Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Nathan Golden is joining us today from Brooklake Church in Federal Way, Washington. Great to have you on the show today, Nathan.
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Courtney. It’s a pleasure.
So, Nathan, tell us a little bit about how you came into your position of Executive Pastor there at Brooklake.
Yeah. Well, it’s been an interesting journey like, I’m sure, most people can experience. I’ve been a part of Brooklake Church since ’91, and so a lot of history there. Went through a junior high and high school youth programs, and then I went up to college and did some traveling. And then our pastor, at the time, called me up one day and he said, hey, I just want to check in with you on your life and see how it’s going. Would you like to meet? And I knew there was something more that they had in mind for me. So I had been working with Youth With a Mission, doing some international work and he wanted to get caught up on that because they have invested in me for that. He said, well, we have a position available that we’re creating as an Outreach Director, and we think you’d be great for it. Would you be interested? And in all honesty, I didn’t want to work at a church. I could just be straight about that. And I’m sure that other people experienced too, but basically, I said, well, I’m very flattered. I’m not sure. I just got married. So I went home and made a list of pros and cons. Should I do this? Should I not? And it wasn’t what I was envisioning, but I submitted it to prayer, and met with him again, and started a month or so later. And so I started, actually, as the Outreach Director, and just through a course of events, as anyone who works for the church knows you, oh, you got this skill set, or, you’re handy. We’re going to go ahead and just put you in charge of the whole church, upkeep and the ground.
No big deal.
Yeah. No big deal. So it’s really just been over the course of the years, just trying to be available to the needs of the campus and what God might be speaking to me, and just to come more responsibilities, became the Campus Pastor. And then it’s just under a year that I’ve been the Executive Pastor of Brooklake. In fact, it was a new position created just with our leadership structure. We felt like that was the right way to go, and I was offered that position. And so it’s still kind of new for me, learning what that means in our context, but it’s been good. It feels kind of like a little thing switched from the Lord because I have no idea. But now, I am having the time of my life.
It’s kind of funny to go from not wanting a position in the church to being an Executive Pastor, which is pretty involved.
Yeah, you could say that again.
How long have you been at Brooklake, then, from that start to now?
About eight years. I’ll celebrate my 8th year anniversary in just a few days here, so, yeah.
Okay. So for you, in the last year working out this Executive Pastor role, and I’m sure considering to use some of the roles you brought into it from what you had been doing previously, what exactly are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Yeah, well, that does vary, as it does in any other job, but primarily, I give oversight to the campus as a whole. So that includes pre-school through 5th grade. And then we have a child care center, which is baby to about five years old. So I give oversight to the teams that lead those, as well as, the physical campus. And then one of my main roles is helping people take their next steps, and that can be anywhere from salvation and baptism, to joining a group, outreach. All of the above, essentially. So I can’t sing so I’m not on the worship team, but otherwise, I’m pretty involved on Sundays and throughout the week. We’re really just concentrating on how can we live out our faith, how can we take next steps none of us have arrived in. And so everything we do at Brooklake is within a team context. So I get the pleasure of leading a few different teams on the campus, giving direction and vision for that when available. But those are the primary areas. Next step is communications, some staff development, and then our school learning center.
You answered some of what this next question was going to be, but I was curious, you mentioned you like to help people take next steps. And sometimes, the Executive Pastor position can actually really remove a pastor from individuals in the church because you’re more behind the scenes, more on the administrative side. How have you stayed connected or has it been a challenge at all for you or has it not been since you guys are a church that’s so team-oriented?
Yeah. Part of what we’re really passionate about is just obviously creating a leadership culture and being able to not just hand things off to hand them of, but to help those either volunteers or those on staff, to develop what they’re really good at, and we’re always trying to discover where would this person really thrive at in getting them into that position and not just leaving there. That’s one thing we’re working hard on to, just giving people equipped and trained and being with them. But I try to be as available as I can be without it hurting. It’s the tyranny of the urgent, right? There’s always something in the emails are coming in constantly all day and all that. So it’s learning how to still be a pastor, and then also helping people understand that if you have a need, and you’re plugged in with maybe a small group community, that is really your family. Within a larger family of our church, is a larger family of the Body of Christ. So we got this interesting dynamic within our church because we have a lot of people that have been there — we’re in our 49th year as a church, so we’ve got a lot of people that have been there from early on, and they’ve got an expectation of the role of a pastor, whether that’s leader, Executive Pastor. And then you got the newer that maybe newer to church, you know, generation where they’re just looking for their tribe. They know that the pastor is busy and he can’t come see me if I’ve got a cold or if I’m in the hospital, necessarily. There are times, of course, that that’s appropriate but that’s just the rub that we have. So we’re really available, as a staff, on Sunday mornings to people. We don’t hide out. We just talk with people and then serve them. And then behind the scenes, we feel it’s almost like, throughout the week, I’m almost like a puppet master, to some degree. I know that sounds maybe a bad metaphor, but okay, am I really the best person to answer this email or this question? No. Maybe this leader would be the right person. So just figuring out what to say no to, what to say yes to. But it’s a rub for sure.
