said, retrofitting an older facility is quite a bit of thought and effort.
Yeah, it is. The benefit is, and you always have to go back and say, what is it that you’re doing it for? And I call that our investment in weekday discipleship. It’s an unusual investment in the schools, but there’s a lot of fruit that comes out of what we’re doing with our kids. When you think about facilities, one of the verses I used around here a lot is Proverbs 14:4. I’ve heard other Executive Pastors use it where there is no ox in the manger, it is cleaned. Well, if we could easily come up with a plan to try and figure out how to keep all our facilities clean and nice, and that is just no one come in. But if you’re going to do good things, then the farmer had to have an ox. And if you have an ox there’s going to be mess that’s left behind by the ox. But by having the ox, it’s a better thing. And so we make those investments happily. And we smile a lot when we run into each other and cross each other’s paths and over book rooms and all those kind of things, we just have to deal with it. It a common everyday occurrence around here.
That’s a really fantastic perspective. Jay how do you stay fresh and challenged as an Executive Pastor?
I do like what a lot of guys would do, reading books and conferences and things like that. I think though, probably the most important thing to me is, that helps me the most, is getting together individually with Executive Pastors or groups like going to a conference like an Executive Pastor conference where you get to sit and rub shoulders with folks and have discussions in circles. There’s a group of large Baptist church pastors that I sometimes go to it, we call it a “Metro Group” and to have a group of twenty or thirty guys sit around and just talk shop, what are you doing and what are you doing and how are you handling this? Most recently, in fact, just about a year ago. I don’t know why it took so long, but about a year ago, I got together a group of Executive Pastors from Charlotte, from this area, and we just have started to meet every other month. We meet for lunch for about two hours and sit down and just talk shop. We bring a topic to the table and say, “let’s talk about security, let’s talk about human resources, let’s talk about meetings, what’s your meeting rhythm, and let’s talk about governance…” So we’ve just been bringing these to the table, and it’s great to be able to sit across a first of all hear, sometimes affirmation of what you’re doing. Everyone else is doing the same thing I’m doing. I’m not crazy.
And then to be able to also just hear some great ideas, I just took a great security idea away from one of the guys when we talk security at the last meeting that we’re implementing in our church over the next couple of weeks. So I think that time and face time also, where you’re praying for someone, you know them, you know, and personally, we all need those kind of connections. There’s so many pastors just do not have someone else that they’re able to spend time with and maybe even call them up and say, “would you pray for me about this? I can’t tell you everything, but it’s a mess right now.” And so many pastors live and alone life. I think it’s good to make those connections.
So for the Executive Pastor who’s listening, who hasn’t been able to connect with anyone locally, but has been thinking about reaching out to connect with other Executive Pastors in their area, would you share a little bit about how you contacted these other Executive Pastors and what that first meeting look like for you?
Like I said, I feel kind of bad that just didn’t do it for so long, and it really just was a matter of getting a list of names. I knew a few guys, I thought that was the role they had. There was some other… in fact, now that I think about it, I tell you how started is there was an Executive Pastor of a church down the street who emailed me and said, “hey, can we get together for lunch?” And this had been on my mind and on my heart and I said, “yeah, let’s do that.” And we did, but I said, I asked him at the time… I said, “why don’t we get other guys together and do this with a whole bunch of other guys? Can you get a list of names? And I’ll get a list of names and let’s just see if we can pull everyone together.” And sometimes we have four, and sometimes we have a larger group than that, but it’s okay, it doesn’t matter who ever can show up on that given day. So I just say go for it. You have to collect that list of names. I was surprised when I collected that. Like I’m one of the longest tenure to just get pastors in the group with ten years of this role in this role, twenty years at my church, but ten years in this role I was surprised that I’m sitting around the table and they’re looking at me as to what you do? Because three or four guys around the table, have just been doing this job for about six months or year. So that’s rewarding for me. But I learned as much from them as they’re learning from me, I’m sure.
If you were sitting down with another Executive Pastor who was in some kind of transition are struggling. And you probably have been in the circumstance now meeting with this group. How would you encourage them?
