Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today we’ve got Lori Stansbury on the show coming from Crossroads Church, which has nine locations in the Cincinnati, Ohio, and Lexington, Kentucky areas. Lori, great to have you on today.
It’s great to be here.
Lori, you are the executive pastor at the Oakley Ohio campus, but you were actually on staff for about 15 years prior to coming into your current role. Would you share a bit about your journey to becoming the executive pastor?
Sure. Yeah. Well, my background before a church role is actually in retail management. I have nothing to do with being a part of the church, but I have grown up in church and 16 years ago started at Crossroads as a kids club director. So I led the kids program, which is birth to fifth grade, and then started leading birth to fifth grade and our student ministry, and after about eight or nine years moved to leading First Impressions, which includes Operations and Hospitality of our sites. And as we kept opening more new sites, I was a part of opening all of those new locations that we had, and about a year and a half ago moved into the executive pastor role, as our multi-site director needed to focus specifically on all of the site and not do a dual role. So I kind of feel like I grew out of the experience of leading a lot of ministries to be ready to be leading as the executive pastor for a lot of different ministries.
Yeah, that’s kind of a unique growing up, I guess, starting especially with the kids ministry and then Operations and Hospitality and now executive pastor. You don’t see that journey very often.
Yeah, I have seen it at Crossroads a few other people that have done that as well where kids ministry is where they started. And I think because I have the ability to work both in a pioneering setting and in more of an administrative and settling area, I can kind of flex to either one of those. So it’s been pretty effective for me in what I’ve done in ministry.
That’s really interesting. Are your primary responsibilities then with the Oakley campus, or do you also end up filling roles for the larger Crossroads community?
Currently my role is just with the Oakley community. I have also had a role of helping foster leadership development across all of our sites and as I spent more and more time in one specific site, I don’t have the viewpoint to be able to do that as much and we’ve sparked that interest across all of the sites and international ministry as well. So I don’t need to do that as much, but I am a part of our campus pastor team, so I have the ability to influence one – out of my years of experience at Crossroads on staff and two – out of the role that I play right now.
What would you say are your day-to-day responsibilities at the Oakley campus?
Well, we have a campus pastor at each of our campuses, so Chuck Mingo is our campus pastor at the Oakley location. He also happens to be one of the teaching pastors. So Brian Tome, our senior pastor, teaches a lot for weekend services and so does Chuck. And so I basically do the things operationally that need to get done. So I lead the staff, we have about 32 people on our Oakley staff. I lead the budget, I lead part of the vision casting, Chuck casts vision on where we’re going in the campus, but I’m actually the one helping implement that, and we work together as a team in some of that as well. So we look at what is our national vision that we have for all sites to do, and then specifically uniquely for Oakley, what is unique to that site and how do we pastor and care for our people, but also how do we help our people invite more people into come to church, into growth, into any of our reach-out opportunities. So we work together on that and then I help make sure our staff keep doing that.
You’ve moved from kind of this like larger really big picture role over different campuses and leadership development, and now you’re more focused in one area. How has that transition been for you to just be focusing now on this one campus?
Because I’ve been around all of them and helped open sites I’ve realized that Oakley is one of our I call the starter campus, it is that place where we tend to develop the most people to send them out into any other site that we have. And really, as we’ve started looking at a national view, we have people that have moved from Cincinnati area that were a part of Crossroads to Seattle, to Lexington, to Tampa, to all different places. So there are people that have been a part of Oakley campus that have moved on and then wanted to be a part of it, one of our anywhere sites. And I love developing people, and I feel like it’s the best place for me to be placed to build a team of people who love to develop and send people out, but also care for the people that are right in our campus as well.
So I would like to hear a little more about this idea of developing people in the starter campus, because obviously most people would sign off on idea of it. They like the idea of developing their people and sending them out, but it’s really hard to actually do it. Do you guys have a very specific system or program you put people through? How do you do this effectively?
A couple of things that come to mind that I would say we do, one is to cast a vision, that’s what we do. So part of it is actually helping everybody understand that’s what our purpose is, that’s what God uniquely called our campus to do and that includes one – celebrating the people who lead. So that’s a big part of it, is anytime you’re going to send someone off that you’ve developed somebody and they move on to a bigger leadership role, or they move to another campus or they move away instead of being sad that we’re losing part of our community, celebrating that, whether it’s an individual or a whole group of people. For instance, right now we’re opening a new campus in December-January timeframe, that’s only about 20 minutes away, and it’s going to take a very large chunk of people, regular volunteers, and some of our community to go open that campus. And that could be seen as very difficult, but we see it as an opportunity to launch a group of very seasoned people into that, and it’s only going to create opportunity for growth in the campus that we have now. So the other piece of that is looking for new leaders to emerge, or new people to step in where those people have left, and also looking at the opportunity, I often say it’s like holding your hands open to let people go instead of clinging your fist tightly, but also to make sure that you’re able to look around for who’s stepping up as that person’s moving on, and it just creates that flow for a funnel of people to come in and flow back out.
I wonder with your experience, having led a lot of the children’s ministry and when you talk about losing a big chunk of volunteers I immediately think of the ministers in charge of the specific areas like children’s ministry, adult ministry. Does this create stress on your staff during these transition times? How do you manage that transition of losing so many good volunteers?
Well, in some cases we also lose the staff person that was working on that.
That’s another added component.
Some of our assistant directors are moving into director roles at other sites as well. So not only volunteers, but our staff has also moved on and grown into bigger roles, and it feels like you’re losing part of your family, but it is also the mindset of, that’s what God put us here to do. And so part of it is continually seeing the opportunity. I think it’s just like discipleship. If you’re constantly looking for where God is leading you ahead and maybe having somebody mentor you that’s further along than you, then you’re also looking back to see who’s following you and making sure you’re bringing people along. And so we use that same concept in how we lead volunteers, or how we lead staff.
