Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Shelia Hood is joining us today from Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas. Great to have you on the show today, Shelia.

Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

So Shelia, tell us a little bit about your role there at Trinity and how you came into it.

Well, I’m the Administrative Pastor here at Trinity Church and I came here from a corporate environment. I spent 25 years in the telecommunications industry, learning to do a lot of things that — I’ve got unusual opportunities there to learn different skill sets, from customer service, project management, budget and finance, property development. And during those years, I always wondered, why am I getting all these strange opportunities that are so unusual for a corporate environment? You usually work in one area. But I got such a broad education. A little over 22 years ago, Pastor Hennesy asked if someone in the congregation had budget experience that would be willing to step up and help with the budget. And I raised my hand, and that led to a couple of meetings with him, which led to me coming on board here as the Business Pastor, doing all the administrative type things. And I suddenly realized, oh, this is why I had been given all those opportunities. It was preparation for a thing that God was going to ask me to step into and take responsibility for.

Now, so how long have you been the Director of the Business Operations Pastor?

A little over 22 years.

Now, that was then pretty cutting edge, at the time, that they hire a pastor for business operations. That wasn’t very common back then.

Well, it was interesting. Our senior pastor, Jim Hennesy, himself, is pretty cutting edge. And it’s one of those see-a-need, and fill-the-need kind of a things. And so together, we sort of developed what that job looks like, what was needed, what did the ministry need to make sure the house was in order. That just kind of evolved, if you will.

Now, you’ve been in this role for 22 years. Speaking of evolving, what has been the evolution of your position? You started out doing certain responsibilities. Are those the same ones you’re doing now or has your role changed over the years?

Well, I guess ‘changed’ is probably a better word. Like we said a moment ago, it’s evolved in a pretty broad spectrum. In other words, we have, of course, the Senior Pastor, and then myself and an Executive Pastor. So my role has become, of course, obviously budget and finance. So it’s sort of the Chief Financial Officer type of a role. But then we do a lot of property development over the years. We sort of never stopped growing. We never stopped building, remodeling, adding on to our facility. So the property development, property maintenance, facility, activities and stuff are my responsibility. Human resources, we developed a process for determining appropriate pay benefits for our employees. So we have a pretty extensive, and I feel, sophisticated human resources policies, and procedures, and operations. That also includes, of course, asset protection. How do we protect the things that God has given to us and steward over those well? I’ve added the IT perspective. In today’s world, if you’re going to survive, you have to have some knowledge of IT. So we have a department that takes care of that that’s under my purview. Obviously, project management, we do periodically large projects that sometimes involve the whole campus, sometimes involve interactions with other organizations. So project management, it’s one of those things that as your experience grows and you’re able to do more things to make our ministry better, to serve the community better. We do a lot of things with the community. We believe in marketplace ministry. It’s one of our core values is to engage in the marketplace and be involved there. And so that also is one of my responsibilities. So my umbrella keeps getting bigger.

Yeah. I would like to hear a little more about this marketplace ministry. What exactly does that look like?

It is pretty multi-faceted. It started with saying, we want to be sure and be a ministry that gives back to the community, that’s involved in the community, and provides a Godly influence in the community. So we began to engage in the Chamber of Commerce in activities that involve giving out to the community. What is happening in the community? What does our city do? What kind of projects does our city support and how can we be a support in those activities? We feel like, therefore, if we’re going to speak into our community, we have to be present there. So we’re present at the things that are going on and are careful to bring a godly influence into those arenas. We have an amazing organization in our city that Trinity Church played a role in, called Transformation Vision Cedar Hill. That’s 501c3 in itself, comprised of representatives from the business community, the spiritual community, our government, our schools, so that we are influencing and transforming our city, making sure that we are all serving together, making sure that we focus on the things that we have in common for the good of our city, and hopefully our county, state and nation.

Out of that has come Hope Mansion, which is a home for homeless pregnant women. Our National Day of Prayer is supported by Transformation Vision, as is our Mayors Prayer Breakfast. We have Mission Cedar Hill where we help people that are not able to maintain or upkeep their property according to city code. We move in as the church is in the area and try to correct those. So Trinity Church played a very foundational role in founding that, and that’s part of our marketplace ministry. Another important leg is to help our members to understand that you are a minister in your marketplace, where you move about at your work, at the local grocery stores, at the local department stores, in the restaurants. We are ministers in the marketplace, which is where Jesus did a great amount of his ministry. So it’s important that we get outside our walls and be involved there.

In some ways. It seems like obvious. Obviously, the church should be out in the world in the community, but oftentimes, the cases that as a church grows larger, the more internally focused they are. And if they are externally focused, it’s because they have ministries that they’ve created within their walls. And it’s not like there’s collaboration with churches or government organizations around. So I’m finding this to be a pretty unique thing, and I’m curious about your community’s response and other churches in the area’s response to this kind of collaborative work.

