Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Tim Ferguson, who is joining us from First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks in Largo, Florida. Really happy to have you, Tim.
Thank you, Courtney. It’s nice to be here.
Tim, you have been at Indian Rocks for over 20 years now. Is that right?
Yes, it’s been 21.
That is not so common to hear of such a long tenure at one church.
Yeah, it’s been a blessing. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been a blessing. And this is the church really where I give my heart to the Lord and that’s kind of near and dear to my heart.
Would you share a little bit more about how you got to your current position?
Yeah. My wife and I actually joined the church in 1990, and we’re here for about three years before the company I was with moved this to area and subsequently to a couple of other places throughout the south-east, and our last place was in Birmingham, Alabama. And pretty much since we bought a house, I got a call from the pastor here, talking to me about coming here to be the church administrator. They had not had one for a couple of years, and the church is growing, and we had a Christian school that was growing, and they just needed somebody to come and organize those things and just really a long series of events and just the Lord intervening in some pretty amazing ways, He opened the door for us to come down here and we started on staff in June of 1996.
So have you been in the same position then all 21 years?
I know a lot has happened in the church world in two decades.
What’s it been like administrating through that long of a time period at one place?
Well, it’s been interesting, I mean I think the changes have been dramatic. Just in talking about technology and talking about church styles, music styles, and just a lot of things like that, that’s been interesting. We really at Indian Rocks have been incredibly busy building and growing, and just doing a lot of things like that. So in some ways the struggling has gone really fast, in some ways I feel like I’ve been here forever, but it’s been a blessing all throughout.
Would you describe a little more how your church is structured and what things fall under your responsibility?
We’ve got a church and we’ve got a Christian school, and the way our church is structured, I mean we’re pastor led…they can serve in committee and in church run. So the church does vote on a lot of different things, but really we are run and led by our senior pastor. And so he relies on myself and then we’ve got another associate pastor that sets upon a ministry arm and I head up all the operational features of the ministry, including support in the school, which is about 900 kids in our school. And so it’s busy around here pretty much every day of the week. So I run all the operations, all the supporting things, I help all the ministry do what they need to do.
In running those operations, you’ve got the church and a large school. How have you incorporated technology into how you administrate?
Well, I remember when I first started the computers on daily chain networks and things like that up till now, we think it’s important to provide WiFi everywhere you go. So it literally in 20 years has gone from something just incredibly basic, our computer went down, everything went down, to just having your phones or laptop computers and being able to go on the internet anywhere in our facility. I mean just that large of a change just brings a lot of things, but it just keeps getting more and more, but I mean the church apps we have, the membership apps that we use are so good online giving the tech, giving the social media advertising. We do try to get rid of papers as much as we can, I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of paper, but just online, our electronic files of online forms with signatures. There are just a lot of things that we have used to help administrate things a little bit easier.
What are some of the administrative challenges that you face?
I would say just the biggest challenge that I face is people, personnel, trying just to deal with all the different personalities that God’s given us. You know everybody has their own idea, everybody has their own opinion and just working through those things, I think dealing with conflict is huge. If you can’t learn to deal with it and kind of manage through it and make it work for you, they’re going to hurt you. But I think just people is probably the biggest challenge I have.
Yeah. How would you say having been there for so long, how has your approach to the challenge of different personalities evolved in those 20 years?
Well, I think making sure people know about themselves and then knowing about each other. We’ve done multiple personality, I don’t want to call them “tests”, but surveys and I was like Myers-Briggs and all those things. We actually just did a brand new in this past year for our pastor’s retreat where actually they broke down the four behavior styles into 16, so that was pretty interesting, and we learned a lot about each other, a lot about ourselves that way too. I think doing that it helps people understand the way people think. And that’s probably one of the biggest things I think that helped us because you realize that “this person does have a good heart, they just think differently than you do”. I think that makes a big difference when you’re dealing with somebody or you’re frustrated with somebody and by a decision they’ve made or something they’ve said to you or something like that. And it helps you work through the problem a little bit better.
How the different co-workers that you kind of worked with…most other people had the long tenure you have or what has that been like with different staff turnover?
At this point in time in our staff we actually have quite a few new folks that we’ve had, I would say in the last probably five years, we’ve had seven or eight pastors and a couple of the key staff leaders leave or retire or just, you know, different things, nothing real negative in all that, just moving on or moving on to a senior pastor position and some things like that. So it’s been some positive things, but we actually have a fairly young staff right now, and that’s one of the reasons we brought in a different style of personality at our last test, just to talk about some different things and getting folks to know each other. I’d say probably a third of our pastoral staff is new and a lot younger, and that’s fun to be dealing with. We had quite a bit of change lately. In my 21 years we had two pastors, the one I came to work for, and he retired about 11 years after I was here, and the new pastor, I say new pastor, but actually 10 years. So it’s been pretty stable, but also we’re going through some change in the last five years.
So how would you, kind of zooming on with that, change is for you guys, where are you coming from, where are you moving towards?
We’re moving towards…I mean our focus has always been on the church side to reach families because we really feel that that’s what the church is, that’s where the growth in the church is going to come from. So we are constantly looking to do that, we’re on the process of getting ready to switch, to actually switch our services. We feel we’ve got a contemporary service, and we’ve got more of a blended traditional service and we’re going to be switching those just because we think it’s going to help families a little bit more. We are in the process of raising money to build a new children’s center, which will be just a state-of-the-art children center that’s going to really have an impact for our families, from kindergarten to third grade area. So we are constantly looking for new ways and then really just trying to ramp up our contemporary service because sometimes we get stale on what we’re doing and we’re literally just in the process of just looking at what we can do to change to get better and just keep reaching people in our community.
Where do you go to learn more about being a great executive pastor?
Several places. The Church Network is a great one. I go to their conference every couple of years, I’m part of the southern Baptist churches, XP, the executive pastors’ round table that I’ll go to every couple of years as well. I also just reach out to…we’ve got a few larger churches in our area, and so spending time with the folks that do what I do in those churches has been just a bless and I just love getting to meet those guys. Those are just some of the things I do, just try to stay fresh and just keep relationships built with people.
Tim, what encouragement would you give to other executive pastors?
The one thing that I have always tried to do and I mean not just in this role, but as a parent and everything else is always looked for ways to say yes. We have to say no sometimes, or not now enough, that if it’s possible, if you can say yes, find a way to say yes. So I think that’s probably the one thing that I would share with somebody, especially somebody new starting in this position or something like that.
That’s great advice. I’m curious too with how long you’ve done this. There are so many people who are just in their first five years of being an executive pastor. What would you say to the person who is weathering a storm right now?
You know, probably a verse that I fall back on all the time as I think about just going through issues and stuff like this, but it’s first Thessalonians 5-16, but it’s found in Romans too, almost the same exact thing, but just “rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks, for this is the law of God for your life”. And I think if you can remember just to rejoice always probably continually, and just give thanks and everything. Sometimes that’s tough to do. In 21 years there have been a couple of things that have made me want to leave here, but I haven’t. And I look back on that, I’m just thankful I didn’t make a quick decision, or I kind of stayed studying with patience and focused on the Lord through some of those times. But you’re definitely going to go through a rough patch. Somebody’s going to do something to you. And whether be staff or whether be a church member, whether be whatever it is, but just hang in there and the Lord will take care of you.
That’s fantastic. Thank you, Tim, for being on the show today.
Sure, my pleasure.