Two things that come to my mind really quick. One is, I hope as an Executive Pastor that the lord looks down at me from heaven and our church and says, “that is a yes church.” And what I mean by that, I learned this years ago from a senior pastor when I served in a church in Miami, Florida, Christ Fellowship Church in Miami. And when I was there, that pastor would do some crazy things. He came up with ideas that I just couldn’t fathom, and I was a real young buck in ministry at the time, but he really did some amazing things, pulled some crazy stuff off. I won’t even go into, but I thought, you know, if god’s in heaven looking down and… and saying, “I’ve got a task that needs to get done really quick and it’s kind crazy but it’s for kingdom purposes. Who should I ask?” Then, I know he would have said, Tommy was his… Pastor Tommy will do it because anything I asked him to do, he’s crazy enough to do and his church is crazy enough to do. So, I think there… I wanna be that kind of pastor, where the lord can look down and say Carmel would be the place to go ask. Now, I say that because administrators are paid to be no people. We love systems and order and rules and long range plans, which no one can mess with.
I think you have a lot of Executive Pastors picking their fingernails or nervously tapping your foot, hearing you say that…
Yeah. Exactly, it leaves little room for spontaneity and little room, let’s be honest for being spirit led. I’m talking to me, I’m saying, this is who I am. And so I would say to Executive Pastors, we gotta leave room a lot of room for god to be able to do something. If it’s a spirit life, it’s god led thing, not to be spontaneous just to be spontaneous. But my sin is the sin of self-sufficiency. I can handle this, I can do this, thank you, lord, set it on the side, and I’ll just handle this. But I need to be a person who’s ready to step outside of my comfort zone though I love the live in my comfort zone, that’s just my personality, it’s my spiritual giftedness, but I need to be able step out of that. So that’s one thing that I would say is very important. The second thing I’ve learned is very important as well is what I would call soul care. As Executive Pastors we really need to be people who make sure that we are caring for our team and caring for their souls. Some interesting statistics that if you pick up Lance Witt with his book, ‘Replenish’ would be a good resource to kind of read through, but he had some statistics in there that are very important. Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America. That’s a huge number. And there’s so many pastors over fifty percent are so discouraged in their role that they would leave ministry if they could, but they feel like they have no other place to make a living. And this one’s even the worst one is that over fifty percent of pastors’ wives feel that their husbands entering ministry was the most destructive thing that ever happened to their family. We have a ministry… ministry is tough; it drains your soul. It’s a difficult thing to be in full time and we need to recognize that. So I say this Executive Pastors, we need to be the ones who are responsible of looking at our team and asking individually talking to them and saying “how’re you doing, how’s your family, how is your work life balance?” We don’t need to wear our guys out and let him go and do something dumb morally, and to kick them off the team and go find someone else. That would be a terrible, terrible legacy. So we’ve got to spend time, so we’re spending more time with our team in soul care and finding balance in life, and I think it creates a healthy team. That’s a good benefit, but I think it’s just our responsibility to ask them, “how are you doing?” There’re pastors who are depressed and they have no one to tell, clinical depression. We know that, we have on our team, I mentioned that I’m not a great mentor, so we have on our team, one of our pastors, he’s been doing this for years, he’s our senior pastor and our care and counseling ministry, so pastoral care. And he has a task, his assignment along with one of the other guys on his team is to actually go to our ministers, follower our ministerial team and spend time just asking “how you’re doing?” So I’m not great at this, but even better with them doing it, he can have confidential conversations with them, one’s that they don’t have to come back and tell the boss about, and they can just spend time with him and talk with him, and they work through a lot of stuff that maybe we don’t ever even know about. But that is their job, it’s in their job description, and I know I’m not going to be so great at that, so I tasked those guys with it, and I would just say that that’s one example of what you might do on your team and just to talk about to be intentional, and even in a group, say, “I care about how you guys are doing.” So that’s one of the things that’s really on my heart a lot for Executive Pastors to grab hold of and take responsibility for as the leader of a ministerial team.
What great encouragement. Jay it was really great to chat with you today.
Well thank you very much, it’s a privilege to be here, and I love listening to these podcasts, it’s another way that I get informed and grow like you asked that question before, and so I love being a part of it. Thank you for inviting me.