It’s really been a wonderful adventure. And our whole premise, from the beginning, was — another one of our core values here is covenant relationship. So our commitment in a covenant, you don’t have to do anything for me to be committed to you. It’s contrary to a contractual relationship where we agree you’ll do a certain thing and I’ll do a certain thing, and if we don’t fulfill that, then we’ll break the contract. But in a covenant relationship, my goal is your good. So we entered into this with a perspective of our goal is the good of our community. Our goal is to make sure that we are giving in to the success of the citizens in our community, that we’re in assets representing Jesus in the community. Our community here greatly loves what we do. They participate at a high level. Our Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, there are usually between 80 and 100 people that attend those. People call on Transformation Vision to assist with different things.

For example, there was an apartment complex here in our community that had a fire and its residents were displaced. Well, the first call from the city came to Transformation Vision Cedar Hill, “How can we help?” And we were able to sort of coordinate, this church can provide that, this church can provide that. As a matter of fact, funds that came in, we manage those in coordination with our local resale shops. Our food pantry has a resale shop. We have Bridges Safe House, which is an organization that provides emergency shelter for battered women or women in crisis, and they have a resale shop. So we coordinated with the resale shops to let these families that have been displaced, go into the resale shops and select whatever they wanted from there. Furniture, clothing, dishes, housewares, whatever. Then the resale shop just reported that back to Transformation Vision, and then we, in turn, reimburse them. So it enables us to really create a family within our community. The church is, interestingly enough, that are represented on the Board of Transformation Vision are cross denominational. Church of Christ is on that board. Of course, Trinity Church, which is an Assembly of God’s church. There’s the First Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church. Because it’s a coming together and focusing on what belief systems do we have in common, and then how do we provide services to our community together in partnership.

What a beautiful thing. So I want to hear more about what are some best practices you have there that you’ve really found success with.

We have a great philosophy here of if you believe that God has called you to a thing, then give it your best shot, we’ll back you up and see where it takes us. So you don’t have to have seven seminary degrees and 40 years of experience. Some of our most amazing ministries have come out of somebody saying, “Hey, I’ve got an idea, can I try it?” And so we’re like, sure, we’ll back you up. We’ll help you get started. Now, you have to sustain it because if God calls us to do a thing, He’ll make the provision to enable us to do it. So we have some pretty amazing ministries. We have a Financial Freedom Ministry, so that we teach groups, mostly family, sometimes single people. We bring them in, make sure they understand the principles of tithing and giving and what God’s plan is for that. And then we sit down with them and work through their finances. Do you have a budget? If not, let’s get one. You know where your money is going? If not, become an informed consumer. We explore multiple ways to save money, reduce expenses, get that all taken care of and then get a plan for, how am I going to get out of debt? And then we get them set on a path. So it’s a series of weeks of classes that are sort of hands on kind of exercises.

At the end of that time, we assign them a coach who is an elder or a deacon in the church, who has been pre-prepared, and they continue to coach that family or that individual through the financial process so they can become debt free. We make sure they understand the importance of being debt free and how being bound up in debt prevents you from filling your destiny, because you get so focused on how am I going to get all this taken care of that sometimes you can’t answer the call of God on you. The most amazing part of that is when we started that process, some folks in our congregation, as we introduced it, walked up to the altar and dropped some money on the altar, and said, I want to support this. So now what happens is, when a family or an individual gets their process done, gets their house in order, their budgets prepared and has demonstrated a true desire to move forward and get out of debt, then with that funding that continues to come on the altars on Sunday, we turn around and pay off a bill for them. So we have a process or recommendation committee, and we may provide two or three thousand dollars for them to move towards getting their selves out of debt. It’s an amazing response.

Yeah, what a beautiful thing that there’s been such buy in and shared passion with those in your congregation, not just the ones who are leading the actual program.

Yeah. And now what’s happening is folks who have been through that program and experience the freedom, the emotional, and mental, and spiritual freedom of being out of debt, they look back around and come back and say, I want to be a coach. So now they’re coaching others and leading them and showing them the way how to experience that sort of thing. So it’s really an amazing process.

Yeah, I’d say so. You hear about some churches doing Financial Peace University or something. But what you’re describing is much more comprehensive and much more the part of the DNA of your church and your congregation.

Yeah.

That’s really neat. So on the flip side of this then, what is something you’ve got going on there at Trinity that you haven’t quite found a solution for?

