Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church Podcast. Today’s guest is Tabitha Goodner from Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit, Michigan. Tabitha, great to have you on the show today.
It is an honor and a privilege to be here with you today. Thank you.
So, Tabitha, tell me a little bit about your position there at Second Ebenezer and how you ended up in Detroit and at the church there.
Wow, I currently serve as Second Ebenezer Church in the office of chief operating officer, and that encompasses really general management of the facility, as well as our programming and planning for the ministry at large. It is a humbling position in which I kind of sit right chair to our senior pastor, Bishop Edgar Vann. How did I get in this position? It was nothing but the move of God and hand of God. I came out of the construction industry, a long +20 history with construction management and civil engineering and construction management in the city of Detroit. I moved here in 1995 from Indianapolis, Indiana, really just pursuing a gospel career in music, not knowing that God and His providence would lead me to His house to kind of serve the people of God in a 90.000 m2 facility, which requires much facility maintenance and preventative maintenance as well as this lean on my ministry side, which deals with programming, planning and just ministry to the hearts and the needs of people. So I never even saw how God would converge those two things together, but I literally get up to life every day by going to Second Ebenezer Church.
How long have you been in your position there?
It will be seven years this January 21st, I’m very excited about it. And it’s been very humbling to see the inside operation of what we would call in the land of mega church. A lot of growth, a lot of development, a lot of strategies, learn from the corporate world, which I’m actually able to use for kingdom.
What was that like for you seven years ago coming from the corporate world and then coming from this period of life pursuing a gospel career, and now you’re working in a church setting? What was it like to kind of see the behind the scenes and some might say the underbelly also?
The blessing of anything that God set you in is kind of like the Karate Kid. There are little steps along the way, but wax on wax off. And it starts making sense when you have the “Aha” moment. I am the daughter of a pastor and I’ve been a preacher to kids since I was about 10 years old. So I’ve been in the back layer of ministry and in the back realm of what happens with ministry, just from a kid watching my dad and how he prepared sermons and Bible class in the home, prayer in the home, Sunday school. I was a youth director, then I became a city youth director and a youth music director. So I’ve been in ministry all of my life relative to serving people in the church, then go to corporate, starting my college career, and started then the business career, dealing with people and touching them in the areas of allowing their dreams in construction to become reality, which was the same thing I was doing with people, seeing their purpose and allowing that to become reality, stepping into now in this role where that’s literally what I’m doing every day, the same visions and dreams, and being a part of that implementation plan with God on how we make it become reality.
That’s great. So break down a little more your role there. What kind of a team do you lead or manage there?
I manage a team of about 30. Although the church has over 6000-7000 membership, what we really manage with as far as the infrastructure or the core of our team is about 30 people. Many are part-time, not full-time. So what I’ve had to leverage and learn is how to get much with little.
There’s 30 total people, that’s not 30 full-time plus additional part-time.
That’s not 30. No, ma’am.
And so I don’t go back and complain to the God of the work that, you know, how are you putting all of this honor. We come and synergize and figure out how do we get this done with who we have and what we have in the skill sets before. So it’s literally like the two fish and five loads of bread like, okay, now I need you to take it, I need you to bless it, I need you to break it and I need you to use it. And we see Him do that year after year. We started out in a complaint mode, I have to be honest, because we just thought it was so much work. How can we do it? And we can. It’s not until we give it back to Him. So when I say how He opens doors, how He’s allowed me to use these corporate strategies and relationships by which to partner and to synergize to make ministry happen, it’s been nothing short of a miracle. I’m talking about corporate partnerships with people and corporations like DTE, Molina Healthcare. You’ve got to think outside the box in how ministry can still move forward, and you still bless community and your membership. So this position has called me to really break down the walls of church building and see church community and that’s really infecting the world with this cure that we have in a Christ.
Now, if you can flesh that out a little bit, because I think a lot of people listening in their churches are trying to figure out how to get out of that just within the walls thing that’s going on, but trying to get out, and like you said, infecting the community. Would you flesh out a little bit? How have you guys done that? What are some of your strategies or what are some things that have kind of worked really well for you to make that happen?
