This episode of Monday Morning Church is sponsored by KiSSFLOW, the church workflow solution.
Courtney: Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Robby McGee of Freedom Church in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Robby great to have you today.
Robby: Thanks so much Courtney, excited to be with you.
Robby, you are the executive pastor at Freedom Church and have been since 2015. Would you share with us a little about your journey to becoming an XP and coming on staff at Freedom Church?
Sure absolutely, my journey started right at 20 years ago, I was living in Nashville Tennessee, I was actually a musician, I was on the road and I travelled around two hundred and fifty days a year, and we had signed a recording agreement with word records, and everything was really pretty much going fantastic for us, but there was an event that happened and that was the birth of our first child. And about four years into that, I just really felt like I wanted to be home and I wanted to experience going to church with the family and going to my sons’ ball games and different things like that. Well, at that same time, the lead pastor at the church, I was going to in Nashville it’s called Cornerstone Nashville.
So the lead pastor approached me and he said, “hey, would you consider coming on? And being my business administrator?” is what they were called at the time. And I said, “what does that mean?” He said, “well I just need you to run the business operations of the church.” And I absolutely loved business. I had a bus leasing company at time. We leased out buses to entertainers, and I had a song writing publishing company for song writing. So I love business. I love the thought of business, and I’m like, this is great. I can be home with the family. I can be involved in the church and I can run this business operational side of the church. Not knowing that the business and operational side of the church was a little bit different than where I had come from with just what I’d call the secular business world, not necessarily that way, but it was just totally different.
And we started off on a journey. It was a smaller church at that time, and were in around three hundred people and had a budget of around a half million dollars in literally my first desk with the lead pastor was a white eight-foot table. And I said on one side of it, and across from me, we only had one office. So he had a wooden office desk that he had set up, and we just started off together and started on this great journey. And I still have a great friendship. I actually went to that church for 25 years, but I served on that church for ten years and just saw tremendous expansion, tremendous growth. We grew to a campus of around 26 acres, over two hundred thousand square foot of buildings, I went through construction projects with the church and from three hundred up to three thousand and all the policies and procedures and different things that we had to all grow together. It was an incredible journey. It was a great journey, and I learned so many things, at my time there. And one of the gentleman who went to the church, he had a nonprofit organization, and he found out that he had cancer, and he asked myself and a couple of other gentlemen, he said, “hey, if something happens to me, will you make sure that this nonprofit continues to do what I set it up to do, which is to fund missions.” So we said that we would… it was a very aggressive cancer, and three months later, he passed away.
So they asked me to come lead that nonprofit organization through a transition. And so I went and I began to lead them through a transition. And that transition lasted for almost ten years. They asked me to come on as the executive director, and it was a real unique opportunity for me because it married what I would call for profit business with the nonprofit world. And we had a lot of commercial real estate transactions and real estate development, and we would take the profits from the businesses that were there and we would turn around and find mission work all over the world. Our main thing was to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we work with international ministries all over the world. And over my ten years there, we actually funded projects and recorded over the thirteen million people received the gospel of Jesus Christ and make a decision, and then we would put the sample ship in place. So it was an incredible time.
But about five years ago, they asked me if I would come back over, the church was going through some transitional changes, so they asked me if I would come back and help them through some of the transitions with the lead pastor, with the same lead pastor who was still there, so I went back and I stayed there for another two years. And we had a unique structure there, we actually had three executive pastors, a chief financial officer, chief operations officer, and they asked me to come back and be the chief, what they called, the chief ministry officer. So we had the operations officer, who was over all of the facilities and different things that revolved around that, we had the chief financial officer, who took care of all of the financial aspects of the church, and then my position was to work with all of the ministry operational side of the church. So I did that for two years, worked very closely with the lead pastor there.
