Welcome to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Today our guest is Kevin Stone, who’s coming to us from Christ’s Church of the Valley in Pennsylvania. Hi Kevin, how are you?
I am good. I am good. Thanks for having me.
Very happy to have you on. You have a very rich history to share with us. Then you also actually, apart from being the executive pastor at Christ’s Church at the Valley, you run executive pastor online. So I am really excited just to get your insights and hear from you, but why don’t you start off just giving us some background about how you got to be where you are now.
Let’s see. I’ve been executive pastor here at CCV now for 13 years. Its 13 years in April. And prior to that, I was in corporate. Right before I came on staff at the church, I was working as an operations director at Comcast. Prior to that, I was Vice President of operations for a division of Emerson here in the Hatfield, PA – just hop, skip and jump from where the church is. But once I moved – I moved out here actually for that position, and once I got out of here, I connected with Brian Jones, our now founding and current senior pastor, and he was starting this church called Christ’s Church of the Valley – hadn’t started yet but was preparing to and my wife and I connected with Brian and his wife, Lisa. He is at brianjones.com, and the rest is history. So we were there on day one. I think I was running the sound board actually in the tech booth, in the movie theatre on that first Sunday. So four years later, that was in October of 2000 – October 1st of 2000 was a Sunday. And four years later, April 5th 2004 he had pretty much talked me into becoming the executive pastor here at CCV, took a 50 percent take cut, and here I am.
Yeah nice. It’s a really interesting story to hear how you got there. Of course your website of the church is always interesting. It’s moviechurch.com which comes from media in the movie theatre, right?
Yeah, we had some what we now refer to as some lame URL – I can’t remember what it was – way back at the beginning and we were in a local movie theatre and moviechurch.com. I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but it came to our attention and was available and we snagged it. And so now moviechurch.com really doesn’t mean anything really other than that’s our URL. And actually if you – seven times out of ten you stop somebody on the street quarter around here and ask them if they’ve heard of Christ’s Church of the Valley, they will give you a blank stare. But then if you say, you know the movie church – they are all yeah yeah yeah the movie church. We know them. So the first rule of marketing is that if somebody knows you by name, don’t change it, right.
Yeah, that’s a good one. So you’ve been an Ops guy pretty much your whole life, right, going back to your corporate days?
Yeah operations, I’ve also had some general management experience where I had responsibility for human resources, finance and even a little bit of marketing responsibility as a product line director. Once upon a time again with Emerson, I opened the plant down in Cholula, Mexico as well and moved some Emerson product there and I was GM down there for a few years. So I’ve definitely had responsibility outside of, strictly speaking, operations – so a pretty well-rounded business management kind of background. Now ministry, of course, was new to me when I took on this role.
Yeah, why don’t you expand on that a little bit? What was that transition like for you?
Well, it was actually a fairly smooth transition looking back, I know now, but I remember at the time it didn’t feel so smooth. I had moved. I moved to Pennsylvania for that Vice President of operations position which was a manufacturing role, and that’s where I had been prior to that for 15 years or whatever and I considered myself a manufacturing leader like a leader, but a leader; basically a manufacturing guy. So I couldn’t see myself in any other kind of leadership role in any other kind of industry until that position at Brooks that I moved out here for, went away for a few reasons I won’t get into. And I ended up looking for a job and that’s how I landed at Comcast. So that was a transition of I mean still a senior leader at Comcast, I was basically still at that VP level or similar to what I was at with Brooks called us directors. But I had changed industries. So I went from manufacturing to telecommunications and that was an eye opener for me. And I was very successful at Comcast, I did not leave that role to join the church because I had to; in fact, they tried to keep me and I jokingly say now my boss then was like, “Well, how much more would it take to get you to say?” And I said, “Wow, the church is paying me a lot less than you are paying me, so maybe you could pay me even less.” And he said, “Oh okay, I see your point.” But anyway, I’ve read the book “Courageous Leadership” as well along about that time, Bill Hybels is the author. And between reading the book, create this leadership, being passionate about what God was doing in my life and as a Christ follower, and having had that a successful experience professionally as a senior leader moving from manufacturing into telecom, I basically one day said, “You know what – I think God just created me to be a leader; it doesn’t matter what the industry.” And so that kind of greased the skills a little bit for me in terms of the decision that I was trying to make relative to becoming an executive pastor. Brian had started talking to me about executive pastor couple of years, maybe even three years like 2001 – that seems like very early in the life of a church. He’s like someday we are going to need this business guy to come on staff and I’d like you to be it. He was talking to me that early on about it. And I remember my first response was dude, that’s not me. And that sounds like a great job for somebody someday, but not me. So I just could not see myself in that role. Then by 2004, between Brian and God obviously, some things had changed and I could actually picture it, and here I am.
