Welcome to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Today we have a special guest joining us. Today, we have Jeremy Taylor of Black Rock Church. Hi, Jeremy.
Hi! How are you?
Very good. Jeremy is in a unique situation that we’re excited going to a little deeper. He’s about ready to take over the executive director role at Black Rock and excited to get into that. But Jeremy, I’d like for you to spend a little bit of time catching us up as to where you’ve been. What’s your career that’s been like? How you got to where you are now?
Yeah. I grew up a pastor’s kid. As a young kid, people would always ask what I wanted to do. And I said, anything except being involved in church ministry. When I was 18, God put a very specific calling on my life and I knew it was Him because there was no way I would ever think about entering church ministry. So I started to pursue youth ministry. And then actually in college, I got lined up with Black Rock church as an intern over the summers. And then they hired me, right out of college, to run the high school ministry. So I did that for 11 years. Then I was getting close to the end of that 11 years and just saw how we, as a church, struggle with communication, with our websites. So I started taking over that in some of the free extra time as a pastor. I got to the end of burn out with youth ministry where we’re transitioning buildings at that time, and I was done. So I went to my senior pastor and said, this is what I wanna do. If we don’t do it well, there’s probably not money in it but I think if I can do the communication pastor role, I really think it can help us, especially in this transition, just be effective. He jumped on it. So I did that for two years, helped us move back into our newly built building, and showed a lot of leadership there, and so he elevated me into the serving pastor. And then the last year, had been kind of grooming me for this executive director role.
So you’ve been with Black Rock for over a decade then, for a long time.
14 years. Yeah. Only church I know.
You’ve seen a lot of changes over the years going from the youth, as the church has grown, to different places. What’s that been like to be at the same church pretty much your entire career?
I think there’s some great positive things and then there’s some things, even as I go into this role, that I’m struggling with. So kind of positive things are being in New England, the culture is so different. So growing up here and then coming back up to college, I get that culture and it’s really easy for me to build into people, know what drives them, how to communicate with them. And so I’ve really been, from students, to parents, now to adult, have been really effective in reaching the people of New England.
Just to jump in for a second, you’re in Connecticut. We talked with pastors and directors all around the country but we haven’t really had anyone from that region yet. I know it’s not a typical place you’re gonna find a lot of huge mega churches around. So give people a little bit of background about what it’s like in Connecticut and in all of New England.
I went to a high school of 2,400 people and there were 3 Christians in the whole school. So that’s what it’s like to live in New England. It’s very normal. I think, even for pastors, because they’re just not many very strong, healthy churches. And so for Black Rock, we grew a lot about 17 years ago and then hit our max of our building and just physically could not fit any more people. And then we tried to build a new building in the town, put up every hurdle they could, our neighbors hired lawyers to stop us because they don’t want a bigger, they called us, a mega church. Even at that time were about 1000 people, no one wanted a church here. So we finally were able to build that. So now, the last 3 years, we’ve grown over 2000 adults, almost 2500 altogether with our kids on Sunday mornings. So very unique New England but I love it. It’s a mission field. It’s a challenge. There’s a lot of lost people here who are looking for answers. So it’s fun to be a part of helping them understand the love of Jesus because they’ve never experienced anything like the church that we do, in kind of contemporary music, messages are relevant to your life. So most people here are Catholic who have gone twice a year at a Christmas and Easter, and that’s about it. So when they walk in our doors, they are literally blown away by what they experience. But then I think the hard part for us is, how do you get people into relationship when they’re so busy, life is complicated, and people are very driven? And so I think that’s our biggest struggle. They like it, but then it’s all about relationship and you gotta figure that out and convince them that this is a better way.
Yeah. Thanks for sending that context. We can go back to that. You’re answering the question about the benefits and challenges of being at the same church for your whole career.
Yeah. I think the other great thing about our church is our team has been here a long time. So my senior pastors just celebrated 30 years here. A bunch of people on our staff are over 10 years. So we know each other, we know our strength, the weaknesses and how to kind of compensate for each other. So that’s great. I think, as for me moving into this new role, I’ve only seen it done by two other people and I would say it was just very old school how it was done. Just not using technology, relationships was more run as a business and not a relational business administrative side to the church. So it’s a struggle for me going in because I haven’t seen great models. But I also know what I don’t wanna do so I think there’s some positive there that I’ve struggled for 14 years to get that leadership there. So now, I can actually fulfill that from what I didn’t see for a lot of years here at the church.
