Welcome to Monday Morning Church. Today, our guest is Paul Linge who comes to us from Crossroads Christian Church. Good morning Paul. How are you?
Good morning Neil. Doing fine, thank you.
Great to have you on the show today. Paul, I usually ask my guests, as we start, just to kind of give a little background. You are the executive pastor at Crossroads, right?
Yes, I’m the executive pastor at Crossroads. I’ve been in the role for about a year and a half. Prior to that, I was serving as a department head for what’s called adult discipleship team, and also have served in the roles of evangelism, pastor and men’s ministry pastor at Crossroads. I’ve been on staff here for eight years and for 12 years prior to that, my wife and I served in cross-cultural ministry, serving as missionaries with Crossroads overseas.
Okay. So is your background totally from a ministry background or you have a business background as well?
Actually, it is more of a business background. I did not attend Bible college. I went to DePaul University in Greencastle, Indiana, and worked for a pharmaceutical company actually in my first couple years out of college before going to the mission field. And it was actually for a stint of about two years between mission fields. We served in two countries, in Ukraine, and then in a small country, just north of Afghanistan called Tajikistan. And between those two terms of service, I completed an MBA at Eastern University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. MBA was a focus on international economic development. So that’s a little bit of my education pathway.
Yeah, so how have you, have all those… you’ve been in so many different areas of ministry and of the world and of education, how do you see all that kind of coming together in your current role as executive pastor?
Yeah, so executive pastor roles are probably a little bit different at any given megachurch, but some common things generally is they have oversight of operations, finance. The way that it’s structured at Crossroads, I provide oversight of all of our staff and human resources, all of our facilities, of our finance, and also our technology. So anything that’s related to the operations and we call our team support services, I oversee, as well as staffing, hiring and personnel issues. So, having experienced both from the secular world as well as internationally has really, I think, been God’s way of preparing me. I didn’t know it at the time, but preparing me for this role, just having been through a number of difficult seasons of life, both overseas as well as here in the States. And with seasoning, you just get better, you get better, you learn things, we learn from our mistakes. I certainly made my share of those along the way as well, but I think, could certainly see God’s providential hand in kind of building my resume to be ready for this role. And some of that resume is a success resume, and some of it is a failure resume, but it all worked together to prepare me for the spot.
Sure, Well, tell us a little bit more about Crossroads. You kind of said what you’re overseeing, which I think it would have been easier to say what you’re not overseeing because it sounded like quite a big list. But what’s kind of the personality of the church, what makes it unique? Just tell us a bit more about the church.
Yeah, I love our church so much. It’s a place that my family came to when I was a young adult, still kind of in college. And met my wife in this church, were married at Crossroads, and we are actually celebrating our 50th year anniversary as a church this year. So Crossroads was established in 1967 with 44 people meeting in the basement of a small home on the east side of Evansville. It then moved in 1969 to the corner of Bellemeade and Cullen Avenue, and was called Cullen Avenue Christian Church for many years until we relocated to our current location in Newburgh, Indiana, and took on the name Crossroads Christian Church in the mid to late ’90s. So that’s a little bit of the history of the church. Our church has always been, well, we like to think of ourselves as innovative, cutting-edge. We grew really at an exponential rate in the ’90s and in the early 2000s. And so the personality of our churches, we are a church that is a loving church, it’s a church that’s committed to our community. It’s well known in our community. Believe we have a good reputation in our community as a church that cares and loves the people in Evansville and in the Newburgh area. And so that’s a little bit of just the personality of who we are. We’re in a season of change now, because a lot of the builders from ’90s are now in a different stage of life. And it’s been 20+ years ago. And so we have a lot of new people coming in, younger families. And so that by nature changes the personality of a church. And that’s a very healthy thing. So that’s been a good thing, that’s been the easiest thing. But it’s been a good thing for us.
Yeah, and you guys have had change even at the highest level. Your senior leader has since kind of stepped down in a retirement type situation. I know that’s probably something that really interests a lot of people out there about how that transition was thought through, how it was planned for, how it went, what went well. Can you talk more about that?
