Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Kay Larson is on the show today, from Berean Baptist Church in Burnsville, Minnesota. Great to have you on the show today, Kay.
Thank you and thanks for having me.
Kay, you are the Managing Director of church operations there at Berean Baptist. How did you come into your position there?
Well, if you ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, this position was not even on my radar, let alone that of working in a church. I worked in Corporate America, and then was a small business owner when the worship pastor at Berean started working on recruiting me to come and work for him as his Executive Assistant. And I really couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why that would be a good plan. I would be taking a significant pay cut, and would at least initially at far less responsibility. But as God sometimes does, He’ll keep nudging and maybe more than nudging on occasion, and put things in place. So I took that initial step into ministry. I’ve now worked at Berean for 10 years in a variety of different positions, starting first as Executive Assistant, then into Events and Facilities Director. And then at the end of 2014, took the role of Managing Director of church operations. So I’m actually able to use all of the skills that I acquired working in a secular workforce to my current role.
So now, break down what your current role is. What exactly falls under your responsibility?
So if you look at our vision statement, we exist to see our lives, our community, and our world transform by the power of the gospel. And we do that through what we call our 4Gs. It’s gathering for worship, growing in the word and in our relationship with Christ, we give to the world, and go to the world. And so each of those G teams are led by someone on the executive team. And so I do serve on the executive team of the church and oversee everything under team Give. And so that is basically everything from the street to the seat. It starts with our first impressions, which is everything from parking ministry, greeters, safe team, and first response, to our cafe team. That’s also large church wise events, our facility in campus oversight. And so these are the teams that work hard to keep, our current campus, as well as working towards our multi-site campuses as they become established and permanent, working on special building projects. So currently, we’re in the project of adding three 6000 square feet to our existing campus. So it’s serving on a team to get that planned out. We have human resources. So it’s all of those business functions. We have a staff of about 60 part time and full time individuals between the two campuses. And so working with our HR manager to establish training, reviews, and succession planning, and ensuring that our benefits plan is up to date. Oversight of our communications, which is everything from print media to what goes out on our social media, website, and technology platforms, and an oversight of finance. We do have a stewardship team which I serve on and oversee. We create a stewardship strategy for the entire year, including everything from financial peace university, helping families to get financial peace for themselves, all the way to donor development and communication of financial goals for the church.
Now, you mentioned you’re multi-site. That’s a more recent development for your church?
Yes. Berean is 55 years old and we are actually a five generation church. And throughout those 55 years, we’ve planted six or seven daughter churches. And then in 2016, we deployed our first multi-site campus in Lakeville, which is about 15 minutes south of here. And our goal is to have four campuses by 2020.
Now, obviously, your position gets more complicated, the more facilities and operations that you add on. So what does that transition been like for you to go from having in one campus, all of the staff, all the operations are in one central location to now having another arm of the church out there?
It has definitely complicated things, but as we look forward, we realize that actually going from one campus to two is actually not where it’s going to get really tricky. But when we step into three and four, that’s when we’re going to have that game changer. And so I feel like what we’ve really been working toward is learning all that we can, and fortunately, we have a lot of great churches we can learn from, and see what are the possible pitfalls. What are the things that we need to be planning ahead for? And I would say one of our challenges is making sure that we’re staffed ahead far enough so that we can make sure that we’re replicating our DNA throughout these other campuses. We recently hired an Executive Pastor who will take over the oversight of all of the multi-site strategy, and that will actually take a key load off of me. So I’m very excited about that. But I think our biggest opportunity is to make sure that we are continuing to equip, not only staff members, but making sure that we have lay leaders ready to go into these multi-site campuses and get them started strong, so that they don’t fail in that first year or two.
Of all the things that you oversee, what is your bread and butter? What’s your favorite part?
