Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Paul Baldwin is joining us today from Miami Vineyard in Miami, Florida. Great to have you on the show today, Paul.
Hey, thank you, Courtney. Glad to be here.
Paul, you are the Executive Pastor there at Miami Vineyard. Tell us a little bit about your path to being on staff there.
Yeah. We’re here at the Vineyard Church. We’re part of the Vineyard Association, about 3000 Vineyard churches around the world, about 700 in the US. We are down here in Miami, Florida. How did I get to do what I do, is that what you’re asking?
Interesting question that I never know how to answer because I grew up in construction. I was a drywall contractor’s son and a painting contractor’s son-in-law. So for the first 25 years of my life, I was in construction while doing youth ministry, as a volunteer. And then went to the University of California, ended up getting education, got on staff at the university, worked in their Director of Operations, all the while, working in ministry in paid and volunteer positions. And then got a call to move out to Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana as a youth pastor. So I spent 12 years as a youth pastor. All the while, still involved with construction on the side, since that’s what I know how to do, and ended up moving into more of a missions pastor, life mission, church planting. And then we planted a couple of churches, and then ended up coming down here. So it’s kind of an eclectic background between construction, education and ministry. But it seems to serve me well in the Executive Pastor role since I deal with all three of those particular subjects. So it is kind of funny how God threads things together. So that’s my background. I’m 46 years old and that’s my history in about a minute. Interesting or not, that’s what it is.
Now, did you move down to Miami then? Is this your first Executive Pastor position?
Yeah. I spent most of my years — with respect to the ministry, most of my years in student ministry, and then I took on a life mission role, in addition to student ministry, at a larger church up in Indiana. And we oversaw a church plant, helped that team get sent out, and then fell in love with that process. And then my wife and I, and about 40 people planted on the east side of the city. So that’s really where I was exposed to more of the Executive Pastor role. I had my own businesses and I’d been in the business so that’s something that I was very familiar with. And so I had a mutual friend of the senior pastor down at this church who called me and said, hey, I know that you guys planted a church a few years ago. I don’t want to mess with what God’s doing, but there’s a role as Executive Pastor of the Miami Vineyard Community Church. Is that something you’d be interested in? And I had actually told him no. And he called back two more times. And I told him, no, two more times. And then on the fourth call, he said, listen, I really don’t want to mess with what God was doing, but I just cannot shake your name attached to this position because of your background, because of all that you’ve been involved with, would you at least just have a phone conversation with them? So I did. I trusted the guy. I knew he was for me. And after that first phone call with the Senior Pastor down here, I looked at my wife and I said, man, I think we’ve got to consider this. And it was not part of our plan. But longer story short, within 30 days, we had met with our elder team and included them in the decision, and prayed about it, fasted, and all the things you do when you’re discerning, and decided to come down here. At that time, I was pastor in a church with about 120. We’d come out of the church with about 2500. And this church down here is about 4000. So it was quite a culture shock, not just from the Midwest of Miami, but just style of church, size of church were radically diverse as far as our multicultural makeup. And so nobody could have scripted this better than God did. So it’s a trip. And I’m still alive. I’m still breathing today, three years later.
Yeah. You have some energy left in you, so that’s good.
Yeah. Totally. Now, I’m digging it. It’s great.
So what exactly falls under your responsibility there at Vineyard?
I oversee all of the facility, finance and ministry. So really, everything falls under my scope of ministry, and every church is structured in different ways. They always say, as an Executive Pastor, there’s no two Executive Pastor roles that are alike, a lot like a snowflake. So I oversee all facility, all finance, business operations, all the ministry pastors. And so we have about 42 staff people, and I have four key people that I go to, that oversee all of those different areas.
Now, how has that been for you? Because as you said, you’re coming out of a situation where you were a pastor of a church of what you said, 150 or so. And obviously, that’s an extremely relational position when your church is that small. I mean, it’s a church plant. And then coming into a position now where it’s more operations focus and over a staff team. What has that transition looked like for you in terms of leadership style?
