Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Today, our guest is Jeff Barber, who is joining us from Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. Hi, Jeff. How are you?
Doing great, Neil. Glad to be here today.
Yeah, I know. It’s awesome to be able to chat with you. We’re excited to learn from you a lot about your experiences. Why don’t you start with how you got to be in the position you are or a little bit of your journey to where you are now?
Sure. Well, my journey began first in the commercial real estate for a number of years. And then there was a season I went through where I was becoming more involved in ministry and the pendulum kind of swinging back and forth in terms of, did I need to pursue more formal training, that sort of thing, which I did. And from there, I became a part of an organization that trained pastoral leadership around the world. So I spent a good bit of time in other countries, both teaching and developing field leadership. I have become the director of that ministry for about four years and that then led to my position here.
Wow! And which countries — obviously, you were probably in lots of different ones, but were there any ones that you settled in a lot?
Yeah, well, the ministry at that time, had work in about 70 countries. So I spent a good bit of time in Kenya, a lot of time in India, some in other parts of Asia, South America. Really, it’s just great to see what the Lord is doing all over the world.
Yeah. So you’re going from a position in commercial real estate, and then all of a sudden, you’re training pastors around the world. What kind of a transition was that for you?
Yeah. It was really different. I loved just having that experience, just really clearly broadening a view and seeing how the rest of the world lives, and really just seeing, gosh, what resources we have available to us here. I’m kind of blown away that most people sitting in churches, in America, have more knowledge of the scriptures than most pastors around the world. And so there’s just a profound need, and just great to immerse in that for a number of years, and then learned a lot in terms of trying to give leadership to an organization that was that broadly dispersed around the world, a lot of field leadership. We went through a strategic planning process, even with that organization that helped us really think about longevity, what was most viable for a ministry long term in terms of when you have a non-limited need and limited resources, how do you do that? And so I really learned a lot through that process.
Yeah. Wow. Well, tell us a little bit about Park Cities. What’s the personality of the church like? What’s it like to be there?
Great question. So PCPC is really just a phenomenal place. It’s about 26 years old. It’s a church that is centered in the heart of Dallas. Our congregation, our membership is really drawn from a broader area of the metroplex, 20-25 mile radius. We have a phenomenal staff, about 100. And we actually just launched a new vision, as part of the capital campaign about a year ago. And so that’s really kind of what’s captivating everybody right now, really excited about that. So that’s a bit about who we are.
I think a lot of ExPs and others listening in are curious about building campaigns, capital campaigns that are going on. Why don’t you bring us up to speed? What’s it like to do one in 2018? Is there anything different that you’ve experienced during this campaign?
We’re an urban church. We’re surrounded on all sides and have, maybe about five acres all together, property across the street from where the main church building is located. And we spent a number of years, really, just studying what we would really do and what would be our best alternatives. Parking, of course, is an issue. But in 2018, people are even asking the question, what does parking look like for churches 10 years from now? And so we have just a phenomenal team of architects and project leaders, these great professionals that are helping us. I’m learning a ton. So we really settled on a great plan and launched a capital campaign, and really a broader or fresh ministry vision about a year ago. Our mission has never changed. We exist to extend the transformed presence of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ in Dallas and into the world. But for our new vision, we really capitalized on the word ‘extend’. And so now we want to extend ourselves for the kingdom through new doors, new churches in a new city. New doors, meaning new opportunity into PCPC, new churches. We’ve already been involved in church planning, really, around the world as well as throughout the southwestern United States. We want to see more partnerships developed from more new churches. Our emphasis is more on planning new churches, more so than multi-site for us, in particular, as a church. In the new city, just speaking to the needs of poverty and things like that in the city of Dallas.
Tell us a little bit more about the decision to do more church planting rather than multi-site because I know it is a big decision for churches these days about which one to go for. And it seems like a lot of churches, they’re doing the multi-site model. Why do you guys keep pursuing the church planting?
That’s a really great question, something we’ve wrestled with. I just felt like for us, the better alternative is to partner with others who maybe don’t have a resource to plant churches. We can partner with them, feeling like they might have a better insight into their particular community or neighborhood. If we can bring resources and some of our experience and to help in a more localized setting like that, that just seems to be the right direction for us.
Jeff, give us a picture about your specific position. What are your overall responsibilities, duties? What do you oversee in the church?
We’re an elder led church, which is a great thing. That just provides so much great consistency and even with some of the transitions we’ve been through at times. Originally, when I came, the senior pastor that I came to work with, he went through a transition. And then the senior pastor that followed him, he and I, for years, were basically the senior leadership team, really is an extension of our elders. We led together. I basically gave oversight to the overall staff and the ministry oversight. And about two years ago, we actually broadened our senior leadership team. So now, it’s a total five of us who serve together as a senior leadership team. I’m still responsible for broad oversight. Certainly, more of that team leadership and other things like that has been delegated. And with the new vision, this gives me an opportunity to focus more of my energy on a bit more long-term focus, which was hard to do before. I’m, obviously, pretty excited about with our new vision.
How have you managed to – as you have a staff of a hundred, which is a very good size for a church, how do you manage to bring in different generations, different groups to make sure that your staff stays fresh?