So to tell me a little more about Brooklake. What are some best practices you have going on there, or maybe you’ve kind of come up with a solution to figure something out that might be interesting for others listening?
Yeah. I think what we do really well, that probably the reason that I’m excited that I get to stick around there with enthusiasm is that, I mentioned earlier, was that we do everything in teams. So we are trying to break down a silo mentality. That’s going to happen to some degree that sometimes we just hunker down and get things done. But when you work in teams, for one, you should like the people that you work with in the team. So that can be difficult if there’s no good chemistry there. I think it’s Bill Hybels who talks about the three Cs – chemistry, and competency, and character. And when that chemistry piece is not there, you’re not excited to come to work at a church because of some of the people you work with, either we need to have some courageous conversations or you just really look, are they in the right role or am I in the right role. So right now I just feel we have a really healthy leadership team. We call it our Directional Leadership Team, or our DLT. I was hoping for Brooklake Leadership Team because there would be the BLT, but —
But then everyone will get hungry when you said it.
Yeah. That’s why I’m not a creative person. I’m just at the end of the detail. And as a leadership team, that consists of myself, the lead pastor who leads that team, and then we have three other executive leaders on that. And then everything that flows from the church, flows from that group. So then each one of us led teams or teams under us, and so nobody is kind of a lone ranger. We’re just thinking how can we support one another, how can we remove obstacles in the way for one another, how can equip and train. And so we’re looking for those opportunities, but then also how can we grow as leaders in that kind of high level leadership team? We’re reading books together, we listen to Podcasts, we’re trying out new things in that group to see if they work before passing them on to the staff. And so I think that’s what really gets me excited is five of us that really have worked together for a lot of years but have each other’s back and we fully trust one another and it just makes work a lot of fun. Those are the meetings that you look forward to. Some days it’s a lot of fun, but there’s again, yeah.
Tell me a little about the structure of Brooklake. You have the structural leadership team. Is this the kind of exclusive leadership group of Brooklake? Do you also have some kind of board of elders, or how does that work for you?
Yeah. We have an elected board of trustees that’s elected by our members. Annual basis, we have our annual members meeting, and depending on the rotation of those board members. Maybe their term is up and they will go up for re-election, or not. But their primary function is the oversight of the overall financial position of the church. So they’re looking in our market meetings, how are we doing, are there any areas we need to give some attention to. So they’re just helping keep accountability for the finances of the church. We don’t have a big structure for making decisions. Of course, if we were going to — a few years ago, we did a big expansion to the building and the board was very much involved with that because they really care about the hard assets and the property itself. We include them in that, of course, but a lot of the day-to-day operations come through the Directional Leadership Team and then they’re passed on to the organization.
Now, okay, we’re going to go on the flip side of this, then. What is a current challenge that you have there at Brooklake that you haven’t yet found your solution for?
There’s always quite a few. I would say that one of the things that we’re working on right now is how to get things done, how to really get things done well and effectively. And I can recommend a book that we’re reading right now, The 4 Disciplines of Execution. It’s Chris McChesney and Sean Covey. And it’s just four things, four disciplines that an organization should do in order to define what’s really important, and then discover some ways to affect that, and then keep what they call a score board – how we’re doing on our goal, and then finally, weekly meetings that are based on, here’s what I committed to do, I did it or I didn’t do it, here’s what I’m going to do to change that, and you guys hold me accountable to them next week. So it’s been really insightful because we’re, like most probably leadership teams, we have lots of good ideas, lots of vision, and we’re able to get some of that done, but often it is just in this book. If you haven’t read it, again, I recommend it. They acknowledge a couple of things that’s been really helpful for us and that is this idea that we have really important things, we have really urgent things. The urgent things will always eat up the important things. And actually, let’s just step back and give those a couple of names and so they give the name for the urgent. They call it the whirlwind.