Yeah, it’s been good. So when you do those leadership gift, spiritual gift test, I typically rank high on shepherding and leadership, which are two kind of unusual gifts. One usually trumps the other. And so my big fault, if I were going to put myself under a microscope, is that my leadership gift tend to get ahead of my shepherding gift. I love people. I’m an extrovert. I love to minister to people. I love to pastor people. But if my leadership gifting and my shepherding gifting got in a punching fight, my leadership gift will win every time. And so I’ve got to continually kind of weigh those two things because as an Executive Pastor, you spend more of your life in the leadership gifting than you do the shepherding. Although the people that I oversee, especially in the ministry area, are shepherd at heart. And so I’ve got to connect with them at that level. And so that’s probably a daily prayer, a daily wrestling match that I have because I just want to get down to business. The joke is there’s X-P. XP, there’s a lot of executive work that I can just get done and that exercises my leadership gift. And then there’s the P part where I need to pastor. So there’s a dance every day that I don’t always get right. In fact, I just had to apologize to one of my staff people, one of my staff pastor the other day because I told them, I said, I think my leadership gift has definitely gotten ahead of my shepherding gift, and I probably should slow down and hover a little bit, make sure we were okay before we made that decision. And that’s a good leadership move too. I think people respond well to that when you own up to it, but that is definitely a wrestling match that I have in this role because, you’re right, in a church of 120, 150, that’s all you do is pastor people. And I enjoyed that. But in this role, it’s a little bit more leadership, a little bit more, got to move kind of thing.
So tell me about a solution or a best practice that you all have implemented there at Miami Vineyard that you’ve really found success with.
Yeah. I came into this role, and this is such a unique church that we’re a part of. I know everybody says that probably about their church. The unique thing about this particular church is this church, if you know anything about the Vineyard Church, they’re very organic, very spirit driven, very high in worship, love to teach the Bible. All of that is good. All of that is part of what churches do. But in the Vineyard movement, in particular, it’s a very organic movement, and we love that about the Vineyard Church, kind of laid back traditionally. So I came into this role and we have all these staff people that were reporting to one person, a lead pastor. While the church had grown and experienced great success, and people were given their hearts to the Lord left and right, people are getting baptized, all the good stuff that you just love to see in a church, especially if you’re moving into a church, the one thing they didn’t really have are systems. We were really good at making Christians, but we weren’t really good at moving Christians. And how do you move someone from a new believer, into a disciple and follower Jesus, who is going to serve and lead both in the church and outside the church and in the community. So for us, we were wrestled. I’ve been here three years, we wrestled for the first year and a half, ripping off everybody’s assimilation process, and trying to make it fit for our particular culture.
We’re very multi-cultural community. 70% of the folks at our church speak both Spanish and English, but then 80% of that 70% were born outside of the country. And so it’s a very eclectic group of people. And so the two questions you ask about assimilation, number one, do you have an assimilation process? And then number two, does it work? And then if number two, if it doesn’t work, then you’ve got to completely reengineer it. So we spent the last year and a half trying to reengineer what took us a year and a half to get. And I think we’re finally at this place where we’ve got something we’re really proud of. It doesn’t look like people are getting lost in the cracks. One of the things I always said, as a pastor of a church of 120, is that I wanted to be able to look at any person in our congregation and be able to ask somebody, how is their soul? How are they doing really? And if I didn’t know, I wanted to be sure that someone knew. And we had that figured out in the church of 120. It’s a lot harder in a church of 4000. And so we’re getting there. It’s something that I think we’ve found a solution for, that we’ve implemented and we’re having some success. But I think we have a long way to go on that. Then the second thing would be probably our stewardship. We came in and we weren’t really good at generosity. And by that I mean, just helping people understand the heart of God, the heart of God as a generous God, and then just developing really bold and courageous plan to help people develop a culture of generosity in their own home. So it’s more than just giving money in the church. It’s learning how to have a generous heart. So we’ve developed some 11, 12 practices that have really helped us move forward in that area. And again, it looks like anything we’re growing.
I want to go back to this assimilation process. Is there a particular pathway you can share with us that you guys have adapted or are there just a couple of different practices that staff or volunteers are doing with people that have really been working? Give us some of the highlights of the actual process itself.
