Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Today we’ve got John King on the show, coming to us from Bible Center Church in Charleston, West Virginia. Great to have you on the show today, John.
Thanks. Good to be here.
So, John, tell us a little bit about how you came into your position there at Bible Center.
Well, I started ministry in Florida, South Florida. Grew up in West Virginia, but then moved to Florida, and I became a Youth Pastor, Middle School Pastor, and then a High School Pastor in South Florida. From there, after a season there, we transitioned to Ohio where I had my first role as a Family Pastor, where I was leading other leaders. And then after a couple years in Ohio, I got an opportunity to serve in California, just north of Los Angeles. Went to a larger church setting and served as the Family Pastor and also, a little bit later on, as a Worship Pastor, where I was leading some larger teams, teams about 35 people, and just felt a calling and a desire to become an Executive Pastor. So my home church is where I am now, Bible Center. That’s where I grew up. And not long ago, they called and asked if I would come back and consider being the Executive Pastor here. A lot of prayer, I love California, I love obviously the weather. But it just really felt like there was a unique opportunity here, at my home church in Charleston, and just a way to impact the city and even the state with the gospel, and really felt like I was taking me into the Executive Pastor role, instead of Senior Pastor or anything like that. And so the opportunity just fit. So we moved back this past July.
So you’ve been back now about seven months, I guess, seven, eight months?
So how is that transition been? You’ve been able to be in different positions at churches. Family Pastor, and Youth Pastor, and as a Worship Pastor. How does this feel now being in a position that touches all of those positions in a way?
Well, it’s good, and I think that’s part of the call to be an Executive Pastor. I just have a really deep love for the local church, and I think all of it’s beautiful. And I joke with people that you could put me in almost any role in the church, and I’d find something to do. I really, really love it. So as an Executive Pastor, really gets to influence everything. So I’ve had that desire for a little while as I was leading even as Worship Pastor or Family Pastor, just influencing a part of it, but I love looking at the whole and see how all the pieces fit together to lead us toward mission and vision. So this role really fits me. And so coming back and then even come back into my home state, home setting, it’s just been unique to be able to do that.
So tell us a little bit about your role. What kind of flavor of Executive Pastor are you? Are you more on the operation side or are a pastor to pastors? A little bit of all of that? What are your daily responsibilities?
Yeah, a little bit of all of that. We’re set up as an elder governed staff led church, non-denominational. So there’s a Senior Pastor, and he and I worked together. So we’re kind of two sides of the same coin, is the way we operate. He does a lot of the preaching and the vision casting. And I do a lot of the day to day staff, leadership and ongoing management, organizational leadership, things like that. Right now, as I came in, we had an Executive Pastor prior to me, but he functioned more on the operation side. And so I’m trying to bridge the gap between the two. The ministries have needed some attention. So I find myself spending a lot of energy on that, but also on operations pulling that forward as well. So I get to straddle that a little bit.
Now you’re about, as we talked about, about seven months into this new position. Do you have some kind of favorite resources that you’ve been leaning into in this period of transition and learning?
Yeah. I was really fortunate to work with two great guys at my former role, and especially in California. My Senior Pastor and my boss, my Executive Pastor, are really good mentors and they’ve been through this type of thing. And so they’re on speed dial. I give them a call lot of times. And the Senior Pastor I was working for in California is a former Senior Pastor at Bible Center where I am now. So he even was the lay of the land and relationships and people. And so he’s been amazing, as we’ve gone through this. So I read a lot. I love reading really lot of blogs and books. Larry Osborne, Carey Nieuwhof, Craig Groeschel, Eric Geiger, and all those names have really been influential just as far as shaping my thinking. But then I also, I think for any role in the church, but especially at a role of an Executive Pastor, it’s so unique, it’s so different and based so much on the setting, in the context of what you’re doing that day, and where God has you in that journey. So a lot of learning is just getting up and going to work every day. Whatever comes across the desk, you deal with that in that moment and you grow by doing that.
Now, I’m curious. You grew up in West Virginia, but then you moved around on different parts of the country doing ministry, and now you’re back on your home turf. How has that felt, just the cultural shifts of a different group of people you’re ministering to, but also in a way you’re coming back home? What’s that been like for you?
Yeah. So it’s been great. That should have been interesting. Our family, as we’ve got three girls, and so they’ve obviously joined me and my wife has been amazing and supportive. But I’ve had an opportunity to see different cultures within even America over the course of my career. And so it’s interesting to see all the different ways that people think. And I’d like to say, it’s made me more aware of grace. I think it’s how I put it. Because there’s so many things and so many people that love Jesus and they do church differently, and they look at things differently, and they have different ideas. And hopefully, I bring that with me into this culture, which is Bible built and pulling out of that, somewhat, some traditions and things like that. But it’s really helping us to become, hopefully, a church that operates out of grace.
What is something you have going on there at Bible Center that you really found success with?