Let’s get into a little bit. What are some of your goals in coming into this new role? Taking over from someone who’s retiring, what are some things you’re hoping to shake up, to change, to make different?
I think the biggest one that I’m excited about and I’ve done this for really the last three years is help to create process at our church. We don’t have many processes. So it was even kind of our guest relations and when a newcomer comes, what do we do? And we revamp that this year. I did a lot of helping the team figure this out, and we increased our guest retention from 10% to 35% in about 6 months. And so just creating processes along, everything from when we hire someone new, teach them the culture, teach them how we do things, that’s never been done. When we hire people, it takes usually two weeks to get them a computer and I was like, are you kidding me? So things like that. Leadership development is a big one that we’re struggling with right now that I’m very passionate about is how do we build up our church to see themselves as leaders in the family, in their work, when they’re on the school council, and also here at church. And so that’s one of my big things that I’m gonna really try to help to do and influence. And then I’m very passionate about generosity and creating a culture of generosity from the person who comes to our church, who has a Catholic background that rose in a couple of towers, or was in the place where they have to pay for their seat to say, hey, how does this look as a Christ power in having generosity? But then also, there’s a lot of people in our church who have a high capacity in building a relationship with them where they give their money but they can give even more and they decide where they wanna give it. So building that relationship to show them, hey, there’s great value in where we’re going at the church and with missions and was engaging the younger generation in where you’ll help us. And so the 3 big goals for the next 3 years is that generosity, processes, and leadership development.
Nice. Excellent. And you’ve been doing the communication side of the church for a while. Your website looks really nice and you have a lot of great things out there. How else are you planning on bringing in technology to what you’re doing?
Yeah. That’s a side passion of mine that I don’t know if I’ll ever leave. And so we’ve done a lot of work with our website and what I’ve really done on the last three years with our website is made it very guest focused and give people a glimpse of church, of a building of worship because people around here, they don’t know what that looks like. They’ve never seen a mega church. They don’t know what contemporary worship looked like, or a pastor in normal clothes, and a preaching looks like. So try to give that visual, but also aim it as someone who doesn’t understand the evangelical church. And so we’ve done that. Another thing that we’ve done is we’ve launched online community. We used a tool called The City. It’s made up of groups. And so all our community groups are on that, our serving teams. I helped build that about 3 years ago, and that goes really well with our church, communicating well together within our groups. But then overall as a church, there’s a giving tool on there. People can message each other without having to have an email address. So that’s really been exciting for us, as a church, to grow in that. Another tool that I brought is we had a very archaic way of giving here at the church. I know I was struggling because I don’t use checks and really that was the only way to give to the church.
And so this last year, we started using Pushpay and just totally changed how our young adults give. So we have a young adult service every Sunday night, and they literally, in the last 6 to 9 months, have doubled what that group is giving just by giving them an easy online tool that they can give within 10 seconds. And so that just really has helped us and just got in a culture of reoccurring giving, generosity, just making easy for people. When you give people hurdles, unless they’re very passionate, they’ll go through that hurdle. But if not, they’re just gonna go, ah, I’m not gonna do it this week, and not give. So those are some things that I love. Even with our guest reception, we use a thing called Text In Church that we automate our responses to our guests. So for 6 weeks, even through text message or emails, we have a series of emails and things that go to people just encouraging them to get involved, message from our senior pastor, message from our community group director, a message kind of having, where is your next step here at church? So we use that a lot and just kinda automate things so that my team doesn’t have to send individual emails all the time, but they put them in a system, do it that way. And that’s even worked with our — we do background checks, and screening, and child abuse protection with anyone who serves at the church and we made that all automated too in the last year through Text In Church. So just trying to leverage what technology has for the church and make our jobs easier and more effective has really been good. It’s been great progress and those processes happening and just helping us as a church and staff to do what we’re called to do is building relationally. Not be stuck in this administrative side, but be released. And that’s been a great tool for us.
Yeah. Absolutely, I’m sure people are impressed whenever they get those text messages and those messages, especially like you said, that it’s not like they have a lot of other experiences to compare them to. So from a church that seems to be reaching out and carrying on that way, it is a great thing. And then providing the automation, which is a topic we love to talk about here, but that makes it easy on your staff too. That is not such a manually intensive process too.
Yeah. And literally, they text in, the guest do, to our church number, and then for next 6 weeks, it looked like we are doing a really good job and they can respond there, we get the emails right back. Again, that’s one of the reasons why we’ve grown from 10 to 35 percent guest retention. Also, we did a big relational side bringing up some staff who were emailing to actually have coffee with people and things like that. So yeah, it’s the two-pronged approach. It’s they use technology, but then leverage the high impact of personal relationship, face to face is huge for us.
