Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Today on the podcast we have Justin Greene, he’s joining us from LibertyLive.church. How are you today, Justin?
I’m doing well. How are you?
Excellent. Excellent. Really excited to have you on the show today because you have a great background to share with us and a lot of things to bring in in terms of how we do processes, how churches run. But just go ahead and give a little bit of introduction to the guests out there.
Okay, well name is Justin Greene. I’ve been at Liberty now for going on 16 years. I started when I was a senior in college. And I came here, I was working on my accounting degree, but then, an opening database happened and I thought, hey, that’d be fun to do for a while. And didn’t think I would stay here, but then 16 years later, here I am.
So straight out of college pretty much you joined?
Yep. Yeah, I was a senior when I came on staff and then just kind of worked my way up the ranks, and here I am.
Back in early 2000s, what does a database administrator do?
Basically, it was just overseeing the church management system, the ChMS was really starting to evolve then, and before then it was really just taking attendance and getting some reports out, and it was starting to kind of cross that threshold of, okay, how can we actually use that data and how can we start using IT in the church to do ministry better.
Yeah, so you’ve seen a lot of changes then in your time, you’re talking about 16 years has come through. Walk us through some of those evolutions. How does the church management systems now compared to how they were 16 years ago?
Well, in the beginning, they were very rigid, everything was really defined. So you basically, you just fill in a couple of fields and the information that was spit out was canned, and you really couldn’t do a whole lot with it. So as that evolved, it started to have more flexibility, and as you kind of went online, that was a big change. So people could start to interact with it through the website, they could access it from home, to the point now where we just recently switched our system to MinistryPlatform, which is open source. And so before, where you couldn’t do anything, now sky’s the limit. You can build it into other platforms and upgrade it with your online giving, with your financial systems, all that stuff.
Yeah, I want to get into more of the technology stuff in a second, but for a church in the early 2000s, to hire a database administrator means they’re fairly forward-thinking, they’re going through things. Talk us through what kind of church is LibertyLive, what types of things are there? And what is your role specifically now?
Well, we are a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church. We’re in the Hampton Roads area, which has… it’s got a military branch, for every branch, it’s got a base for every branch. So we just have a lot of people coming and going. So my role here now is executive director of administration. And really, it’s just with our four campuses, it’s trying to keep everybody connected all the time because you’ve got people coming and going and they’re moving out and moving in and moving across the world. So we’re really just trying to reach as many different people as we possibly can.
Yeah, that’s a significant challenge when you have such a transient community that’s coming in and out. What are some of the ways you’ve found to be able to adapt, to connect and be able to serve those people?
As much as we can, we’re…of course, one of our philosophies is trying to get people integrated in the groups. And as we do that, an example would be we’re trying to provide tools for them so they can do their… if they’re doing attendance for their group, they can do at home, they get their resources online, they can connect in and help manage their group without having to work with somebody from the office. It’s really just trying to provide tools to the people who are out there ministering.
Yeah, that’s a big challenge to be able to try to overcome. So it’s great that you’re able to use these tools to do that. Tell us about your background, your CPA, you have some experience with Six Sigma, have those things brought into your style of management?
My original goal was somewhere in the accounting room, didn’t think I would end up here in general administration. Being numbers focused in beginning, helps you to be kind of accounting the cost, helps you to…all the projects you’re doing, kind of gives you that back end leadership of really organizing it and putting together a plan so that people understand that when you’re trying to do something new, we’ve changed a lot of technologies over the years. And I think people get a little nervous when you’re making rapid changes, but coming from an organization standpoint and really kind of focusing on processes that helps people understand what the value is that you’re making these changes.
Yeah. So what’s your change management philosophy? How do you adapt people? How do you bring them along as you’re looking to implement a new system?
Well, primarily, we’re making a change. We like to focus on how it’s really going to help them. Of course, a lot of stuff I do is internal. So we want to approach it from the standpoint of how is this going to help the staff, and how’s it going to make their life easier because they’re on the front lines, they’re out there doing ministry. So how can… when we’re talking about a change, it’s not just, okay, how can we make the accounting office or how we make the IT office’s life easier. It’s how can we help you guys do ministry more effectively.
