Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Randy Blincow is joining us today from Northway Christian Community, which has multiple sites in the greater Pittsburgh area. It’s great to have you on today Randy.
It’s great to be here, thank you.
Randy, you’ve been on staff at Northway for the past five years, and you were actually an internal hire, would you give us some background on how you came into your position as executive pastor?
Yeah. Really, that’s a story that was fifty years in the making, literally, I grew up in a local church, not here in Pittsburgh, and I really felt the first call to be a pastor when I was a teenager, but for various reasons, did not end up pursuing that at the time and ended up finding accounting to be a passion of mine, went to college and began a career as an accountant that turned into a twenty-eight year in corporate America working for the same company. But God was continuing to be at work on the pastoral call unbeknownst to me. And that as I was moving around the country with my corporate career, I was getting the opportunity to, of course, involved in local churches in every stop along the way, worked alongside some great leaders and great senior pastors in those roles.
My ministry roots were sort of in the music side of things, so I was a lay worship leader and things like that at various churches as we went, but also became an elder in a couple of places along the way, and so got into, sort of, church leadership as well. When I was at the very beginning part of my corporate career, God had sat me down at one point when I was about twenty-six years old and really prompted me to do some sort of life road map planning and ended up speaking some kind of prophetic things to me at that point in time and pointed out to me that I was going to retire from the company I was working for when I was fifty to do something else. And he wasn’t real clear on what that something else was. But I kind of knew at that point that I was going to stay with the same company I was with and that I would be able to look forward to something else.
When I turned fifty, so along that way then back in 2003, when we moved to Pittsburgh and became a part of Northway as members at that point and was in various leadership roles, there was a small group leader, became an elder here. My wife and I were part of a small team that ended up co-founding an orphan care ministry that’s now ten years old here at the church. And I served on the finance council and ultimately on the elder’s council. And that’s at the time then when I was on elder’s council, when we went to a senior leadership transition here from the founding pastor of thirty plus years over to a new lead pastor and he and I worked closely together during that transition. And then along the whole, I turn fifty in the middle of that process, and a couple of months later, he set me down and asked me if I would be interested in being his executive pastor because that’s the role he had vacated to become the new lead pastor. So was quite a journey to get to this position.
Yeah, I’d say so. Was your pastor aware of this prophetic word you had gotten earlier in your life?
Vaguely, I had mentioned to him that God had something different for me. I didn’t know if it was going to be what it was going to be, I had thought maybe it would be something in the nonprofit world having to do with orphan care or something like that, since that’s where my passion had been leading. So he knew of that, but not specifically the call to being a pastor when I was a teenager or anything like that.
That’s amazing how the timing worked out, exactly as you had been told when you were in your twenties.
It’s like God knew it, yeah.
So I’m curious, you come with a strong background in accounting. When you take on your executive pastor role at Northway five years ago, did you find that you naturally drew into wanting to lead more from the accounting side or what other responsibilities fall under your title?
Yeah, so quite naturally, of course, the finance side is where I led strongly because I was finance council chair at the time I came on as well, so I had to replace myself in that position and have somebody else hold me accountable now, a finance director for the organization work for me, so led very strongly in that area, and of course, changing from a founding pastor to a new pastor, there were some things that we were going to do differently. And so I was a big part of helping the church organize financially to prepare for that. But in terms of my role, the way we’re organized, essentially, all of central support reports to me and our campus pastors report to our lead pastors. So I have all of the business operations functions from finance, HR, information technology, facilities management, all of those. And I also have then the ministry, what we call ministry champions reporting to me. So all of the people in the areas of our family ministry, worship and production, adult life development, missions, and care also reporting through me and the organization.
That’s a wide range of staff under your care.
Yes, it is, it’s a good team fortunately.
Now you are a community with six sites, which is definitely on the larger end of the typical multi-site church. There has to be some administrative challenges that come with that.
For sure, and our sixth site is actually just launching coming up here in February. So we’re about halfway through the build out process of a leased facility right now and getting ready to launch that sixth site. Yeah. Right, when I came on board five years ago, we were just beginning the process of considering launching our fifth campus. And so I got to really be in on the front end of doing that. And quite honestly, when I came on, we had had Jim Tomberlin, the consultant that had been a part of our journey early on, we went into multi-site about twelve years ago. He had been a big part in helping us figure that all out early. And one of the things that it was a carryover that I was told right away was that fifth campus is the one that breaks the back of the central support organizations, you’re not ready for it. So I immediately came out of the gates, really taking a hard look at all of our systems and processes and just ensuring that we would be able to support an organization that was becoming a fifth campus and knew we wanted to grow well beyond that. So that was really the major emphasis of these first five years and the role was working on policies and procedures and getting those documented, and then looking at all of our systems and making sure we were set up in order to be able to thrive as we grew. And then third thing was really the financial disciplines around that.
Now, supporting all those campuses, how have you incorporated technology into how you administrate with all the staff and the different locations?
You know, we use Microsoft office products for our office work, including outlook for our emails. That’s the primary way we stay connected. We also do some video conferencing between… we have the big equipment here at our original campus and currently largest campus and then people can use Go-to-Meeting is what we use in order to do our video conferencing to make people not have to travel here as often as they might, otherwise. So in terms of staying connected, that’s how we do that. We’ve changed a lot of our systems in the last five years, we’ve gone with think ministry platform as our church database, and that’s one we really are pleased with that. It’s been here for probably three and a half/ four years now we really feel it will be the base that we can use to grow as large as we think we want to grow.