And I received a call though from the lead pastor here at Freedom Church about three years ago, it I be three years ago, this coming January and it just so happens that my son had moved to Dallas and he had married the lead pastor’s daughter, and they were about to have our first grandchild. So I came down here for the birth of our first grandchild and little did I know that the lead pastor, who, as I said, was a good friend of mine in Nashville, had been talking to the lead pastor here saying that “I know there’s going to be a pull on Robby and his wife Vanessa, once they have this grandchild, I know there’s going to be a pull for them to come to Texas,” he said, “so if you want to talk to him about the executive pastor position that you have available there,” he said, “I would welcome for you to talk to him.” So I came down here for the birth of the grandson, the lead pastor here, Kendal, at Freedom Church, he talked to me about coming here and what that would look like. We said, “yes,” it’s a lot easier to hear the voice of God to make a transition with grandchildren involved I’ve definitely found that out.
So that’s how we ended up here and I’m actually from Dallas, so all my family was still here, so it’s very natural. It was a hard move for us because we’d been in Nashville for 25 years, it was a very natural move for us to come back down here and be involved in what God was doing here at Freedom. So that’s, I guess, a little bit of a long story on how I got started, and just from scratch. When I came into it, I really didn’t know anything about the operational administrative side of a church and just was able to grow and be mentored by a lot of great people over the years.
So, how would you contrast your role in Nashville as an executive pastor being over more of the ministry operational side? What are your responsibilities today at Freedom Church as the executive pastor?
When I was in Nashville, it was a little bit different because I truly didn’t have to give any kind of oversight to the finances. I didn’t have to give any kind of oversight to the facilities. We had an executive who were over all of the operational and financial sides of it. I truly only focused on the ministry side of it with the lead pastor and anything he needed in ministry, but also with the children’s pastor, the youth pastor, the adults pastor, and all of the different ministries, the men’s and women’s and the senior adults, and just I could go on and on about the ministries that we had that were happening there to church. And I just worked with the pastors and the directors and was very strategic in their ministry, the development of those ministries, helping them to accomplish their objective, their goal, and brainstorm on how we could do ministry.
So it was very, very focused on the ministry side of it while I was in Nashville. Here at Freedom, we actually work under what we call a directional leadership team, and there’s three people who were on that directional leadership team, and it’s the lead pastor, it’s myself and then it’s our… what we call our business director. We meet periodically and we discuss big picture vision and mission of the church. And once those objectives are set, and once those objectives are discussed, then I go and I just work with the lead pastor to make sure that his mission and vision, the things that he wants to accomplish are carried out strategically, but also to work with the business director on the operational and financial side of it, and then to work with the pastors on the ministry side of it. So it really does, here at Freedom, it’s a little bit bigger of objectives between the finance, the operational side, and the ministry side along with work and side-by-side with the lead pastor and helping him with whatever objective he may have.
Now, I’m curious about some of the staff you have in the different ministries, because Freedom Church is a pretty unique place. Multi-site is not so uncommon, but you actually have four separate congregations meeting on one campus. You have Freedom Church, a Spanish church, a Brazilian church and a Bulgarian church. Unpack for us, the relationship between those congregations and how your job fits into all that.
Sure, absolutely. Our lead pastor Kendall, where we’re at in the North Dallas area, it’s very, very multicultural. And when our lead pastor was actually graduating from bible college, God told him that he wanted to have a multicultural church of over 2,000, and that was when he was probably twenty-two years old. It was very specific and it was very unusual for that to happen at that particular time. So let’s roll forward to where we’re at right now and really about three years ago it’s along the time that I was coming, we had looked at different multi-site opportunities, but pastor Kendall was like, look, I really feel like I want to explore having multicultural congregations and what that would look like.
We had met with a Hispanic pastor and a Bulgarian pastor and actually a Korean pastor at the time. So we began to talk to them about, “hey, what would it look like for you to start congregations here on the campus on Sundays alongside of us in your language?” So we began to dream about what that would look like as far as scheduling as far as the facilities, and could we make it work. It’s something that I feel like is very unique to Freedom Church. So on a Sunday morning, we have four services that are English services. So the first service starts at nine o’clock. So you have our nine o’clock English service, and then you have our second English service starts at ten twenty along with that service, the starts at ten twenty, though we have one of our Hispanic services that is in another building that has its own congregation, its own pastor, its own worship team, and everything is done in Spanish. And then we have another service that starts at eleven forty-five. And at that eleven forty-five service, you have our English speaking church and you have a Brazilian church that does their services in Portuguese. And here again, they have their own pastor, they have their own worship leader and their own volunteers and ministry teams. And then at our five o’clock service, we have a Bulgarian service that is meeting at another location on our facilities, in our facilities, as well as another Spanish congregation that actually made a five at night as well. So we have an English, Hispanic and a Bulgarian congregation that’s going on at those times.