Sure, a senior level leader transition is a delicate transition. And so any listeners that are thinking about it or planning for it, I’m sure can relate and understand that it’s a delicate transition to do well. In fact, there’s so many examples of churches and even secular businesses that don’t do it well, there’s a very, very vast repository of storage where it’s not going well. But the ones where it’s gone well, I think have a couple things that we can learn from and ours went very well, went very smoothly. And one of the big things is that the outgoing leader has to be a constant and consistent cheerleader of the new leader and just make that commitment. And so our senior pastor for the previous 10 years was Ken Idleman. Ken’s a well-respected and elder statesmen, and among Christian churches and in the Christian community, and Ken just really modeled well how to be, to pave the paths well, and to be a cheerleader for our incoming lead pastor whose name is Patrick Garcia. And so this transition happened gradually over a couple of years and they led together sharing the pulpits, so that went well. And then when it was time to really pass the baton or really the shepherd stuff, if you will, from Ken to Patrick, Ken has just continued to be a cheerleader and I’m sure even in the face of decisions that we’ve made that maybe he hasn’t even agreed with, he’s still just been a stable support both for Patrick and for myself, especially over the last seven or eight months. So it’s just been just a wonderful example of how to do it well.
That’s fantastic. It’s really good to hear. Maybe also come on the flip side, maybe even outside of this transition, but what are some of the challenges you find in this season of change? What are the most challenging things that you interact with, either from leading staff or from these leadership changes, what kind of comes top of mind when I mention challenges?
Yeah, it’s a good question. I think we have had a lot of staffing changes over the last year. So we’ve had some folks who have been around for a while depart and we’ve had some quite an influx of new folks. And so one of the challenges that we’ve had is how to still honor and preserve some of the cultural elements from the past while embracing the vision that we believe God has given us for the future. At times, some of the builders from the ’90s era have started to feel like outsiders. And so you want to shepherd people well so they still feel a part of their church, that it still feels like their church, while also saying there’s some things that we have to do differently. We have to do some things differently if we’re going to reach our city for Christ, if we’re going to reach the nations for Christ. So, trying to bridge what was with what will be has been probably one of our greatest challenges that we faced. Some other things that’s been very insightful for us for the past three years, we’ve participated as a staff in what’s called the Best Christian Workplace Survey and that Best Christian Workplace Institute does this survey for almost any church or Christian organization. The first year we were not certified as a best Christian workplace. We were not toxic, but there was definitely some things to work on. So we improved upon those. And for the last two years, we have been certified. But what that survey has done is shown us some of our blind spots and where we need to be better listeners as leaders and really build more into staff development. So we’ve taken a number of measures to improve our staff culture, which has been, I think, really positioned us well to try to lead our larger congregation as a whole.
That’s sounds like a great resource to pass on other people to, if they’re not using that, just to be able to be aware of those blind spots, like you said.
Yeah. Let’s transition a little bit to technology.
You have a very large church, a large staff. How do you use technology from the executive pastor side when you’re talking about human resources, when you’re talking about communication? What are some of the tools you rely on?
Great question. We use CCB, which stands for Church Community Builder. It’s a software company out of Colorado. So we use that as our database and we use that for communication tools for year end financial reports. And it’s been a great tool. It’s been a steep learning curve for us, but it’s been a good information management tool for us. We also use things like Pushpay, it is integrated into our app for ease of giving, and we’re really trying to just continue to move our congregation towards some form of electronic giving, whether that’s online giving, e-giving or giving by an app, both for the ease of the user, but also for the regularity of the gift as well. So that’s been a great tool. Pushpay would be one, CCB as I mentioned, is one. Internally, we use a software suite called Paycor, both for financial management, for time and attendance, for doing performance reviews, which we were chasing a lot of paper trying to get performance reviews done. This has been the first year, this past year that we’ve done it electronically. So that’s been very convenient to do that. So Paycor has been a great technology tool. Of course, social media, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media forms has been a great way to just get our messaging out. So we’ve tried to harness that as well. We also do a live stream of our service. We don’t officially have an online campus established yet, but we’re working on establishing an online campus. Those are the initial ones that come to mind when we talk about technology. I’ll mention one other one too. In our day and age, Neil, there’s just concern about safety, safety and security. There’s just a lot of disconcerting things that happen. Megachurches are probably one of the largest soft targets in America, because by the nature of who we are, we want people to come, we want people to be welcomed. And so that makes us somewhat of a soft target. In addition to hiring armed deputies as a security presence on weekends and at large events, we also have used what’s called the Rave Panic Button, other schools, public schools, governments, other groups use this. And it’s just a great communication tool to be able to use if you do have the threatening situation or even a medical emergency. So Rave Panic Button would be another one that I would encourage any megachurch to look into.