Oh, goodness. The HR piece can be kind of that love-hate relationship. Whenever you’re dealing with people, it can get really tricky. But I love being able to invest in staff and see them grow and flourish and develop. I feel like, thinking back 10 years ago when I was going through that pivotal moment of, God, why do you want me to go into the church world? It was really an interesting transition because you come in, you’ve worked in a secular environment where there’s very strict rules and regulations of how you treat employees and things that you do and what you don’t do, and coming into the church environment. I think I spent my first six months going, can you say that? Can you do that? Is that legal? So what I have been able to do is actually bring some of those things that I learned in the secular world into the church world, because I feel like some of the things that Corporate America does really well is giving feedback to their people, giving them goals and trying to challenge them to get better. And a lot of times in the church world, they think, well, what is succession planning? There’s a lot of people that are like, well, I really can’t be more than what I am today because I’m not a pastor. And that’s so not true. I think we have so many opportunities to learn. How has God wired me and what can I do to — we’ve got the greatest job in the world, how can we make the most of the positions that were in?
That’s great. So this might be piggybacking off of this a little bit, if you end up in going back and giving more depth to that but, what is something that you guys have got going on there that you’ve really found success with?
Well, talking about that investment in people piece, we actually have a lead pastor that started with us in 2014. The senior pastor that was here for 23 years, prior to Pastor West coming in, is still on staff. And so we had this really great transition and things that people look at it and they’re like, how does that even work? And a lot of it has to do with the humility that both of these men have and what is inherent to them. But one of the things that has been great since Pastor West has come is we’ve been growing a lot. We’re trying to figure out, as a staff, how can we continue to move in a forward direction and manage everything that’s coming our way. And so we’ve spent a lot of time talking about investing in them. And so this is everything from we meet weekly, and what we call our staff huddle, and basically, we share ministry announcements, winsome challenges, we talk about personal testimonies, which has really helped to tighten our team because they get to know the heart of that person that they’re working with.
We pray together, and then we usually train on something together. And those trainings are going to range in everything from how to recruit, train and develop a volunteer, all the way through to — we’ve taken our staff through this theological survey so that we can be unified in what we believe. Because a lot of people, they’re like, well, if I’m here is an administrative person, am I able to answer some of those tough questions that might come across the phone line? Or, I’m meeting somebody in the hallway and they’re like, hey, what does the church think about this? And so we want them to be equipped. We want to challenge them and their faith. And so that has really helped to unify us as a team. As we hire additional people on, we make sure that multiple people are invited into that hiring process because we want to make sure that any new hire is not only going to be able to be competent in the position, but that they’re going to fit into the culture of our organization. And so a lot of times, getting a variety of people’s input into that will help us to make those good sound hiring decisions.
We take time to play as a staff team. That’s a really huge important thing for us is to be able to play together. So we have staff lunch once a month. And the sole purpose of that is just to eat and fellowship together and build relationships. And one of the favorite activities they like to do, we’re up here in cold Minnesota, so we play wiffle ball on our commons and just have a good time together. And then we invest in them through training. We are strong in believing in going to conferences, but we also encourage them to read. We’ve got a voracious team of readers around here, and so they’ll pick their favorite books and recommend them to the staff and say, hey, check this one out. And then we also will encourage them to do things like, we did a staff day away a few weeks ago or a few months ago, rather. And we took the entire team through the disk profile training and spent a lot of time talking to them about how God wired them and then how we can effectively work together if we understand each other better. So that’s basically some of what we’ve been doing just to feed into our people to help strengthen our team so that as we do continue to add campuses, we’re ready to go.
Now since, is all of this that you’re talking about, these meetings and these lunches, at the main campus or does this include also staff from the church plant?
It includes all staff, including that from our multi-site and Lakeville. Currently, that is a portable campus. But even as we continue to add campuses, our plan, at this point, is to try to keep it so that it doesn’t become this campus or that campus. We want to continue to be one church. And that’s one of the challenges that we have to look for as we continue to grow to four, five, six, however many campuses we get to, because I know that we have that central campus structure, a lot of which is under my team that provides support for all of the different campuses, regardless of how many there are. And so there may come a point in time when they are doing more just campus focused things. But at this time, we’re able to still do it all under one roof.
Now, on the other side of this, then, what is something you guys have got going on there at Berean that you have a quite found a solution for?
More hours in the day.