And how that all works together, and how I work with them is we have a monthly pastors fellowship to where all of our congregational pastors and associate pastors, we have about twenty different pastors that will get together and we’ll have a monthly pastor fellowship to where we’re eating together, we’re fellowshipping together, we’re praying together, and we’re talking about the different needs that we may have the different victories that we had throughout the month. So it’s truly a time for us to collectively get together throughout the month, everyone has their independent, weekly staff meetings, but once a month, we have them all together. I meet with those different pastors of those congregations as they need, they come in, they talk to me about different challenges they may have administratively, different growth pains they may have, different processes that they may need to have in place, and then they’re responsible to work with their team and implement that. So I’m not really responsible for implementation, but I really serve more as a coach and a resource to all of those other pastors. And then they accomplish that through their admin team and their ministry teams.
When I hear that, the concept is beautiful and I also wonder logistically using the building on Sundays, but then also throughout the week, how do you manage the use of the building between all these congregations?
That’s a great question and scheduling still, it gets challenging, but everyone knows that if they want to do a special event, everyone… it’s first come first serve. So whatever building is going to be used, then they calendar that building, they request that building, they reserve that building, and they use that building for ministry. Now throughout the week though, we have what we call midweek services, so our midweek services happen on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in order to be able to facilitate, because everyone wants to have a midweek service, I know some churches don’t do that anymore, but that’s just something that all of our congregations, we have our midweek services that are some of our favorite services that people come to, just because of the structure of those different services. So that’s really the way that we accomplish those is to… we have them on Tuesday and then we’ll have two different congregations meet on Wednesday, and then we have another congregation that meets on Thursday. So we literally almost use the building every single day of the week for either a service or for a special event. So all of the services though, they’re on our regular schedule, they’re all calendared throughout the year. So everybody has their Sunday service and their midweek service and their prayer services that are founded throughout the year. And then when we get away from that, though, it’s truly a first come first serve, no one takes precedence over anyone else. And everyone is treated equally across the board, and there are certain services where we all get together. As a matter of fact, this Friday, we have a once a quarter, we have a service called “Praying Beyond Borders.” So all of our congregations get together and we have worship in all of the different languages and worship leaders in all of the languages. And we also have prayer together, and we have people praying in the different languages, and it usually lasts a couple of hours to where we’re worshiping together in four different languages, and we’re praying together in four different languages just having fellowship. It’s pretty awesome. It’s a pretty awesome time. It kind of gives me a picture of what heaven will be like when you just have all these different cultures and all these different languages, and we all are praising. So it’s pretty amazing.
That’s exactly what I was thinking, the whole time you were talking is what a nice glimpse of what’s to come. So outside of the very unique challenge and blessing of having these four different congregations. What are some of the other administrative challenges that you face?
I think one of the biggest ones that we face is probably most organizations face, and that is just communication. There are so many things that are happening. The ministry moves very quickly and change happens very quickly. So something that was going to happen last week that we planned everything out. Well, laugh will happen, something will happen, there will be changes. It’s that constant communication of, here’s what’s happening. Here’s what’s changing, here’s what’s coming up, because one change will obviously affect maybe several people down the line. So if there’s a change that’s going to happen, if we don’t effectively communicate that across the board to our department people, to our admin people, and also to our other congregations who it may affect, then things can get real messy real quick when you have so many different pastors and so many different ministry leaders and so many different volunteers who are actually using the facilities on any given day, so that, with the multiple congregational model, communication really becomes key across the board. So that’s probably one of our greatest challenges that we’ve come up with since we’ve started the multi congregations. And another thing would just really be staff development, I have in my past, I can not necessarily proud of it, but I really had the model of telling people what to do and telling people how to do things, and man, over the last five years, I’ve just really transformed, transformed that thinking into really developing and intentionally developing and growing staff.