That’s honestly one of my passions too, is just to see, we have this technology but sometimes we spend so much time sitting in front of spreadsheets or passing around emails and different things. Technology should enable us to do these important things of sitting down, having coffee with people, visiting people in their homes or the hospital, or where we need to go. So it’s great to hear you guys are using it that way. That’s great.
I forgot one other tool that I’m really high on and we’re trying to create this culture is we’re using a tool called TrainedUp, which allows us to do online training. We store online videos of training for our guests. So I make a lot of these for our staff. I just made one for our kid’s guest reception team, our greeters or ushers, student ministry. So instead of saying, hey, come to this meeting where we have our training, we video tape them, and then we can watch who actually goes on and completes the course. And that’s really helped us because if we run these trainings, half the people would show up, the other half would have no clue what’s happening. You try to do individual meetings and that doesn’t work. And so this is another tool that we just started using in the last year and that’s really been helpful too. But trying to create that culture within my staff of understanding, hey, every couple months, give more training to your volunteers that they’re taking for it and don’t see the hurdle of getting people together as something that makes it so it can’t happen. Now we have a tool that you can put this online, we can video tape it and go from there.
Yeah. That’s a great solution. I’m sure a lot of people listening in would love to implement something like that. That’s good. I’ll get those links from you. I can put them in the show notes for other people too, if they wanna check out those tools. So you’re a fairly young guy, Jeremy. You’re coming into this role that’s usually seen what the people may be little more grey hair on their head, doing these types of things. Where do you go to learn more about being a great executive pastor? Where do you find yourself searching out for tools and resources to learn?
I have a couple key mentors. My dad and I get together every couple of months and I’d pick his brain and really appreciate that. And just a couple other people that — especially what I’m finding is it’s on the business side that I’m looking for help. And so some business people that have run teams, have run organizations have really helped me and I lean in heavily on them. I actually told them, when I’m going into this role, I need your help because I feel inadequate on the business side of running a church. And they have been huge for me. I email them questions and I’m going into this going, I have a lot to learn and I think that really helped me there. I’m a big podcast guy. I listen, probably daily, to at least one podcast. I do that. I had Sabbatical last year. My Sabbatical was listening to all Carey Nieuwhof leadership podcast. So I listened to every one, I think 120 over that time.
So you’re like a binge listener, huh?
Yes. And for me, I’m a big strength finder guy and one of my strengths is [inaudible-00:19:10]. I’m not a big reader, but I love to listen, and that’s huge for me, for my leadership. And I think the last thing of how I am grown into this is what I always wanted in an ExP. And so going, okay, what did I not get and how can I provide that to our staff and to the church? And so take a lot of notes of last year in thinking back of what was missing. As a staff person, what did I really want in trying to provide that? And even we were talking with salary packages to the whole staff, and I did it very differently than they ever been done to me. Because I would always leave that meeting with my boss and kinda go, wish she had asked me, this or that. And so I handled those discussions this last week very differently and I got a bunch of hugs. So I think that was a good sign that people were just very thankful for doing that. So learning, I would almost say the opposite way, but it seems like it is going well, just taking it in that approach.
Yeah. I think hugs are a good metric for how well you’re doing. That’s good
Well, great. Jeremy, it has been fantastic to hear your thoughts and to prepare along with you as you’re getting ready for this. I feel like you’ve been primed for this role for many years now. What kind of encouragement can you leave us with, just to give to other executive pastors who are in a similar situation you are? What would you say to them?
I think the biggest thing I’m trying to do is to be a servant leader with my staff and to model to them what that means. There’s nothing that I’m gonna push on someone else that I can’t do or am passionate about. And so I’m gonna give them assignments and roles, and I’m not gonna do them, but at the same time, when the rug is not vacuumed and I see a vacuum, I’m gonna pick it up and I’m gonna go back to it because it’s all for the glory of God. And just to take that to heart. I’m very passionate about that. I’ve taught that from when I first started youth ministry, that it’s all about serving people, and just as Christ served us, we need to serve those around us in the church. Keep that servant heart and keep that connection with God and with Jesus so close, that pride or that, hey, that’s too low of me, that we gotta model to everyone around us, that heart that we are all in, and we are invested because the love and grace of Jesus has transformed their lives.
Fantastic. It’s really great. Jeremy, thanks for being on the show. Blessing on you. Thanks for your ministry. You’re doing it and good luck in your new role.