Yeah. So we have the normal framework of our assimilation would be, we try to follow up. We have a first and second week call follow up, and then we have a fifth week call up. So most churches have first and second week call up. Then have a fifth week call, a third week call up. They’ll invite them to some sort of People with the Pastor. We have a thing called Courtyard Connection where people can come and they can have dinner with leadership. It’s very laid back, and just learn more about the church. Most churches have that kind of process. And then we go into what a lot of people would know as like a 101, 201, 301, 401. We call it the game plan. We have a lot of athletic teams in our church. And it’s really a growth track. So from the first call, to the second call, to the Courtyard Connection, to our growth track, which we call game plan, we’ve got a framework that’s set up and most people have that framework. What we’re realizing down here is that we had to go beyond the emails and the text as follow ups for next steps and on rims. We’re a high context culture down here, a lot of different nationalities. And so what we found is that emails are almost useless for us. We’ve gone almost exclusively to text and personal phone calls, which is a huge deal. It takes a lot of our resources.
Yeah. A lot of human resources.
It does. It’s kind of old school, but we realize in our particular culture, it’s working. And if I was back up at Notre Dame, South Bend, I don’t know that that would’ve been as important because most people were linked to their emails and their text. But down here, with such a high context culture, it’s such a relational culture that if I can get you on the phone and say, hey, well, so great to have you here this last couple of weekends, we’d love to invite you to our Courtyard Connection. Here’s what’s going on. Even if it’s a voicemail, the response level is so much higher. So I think one best practice that I would encourage any of our churches out there, is to find a good framework and then make it fit for your culture. Because another example of this is our game plan. We did like every other church in America and we took it Saddleback’s 101, 201, 301, 401. It was just amazing, amazing. I’m from South Bend, California. I did a lot of my training in Saddleback. It’s an amazing structure, but it wasn’t working for our particular culture. So we had to adjust some things. We had to change some language. We had to just format and timing, offer food, all of the stuff that works in our culture, and we had to make it work for us. And as I said, it didn’t happen overnight. It has taken us three years to get something to actually working.
So I think the first class practice is find something that you think is going to work and you got to tweak it, and be in submission in telepicture culture. Because, again, the two questions are, if you have in assimilation program, that’s great. But is it working? If it’s not working, then you don’t really have assimilation program. You have a framework. We’re learning that with our leadership development. We’ve got a great framework, but we’re realizing, because of our culture, it’s just going to take a lot of human resources, human capital, because we’re so highly relational down here. So we feel like we don’t even hardly use email. We do. We do use email, but we just don’t rely on it. Does that make sense?
Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s definitely leading with more questions about these human resources. Is this staff, usually? Is this volunteers? Because that is a lot of people to make these phone calls and make all these high touch points.
Yes, we’ve invested in some staffing, but we also recognized that about 51% of our budget is towards staffing, which is not terrible. It’s actually normal for a church our size, but we don’t want to go any higher than that. And so what we’ve realized is that this assimilation system has really forced our hand in our leadership developed system, which we realize was also anemic, that we realize most of the staff was doing everything. And this is a problem in every single church, no doubt. And so what we realized is we really have to up our game for our leadership development pipeline. And so we’ve got a thing called Who’s Your Plus One. So anybody in leadership, we’ve asked them. We just have a leadership conference in January, we said, your goal this year is to identify your plus one. Who are you bringing with you on this leadership journey? Because we realize that our leadership is so bottled neck, and because of our culture, the demand for the relational equity being spent to do some of these things is so great, that we have to increase our pipeline.
Every church in the land has to increase their pipeline. We’re just realizing why exactly we need to increase our pipeline. Because I can’t just keep hiring people. We’re going to go broke. And so we really need to raise people up. We have the framework for that, but to be really honest, it’s just not filled in. So it’s still a wrestling match with us. Because again, in church culture in Miami, everybody looks to the pastor for the answer. Everybody looks to the pastor for the next step against very cultural thing. So we’re trying to change that culture and say, no, we have to raise leaders. We have to multiply ourselves. Again, that’s the best practice anywhere you go. We’re really feeling at this last year because of the demands that our assimilation has put on us and that’s interesting. It’s been a lot of fun to figure out.
Yeah. It’s amazing how it all feeds off of each other. You bring more people in, you need to raise more people up. You bring more people in, you need to raise more people up.
Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s a good problem to have. The assimilation is starting to stick. It is helping us identify too. I don’t want to say we’re lowering the bar of our leadership. We’re actually not. We’re raising the bar for our leadership, but we’re asking the question, not so much, okay, are they ready? But, are they ready enough? That’s our new language for leaders is, are they ready enough? If they’re ready enough, let’s get them into leadership, and then we’ll do more on the job trainings, and classroom training. And so that’s been a paradigm shift for us, as well, because we’ve always just waited and said, okay, are they ready? Are they ready? Are they ready? Are they ready? Great. Push, play, and go. But now, we’re getting them in sooner and say, are they ready enough? Let’s keep track of their progress and let’s get their hand dirty while they’re learning. So it’s one of those things of desperation is the mother of all innovation, I guess.
You have a lot of Amens from the crowd, I’m sure.
Good. Awesome. Good. I don’t want to feel like a total freak.
So, Paul, other than drawing from your previous experience in construction industry, in youth ministry, in the missions and church planting, where do you go now? What are some of your favorite resources or places to go to just make sure you’re staying sharp in your role as Executive Pastor?
Yeah. I have just, in the last two months, Craig Groeschel and Carey Nieuwhof, some of these guys have just really been pushing the podcasts, audio books. I live 9 miles from church and it takes me an hour to get to church. And so I can get a lot of reading through books on audio. So I just pick that up. I’m a big fan of anything that Vanderbloemen does. He’s got a podcast. Their group has blogs. They have webinars. I love Executive Pastor Online with Kevin Stone. Anything that they produce is just gold. We’re one of the larger churches in the movement, Vineyard Church Movement. So there’s a group of Vineyard Executive Pastors around the country that we’re a network. So it’s an online platform and I can ask any stupid question I want. And I got a lot of them. It’s been a fantastic process. I try to read a book. I just finished reading The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney and Sean Kobe, and that’s been a phenomenal, phenomenal read. And then I listen to podcast as much as I can. This is kind of a balance between Erwin McManus and John Piper. These guys just kind of fill your soul. And then I listen to Learning Leaders, and some Andy Stanley, and Craig Groeschel, and some of these podcasts, just to get 10 minutes worth of nuggets. I try not to overwhelm my mind with 17 different principles. I like to just try to pull one or two principals out of a podcast and try to figure out how to apply it. So those are a few of the things, few of the folks that I’ve been going after. I think that, especially in this role, you just got to be a learning leader. If you’re not reading something, you’re falling behind. And if you’re not learning, you’re probably not leading.
That’s great. Paul, what encouragement would you give to others in church leadership?
Well, just that. I think, learn as much as you can from whoever you can. I think that, again, I’m 46 years old. I’ve been doing ministry for a long, long time, since I was 19. I run businesses. I feel like I’ve done enough to where I should know enough. But again, you look at possible scripture, you look at so many different characters in scripture, some of the best leaders in scriptures, some of the best leaders of America, some of the greatest leaders in the church, just had a posture to just submit themselves to anywhere, anyone, everything that they could, to learn as much as they could.
Most of my life in ministry was in church planting and student ministry. And so I came into this role in a larger church as an Executive Pastor. And so I was kind of like looked in the mirror and said, you don’t know what the heck you’re doing, and who in the right mind puts you in this position? And that’s not all seemingly. That’s like, how did this happen? So I literally had to kind of go, I have to learn everything I can to have any kind of fruitfulness or success in this ministry. And so three years into it, I feel like I’m just starting to finally get it. But it’s the old rule, the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. And if you can just keep that posture of just be a servant learner. You didn’t hear the term servant leader. Be a servant learner and just learn everything you can from any one you can. And I think that God will create a pathway for you. Be intentional, don’t just throw a bunch of knowledge. You have to be intentional about your pathway. But just learn, learn, learn. And if you don’t know the answer, ask. And I’m an Executive Pastor in a larger church, my guess is, I’ve been an Executive Pastor for not that much time compared to the listeners. And so I’m probably preaching to the choir, no doubt. But that’s been my tactic and it seems to be working, and I’m grateful to God for that. There are probably people in our listening audience that I have ripped off and still in their material. So, if so, I apologize.
So, thank you or thank you.
That’s what I meant. Thank you.
That’s great. So be a learning leader, which is fabulous encouragement to others in church leadership. Thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
It was a lot of fun. Thanks so much.