I know, right? I would say, as much focus as we put on staff, it’s still finding that magical ability to staff appropriately. The answer seems to always be, we’ll hire that position. Unfortunately, in a church environment or most under environments, for that matter, you just can’t support the amount of payroll needed to accomplish everything that you have to get done. We’ve been working on building our volunteer base and grooming super volunteers to do things that, otherwise, we might hire for. But I think that’s probably our hugest challenge and it’s a battle that we don’t always win. And I haven’t completely figured out how do we walk that fine line of making sure that I don’t have people that burn out because they’ve just got too much on their plate.
That’s a very common thing for me to hear, kind of cracking that code of how do you strengthen your volunteer base. What do you see as some of the barriers for successfully filling positions with volunteers?
I would say some of the barriers are that the volunteers that we do have are so good, and they make it look really easy that I don’t think a lot of people realize how big the need is. They think, well, there’s somebody already doing that, they don’t need me. And I’ll hear, sometimes, a frustration from people that are staff in volunteer positions. They’ll put the old call out, hey, I need more people in the parking lot this weekend, and they’ll make a second call. And then by the third time, finally, somebody will start refined. So I think that the challenge, as you get larger as a church, is that you’ve got to make more personal contact and you can’t rely on email communications or however you’re doing it. It has to be that personal touch where you pick up the phone and call. And so then it goes back again to, that’s more time that we have to take. And so we haven’t cracked the code, but I sure hope.
We talk a lot about engagement and we have what we call our closer look luncheon that anybody that’s brand new within the last three to six months is invited to attend, and they can meet staff and ministry leaders. And we’ll talk, at that time, about the importance of not just coming to service, but we want you to engage and partner with us. And that means we want you to serve, we want you to get involved in a missional community, and we want you to engage financially. And then in addition to that, as we go through the different quarters, we will have what we call ministry fairs, where all of the different ministries basically come out and talk about all the different ways that people can connect and get engaged. And we have found that, actually, has helped a lot because people just don’t realize, oh, wow, you need people to help count money or whatever. And they will come through our volunteer system that way.
Kay, where do you go to make sure you’re staying sharp on your role and just be the best you can be?
Well, first of all, I think it is important to read. You’ve got to take time to — and that’s one way that I use, actually, just to kind of decompress, anyway. So I read as many leadership books as I can get my hands on. Again, partnering with some of the other executive team members. What are you reading? What’s that? Sharing that. I believe strongly in the importance of training and rebooting, stepping away from the campus. And so I’ll try to choose one to two campuses or conferences a year to help sharpen and challenge my thinking. I actually just got back from E-summit out in L.A. That was earlier in February. And then last year, I went to the pipeline conference down in Nashville. And the great thing about those conferences is that it allows you to talk with other church leaders, and to network, and to really just have a real conversation about, hey, what’s working? Or, what are you doing about this? Or, have you ever come across that? And take some phone numbers away so you can give people call later and bounce more ideas. And then I’m always looking for webinars and cheap ways to also grow in my knowledge that doesn’t involve travel. So I think it’s just really important to take time each week, though, to focus on yourself a little bit in terms of self-growth, because otherwise, it’s really easy to allow meetings and the urgent to get in the way of that. And if you’re not fresh and if you’re not taking care of that, you really are going to have a hard time continuing to move forward effectively.
So Kay, what encouragement would you give to others in church leadership?
After working in the secular world and then coming to church, we truly have the best job in the world, and we are so blessed to be able to work and serve the Lord, at the very same time, in the way that we do. I think, sometimes, it’s difficult to be in our roles because the rest of the world doesn’t really realize what we do. I know, I’ve got family members that, I swear, think that I just get to come to work, pray, and sing Kum ba yah all day, and life is this peachy, and they have no clue. So I would just encourage other church leaders to think on the ways that God has blessed them and equipped them to be able to function effectively in their jobs. We know that there’s going to be things that don’t go as planned, but there would be no success without failure. So just to keep trying and try to take time to look for the learning experience in everything that you do. Even if it’s a win, reflect on it and say, what made it a win and how can we replicate that later? And then I just continually pray for wisdom and discernment, and that God is going to lead the way and not me. And that really actually takes the pressure off because I know that the work is going to get done in spite of me and not because of me. And so I just am able to release that burden on to Him.
That’s great. Kay, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Absolutely. You have a great day.