Yeah, so every time you’re sending out a new request or some new email, it says, okay, Justin’s got a new plan together. Do people generally get excited about these tools that you’re bringing in? Or is it more like, oh gosh, here he goes again? What’s something new to bring in? What’s that culture like there?
Well, I think if you shoot out an email, I think everybody gets nervous then. So the key is really sit down, because everything we do is all about people. So if you really want to enact change, the first thing to do is you’ve got to build relationships and have relationships with your staff and with your key leaders in the church. So that’s first and foremost, because once you have those relationships, then you’ve got the trust. And once you have a trust, then people take you for your word. And when you’ve talked to them about, hey, here’s how we can make your life better, then they’re more on board with it from the beginning.
Yeah, absolutely. One thing we talk about a lot on the podcast is the relationship between the executive pastor, the administration person, and the senior minister. Tell us about the relationship that you guys have.
Sure, we actually have… we have an executive team, it’s four people. So there’s senior pastor, there’s executive pastor of ministries, executive pastor of administration, myself, and then the executive consultant. The executive consultant was the administrator for 26 years here. And I kind of learned under him, whereas the CPA, and accounting and IT stuff came natural. He kind of taught me how to do all that administration stuff with the ministry mindset. So he’s got a lot church history, so he brings that to the table. Really, we’re kind of the traditional model where we have ministry and administration split, and really all areas of ministry, which has gotten a little more complex, now that we’re multisite with kind of global positions and then local ministry positions. But that all happens under the executive pastor ministries, and then all the administration just happens out of me. And then we report directly to senior pastor.
Okay, great. As a guy who’s been involved in technology pretty much your whole career, and especially with a church that’s so much willing to embrace some of these new tools, I think it’d be interesting to get your opinion on what are the things you guys are looking forward to in three years, in five years. What are some of the things that people should be having their eye on, should be looking to move towards?
Well, right now, the buzzword in the last few years has been to the cloud, and I think that’s where we’re seeing everything going, just everything from Office 365, and we’re doing a lot of our communications now via Skype because it’s integrated with Office 365. We do our HR processing, our onboarding recruiting intact for our financial systems. That’s all cloud based ministry platform. So traditionally, that would be all in one local server environment. But now your staff is spreading out. They don’t have to be in the office, they can work from anywhere. Not just your staff, but your volunteers. So that’s where we’re seeing everything go, and that’s where we’re trying to take it because it lowers your cost and you can give people more tools. That’s just the way we’re trying to take everything.
And what about integrations? You have so many different software that’s out there. A lot of people get overwhelmed by how many different things are there and how to get them to talk to each other. Is that something that you guys do custom on your own, integrate these things? Or do you use third party tools?
Right now we’re using third party, and that’s one of our challenges. While we are trying to take things online, the lack of integration does make things difficult because now every one of those things mentioned has got to be something people have to be trained in and be knowledgeable in. So our goal is to integrate as much of that as possible. So really, we try to get it so they’re down to as few user dashboards as possible because what we seem to have less and less time for is training and just generally getting better at these type of things. And what we’re really seeing is kind of a divergence of…really more of a focus on ministry because we provide what the world cannot. It’s that human element, and that’s where we need our ministers spending their times being with the people. But at the same time, the IT realm is getting more complex. So how can we deal with the bare complexities, but get the ministries out among the people? So that’s kind of what we struggle to figure out how to do that well.
Yeah, do you see a big role for automation coming into the church world to take a lot of these tasks, whether it be integrations or a lot of things to be done by system so that ministers can focus on more on those people to people interactions and less time on training and software?
Absolutely, that was one of our selling points from ministry platform, and that’s what our database focus, focus right now is automation, because there are a lot of things that we have…we pay people to do or we have volunteers to do that takes up a lot of man hours that doesn’t allow them to spend time with people. And there’s a lot of processes in the church that can be automated. So that’s really what we’re focused on. And really, how can we set up those processes for the behind the scenes thing. We don’t want to automate the things out there with the people because that’s what we’re here to do. We want our ministers out there, but behind the scenes, our goal right now is to automate as much as possible.