So that’s the things that you have to get done, that suck up a majority or all of your time if you let them. But if you don’t do them at all, your church or your business or your organization will cease to exist. So you have to say, okay, it’s crazy today. Things are not going the way that I planned, but I got to take care of this and this and this and this. They’re not on the schedule. If I don’t do those things, it could be detrimental to us as a church. So I got to take care of those things. So if we’re given about 80% of our time to that, that’s great. But then if we don’t have time for talking through in meeting important goals, things that are really important to us, then that’s also going to stall out a church or a business without vision, and then a way to achieve that. And they call that a wildly important goal, and you should only have one or two of those at any one time. So we’re actually working through this. We’re training our staff on it. And it’s been the thing that we felt like, other things that we’ve read and other things that we’ve worked through have kind of prepared us for this time. And then this is book has really been kind of, all right, this is a last piece of the puzzle to really help us move in some of the directions we feel that we need to go. How can we really equip our volunteer and how we really teach them about what it is to use your talents for the Lord, use your gifts and serve? Because we all know once we start serving with our time, then the challenges come but also the life change begins to come. So I’m trying to focus on what should we really be focusing on up to 20% of our work week, and how do we affect those numbers, how do we go about tracking it, and then finally, when we get together as a group, did you do what you said you were going to do? And that’s always the scary part.
Yeah. That’s the hardest part.
Yeah. My boss didn’t tell me to do this. I committed to the group that I was going to do this, and I did or didn’t. Now I got to do it last week’s and this week, but I’m going to day because I’m setting that standard and everyone saying, okay, let’s see next week, how you do it. It’s not a pressure thing. It’s actually, I think, going to bring for us a lot of health and structure to some amazing people that we haven’t been able, as a leadership team, to equip with a system that is really going to work.
Sometimes it’s kind of like rules can bring freedom. Accountability can bring freedom. It frees you from the weight of excuses or a distraction because you don’t have a choice but to stay focused.
Yeah, that’s right. And it can be a scary word too, but we’ve also learned that there’s a way to do accountability in a healthy way. Even conflict, it doesn’t mean we’re going to be screaming at each other. It’s just being willing to say, hey, let’s talk about this because we said one thing, and it didn’t happen, so we got at least talk about it because it’s on everybody’s mind. We’d rather just work through it. So conflict can be really healthy. But I know, my first thought when I think a conflict is —
— Oh, man. Yeah. Going to blows or something, but no. We don’t do that.
Now, you mentioned in your Directional Leadership Team meetings that you’ll often — you mentioned this book that you’re reading The Four Disciplines of Execution, and you mentioned listening to Podcasts. Who are some of those leaders that you kind of listen to as a team or some other books you’ve read, maybe or some, maybe, blogs that you pay attention to?
I would say, primarily, some of the people that we’re listening to are Craig Groeschel and his leadership podcast. We really like Carey Neuhoff and his leadership podcast. On the [inaudible-00:17:36] Leadership Podcast, those guys being some top-quality people. In fact, I think it was Donald Miller’s Podcast where we first heard of The 4 Disciplines of Execution. So it’s amazing how if you put yourself out there and start following and listening to successful leaders, then you learn more about the people that are helping them be successful. Some of the book we’ve read, The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. The book we read right before this one is [inaudible-00:18:15] Revisited. And it’s actually about small businesses and why they don’t necessarily work. Some people have a hard time if you talk about a church from a business perspective, but there’s a lot of the same challenges. We’ve got between our church staff, our school, our child care, we’re around 50 people. And if you don’t have some structures in place as you would in a business, and you don’t know how to grow, equip, support those people, then you’re actually, I think, being a little bit foolish to not look at some great minds in business, and I see how you can treat your people really well and learn best practices. So, those are just a handful of some of the people that we look to for guidance or when we’re stuck or even just — well, we didn’t even know we were missing that. So we’re grateful for some of those guys I just mentioned, just out in front and helping us learn as we go.
Those are some great resources. So Nathan, to end here, what encouragement would you give to others in church leadership?
Try to get some sleep. Seriously, try to get some sleep. In fact, this is kind of becoming a theme within some of these higher level leadership people. They say, we’re trying to sleep more, because the work is never done, rightfully so. As long as Jesus continues to build His Church, which He said He’ll do, then if we’re not careful, we’ll put disproportionate amount of responsibility on ourselves. But actually God is saying, I’m the one who is building the church. And He’s inviting us to be part of it. So we’ve got to make sure that we are saying no in appropriate amounts, to be with our families and our kids, if you have them. This is probably the hardest thing for me to do is, just say no. Get some rest, take a nap. It’s a holy thing to do. And then the other thing would be just really evaluate who you’re working with, day in and day out. And once you get the right people, and this has taken us some years to do, but we need to get the right people, in the right places, and then you actually enjoy working with those people and they enjoy you, that will make all the difference right there.
That’s great. Nathan, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Yeah. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.