Tell us about some of the administrative challenges you face? What are some things that are an on-going thing that you have to come back to often?
There are no challenges in church work. What are you talking about, Neil? Crazy.
Yeah, just sit around, right?
Yeah, we sit around and sing Kumbaya every week. You know the one thing that Brian and I always kind of look at each other throughout the year periodically and acknowledge is that there are a couple of things that as senior church leaders, we are always going to be in one way shape or form struggling with or dealing with. And you can pretty much narrow it down to three different categories that either you are going to be dealing with some kind of a money issue. So the church is always going to not have enough financial resources to accomplish everything that it believes God has called it to accomplish. So there’s always going to be that issue of money or fund raising or whatever donor development, whatever you want to call it. Number two, there is always going to be some kind of staff issue. There is always going to be – you are going to be hunting for staff, you are going to need staff, you are going to have a staff issue that needs to be addressed one way or the other. There’s always going to be some kind of staff challenge. And the third area is there is always going to be some kind of facilities challenge. You are either not going to have enough space or you are going to have too much space or you are going to have a building that needs to be repaired that you can’t afford to repair getting back to money and so on. So it’s either going to be financial in nature or staff in nature or facilities and that is definitely been true until at any given time and we can pick at any point in the timeline of Christ’s Church of the Valley from the year 2000 al l the way to current. And I can point to a number of different milestones along the way and all of them would fit into those three categories. And today is certainly no exception.
Yeah, it’s not something you can really grow out of, right? Those challenges are always going to be there.
I think regardless of the size of the church – the bigger the church, the bigger the problems in those three categories. But obviously on the upside, there is – the larger the church the more people, the more potential for impact, you know, kingdom impact.
Yeah yeah, definitely. You mentioned financial resources and trying to build those up and we talk about technology a lot on the podcast. I wanted to get your input on some tools that are good to use to merge those things together with raising funds and finances and technology. What are some things you guys are using or some things you’ve seen?
Well, one that comes to mind immediately is Mortar Stone. They are an online application tool for donor development. The interface or I guess interface is the right word with your church management software, in our case Church Community Builder, which would be another company I would mention along those lines. But Mortar Stone is a great tool for – I refer to it as a window into your donor universe unlike anything that you’ve seen in terms of understanding your donor situation as a church and who is doing what and how that is looking. Church Community Builder as a church management software application is in my humble opinion the best out there. We’ve been Church Community Builder customers for a number of years now. And then another one that’s fairly new although we’ve been customers now for a few years – our mobile app provider is Aware3 and they provide a mobile app that has text giving capability, other electronic giving capability, interfaces with church management software like Church Community Builder, but certainly many others. And the folks that were to do an excellent job of putting a product out there that for a guy like me is literally runs itself; so it interfaces with, in our case Church Community Builder, and as long as we keep Church Community Builder up to date in terms of small groups and everything that’s happening in the church as far as events, so on and so forth, Aware3 is through its interface, then it’s kept up to date. And so there is constantly this nice looking mobile app out there that our congregation is down the app world with 5000 downloads now on that mobile app. And six figures worth of giving has come in via Aware3’s mobile app as well; so definitely a product that I would recommend. Those are just some of the key ones, like main ones. I mean Planning Center online is one as well. I mean there are number of different other applications that way; something as simple as expensify.com for expense reports, every expense reimbursement; so lots of tools out there that I would recommend.
Yeah. It seems to be that the trend that people are talking about is one that is getting some kind of automation going, so that there is lot less manual work; trying to find things that run themselves like you talked about. And the second thing is integration. If you are going to have all these tools, they need to be able to talk to each other, they need to be able to work together or else you are just building kind of separate silos. So that’s really good to hear. So the other side of your life I guess, so to speak, is where you share a lot of things is on executivepastoronline.com. Tell us just a little bit of the story of that – how that got started and what kinds of things you share there.