I’ll be very honest with you, it’s all about your connectivity to people, the friendships, aligning your relationships. You know people who work in various sectors in this world. What is it that you yet are doing that they can connect to that not only impacts you, but also impacts them? When it becomes a win-win in the relationship, it organically works. It’s not that I need something from you and you will benefit not at all, but you’re coming and doing this for me.
We have found win-win scenarios, and it’s not just a one stop moment or one time event. We try to globally look at it as an ongoing an hour. I’ll be honest with you, many people who come to us, they look at the masses that we have as our asset to them. We have what they call in social media, we have touches, we have influences, we have impact. Each member is a touch point for them. But for us, it’s the resources and it’s the availability of services, human services, that they may provide. That for us is a touch we wouldn’t have to our people. So it’s a win-win. And when we syllogistically look at it and realize, if we don’t get together, you’ll never get the touches, and our people will never get the resources and it’s just kind of works. And so if we come out of the spiritual jargon and talk, and really deal with the human need, which is what Christ was about is major ministry impact, and it’s little decisions every day. I mean something as simple as a DTE program that deals with helping people with their bills, something very simple like that. And it may just be coming and doing energy savings. There’s no big revenue that’s going to come to the church for that, but believe it or not it is, because this cost savings to your member now means discretionary income, and there’s other things they can sow into because I’ve got the savings on my monthly bills that allows me this leverage now, of which I can make decisions on ministry needs, or sowing into mission, so it ties to God’s global. It just ties to God’s global.
That’s fantastic. We might be looping back into that same conversation with this question, but I assume there’s more than just this to your doing. What is, you know, something you guys are doing that has been a real success for you there? And like I said, they can tie in with what you were just talking about or can be something very different, too.
And it would be that thing, that has been my success. Scripture says, the wealth of the wicked is laid up for us. And I know people always just kind of think that’s like a windfall. What it really is is going into boardrooms that not organically church people will go into those doors thinking “there’s something here for kingdom”. My pastor, Mr. Vann, has called me to change my whole perspective on every relationship that I have, because with loving kindness that I’ve drawn you and it’s through my life of Christ that I’m winning people, not always the things I’m saying to them, but what I’m demonstrating and doing. And when you go on boardrooms and your heart and passion is making sure that you’re bringing love and relief and resolution to people’s lives, even those who we call unsure and ungodly are moved by the love of God which draws them closer to Him. And again, it’s that win-win. It’s just the physical, but there are some spiritual things also happening. So when that person has an issue personally in life, they pick up the phone and they call “Tabitha, hey, I need your prayers. I just want to get your insight. What should I do about this?” Hmm, that is challenge going on tap. “I know we’re meeting about this other project, but can I talk to you a moment?” All little steps for ministry to happen, and we’re always ministering if that love, that loving kindness is being out there to draw me and so that would be my one that I did not see God in it until my pastor opened my eyes and kind of broke down walls for me to not be so rigid in how I functioned, and that’s the way it was corporately for me, but to come into the arms of ministry in kingdom and operate, I had to change my strategy.
I think that’s really fantastic because as you mentioned, there can be a really big divide between, you know, this is a secular world, and this is the church world, and right now we’re within the walls of the church. And I love what you’re saying about those walls are not real. We’ve just created them in our minds.
That’s where you got me ready to jump up and help you guys out. So I imagine you’re pretty effective as in those moments when you’re meeting with someone.
Yes, yes. And that’s a gift that God gave, the gift of negotiation and the gift of influence. But the biggest thing is He’s allowed me to discern and see what is the win for everybody at the table. There is a win and it’s a WIN and there’s also WHEN. So He allows me to see that. You got in a win to engage, to show people the WIN. It’s not always initially when you walk in a room, sometimes it’s the thing that I have to go in and offer as again, I told you we have a 90.000 square foot facility, so we yield our building many times to the community here in Detroit to the police officers, to the fire department, to various organizations, to our Wayne Mental Health Authority. We open our doors to so much. When that church was built, we had the community in mind. Church was just services, was just one of the things that we would do in that building. We had high school graduation, we do expungement fairs. They are job fairs. So my cadres of events in programming looks very different than what Church used to look like 10-20 years ago. We leverage what God has given us to win the world. We really do.
That’s fantastic. Okay, I’m going to go to the flipside now. What’s something you guys have got going on there that you’re still working through, you haven’t found a solution for yet?