We’ve developed a model now that’s a staff objective model. So I’ll set down with the staff all of the different individuals on staff. I sat down with them at the end of every year leading into new year’s. Matter of fact, we’ll be doing that in October, and it’s like pastor Kendall will cast the vision of what he sees for 2018. I’ll sit down with all of the different ministry leaders and I’ll say, “what are your ministry objectives? What’s your top three ministry objectives?” And once they identify what those top ministry objectives are, it’s like, okay, well, how are we going to accomplish that? And then at what time are you going to accomplish that? So especially, what’s your objective? How are you going to do it and what are you going to do it? I don’t tell them what the objectives are going to be… and that’s the difference between what I’ve learned over the last five years I’ve learned, if I tell them what to do, number one, their personality, maybe different to mine, so they may do it totally different than what I would, and I’m trying to tell them what to do and how to do it, and it just wasn’t having the same effect and they weren’t energized by it. I found out that by them telling me, “here’s what the objectives are, here’s how we’re going to do it, here’s when we’re going to do it,” they own it, they’re excited about it and they do it in a way that fits within the way God has gifted them. So, we’ve been doing that really since I came to Freedom was the first time that I began to try that model, and we’ve really had some amazing, amazing results with that.
I think that’s an extremely common challenge amongst executive pastors. Robby, what tools and resources do you turn to in order to stay sharp as an executive pastor?
Wow. I think some of these things for me are peer relationships. I have relationships with other executive pastors that some of them are the same size as the organization, but I’m constantly looking at those who are larger than what we are as well and developing those peer relationships to when I need some… It’s really realistically, only a phone call away that I’m either going to get what I need or I’m going to get some counsel and a different outlook on whatever it is that I’m going through. So the biggest thing to me is those peer relationships that I’ve developed over the years, reaching out to those people and stewarding those relationships, to where you don’t take them for granted, and it’s more of a what I would call… “I’m a resource for them and they’re a resource for me,” that’s probably the main way that I get my… but also reading different blogs and podcasts. And to be honest with you, I really have enjoyed the podcast. I guess I got a notification a month or two ago, was the first time I’d heard about the podcast that you guys are doing. And I began to listen to them just a few weeks ago, it’s been actually a great source of material on the diversification of the churches that have been involved, the way that they do ministry, how they do ministry, the tools that they use. So the podcast that you guys do has been a great resource as well. And the other thing would be, conferences. So my peers and blogs and podcasts and conferences, I don’t go to conferences nearly as much anymore because I like more of the nuts and bolts individual, working with peers.
Robby, to close, what kind of encouragement would you give to other executive pastors?
I think one of the biggest things, to me, is that I just love to tell executive pastors that their calling matters. I think sometimes we get caught up in the fact that since we don’t necessarily lay our eyes directly on the life change and maybe see the life change or get to be hands on a hands on with the life change, how they steward the processes and the procedures and everything else that administration does. There’s a direct correlation to that and the effectiveness of the changed life. And I just say like this, I believe that administration is really… the only reason administration should exist to me is just to stir the anointing. We have these ministers who are out there and they’re anointed and they’re gifted and they’re out there helping to make the samples and life change, all these different things are happening. But I’ve seen the anointing happen in organizations and churches, but there hasn’t been what I would call a stewardship of that anointing, a stewardship of that changed life, and all of a sudden it’s like what happens to those people after life change happens? How do we get those people into a small group? How do we get those people assimilated into volunteering at the church? How do we get those people just somehow assimilated into the church and into the life of the church into the life of the ministry, and into the relational aspects of it? All that stuff happens through administration and through systems and through processes and all those things that sometimes people don’t like to talk about that are going on behind the scenes that I believe help to steward the anointing and the change life, to where those people don’t fall through the cracks, so they can truly receive, not just the life change, but the life growth that happens after the life change. I just want to encourage executive pastors to look beyond just the papers and the processes and the procedures, and know that what they’re doing is much bigger than that. It’s stewarding that life change that happens at the church on a daily basis.
I love that quote “administration exists to steward the anointing.” That’s fantastic. Robby, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Absolutely. Thank you for having me.