What are some of the administrative challenges you face there at the Oakley campus, and maybe even as a larger congregation as the Crossroads Church, the whole?
One of them is always maintenance of buildings. And if your vision is to keep opening new sites, then you also need to take care of the site that have existed for a while. So we’re constantly looking at what are the right things to maintain and upkeep in a current building or a building that’s been around for a while. And then also, how do we keep doing ministry. The other would be to continually build into and draw new people to our site. So I think that in the last few years we’ve realized after 15 – 20 years of one site existing, it can get kind of easy to think, “well, people just walk in the door” and we’ve realized that we probably need to go out and invite people back in more than we ever have before. And so we’ve been doing some things in neighborhoods to notice who’s in neighborhoods that really is an evangelist and wants to invite and find new ways to bring their friends in. And so we’ve actually gone out into neighborhood and tried to do some things in people’s homes or in a certain area in community, so that those neighbors that attend our church go together to try and invite some of their friends and neighbors who don’t go to church. And that can include a social outing, but it can include things like serving coffee at a race where we’re going to interact with a whole bunch of people who’ve never heard of us before.
You guys have a lot going on. And I don’t know if it’s just your personality coming through, or if it is the church, but it seems like a very high energy place. Have you used some technology to help facilitate some of these transitions, a lot of these outings that you do?
Yeah, I will say that we use social media and we are looking at how we can think screen first. So the best way that I would describe it is we know that a lot of people now the first way that they’re getting information or they’re interacting with things is on a screen, whether that’s their computer or their phone. So we’re looking at opportunities and ways to do that even with some of our teaching or how we invite people to sing. So our neighborhoods, we have Facebook pages for just that neighborhood that we can invite or share some of the trailers of our services coming up or outreach opportunities so that they can invite friends or come and be a part of it. But we also use our technology to keep information so that we know what people have attended and we know what people are interested in to be able to then invite them to things that might be of interest, too. So we have trips that we send people on to some of our partners around the world, and knowing all these people are educators and they want to work with kids in Nicaragua will have the opportunity to invite them because we want to take a team of educators on the trip and they would have things in common. So that’s a good example of that, I think.
What kind of technology and automation have you put in just to help communication with your staff and processes?
We all have cellphones versus desk phones and it lets us be mobile wherever we are, and we can have messages go right to our phones instead of trying to pick a voice mail later. We have most of the things that we’re doing on our Crossroads app, so you can watch our service live, you can do a daily devotion on it, you can look up studies for our small groups and it’s opportunities where all individuals could find the same thing together. We’ve created systems that make it easy within ministries to work together. We’ve automated how volunteers can sign up to serve so that we know when they’re coming in and it’s an easy way for them to be able to do it even on their phone.
So where do you go to learn more about being a great executive pastor?
Well, for one – I ask other executive pastors. So anytime I’m at a conference or an opportunity, I’m looking around someone that has that job so that I can learn more about how they operate, what they’ve learned. I read books and I lean into our overall executive pastor as well, because I feel like he’s also learned that over time and it would be helpful to learn from somebody even within our own ministry that’s doing well at it.
With so many different locations, and obviously there’s a lot of the same roles at each location, do you have much of a network within Crossroads where you connect with each other?
We do. I’ll say, when you’ve been there 16 years, you kind of know people as they come on and so I feel like I’ve got a great opportunity to build relationships, but we have a couple of different teams that work really closely together. All of our campus pastors get together on a regular basis to share information and to make some decisions. We also have a group of people that are called Products and Services that lead our ministries, and they work together very closely, and we work with them as campus pastors to think through what are the overall things that say a kids club ministry wants every site to do or what are overall things that we’re going to do around Easter this year. And then we’ll talk through how to execute that same, if we’ve got a very small site with 300 people showing up, or a bigger site where 12,000 people are going to show up on a weekend. So it helps us to move in the same direction and be able to do it uniquely based on our campus or based on our ministry. We also have staff training every week together, so we meet as a whole staff either on screen or in person, if the location helps for that so that we can get clear direction and vision from our leaders and be able to move in the same place and we also celebrate what God’s been doing at that meeting as well.
So if you were just sitting down and having coffee with another executive pastor, who was, you know, the church was considering starting another location, what kind of encouragement or caution would you give to them?
I think I would encourage them to look at why they’re starting the next campus and what opportunities that campus brings. I think I would encourage them to add to whatever time they have on their mind and how long it takes to develop teams of volunteers for the new site and to replenish where we’re sending people off from that site. I think I would encourage, if there’s only one location and you’re adding locations or going beyond three, I would recommend that you think about what systems are going to break when you add that next one. So there are certain things that really, when there’s just one site you can operate in, whereas I think beyond three where you kind of have to think holistically about how do I do this across many sites and to do that work ahead of time is very beneficial.
So I’ll end with this and just some general encouragement for other executive pastors from your experience so far.
I would say make sure that there’s a team of people that you feel like you’re connected with. Sometimes that can feel like a unique role where you’re not the senior pastor, you’re not on a specific team, you’re kind of the bridge in-between. So finding opportunity where one – you know which team you belong on and two – have the opportunity to be encouraged by other people who are doing something similar to you. That’s one thing that I would say. And probably to just lean into God, because that is an area where I think hearing His voice louder than any crazy plan I might have in my head is always the direction to go. So I can get ahead of myself sometimes and I think that’s true of anybody who’s an executive person thinking through what are the systems for us to make this happen and how do we forge ahead that. Sometimes we have to slow down for Him.
That’s great, Lori. Thanks so much for being on the podcast today.