Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Today our guest is Phil Young, who’s the executive pastor at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida. Hi, Phil, how are you today?
Great Neil, how are you doing?
I’m doing great. I’m very excited to hear your story and to hear what’s going on there at Westside, so why don’t you start off by just giving us a bit about your background, where you’re from, and how you got to be the xp at Westside.
Okay. Well, I was born in upstate New York, if you wanna go all the way back that far and our family, moved to Florida when I was a kid and grew up in central Florida, I was involved in church that was very active in youth group mission trips, and that was really my first introduction to ministry. As a teenager, I sensed the call to ministry in college, and the model that had been laid out for me as a teenager, had been my minister music and youth. So I really felt compelled to follow in his footsteps as my mentor. So that was the direction I first went down that went to college major wise, and then on to seminary eventually getting a church music degree. Once I got into full time ministry, of course, most things were combination positions. So I did a combination of full time minister, music, youth and education. I did a combination with music and business administration. Combination with associate pastor music and youth, another one with music youth administration, and then really the first executive pastor type role I was in was in a large church after I’d been in ministry about twenty-five years. I came on board as the pastoral administrator and minister of missions, and that was basically half of the xp job, the facilities and finances were managed by a business manager and I was over the ministry area, staff supervision and ministry implementation, and really, really enjoyed that role. And then eventually wound up here at west side where I’ve just been over seven years as the executive pastor.
And so that other XP role was the first time you weren’t doing all sorts of hands on thing with music and youth and everything like that. So what was that transition like to go from being the workhorse to more of the administrator and trying to organize bigger systems?
It was really interesting. I always loved the variety of ministry, and some people feel very passionate about a specific calling in the music area, and mine was always more of a general ministry calling and have always had a heart for the second chair and supporting my senior pastor and trying to help implement his vision along the way, regardless of what my role has been. So it really felt very natural for me and a real logical progression. I have stayed active in music ministry. I sing in the choir now here where I’m at and have always enjoyed doing that, and of course, get to fill in sometimes when ministers of music or out. In fact, right now we’re in search for one. We have a wonderful interim, but we’re in the search process for a new full time minister in music. But that transition was not a difficult one for me. And I always liked the administrative and management end of ministry details and projects.
That’s great. I’m glad you’re in a position that you love being in. Tell us a little bit about Westside. How is it set up? And you guys not too long ago did a senior minister of retiring, bringing in someone new, so don’t you speak a little bit to that.
Sure, as I’ve said, I think we’ve been here seven and half years, about three years ago or four years ago, our senior pastor of thirty-four years announced his intention to retire, and we began the search for a senior pastor because he didn’t leave during that time. He really led the search and the committee and was very hands on in appropriate ways and then hands off in terms of the actual selection process. So it was a really interesting adventure. We had a committee obviously that represented the whole church, and then we called a new senior pastor, and they worked together for almost four months as co pastors during that transition phase, so that things would be handed off one at a time. It takes a very special new senior pastor coming in to be okay with being the senior pastor and still pretty much having a boss for a few months, but he handled it with the great grace and it went as smoothly as I possibly could, and we’re excited and rolling and engaging new vision now and heading in some new directions. So it’s been a very smooth transition for us.
Well, that’s great. I’m glad that’s gone smoothly for you. Tell us a little bit about what your undergoing right now. What are some of the administrative things you have? We talked earlier about some new financial concepts you’re trying to implement; why don’t you tell us about that?
