Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today we’ve got Sean McKean on the show from The Church at Rock Creek in Little Rock, Arkansas. Great to have you today Sean.
Sean, you’ve been the Executive Pastor at The Church at Rock Creek for about ten years, but were are not always in the professional church field. Would you share with us your journey to becoming an XP?
Sure. I think my story is probably not unlike a lot of Executive Pastors that I’ve met over the last ten years. I had worked in the business world for about 23-24 years, and I had a relationship with Mark Evans, who is our senior pastor here at the Church at Rock Creek. And our relationship started because of our wives, our wives had been best friends since third grade, and over the years, we keep in touch and see each other, and make visits periodically, but about ten years ago, the church has grown, they’d built a new building, the church had grown to, overnight to a 2500-3500 member church, and Mark was looking for an executive pastor, and so we had been to dinner one night in Dallas, and he said, “Hey, I’m looking for an Executive Pastor.” And a jokingly said “Ha, I’ll send you my resume,” and the holy spirit had other plans for us. It wasn’t a joke to him and so about two weeks later, I followed up with Mark and said, “Hey, I’ve really been thinking about and praying a lot about what you talked about at dinner, and so I’d like to throw my name in the hat for your executive pastor position,” and couple of weeks later, I was hired.
So, I’d like to know a little bit more about that transition, how is that for you, for your family, moving from the professional world into the church world?
It’s funny you ask, I had several opportunities when I was in the business world to move to different parts of the country, and my wife was never on board with some of the places that were seeking my employment. And so we just kind of pushed those off and we stayed in the Dallas Fort Worth area, about a year before I accepted the position here at the church, my wife had been invited by her friend Teri, to be able to come to the church and spend the weekend with her. It was her 40th birthday party, and so Donna came here, got a feel for the church, met a lot of the people, actually fell in love with the church, and so, she came back, she showed me a bunch of pictures, just talked about how wonderful was and how great that people were and what a pretty facility it was, and didn’t think much about it, then at the point that Mark offered me the position and I took the position, my wife and I have two children, and my son was going into the eleventh grade and he very much was on board with moving.
He said, “I think it’s a great move, if it’s what God wants us to do, then that’s the right thing for us to do.” He even said, “Maybe I’ll meet my future wife in Arkansas.” And so that was a great thing, my daughter who was going into the eighth grade had a completely different response, she cried and it was very hard on her at first and moving here. And so she had grown up with her group of friends there in Texas, and didn’t want to leave, and that was hard on me in that regard, but also knew that it was what god wanted me to do, and this is where he wanted me to be. And the transition from moving from the professional world to the church environment, it has its ups and its downs, a lot of things that just kind of parlay over. There’s a lot of things that don’t, especially from the pastoral side I’ve grown up in church, had been a part of many fantastic churches in Texas and where I grew up in Oklahoma.
But being on staff as a pastor in a pastoral role is different, and so, there was a learning curve there, but thankfully, Mark Evans who is our senior pastor and Greg Kurtz who was our teaching pastor here, both have taken me under their wings, and have shown me the way; from that side of it everything has been good. From the business standpoint, it was a no brainer, we moved right in started trying to make the church operate like a large church and that piece was relatively easy.
So tell me a little more about that because you’ve been there for ten years and a lot has changed, I’m sure at the church and in the XP world in ten years, how has your role transitioned from when you first came in to now?
The biggest deal for us was moving the church from a small church mentality and small church operationally, to a large church mentality. Right now, we run about four thousand on any given Sunday, and so for us, when I got here accounting wise, financially, IT, HR, a lot of the aspects of the business aspect of running a church were still being done from a very small church mentality or operationally. And so what I had to keep reminding myself was, and I’m sure a lot of people say this, this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. So while I was trying to make things happen quickly or in a short amount of time, I had to keep reminding myself that, listen, they didn’t get here to the size they are overnight, and so it’s going to take us time to get there. And so over the last ten years, you’re right, we’ve seen a lot of changes in how we do our finance and accounting how our IT is handled, how HR is handled, how our payroll processing, how insurance is, all those different things have changed over the last ten years, and so it’s been fun putting the policies in place that need to be put in place church wide and facilities and all the different aspects that go along with being an executive pastor.
Yeah, definitely. I’m going to latch onto just one part of that, and I’m curious in your transition to helping this church function more like a large church, how have you incorporated technology into that?
There’s a lot of aspects of technology, and for us, we’re blessed to have an IT director who is also on our pastoral staff. And so what we had to decide early on was, do we need somebody who is a desktop specialist, or are we looking for somebody that’s more the overall infrastructure of how our servers network together, and all those different aspects that roll into IT… And so for us, technology, especially in the last ten years as technology is ever changing, which everybody in this world in the business world all understand, change is happening all the time and so we’re blessed to be able to have an IT director who keeps up with all those changes that from anywhere from online giving to giving through our church app through text give and all those different aspects play into not just your PC that sits on your desk or your servers that sit in the server room. I’d like to say something to that too… the neat thing is, ten years ago, we were spending lots of money on new servers to be able to make sure that our servers were updated and all the current licenses were correct and all that, and so the great thing about technology as it does move, and we are moving towards putting things in the cloud, and we don’t have those large expenditures with physical machines and that kind of stuff and so it’s been fun watching and learning and seeing how all this technology plays together in the church and how it makes us more customer service oriented – and when I say customer service, I mean the people that attend our church – and it’s been neat to watch God incorporate technology into the local church.
