Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Today our guest is Paul Priddy, who is the Executive Pastor at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee. Hi, Paul. Good morning. How are you?
Good morning, Neil. I’m doing well. How about you?
I’m doing great. I’m excited to speak with you. You’ve got a very interesting church to hear about, but let’s start with you. Tell us about your journey, how you got to be the executive pastor at Englewood Baptist.
All right. Well, I am Englewood’s first Executive Pastor. Our church is about 60 years old, and I was a banker for 28 years, a member of the church for 35 years now. So I’ve watched the church grow from about 300 people to well over 6,000 members and 3,500 in attendance. So it’s been an interesting journey, but I got here because we were transitioning about 11 years ago from a pastor that had been on our staff, he’d been here for 24 years and was not stepping down into retirement, but just stepping down to work with pastoral care for our church. And we had created a transition team, and I was part of that transition team to bring on a young man that was on our staff, that was our Sunday evening pastor and worked with our college ministry and was coming on, and we were bringing him as our senior pastor. I think he was 29 years old, his name was Ben Mandrell. Ben is now planting a church in Arvada Colorado, doing extremely well. But Ben was a young man and wanting to preach, and that’s what was his strong suit, his call. He called me one day to have lunch with me as part of the transition team and asked me if I would consider coming on in this role because he did not want the administration of the church, he didn’t understand it, knew that that was not one of his giftings, if you will, and it kind of went from there. And so I prayed through the summer. My experience at that time was working with troubled bank institutions, so I was completing one actually in late august of that year, 2006. My wife and I pretty brewed that, we talked about that, and I made the transition and came on to the staff in September of 2006, at the completion of that role as a banker.
So at that time that was the first time that the church has had an executive pastor, right?
It was, it was. We had a very strong pastor and our church at that point was about 1800 in attendance. So it needed the role and I had served in several capacities with our personnel committee, with our finance committee, and my background helped in those areas. So our committees, we are a very strong committee structure. Our committees did a lot of the administration of the church, but if you got to a point where it was large enough, certainly then it needed someone in the role and with Ben coming on and not having that experience, it just flowed to that approach. I was surprised when he asked me, but glad I did.
So tell us about that transition with you working with a much younger senior pastor, how that worked out, and then also lead us into kind of where you’re at now in terms of the new senior pastor that’s coming in. What’s your relationship like, is it different or how does it compare with the first one?
Sure. No, it was a very interesting, good transition. Ben and I really did not know each other that well, meaning this – he was our Sunday night pastor, he was young. He worked with our college ministry, and I had been in the banking business for 28 years. You can see the difference in the ages there. So we did not cross pass very often on anything more than just a meeting here or there. So we got to know each other over the summer of 2006 when he asked me to consider the role and very quickly just learned that Ben was looking for someone to take these kinds of aspects because he did not want to do that, did not feel that was his call. And so the relationship was very good because I was allowed to literally come in and shape those things that needed to be done and worked with. And so we had a very good staff that was ready literally for structure, for organization. And so it was a very good relationship and worked really well. Our former pastor that was here, that was stepping down stayed on our staff, continued to stay on our staff, but he’s 82 years old, and works in Pastoral care for us and he’s extremely vibrant and carries that out well.
And so that’s unique for a Baptist church. Generally, when the pastor steps down, they retire and move away and a new pastor comes, but Englewood is a little different in its culture. And so that’s worked very very well, to have the pastor for 24 years in that role, a new pastor coming in and then someone taking the administrative side. So it worked out very well, as Ben transitioned on, but he was here for seven years and felt the call to plant a church in Arvada, Colorado, and we are a supporting church for that church. Englewood’s very a missions-driven church, and we have five church plants that we support, and that’s one of them. And so as that transitioned out into that role, we began to search for a new pastor. And Jordan Easley, who is our current senior pastor is again another young man, he’s 37. He came into this role in 2014, so he is here in his third year. And that transition is going well as well, but he is much more hands on in many things. We have a great working relationship, and I think I’m able to help him navigate the culture of Englewood being in a smaller city, smaller town than he is used to. He comes from Nashville, by way of Prestonwood in Dallas, and known through churches at Second Baptist Houston. So he comes from much larger churches and much larger environments. So I think our relationship is a good one in the sense that we benefit each other by the walk through this culture.
A lot of times when I talk to XPs that are out there, there’s this difference between that relationship between the XP and the senior pastor has to follow along a little bit with personalities too, and how you match with those things. Did you find that as you were looking for a new senior pastor, when you were looking for Jordan and that he came up, were there certain personality qualifications or cultural fits that were going to fit in because of your role as the XP?