Yeah, we explored the one fund concept a couple years back and our church because of relocation and building buildings, and etcetera, we had been through thirty-one straight years of capital campaigns, and there was obviously a lot of campaign fatigue with that. So one of the things our new pastor wanted to do when he came in was to help us do some structural things that would move us away from a constant capital campaign needed for those extra projects and addressing building needs and debt retirement, etcetera. So we did an official year of, kind a year of jubilee, where we didn’t have a campaign which we’re currently under rolling all of our expenses related to the mortgage indebtedness into our budget. So that in itself has presented some financial challenge and some extra cash flow management effort. But during this year, we’ve undergone looking at, I guess, what is a traditional model of allowing people to and in fact, encouraging people to designate towards special projects as they come up, whether we’re buying a bus or funding the youth ministry or investing in something for the choir, and allowing a lot of special project type giving, which everyone knows eventually erodes your basic ties and offerings to the support of the general budget. And it also, we found encourages people to compartmentalize their own personal vision and passion for ministry. And this one fun concept as our pastors’ rolling it out, using it as a discipleship model to teach our whole church family, that we are one church with one mission, one vision for the kingdom, and we’re going to have one budget to fund all of it, and everybody’s passion is all a part of one unified vision, and that’s what we want people to give toward. So it’s been really interesting, it’s created a need for a whole new chart of accounts, the whole new way that we communicate giving, how do we do our Andy Armstrong Easter offering and our Christmas offering for international missions and all of those things will all now be part of a one fund and will talk about our one fund accomplishing those goals. But we won’t be saying, “We’re now having a designated offering time that solely goes to that,” trying to get our people to embrace the entire vision of the entire church and their total giving.
So why don’t you speak to somebody who’s an XP who’s thinking about this transition, give one insight that people may not expect as they go through this, both from the inside kind of office culture as you had to this transition, and also the general church culture, how people have responded to it.
Yeah, the inside transition, it’s really difficult for the staff to embrace the idea that no one can designate funds to their ministry anymore. So that’s been keeping the staff happy about the outcome and assuring them that we’re making their ministry a priority for the entire church family, rather than the other way around, and removing the ability to prioritize their ministry. That part has been a little bit of a challenge for the staff and probably even more so than I expected, as we’re rolling it out to the church family, we’re finding that it has tremendous acceptance and we thought people might be reluctant to step up their giving to include, not just calculating, here’s my annual time, here’s what I give to missions, here’s what I give to the quilters, here’s what I give benevolence, here’s what I give to all these other things that I’ve given to throughout the year. Now I’m going to roll them all into my one weekly or monthly gift, and include by my total giving as one project or one vision. And the people seem really excited about that. We’re embracing it. I’ll know better in January, how it’s going, but at least right now we’re in the communication phase people seem very excited about it.
Well, great, it’s always exciting to hear about churches who are trying something new and especially on the podcast to be able to give that information other people to pass those things along. Phil, why don’t you tell us a little bit about some of the technology things you’re using both on the financial side and an otherwise that are essential to getting this going.
Well, technology wise, we have just recently traded out our database management and moved to touch point which we’re enjoying we’re at the beginning stages of that administratively, I use outlook as my primary organizational tool just because automatically it syncs all of your devices integrates your email calendar to do’s notepads, contact folders, everything all at one place. I can keep it all in one big screen and in front of me, just administrating the project side of it. Financially, we’re doing a lot internally on spreadsheets to redo our calculations, meeting with our accounting firm that does our audits and whatnot to get a consult from them on how we redo our chart of accounts. We do our own casual management system that we’ve developed internally on excel to just monitor everything, track each week’s expenses against previous years at the same time of year, those kind of things, and we do our primary financials on ACS, so it hasn’t been as much of a change technology for us wise as it has the… just the way we have everything set up. We’re not using new tools necessarily. We’re just revamping the reporting and the communication and the management from an operational point of view.
As someone who’s spent a lot of time in ministry and is now in more an executive/administrative type role. You mentioned that you sing in the choir. What are some other ways that you stay in touch with the day to day ministry activities that are going on the church? So you don’t feel like it’s just one constant administrative thing you’re doing.