Let me see, there’s always so many things. I guess an important thing for us, that I believe, that we may have hit upon a solution, but not tested yet, and I think this is common for so many churches is when people come in to our services, how do we make them feel a part of our community? How do we recognize? Because this is a large church, and we have a Saturday night service and two services on Sundays, and then we have two satellite campuses, how do we, A, recognize that they are a visitor? How do we, in the most comfortable and welcoming way, get connected with them and help them find their way? First, just the mechanics of finding their way around our campus, and then how do we help them find their place to connect and feel like they belong, and have a part, and recognize that they have a role not just, well, I attend to any church and watch other people do their thing. Everybody has a role, and sometimes it’s difficult to find your place and feel kind of lost. So that is always a challenge, I think. How to make people comfortable, how to find their way, how to get them connected and how to communicate to them that they have something to give into the ministry and something that they are gifted they bring to the table to enable them to serve others as well.

You mention that you might have found a solution, but the disclaimer is that it’s not tried yet. But what is this kind of potential moving forward to solve this that you guys are coming into?

We’re exploring. I think this is not a new idea, but we’re going to explore how we can make it our own, and that is having section pastors. So people have a tendency to sit in the same place. So you learned to recognize, like, I know the people that sit around and leave in church, and if I see a face, I don’t recognize, and I’m kind of zeroing in and making sure I introduce myself to those people. So we’re going to try to establish pastor assignments for sections of the church. So your job will be keeping eye on your section. Say, hey, I think I’ve met you before. If it’s a visitor, be sure to escort them to the visitor reception after services. Maybe we want to go out and have a couple of coffee. How do we help that person not come in and go back out again and not ever having been spoken to? Or if there’s somebody that’s normally in your section that’s missing for a couple of Sundays, are they ill? Is there something going on in their family that we need to be involved in? Do we pray with them about something, bring them food, whatever that might be. So it’s like creating these tiny little churches within our congregation.

We came up with the idea — a young person in our congregation sort of brought the idea of forward and we were like, kind of automatically think, yeah, but-. But then again, sort of our DNA is, well, let’s give it a try and see what we can do. And so we put out the call, and so we’re going to have a meeting and give you some information if you’re interested, being a section pastor in doing this kind of thing. And we had an amazing turnout of people that came to learn more and sign up to become that and do the training and that sort of thing. So it looks like it’s well on its way. The results, like I said, remain to be seen, but there’s an excitement among folks. Again, it gives people an opportunity to raise their hand and say, I can serve in that area so then they have a place, they have a perceived purpose and can make an impact on someone else.

Well, we’ll have to check back in with you to see how that all turns out.

Okay. 

So, Shelia, what are your favorite resources or places to go to make sure you’re staying sharp in your role?

Well, there’s so much available now that it’s really kind of citing. I always use and standby The Church Network. Some people may know it is the National Association of Church Business Administrators, which is now called The Church Network. They’re always a fabulous resource for learning, for materials, for where do I go to find out this, for certifications. They’re a great resource. I love the Ignites. They’re great. They have good leadership materials and how to hone your craft, how to be better at what you’re doing. We have an organization here, it’s a firm here in the Dallas Fort Worth area, Summerville and Associates, they put on a Texas Leadership Conference every year that I found is awesome. Once upon a time, it was primarily finance and what are the laws and that sort of thing. But that’s so brightly expanded now. So you can get workshops on social media, leadership, what’s the newest thing in technology, what are the latest court rulings that affect the laws that govern non-profits. So there are numerous, both local and national, resources that are available. There are, of course, some blogs and groups that you can subscribe to.

It’s important because what you thought you knew yesterday changed overnight. And so it’s important to constantly keep up with what’s going on and make sure that you’re the best that you can be, because the administrative backbone is important that those things are in order and run smoothly, so that the pastoral staff, the ministers, are able to accomplish their calling and their mission with this little hindrances as possible.

So, Shelia, what encouragement would you give to others in church leadership?

Let me see. I would say, don’t do this unless you’re called to do it. But if you’re called to do it, try to always remember that God will always provide you what you need. Sometimes it’s hard that you think, oh, I’ve got to do this and I’ve got to get that done. And as you know, in the nonprofit world, we’re often trying to do a whole lot with a little. But God requires us to do our part, and he always does his part. And I think it’s critical that that knowledge, that realization is important, that you make sure it has moved from your head down into your heart. Your head can know it, but if your heart doesn’t believe it, then you really going to have a bit of a challenge. But if your heart knows that you’re called to do this and the Lord will provide for you, then that always can bring peace. You have to always remember that what you’re doing in the ministry, you have to do it as an offering and to God. Not for man, not for applause because you’re going to be disappointed. But if you do it as an offering to the Lord and you know in your heart that you’ve done your very best, then you will always have joy about doing it. Recognize the assaults that come for what they are, and then let the Lord deal with those.

That’s fantastic. Shelia, thanks much for being on the podcast today.

Thank you. I had such a good time. Thank you for having me.

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