Well, we’re a church that has had — it’s a 75 year old church, and we just celebrated our 75th anniversary, and it’s had lots of different generations. It’s been characterized, for the most part, over the years as a forward thinking, aggressive church. So six locations that the church has met in. The location we are in now is about 10 years old. So there have been some really bold, courageous moves over the years. A lot of the leaders here are leaning forward, and visionary, and thinking about how to continue to reach people. But it’s also been varying in sizes over those years. And so the thing we’re really working on right now is trying to take it from an organizational structure that’s built for about a church of 750 to maybe 1,000, to operating more like a church of 2,000. So some of the things that were here, for instance, there was a very flat leadership structure, so we’re trying to add some layers to our leadership structure to press decision making a little bit deeper in the organization, freeing up people to really lead where they’re butchered on the ground. Not everything and every decision has to come across my desk, but I lead the leaders who lead leaders who lead leaders, and so on. So that’s been fun to watch the light come on in some of the staff that we’re here in some of those situations to really be empowered, start to think, and dream, and create again. So that’s been a lot of fun as we’ve come into this setting.
Now, in terms of your staff, like you said, that can be very empowering for staff. Has it mostly been on that positive side where staff is really receptive to or have you had a little pushback since it is a change in structure?
Yeah. At the beginning, I think they were trying to size me up. What’s this guy like and what’s he going to be like? And so they were learning about that. But for the most part, our staff is really receptive. They love it. And I think they just like the ability to think and the ability to create. And we’ve got some really talented people, and so they’re leaning into it and going with it. We talk a lot about culture. We talk a lot about leadership development. We talk a lot about how do we grow, things like that. It’s been a good experience.
So can you give me a flesh out this concept, then, of adding layers? Give us an example of something you’ve changed there to make this happen.
Well, there’s a couple of things because the church has been very, very much run by committees in the past. So we’re trying to streamline some of those committees to really get the elders to be the elders, the deacons to be the deacons, and the committees to be supporting people, not decision making bodies. And we’re really, really working to help our staff be able to be empowered to make decisions and committees to be there to guide them. So we’ve been working on that side, on the lay side, with some of the different things that were in place. But then on staff side, just for instance, we’ve added an executive team. So our staff, we operate a school as well, Christian schools. So we have 70 some staff members on our team. So we’ve added the layer of an executive team, which helps us create some departments as well. So that executive team now is a little more empowered to lead their departments. So my direct reports are the executive team, instead of just all the pastors. When I came, it was 11 or 12 people that were my direct reports. And now, I think, I’ve got it down to seven and I’m looking to get it even lower. So just creating some layers as we go through the organization to hopefully — I mean, hopefully what that does in the long run is decisions are able to be made by people that really know what’s happening. And then the things that need to get up to me, they normally do. They filter up and we make those decisions as we go. Makes us more nimble, more able to respond to things in the moment, hopefully less bureaucratic and full of red tape and all that stuff.
That’s great. So on the flip side of this, then, you’ve been there for seven months, obviously, so there’s quite a few things you’re probably still working out, but what is something that you haven’t quite found a solution for? Whether it’s just you in your position, or the church as a whole, things that they’re working through.
Yeah. So a lot of what we’re working on right now, I would just call it budget, which is an ongoing for everything, in any place. It’s a finite pie. So you learn how to operate within that finite pie. There was some great moves made in the past that got us to the location we’re in, but it’s also locked us in to a large mortgage payment. And so we’ve got a solution for it, but it hasn’t worked out totally yet to where we’ve solved it. We’re on the way, and we’re excited about what’s going on with it. And the next year is going to be really, really telling, as far as how that works out. And we feel like God is doing some really cool things behind the scenes, even financially for us. But we’re in that process right now.
It’s interesting. There are decent amount of churches that are embracing the alternative forms of income. It may be using their facilities or opening it to the public. Is that something that you guys are entering into?
Yeah. I think the school itself is an interesting thought when it comes to other revenue streams. We have a property that’s pretty large, about 96 acres, and so we recently sold a portion of that. So that’s created a little cash influx. So looking at different revenue streams, I think, is definitely part of our plan over the next five to 10 years.
So, John, I want to end with this. I want to know what kind of encouragement would you give to others in church leadership.
I think it’s just keep getting better. I think the church — I love some of these leaders that talk about entrepreneurial leadership needed within the church. And I think about America and the culture that we have here, and what’s going on around us, and we need to keep dreaming. We need to keep getting better at what we do, learning how to reach the culture around us, and so stewarding our time or resources to continually grow. I really agree with those that say: The leader gets better, the team gets better. And I believe that it even goes further as the team gets better, the church gets better. The team gets healthier, the church gets healthier. And so continuing to grow in my role, I think, is a really big deal. It creates a higher ceiling for everybody in our team and everybody in our church as we try to reach our city.
Oh, that’s fantastic. John, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
For sure. Thanks for having me.