Yeah, it’s really interesting. It’s great to know that you’ve been able, like you said, there’s that constant transition that goes on as staff matures, as they get older, not only in the methods, but also in some of this methodology in terms of technology teaching people how to use these systems to be better at communicating. It’s really nice to hear some of the things you’re doing, it’s good.
Yeah, yeah, it’s been really a great journey for us as well. Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming because there’s so many technology tools out there that can be harnessed, but each one of them comes with a learning curve associated with it. It’s always a short term pain for a longer term gain, but it’s always worth it.
Yeah, and then how do you make that decision between, so there’s a lot of nice to have technologies out there versus ones that are essential. What’s usually the thing that tips you over to say, okay, yeah, we really need to invest in a new area?
Yeah, I think a couple things. One is, what do we hear that is a repeated articulation of a need from our staff or from the congregation? And we hear it enough. It’s like, okay, we need to make this easier. We need to get this smoother. We need to make this more efficient. So just listening to our people is one way. And the second one is we do try to stay well networked with other churches, both just through our friendship. I’m part of an executive pastor network, both nationally and locally, as well as we network with other churches through the Willow Creek Association, the global leadership summit, as well as just other points of contact with other churches. There’s a Church Culture Conference that Willow host and just as you’re just spending time with other church leaders listening to what their problems are and how they’re problem solving, you think, okay, we need to look into that too. So a lot of it just comes from word of mouth, networking with other leaders.
Yeah. Great. Paul, when you look at your overall role, what do you like best about it? What’s your favorite part about your job?
Probably my favorite part of the job is probably what’s the most challenging part as well, which is shepherding the staff. Dollars are dollars, and brick and mortar is brick and mortar, and none of that is quite as challenging or rewarding to lead as leading staff, as leading people and shepherding people. I really love seeing our staff blossom and grow. I love to take good care of them as far as our benefits and our benefits package is, and as a church and a non-profit, you’re always limited more than for profit organizations in terms of what you can do in the areas of compensation. We try to compensate well, but there’s some creative ways that we can add value to our employees lives that are not monetary. And so there’s the currency of appreciation, there’s the currency of just other ways that we try to really just show our employees how much we do love them and want to shepherd them well, want to see them develop, want to see them grow, want to see them get better. And that’s probably the favorite part of my job.
Nice, good. Well, as we close here, Paul, let’s have maybe a word from you about just some encouragement you would give to other executive pastors out there.
Yeah. Don’t quit. Don’t quit would be my first encouragement because there’s days that it just feels heavy. We’re in a place right now as a church where, even though there’s a lot of transition and change, there’s some great things. We don’t have the financial strain of carrying debt, we’re a debt-free church. So that’s a blessing. But my heart goes out to executive pastors that are daily, or I should say nightly, losing sleep over financial concerns. Yeah, just continue to press on. Maybe the best word of encouragement I can give is what Paul gives us in Galatians 6:9, when he says, let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. So my encouragement to other executive pastors would be don’t give up. So, my encouragement to other executive pastors would be don’t give up. And because it does get fatiguing doing good, it’s fatiguing to continually solve staffing problems and personnel problems, and financial concerns and deteriorating facilities. This is fatiguing work. So let us not become weary, and if there’s anybody out there that’s trying to do it on their own, my best encouragement would be get connected with some other executive pastors and share ideas, share your heart, share resources with them.
Great. What was the name of that national one that you’re part of?
Well, there’s a, there’s actually an executive pastor annual conference. It’s actually coming up here in a couple of weeks. It’s being hosted at the Crossing in Nevada this year, but there’s a Google group of executive pastors, and I’m even, I can certainly send you a link to it. So there’s that network, and then I created my own here, even in the Evansville area of some pastors, there’s about five or six of us that get together. And we just started this recently. If they’re involved in the administrative or the operation side of leading their church, we get together and share ideas as well, including what metrics do you measure? What metrics do you…if you want to get better, how are you measuring? Everybody knows about attendance and offering, but what else should we be measuring to see how we’re doing as a church? So that’d be something else I would encourage executive pastors to do.
Yeah. Great. Well, this has been fantastic, Paul. Really appreciate your time. And I’m sure everyone else does too listening in. So thank you very much.
You are more than welcome, I appreciate the opportunity just to share and yeah, just wish all the XP’s out there the best and hope to cross paths with them.