I think it is right. We did form a search committee, which was different than we did with Ben in transition. So we formed a search committee and our search committee met with our staff and with me, and sat down and we talked through again the internal culture of the church, and we began to look for someone that had that same mindset. We are a multi-site church, and so we wanted someone that had a multi-site experience and vision. And Jordan certainly had that in his experience, and especially in Nashville, but most recently that was one of the roles that he had in the church at Long Hollow, that he was a part of, was over site for their multi-site ministry. And so we were looking for character fit, and that was a good fit because we’d grown two sites since his coming in 2014. So yes, I think very much so. We wanted to match as well as we could. We’re a very missional church, we’re very interested in reaching our community, reaching beyond our community, and Jordan had those kinds of experiences. So that was a good fit for us.
Great. So you talked about how Englewood is a multi-site place, you were looking at lots of different things. Obviously, music and arts are very important to your church.
Yes, they are.
Tell us about how all those things come about in administrative challenges that you face on a weekly basis. What are some of the things in the XP role when you have a church that’s so missions-minded, that’s so worship and arts-minded, too. What kind of things come across your desk a lot?
A lot of things and you’re right. It is very multi-faceted in that sense, because we’re a young church in terms of our staff. Again, when you have young pastors, you attract young staff and you attract young members. So our growth has been in children and young families with children. And so that brings only different dynamic. We have had to add space to our preschool building. At one point I remember a few years ago we looked up and we had 50 women that were expecting children within the next nine months, and we had to identify rooms literally to our preschool department, our building, to accommodate just that growth in young families and then to accommodate that going forward. So structurally, just physical structure has been, not a challenge, but certainly is taking a lot of our time to modify our space, our buildings, to accommodate the change in demographic of our congregation, in terms of age and young children.
And at the same time, we planted a site north of our city. We did some demographic study about where people were coming from to Englewood, to our campus, and we found that we had a large contingent coming literally 20 miles away in our campus, in a small community called Madonna to the city. So we planted a church there in a middle school in January of 2016, and we are now in the middle of constructing a building. And I’ll go there later this afternoon to check on that site. Buildings have been a significant issue of administration for us just in growing the space to meet the growth of our church. We bought a hotel and that’s our office building, and we renovated it, which was next door to the main campus, because we’d outgrown our space there as well. So that’s been a challenge for us as terms of keeping pace with the growth that we see. But at the same time, again, leading a young staff, many of these folks have never worked outside the ministry world, and so oftentimes those things were challenging for staff when you look at strategic planning and when you look at just evaluating, I don’t want to say performance, but certainly consistency among the staff. And so those are things that require a training process, a mentoring process, if you will, over time. So that’s where I spent some time doing that as well.
Is there anything that as someone who’s been in the banking world, in a corporate world for a long time, and especially like you said, if you’re interacting with a lot of these young ministers, young pastors who have been only in the church world for a lot of that time, is there anything that you find yourself consistently giving advice on or the same kind of thoughts come out of your mouth when you’re trying to mentor and help along these younger guys?
Yeah, there is. A lot of that couple of things, again they come from my background. One – again, as a banker, you work with many different people, with many different capacities and situations. And I had written too, not books if you will, but working documents that deal with financial management from a biblical perspective for young families, singles, because that’s a whole that we see in our college ministry, our young professional’s ministry, and just in young married and young families, they don’t get a lot of that education. And so I wrote these as a banker, but taught them in churches and in biblical settings. And so we’re able to integrate that into some of what we do, especially with our young staff, because they’re struggling with those things and they ask those questions. And then from just a standpoint of coaching with experience and with people, I have a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution that I’ve never thought I would use here, but it’s being used extremely often, just not because of conflict, but just because people from the community come to our staff with burden, with issues. And so I sit and talk with a lot of our young staff through that process of benevolence issues. Someone loses a job, they’re about to lose the house, they come to see some of our ministers and they’re young and they say, “We’ve never had this experience. What do we do with it?” And so we walk through that together. That’s given me, I think, a unique connection to a lot of the young staff members, because I can literally speak into that life with some experience, not just with academics.
Absolutely. Well, let’s shift a little bit. Talk a little bit about technology. What are some of the things that you rely on as you think about all these different campuses you have going on, as a growing staff comes in and growing church? What are some of the things you rely on, technologically speaking, to keep that going?