It’s kind of ironic that, good implementation of technology actually means more time with people usually.
So I’m curious, what are some of the administrative challenges you face in managing all the church personnel and the resources there?
I think it really, it goes back to the… we grew so quickly overnight that we were the church operationally, was not ready to handle all that. And so putting policies in place that were not in place, employee handbooks, growing our HR department, taking some of the decision making process that was on our senior pastor at that time, away from him, so he could focus more on preaching and vision casting and putting more the operational side of it on myself, on an HR director, giving everybody the ability to be able to make a decision and not be afraid to make a decision.
Sean, how do you stay fresh and motivated in your role as an XP?
Well, a couple of things, I don’t think it’s just… it comes from making sure that, physically, that you are doing something exercise wise to be able to keep yourself healthy, to be able to eat properly, to be able to say network together, I think that’s another aspect of it, for us, that we have a local church networking group that’s very good. We stay up on current things, we have Metro Group meetings and allow us to ask a lot of questions to see how churches are doing things. Part of staying current with church law and tax and ETFA is a big part of that, just all those different programs from a personal standpoint it’s being healthy and making sure that we take time off when that time is given to us. And then from a church standpoint, making sure that we’re staying networked together, that we’re asking questions of other churches, there’s no reason why in our environment, we should be recreating will. And so there’s lots of smart people out there who have put policies together, and there’s a lot of good lawyers and tax people who have put policies in place and we just garner that information from them.
I’d like to hear, in general, what kind of encouragement you would offer to other executive pastors, and I would also like to hear something a little more specific to the executive pastor who’s making that transition from the professional world now into the church world, and is kind of at the beginning of that transition.
I had a… this didn’t happen until years into being an executive pastor. I had a very wise friend who is another pastor who basically said, “You know, there’s not a manual to being an executive pastor. There’s no… you can’t go to class and somebody teach you, “Okay, you’re going to have this aspect of your job and you’re going to be able to do this.'” So when I first became an executive pastor, had a lot of questions in my mind, “am I doing this properly, am I doing this right, are we making the right decisions at this point?” And so he basically, by what he told me, gave me a pass and said, “listen, nobody taught me how to be a pastor. Nobody taught me how to be a…” and he said, “basically, you learn from doing.” So, my encouragement would be to anybody that’s not been an executive pastor or business administrator in a church before, and if they’re moving into this role, to give yourself a break, know that if you’re prayed up and that the decisions that you are making are the right decisions at that time. And so don’t heap a lot of pressure on yourself and question yourself, “Am I doing the right thing?” Because if you’re prayed up and you’re following God’s direction in your life and that those decisions that you’re making for your church or on behalf of your church, they are the right decisions. And so that for me, and this was many years into my position before I had had this gentleman explain this to me that, give yourself a break, don’t be so hard on yourself about some the decisions that you’re making and just know that as long as you’re prayed up and your relationship is right with God, that you’re making the right decision.
So I’ll end on this, ten years in, you’ve been an executive pastor for a while now, and what would you say to a fellow XP who’s also been at it for a while, but might be in a season of discouragement or just a little bit confusion?
One of the things, for me, that we network very well. And I don’t know if that’s because of my personality, I started a group here in the local Little Rock area of all different church backgrounds, we’re not one denomination at all, there’s many denominations that make up our network of business administrators or executive pastors. And so for me, we meet about once a month, we go to lunch and we just talk and share. Nobody has any hidden agendas or anything like that, and so from a local group, because… and I would say each state or each market in the church world is probably different, I would say east coast is different from west coast, and middle America is different from either one of the coasts, to a certain degree. And so do local networking, find some local men or women who hold the same position that you do and just talk to them, share with each other, pray for each other, reach out to each other and then from a national standpoint, go get involved in a, like I said, we do, I’m involved in metro group meetings, there are churches that are our size and larger, and I’ve networked with some really great people, men and women at those meetings, and those meetings refreshed me there are two meetings a year that we go to that are in different parts of the country and so it’s a chance for me to get away from my local day to day and be around other like-minded people who share in the same struggles and the same joys that I share in on a daily basis. And so I would say for anybody who is struggling right now, or anybody who is thinking about not being an executive pastor anymore, reach out to somebody, find another godly person that you can share with, talk through some of your struggles and those things, and just lift each other up.
That’s fantastic encouragement Sean, thanks for being on the podcast today.
Thank you, I appreciate your time and allowing me to be able to share from my heart.