We also had, at the time, didn’t really have a solid HRIS system. So we now have, we outsource our payroll, we’ve got a system through them that we use for our time and attendance and payroll, which has been very helpful. We can also use that to push policies out to people that we have to make sure that they’ve read and may put to make sure we know that they’ve read these policies that are going to be critical, those kind of things. We’ve integrated QuickBooks into what we do from the financial perspective, which was actually sort of a simplification. Because when I came on board, we were using more of an enterprise system where we were only just using one module out of it to get the finances done. And so we’d really just pulled back and went to much more easy structure from the finance perspective. It is much easier to communicate to budget holders, etcetera what’s going on with that.
We had, our prior IT director before I came on board was a programmer, so he had tended to build a lot of systems internally, which was great for us at the time, what we’ve now done is we’ve been able to take some of those systems and actually integrate them into think ministry platform. So things like the kids check in system which was built in-house and runs right off of iPads, just ten to the house check in centers, that data now feeds directly into think ministry platform. And then we go to take in other programs like planning center for all our volunteer activities, we use planning center to plan out who needs to be here for hospitality, worship or production, etcetera, for all of the ministries on a weekend or during the week, if there’s a need and all of that data now also feeds directly to think ministry platforms so we have everything in one place.
You really can’t run from technology when you have so many locations, can you?
Absolutely not, you’ve got to embrace.
I’m really interested, you spent a lot of time on the finance council, the elder council, and the beginning of this transition from the founding pastor to a new pastor. And then you came on staff. How do you find your interaction with and perspective on the church has changed or has it now that you become a staff member at the church?
So. That’s very interesting. I always said it’s very different when where you go to church is where you work. So you have to be very, very careful to make sure that you allow an opportunity to go to church. And so I’m very diligent about that most of the time. It’s hard not to walk into the sanctuary even, and not be thinking about whether the lyrics are moving the way ought to be moving, or whether the lights looked like they ought to look. It’s gotta be a very disciplined process. So I’ve done well at that at times and not at others. So one of the things that I do to absolutely make sure that I have that opportunity is lately I’ve just been saying, “Okay, my wife and I we’re going to sit down front and we’re going to work it together,” so that I don’t tend to get drawn into something else that’s going on in the service.
I’m sure she appreciates that too.
So, where do you go to learn more about being a great executive pastor?
You know, I don’t do honestly a lot of podcasts, I don’t do a tremendous amount of reading, I’m a slow reader, so I tend to not to do too much of that, but I have… I’ve been listening to this podcast now for several months and really have found it to be very interesting, basically every week to when I listen to whoever you happen to have on, whether they’re an xp or somebody just in church ministry helping out churches. There’s always something to be gleaned from that. So I really appreciate that. But one thing I have done that has been very helpful to me as I’ve developed a relationship one-on-one with another executive pastor in our city. And it’s really been a great synergistic relationship for us because he’s been an executive pastor for many, many years, a lot longer than me, even though it’s my same age as me, he’s got experience that I can really draw upon when it comes to how to relate with a lead pastor with an elder’s council, these kind of thing. He can give me a lot of insight into that at the same time, their church, although their multi-site, they’re a little bit smaller than us, and so I’m also then able to give him a little bit of insight into what it’s like as you get bigger.
So it’s been a great synergistic relationship and I learned a lot just from that as well. We have a relationship with leadership network as a church. Early on, when we started multi-site, we spent a lot of time with them and then we hadn’t for a few years, but as we were coming into this past year or so, the lead pastor and I recognized, that we were probably at a point where we needed to re-look at our organization structure again and began to prepare ourselves the next season of our church. And so we’re engaged with leadership network and we’ve become part of the hub, multi-site work that they do, where we get to go and sit with churches, there’s a few different churches at a time there, roughly in the same position as us and work through various things that you need to grow as an organization. So that’s been also very helpful for us as well.
If we can end with you sharing some encouragement to fellow executive pastors, and if you would maybe a little insight into the conversations you have with this other executive pastor friend, what is it that you say to each other when you need encouraging or little pick me up.
I’ll just share a scripture verse, as my encouragement for executive pastors, it Psalm 139:16, it says, “your eyes saw my unformed substance in your book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me. When asked that yet, there was none of them.” I use that verse a lot in our orphan care ministry, particularly when I’m encouraging parents who are thinking about the adoption process and I’m just telling them that if they go through with this, and this is what God’s calling them to do, they’re really allowing children to live the days that God formed for them by providing them a home. And so I just think in this context, though, for executive pastors, no matter what your journey has been to getting to be an executive pastor, you are aware who God ordained you to be at this moment. And so just take courage in that and allow his presence to bring you joy and perseverance as you go about the work before you. I always think that lack of negativity does not create positivity. So I think we should be positive. So approach your work, trying to drive, not trying to survive. This is the work God wants you to do, so, in terms of the conversations with the other executive pastor, so many of it means having to do with just relationships within the church and with other leadership. And so whether it be, maybe a disagreement with the direction that the lead pastor wants to go and yet, and yet we know now we have to support that and move forward. And so we’ll just talk through how do you go ahead and get them get past what your own feelings are, begin to move forward and help the organization go where it needs to go. And so that’s really how we have each other’s back, is really on that interpersonal relationships within the staff of the church.
That’s great. Randy I really enjoyed having you on the podcast today.
Thank you. It’s been a joy.