I have a great staff. That’s the big thing. This is not something you could do alone. And I have great talented people that work with me. I have a full-time administrator that handles most of the nuts and bolts from the accounting side of things and the logistics side of things. I have a great young IT guy that keeps us very current with IT, because we are, again, being a young staff and being multi-sited, we have to rely on technology, and we do that. We require all our pastors, our lead ministers, folks that are involved in direct relationship to people. We provide a cell phone for them, a smartphone, that they can receive email text communication all through the day, so that if they’re not in the office…so we encourage our people to be out of the office, not sitting in an office, but being out among their particular congregation or segment of the congregation…But if we need them, we need to be able to get in touch with them. So we do require that they have that and it’s available. Everybody is tied to some form of technology. We use teaching screens in each of our small group rooms, from children through our senior adult ministry we connect by video from our pastor. Travis Cottrell is our worship leader and many women will know Travis Cottrell because of Beth Moore. He is also Beth Moore’s worship leader as she travels the country. And so that is a unique way for our congregation to hear from him as he experiences the world, literally through his experience there with her. And so any of those facets we can bring into play, we do that oftentimes through technology. And that’s been a great help force.
Yeah, absolutely. Paul, you’re pretty networth guy, you have a lot of connections in this world. Tell us about how you stay current as an XP with other XPs that are around you.
The best thing I found literally is I’m a member of what’s called an XP Metro group, and that’s really about 40 guys that are similar sized churches across the country, and we meet somewhere every year. We lock up in a hotel for three days, and we do just a round table of issues that are coming up in our particular ministries and how we handle those and what we do with them. And then we connect through an email network at any point in time through the year. When something comes up, you just fire off that email with these 40 guys and somebody has a response. If you’ve got an issue about facilities or about what you’re doing in relation to legal aspects of things, all you do is put that out and you’ll get five to ten responses in 24 hours from guys who are saying, “Hey, I’ve experienced the same thing.” And I like that much more so than I do go into just an organized convention or conference where this is the focus. Sometimes I do that, but the best thing I found has been that Metro because it’s free form and you can ask anything in there. And if somebody has had that experience and can pass on their experience with that and I think that’s extremely helpful.
Any trending topics that are coming up on that form that you think are useful to share with other people?
Yeah, I think a lot right now is coming up about how do you deal with certainly Supreme Court issues that have come out lately related to same sex marriage and those things, and how does that relate to your church. Englewood is a very welcoming church. We want people to come, we don’t want to exclude anyone from coming and worshipping here and hearing this, but still you have to look at how does that deal with membership in your church. How does that line up biblically with your statement of faith? You know, with the issues of transgenders, how does that affect the church? We have not had that yet, but I do know several guys in our Metro Group that are dealing with that right now where they’ve had a teacher, someone that’s teaching in their children’s ministry that has transgendered from one sex to the other. The questions will come, “What do you do with that in terms of membership of teaching, of how that works”, and I don’t have to answer that, but this group has that discussion and that’s helpful. But yeah, I think those are things that are coming across our abode, that hasn’t been there before, and I think that’s coming very rapidly as the world changes. We have to look at, not necessarily how do we change with the world, but how do we still present the gospel in the way that our culture calls for it, but within a culture that’s changing. And so I think that’s something that we’re all going to be wrestling with.
Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, it’s not something you can handle on your own, I mean you can try, but to be able to connect to other people about it is very important for that.
Well, Paul, I want you to close that here with little bit of encouragement to give to other XPs listening in. What would you like to say?
I would encourage them to connect to other XPs in their geographic area. That’s one of the things that’s been helpful to me. Our churches in the city of Jackson, we’re about 120.000 people in our group, our reach group area, and there are several churches here, and we are not competitors, and that’s a very important piece. We do not compete for each other’s members, and so that opens doors for us to talk literally across the street with each other as opposed to having to get on a plane and go somewhere and hear this. So I will encourage the executive pastors to align with similar roles of other churches, even other denominations within their community, just to hear perspective, because as I said, I don’t have all the answers to anything, but somebody will call me and I’ll say, “Here’s what I’m doing”, or I’ll call somebody and they’ll say, “Well, here’s how I’m handling the issue”. And that’s helpful because it gives you, in my opinion it gives you a grassroots culture right there of what’s happening around me, not just around the world, but around me close here. And it’s also good because there are only a few of this. In the Southern Baptist Convention, I’ve been told, I don’t know this for fact, but I’ve been told that there were fewer than a thousand churches that have more than a thousand attendees. And so we’re a small group when you look at it in a global aspect. So any relationship I think you can develop with someone doing a similar kind of role is going be very valuable. So that would be my encouragement and my advice to anyone in this role.
Absolutely. Great advice. Thank you, Paul. The website is ebcjackson.org for the church. I’ll make sure the other links get in there, especially about the XP Metro conference coming up. Thanks a lot, Paul, for your time.
Thank you very much. And Jordan, I appreciate what you’re doing. I listen to this every Monday morning and they are very helpful, very valuable because a lot of time it’s confirming where I’ll say, “Hey, I’m doing the very same thing”, or I’ll hear something that says, you know, I need to try that. So thanks for what you do and keep doing it.
Absolutely. It’s all for what’s going on in the kingdom. Thanks a lot, man.
Take care. Bye-bye.