The ultimate struggle of ministry is finding laborers for the work. I have not correct that called internally and externally – volunteerism, how to match someone’s sweet spot of skill sets with the work to be done, the whosoever will, you hear people say, you know, whosoever will, you know, just bring them in…It’s not always the case when you’re dealing with community, because you have to have a love for people to sit people in front of them. And you’ve got to have the right gift there to administer the healing and the love. And it’s not saying that everyone in church doesn’t have it, but if I’m not a morning person, I don’t put someone at a desk to greet people at the beginning of the day. So it’s matching gift skill sets and people with the work that God has for us to do. And it’s an ongoing struggle, it’s an ongoing challenge because we’re ever evolving, we’re becoming, and you have to allow people the space to grow and in the space to grow what that means is we get to do mistakes. I don’t call them mistakes. You get a mistake, but you get to do it over again. Do you ever perfect it and get it all together? I don’t believe until Jesus comes. So that is our big struggle area, is always making sure we have hands for the amount of work God has put upon us. And I haven’t mastered that at all. I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t mastered it at all.
Well, the irony is in order to find people to do the work, you have to stop your work and spend a lot of time and human resources to find those people and train those people.
That’s right. And with the minimal staff, that context that we talked at the beginning, it becomes a burden. It does, because you know what needs to be done to make it effective and efficient. But if I come down off the wall, will this engine keep rolling while this happens? And so you just keep praying to the lord of the harvest, the laborer who can assist and help in the work.
What I know at least from the conversations I’ve had with people and in my own experience, that people in ministry are maybe the most guilty of buying into the lie that they’re the only ones who can do it or just kind of like “I’ll just do it”, and then they eventually have way too much on their plate.
And that’s right. And that’s not God’s desire because He said that we were to be disciplers, disciplers of men, which means we’re to reproduce, we’re to have more ambassadors, more representatives. And to have that mindset, I’ll do it myself and I am the biggest offender. But I have pulled myself back and say, “Tab, who can you look back to and say “That’s a duplicate, there’s another duplicate, there’s another duplicate”. For I’m in this season of making sure that I’m replicating, and even if it’s facets of the work that I do, it’s still discipleship and that’s what God is pleased with.
So where do you go to learn more about being the best you can be at your role?
I do corporate conferences relative still to my engineering and construction to stay grounded, to keep those relationships viable. I go to such conferences spiritually as like the Bishop T. D. Jakes Leadership Conference. I go there every year. I do a lot of introspective kind of counseling with coaches, life coaches, because I’m no good to anyone, I’m no good. And when you take on people’s spirits and burdens, and that’s your day to day, there has to be a place where you go to purge out and be made whole, or then now you’re contaminant to those and you’re no longer giving a cure, you’re infecting people. So it’s important to me to center myself, to pull unplug and be poured into. So again, Bishop Jakes conference, Sam Chand is another leadership model, John Maxwell. I do a lot of reading of the Success magazine and their article is fruitful for me. I’m still in Seminary, Asian Theological Seminary, just keeping myself well-versed, staying open. I am so willing to be stretched. I’m so willing for God to keep pouring, because if I’m asking that of others, I have to definitely embody that example to them.
So Tabitha, what encouragement would you give to others in church leadership?
The encouragement I would give, number one – they should be not weary in the well-doing, for you will reap disease. Don’t get weary in the work. Stay true to the purpose and the call that God has for you and know that He said that he that has begun a good work in you, that he would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. It’s His work, who we serve are His people. We are working in His plan as participants. Thank God He wants to use us, but we always have to humble ourselves down so that we can be the instrument that He plays through. And I believe that He asks us to do the playing. A lot of times in leadership, we’re trying to do it, we’re trying to push and implement it, we’re trying to make it happen, and we are only the instrument that He blows through, and the beautiful sound comes through. So restraining ourselves to be used, the restraint with all the power and the ability that we have to give it back to God and say, “use me”. That’s the greatest advice I can give. And as a pastor, as a Sunday school teacher, that’s a deacon, that’s a choir member, all of us we’ve got to relinquish our will, nevertheless, not mine, but your will be done.
That’s beautiful. Tabitha, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Thank you for the opportunity. I’m just grateful that God uses us to participate in what He’s doing in the land and thank God you’re still working in His land.