Well, even though I only supervise a portion of our staff directly, I have contact with all of our staff, personal contact, on a regular basis. I try to know them know that’s happening in their lives, understand their passion, their sense of calling those kinds of things. From a staff perspective, I try to stay personally involved with our whole team, and then I also stay involved with our missions. I try to lead most of our staff tries to lead a mission trip, either one or two a year, very missions focused church have a lot of international and US partnerships that we participate in. So those are probably the two ways, missions and of course music, staying involved with that when I can and really enjoying the one on one relationships, until recently, I was teaching one of our life group, small group classes of single young men, very much enjoying that. Also, we also encourage all of our staff to be mentoring new leaders. So I have a mentee right now that I meet with for breakfast once a week and we go through book studies and things. So, try to stay engaged in a lot of different facets of ministry, as well as my actual job title.
Yeah, you mentioned book studies. What’s a good book you might recommend the some other XP’s was in there?
Well, most recent study we just finished with actually the commentary of Jeremiah, I know it’s not what the response you’re thinking, but it was specifically designed because of challenges. This one young man that I was mentoring, he was a fairly young convert coming out of drug addiction. He was a drug dealer, he was involved in a lot of worldly things and he is just on fire, called to ministry, passionately pursuing the lord, and it was Warren Weirs, finally came to me the author, so that was probably pretty unique, but there’s a lot of great books out there. “God dreams by man seen” is a really good one. Our whole staff recently went through “Gaining by Losing” J.D. Greer. I’d highly recommend that book just in terms of being willing to send out your very best and trust God to replace ’em, and not be focused on just bringing the best talent inside your ministry, but really being more kingdom focused. Those are two really, really good ones that we’ve done recently.
Great. So when you think about how to continue to learn more as an xp in your position, what are some places you go to learn?
Well, obviously, first choice is always God’s word because I’ve figured out that pretty much every time somebody was making decision that God led them to versus trusting their own wisdom, they went the wrong direction. I try to start there and keep bible focused on every decision. But beyond that, probably the most helpful thing has been peer network. I’m involved in executive pastor metro conference. I know there’s several other good peer networks out there, and not just our once a year meeting when we go through everybody’s hot topics, but we also just have an ongoing email conversation with thirty or forty guys in an email string, and any time somebody is facing any issue, they just kind of fire it out to the group and anybody else that has just learned in that area or is going through the same thing, weighs in and that has been an incredible resource and really valuable to me because there’s constantly new challenges, there’s new government regulations and insurance things, and just seems like every month there’s something new that we need to learn rolling out to stay on top of being a good manager.
What’s one example of a trending topic on that forum?
How to set up a Christian counseling center, and whether the counselor should be employees of the church, should the center belong to the church, should it be free standing and the counselors independently employed? How do you ensure that, how do you incorporate it? The pros and cons of all the different structure things in terms of managing liability as well as providing appropriate supervision, ensuring that it’s biblical in its content, and it doesn’t get outside the teaching of the church. So those kinds of things, that’s just one issue that was discussed recently in our forum.
Nice. Well Phil, why don’t you close us out here with little bit of encouragement, that you would share the other xps listening in.
Sure, very first thing would be, don’t let the demands of work come before you walk with the lord and your family because the job is always much bigger than you are, and it will always be reality. So just do the best and trust God with the rest. Then second, I would say, join a peer network if you’re not already in one, there’s several good ones out there. Also, there’s some good coaching cohorts to be involved in. I was in one led by Eric Geiger at one time, I know that Vanderbloemen and others offer them, and those are just excellent opportunities to ask questions to them to learn. There’s not just one place to go, but to stay on top of it. So that would be my encouragement, is to be involved in a peer network beyond what you already know.
Yeah, fantastic advice, I hear from a lot of people saying that that’s really the best thing you can do, just to get together the people who are going through the same thing and be able to connect on that. Well, Phil, thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate hearing your story, and sharing with everyone else. I encourage people to check out Westside’s website just to see what’s going on there, but thanks a lot for your time and thanks for sharing your story with us.
Thanks so much Neil, good to be with you today.