One of the things that we love about our churches is that we are a multi-generational church. We have grandparents, parents and children all in the same congregation. And we are growing predominantly in young families, which is a great thing, obviously, in terms of the future of the church. So we, by nature, are already pretty multi-generational, again, which is something we really celebrate, really love that. And our staff, we have staff who’ve been here, some who’ve been here almost from the beginning of the church, over 20 years, and then others who are fresh. And a lot of those are younger. Again, by nature of who we are, we seem to have a good blend of just a generational mix in terms of our staff. We really love paying attention to, obviously, the younger voices. Personally, I’m doing some additional study right now in cultural engagement. So that helps me stay fresh and just helps me know how to think and hopefully keep the conversation fresh.
Share with us some of those insights you’re getting from that study.
Yeah. So I’m actually doing some doctoral studies through Dallas Seminary and again, primarily through cultural engagement. I’ve done some independent studies, like for example, I’m doing one right now on post-modernism in the emerging church just so I can get my head around that. Loving what I’m learning about Generation Z, how they’re similar, but yet significantly different from Millennials. It’s really just challenged me to think about what does it look like to disciple Generation V folks in the next few years?
What do you think is going to be one of the main hallmarks or the struggles, even, that the church will face as it interact with the new generations?
One of the things that really stands out to me is understanding the implications of technology. I know that’s at the forefront of most everyone’s thinking, but when you realize just how much technology shapes a person’s ability to focus. One of the things, for example, that stands out about Generation Z is that they’re the first generation who don’t have to look to leaders for information. Everything that they could possibly want to know is available to them. Of course, it’s not curated and it’s not necessarily focused, but that’s just one dynamic that has emerged. How do you think about that from a discipleship standpoint and just from the standpoint of the overall dynamic of spiritual formation?
It’s challenging to think about the fact of any given Sunday, pretty much you can get on and listen to the best sermon in America if you want to. You don’t have to go to your local church if you don’t want to. You can just hop on, and download it, and listen to, wherever it might be for you. So it is a challenge to think about what does the local church offer specifically to these new generations in terms of community, in terms of physical presence, and being together. So that’s a great question to ask.
Yeah. You know, another observation there is technology causes us to crave simplicity. I just see that in terms of space design and things like that, how people are so inundated with technology that what they hunger for is solitude and simplicity. And I personally think that the Body of Christ, as it functions truly as the Lord intended, is going to be — I’ll use the word ‘sanctuary’. A sanctuary in a very full and busy technologically advanced world. And so I just really have great hope that the local expression of the Body of Christ will continue to be beautiful and attractive to people whose lives are just traveling at such a fast pace.
Well, Jeff, why don’t you share with us a best practice that PCPC has going on right now that you want to share with the other ExPs listening in?
Pretty straightforward, but I think we’re just really focusing a bit on just understanding who we are as we enter new phase and letting our values really shape our decisions and our culture. We all would like to think a church is a great place for excellent culture, and we’re really grateful for who we are and where we are. But of course, that always takes energy. Our senior leadership team has just recently worked through Pat Lencioni’s book, The Advantage. I know a lot of people are familiar with his work. He focuses not simply on organizational strength, but on organizational health. And so that’s been a great exercise for us, and we’re in the process now of broadening that conversation to the rest of our church staff. And, yeah, we’re excited about what we’re learning from that.
That sounds great. It’s always good to interact with those new resources coming out. Why don’t you share with us one administrative challenge you’re facing right now that you just haven’t found a great solution for yet?
I think, probably, our biggest challenge right now is to just think about building capacity and not just a physical structure. Again, we’re about to begin a building project, but with that comes capacity for what we anticipate in terms of ministry expansion. That’s not simply budgets and technology and things like that, but it’s developing future lay leadership, and moving from complexity to simplicity in terms of understanding what’s really important, and how we want to set priorities. Again, it’s a fun thing that I’m looking forward to giving more energy too, but I would just say really thinking well and wisely about how to develop ministry capacity. It’s kind of a big thing in front of me right now, administratively.
Yeah. When you’re thinking about how to scale things, how to make things bigger, it’s always a bit challenging to think through. Typically, technology is that subject that we like to dovetail into thinking about how to scale things are in. What are the tools you guys use there at PCPC that help you out?
Personally, I live by Evernote. My whole world exists in Evernote and that’s just a great resource to me. We use Wunderlist. Some of the people that I work the closest with, we share task and information through Wunderlist. I would say, in terms of organizational-wide, we’re in a posture right now to learn. We’ve got some great outside help as we’re working through what our IT needs will be, going forward with our campus expansion. And so I’m just kind of taking the posture of help me know what I don’t know. I feel like we have a long way to go there and looking forward to seeing what we’ll learn.
Well, Jeff, why don’t you close us out here by giving some encouragement to other pastors listening in that are at a different phase, reaching different dynamic? What’s something common you can share with them?
I guess for me, the most important thing is just, gosh, we just have to stay grounded in our identity in Christ. I think the role of the Executive Pastor, of the Executive Director, every day, is full of highs and lows. You can have a great day or maybe not such a great day. So I just think it is so important to be careful not to let our whole identity get wrapped up in our jobs and what we do. Just to keep growing in the emotional intelligence. It easy to fall into the task side versus the people side, but we’re here to serve people. I just think some of those basic things that we really know to be true, but I think for me, it’s always good to have that reminder. So I guess that’s a couple of things that stand out for me.
Yeah, I know. It’s great. We, Jeff, it’s been great to speak with you. There’s a lot of insights to take away from this. I’m excited about what you guys are doing at Park Cities and I encourage you to keep on doing good work.
Neil, thanks for all you’re doing.