Well, that’s a cool story. It hasn’t always been executive pastor online. I think when I first started out, it was secondchairperspective.com, but the idea behind it – basically what happened many number of years ago was go back to maybe 2006, Brian and I were having a conversation and we were just acknowledging that we really felt called as a church to be a teaching church, to share everything that we are doing for the good of the kingdom overall. In other words, if some other church wants a song that one of our arts people wrote or once the snag grabbed a video that we created or a video idea or anything at all, we would never be a church that would be selling that stuff. We would always be just putting it out there. If we are doing it here, take it, use it. And so for him, that became seniopastorcentral.com and brianjones.com. For me, it became executivepastoronline.com. So executer online is all about – one executive pastor’s point of view, mine, I actually tried it to make this a site that a number of executive pastors would contribute to and it never really panned out. So one executive pastor’s perspective on ministry and what I have learnt and come to know and understand and so on, I am just routinely in five or six post a week out there sharing with the rest of the world. And there is a resource section on it where there are numerous job descriptions and policies and procedures and forms and just anything that we create internally ends up out on executive pastor online in one form or another, or by laws as a church are out there; so if a church is interested and looking at a set of by laws as an example to follow or whatever – that’s all out there. Our entire staff policy manual is out there. So everything that we do here is a church in one way or another goes out on executive pastor online, and it’s just shared with the rest of the world. It’s really turned into a pretty cool thing. There are six 800 visits a day to executive pastor online, which is kind of exciting. So people are definitely getting a lot out of it. I get a lot of inquiries, I get a lot of – there is a contact me widget on there. I get a lot of people that will email me a question or two and then we connect offline. I don’t get a whole lot of comments, but I think that’s kind of a trend in the blogosphere nowadays where commenting on a blog is less and less common. People are more apt to go to Facebook or Twitter or whatever, and say their piece. But anyway, so yeah that’s how it started. And I’ve done some coaching, I’ve done some one on one coaching through executive pastor online, and I am also currently working with intentional churches. That’s intentionalchurches.com – a company founded by a couple of friends of mine that are out there, working the churches on developing intentional growth plans, using StartUp as a tool. And I’ve gone out to Vegas where they are located and I’ve got certified as a facilitator and coach. And so I am also doing some work with intentional churches and you will see some of that on executive pastor online as well.
Yeah I think it’s so great that what you guys are doing, just kind of in the DNA of the church is like you said it’s a teaching church. You want to share what you are learning, not just the Sunday morning message but everything else that’s going on Monday through Friday as well – the things that it means to be an executive pastor like the bylaws and things. It’s really exciting to hear you are sharing that and getting some good feedback from that too.
Yes, it’s been a lot of fun. I really enjoy the interaction and the feedback. I am networked with more than a 100 other executive pastors around the country, just independent Christ Church, churches of Christ Restoration Movement guys and girls. And I have an opportunity to interact with them on a regular basis. And the website has reflected a lot of other people’s wisdom as well through that networking and interaction with these other executive pastor types.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. You obviously have a lot to share but if you could close out our time here with just one bit of advice you would like to give to other executive pastors listening in, then what would you like to say to them?
That’s tall water, Neil. I guess I would just say that especially for those that are maybe struggling a little bit or facing a lot of challenge to hang in there, to continue to look for solutions, rely network would be probably – one of the things when I do coaching that I tell another executive pastor that I am coaching like I’ll do a year-long engagement with an executive pastor is the importance of networking. In other words, you are not alone. You should have a number of people, a number of other people that are doing what you are doing that you can rely on, that you can shoot a question out there and say, “Hey, how is everybody handling this? Or has anyone dealt with this before?” Or whatever, and get some pre-done material or some advice or some wisdom from someone else. So that would probably be my number one recommendation is to – you are not in this alone network, reach out, talk to other people, go to executive pastor online if you have it and subscribe and connect with me, and then I can help you get connected. So yeah, that would probably be the number one thing is just make sure you are talking to other people in your network and you are connecting with others.
Absolutely, it’s fantastic advice. So Kevin, it’s been great to hear your story, to hear about what you are doing. I’ll make sure all those links you mentioned in our podcast or on the show notes; so when people check that out, they can have a look at it. But thanks a lot for joining in and for sharing your insights.
Neil, I appreciate you having me. It’s been a blast, I’ll tell you.