Yeah, walk us through an example of that. What’s one process that you’re either in the process of or thinking about or have already automated that you can let other people know how you’ve done that?
Sure. In fact, just recently we kind of broke down different areas. And so, one thing is if people start to disengage from the church, we will automatically get a notice, saying hey, because what happens is you got that term closing the back door or people falling through the cracks. And with the large church, you just can’t hire tons and tons of people. So sometimes you want to use technology to help you. When somebody has not been showing up to class or not been attending something, all that stuff can be automated. So it starts saying, hey, here’s somebody who hasn’t been contacted. You need to contact this person. They can have tons of reasons why maybe they’ve dropped out or something, but that’s why we’re here, the church. We need to get with those people and minister to those people.
Yes. So you have all sorts of signals that are set up around that are either early indicators if somebody might be disengaging and rather than waiting months until somebody notices that and actually needs the follow up on it, you can pretty much address it quickly, right?
Right. Yeah. You need the human element, but at the same time, we want to try and automate the part that gets rid of the human error part.
Yeah, exactly. That’s great. I love hearing you guys talk about that. It’s cool. Well, let’s move outside of technology for a little bit. What’s one non-technical area of administration that you find challenging or something that is a constant source of something you need to learn more about?
Developing staff, I think, is just going to continue to be a challenge because we have staff that range in all ages, and of course you hear the millennial group coming in, which they have their own challenges, but really every age has their challenges. One group, they bring a lot of positive things to the table too. I think it’s just trying to figure out how to lead such a diverse group in ages because everybody wants different things. They process rewards and punishment differently. There’s just no one-size-fits-all. And so it’s really having to custom tailor leadership for each individual employee to get the most out of.
Yeah, and like you said, it’s not something you can ever master. It’s not like, okay, I got this now because there’s always going to be new people coming in, new generations forming, new things coming through. So I can see how that’s a constant challenge, too.
So, what about you in terms of staying up to date with the latest resources that are out there, educating yourself, you’re very tech savvy person. So where do you go to learn more about what’s new, what’s coming up?
Well, there’s a couple different places. Probably the one that’s best for me, there’s a regional roundtable that’s hosted by The Church Network. So, I think you need to have maybe average attendance of 3000 or more, might be 2000 or more, but they get together once a year on the east coast and west coast, usually in the spring. And so, I’ll go to one of those and it can be anywhere from 20 to 50, but we just get together around, maybe a big square or just some round tables, depending on how many people are there, and really just throw out every issue on the board that we’ve got and learn from others and hear how they did it. And because we all just want to try and learn from others’ mistakes and how can we improve, and that one has been invaluable in terms of setting up, not network per se, but just building relationships with other people in similar positions. So we’ve got a Google group where somebody would just post a question and 20 people will respond. And of course, you get 21 different answers, but you’re going to at least see how that church has dealt with it. They’ve got multiple campuses and they’ve got x number of staff. How in the world did they tackle that issue, that one has just been phenomenal.
Nice, that’s always great. Every time I talk to people, it’s one thing they always bring up, is that need for networking, the need to share stories and then hear from other people. So that’s fantastic. Justin, why don’t you close us out here with some encouragement you can give to other executive pastors, directors who are out there, what would you like to say to them?
Well, the more I spend time with other guys, the more I learn that nobody has arrived. It’s the phrase, especially as you move into the multisite world, that “multisite is messy” is true. We battle it every day, how the best way to operate, and there just doesn’t seem to be a right answer. It’s just every church is unique. Every staff is unique and you just have to figure out what God wants you to do and what works best for your staff and reach out to others in similar positions, because it’s the best way to learn.
Absolutely, I love it. Justin Greene, thank you so much for being on the show. LibertyLive.church is the website. Please check it out and thanks so much Justin.
Alright, thank you.