Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Today, we’ve got Trey Skinner on the show, coming to us from Calvary Chapel Southbury in Southbury, Connecticut. Trey, great to have you today.
Well, thanks for having me.
So Trey, how did you come to be the executive pastor there at Calvary Chapel?
Yeah. Mostly from wearing every hat that I could. I started out bi-vocationally, about 8 years ago. I had moved in Connecticut with my wife and we were just planning on staying for a short time, and then I was gonna go to seminary or I was interested in getting in the ministry. But anywhere else that’s Connecticut, that was my plan. But I ended up connecting with my senior pastor now. He said, you know, you can learn to do ministry just by jumping in. And he invited us to do that alongside him here. And so I was bi-vocational for about 3, 4 years, something like that. And then I came on the staff as the kids and youth pastor. After about 6 months, our worship leader left. I took over as the worship leader and handed off kids and youth. And then at that point, I had done everything. And so it just made sense that I would kinda oversee the different ministries. So I’ve been in this role now for about 2 years.
Okay. So what was your bi-vocation previously?
Yeah. My first job was at enterprise rent-a-car. I just got that because it was local and it was available, and it had very 6 hours where I could be reliably off at certain time, important times for ministry. And actually, that was an awesome place to actually learn a lot about systems and processes. And so I actually see how the Lord has used that in ministry to prepare me a little bit.
Okay. I wanna get more into the ExP side in a second, but I do have a question. How long were you serving bi-vocationally?
About 3 and a half years.
Okay. And I’m sure there’s quite a bit packed into that, but how was that experience for you doing? I can’t say part-time, part-time. I assume it was more like full-time, full-time.
It was. Yeah. Honestly, I wouldn’t change it. It was great. It’s great to know that I could do that. Even as I look to my future which may involve church planting, I’m happy to know that, okay, though that’s tons of work, God can still use it really well. So I found it pretty important. And just to understand that ministry, as a person who’s really prone to think about systems and planning and stuff, to also understand that ministry can be done with the 15 or 20 hours or whatever you have left over. That was a really helpful and important thing to know right up front.
Okay, so moving now into your current position as an executive pastor, what exactly falls under your responsibility there?
Yes. So my senior leader takes care of teaching, although I do teach when he’s away. He does vision and missions, and then everything else is sort of under my oversight. So I’m really just trying to take care of the nuts and bolts, and the details, which John, my senior leader is not that interested in being involved in the nitty-gritty. So staff management, and key leaders, and strategy, are I would say, probably the big umbrellas and all the things that are needed beyond that.
Are you someone who is kind of naturally drawn to that nitty-gritty detail side?
To an extent. I don’t consider myself to be super interested in details. But what I am super interested in is getting it done right and in a way that other people can pick up on it and learn. And so I just had to learn to think more systematically and to build out details so that I can pass things off to other people. So I think it’s more of a learned habit than anything else because honestly, I would prefer to just slide by the seat of my pants. But that’s not good for helping other people engage in ministry and building up other leaders.
Okay. So building off of that, being interested in the systematic side, what is something you’ve been able to implement there at Calvary Chapel? Something that has answered a problem for you or some kind of best practice that maybe others might be interested in hearing about.
I think that more than anything, whenever I’ve gone into a ministry, I sort of follow the same format in terms of, okay, what am I gonna do to just get it moving in the right direction? And that’s first of all, I just simplify everything. I find that over time, the older ministry gets, the more just extra things are happening that really aren’t core to its function. And so when I win the youth, there was a lot of that, to taking over in worship it in other places or in our small groups ministry. We have so many goals and a lot of them are really good. But I think the most important thing to do when we come in to ministry, we wanna get appointed in the right direction. It’s just to really just identify what are the most important things, what function does this ministry serve in the context of the health of the entire church, and just build our goals around that. So that’s the framework that I’m looking at when I approach any ministry. And the theme that I’ve noticed that usually the most important things have to do with building systems around the giftings of the Body of Christ. So building systems that are really people-friendly and that empower just the gift of the Holy Spirit that the church has. I’ve seen that, especially lately in the stage of growth where we’re at where we’re really having to empower with the gift of hospitality. People who are just empathetic and kind, and just those people actually who aren’t normally very prone or using systems, they like being with people, but we’ve been figuring out how to build our systems to empower those people and have them have more impact.
That’s interesting. What are some things that you have done to help maybe your volunteers or staff who aren’t, as you said, aren’t as prone to be drawn to a system. What are some things you’ve done to kind of ease them into that or help introduce it in a way that shows that it’s friendly, it’s not there to take over?
Yeah. Well, first of all, just asking them the bare minimum. Mostly, the only thing that I really want people to get is for them to report back to me, basically, how did it go and who showed up? Those are the two things I really need to know. I find a lot of times we’re just trying to get too much information out of people like that who aren’t systems oriented. And we definitely need data points and ways to evaluate success, but we don’t need more than we actually need. So a lot of that is just getting my expectations right when I am creating the system and saying, okay, what do I really need to know? And then creating a simple way for them to report that back. And so we use that with our CMS, a simple way to just collect that information. I usually have to, with a person who maybe doesn’t love technology, who doesn’t love systems, I have to do it a couple times, 3 or 4 times so they really understand why it’s important. But also just to understand that it is easy. It’s just I’m asking for a few simple things and the method of gathering that is very well laid out. So I think it’s just laying it out right on the front end.
Yeah. That’s great. On the flip side of that, what is something going on right now that is some kind of challenge or struggle that you haven’t quite found a solution for?
Here in Southbury, we have one of the largest retirement communities in all of New England, right here in town. And so we have, I would say, a little bit of the technology divide when it comes to the members of our church because we have a very large and healthy, I would say, seniors group. And it’s really a problem on my end. I’m 33 and I really have embraced technology, but I don’t think I’ve done a great job of helping them to feel comfortable with the systems. Because some are just so uncomfortable with any kind of technology. That’s been a big challenge and it’s honestly something that I’m still working on. And I wonder if I’m never going to figure out how to systematize it, but just needs to be just personal, personal connections and phone calls. I wanna automate everything but I maybe should give up and just do it personally. I don’t know.
Yeah. That might be half of some solutions is just knowing when to stop.
I think that there’s a truth to that.
Trey, where do you go to just be better at your role as an executive pastor? And also, where do you go to stay healthy, yourself, in this role?
Sure. The first question, first, I love Twitter. Which, I don’t know for whatever reason, where I am in Connecticut, no one really uses it. But I love Twitter and I think it’s just such a great place, like a hub for resources. So I’m always chasing down books that I get recommended there and reading blogs and listening to podcasts that come up on Twitter. So that’s definitely one thing that’s really important. And in terms of health myself, books. I’m reading a lot of Dallas Willard right now. I feel like for me, at least, health need to happen offline because it’s such a distracting world for me. I can go down so many rabbit holes and so I really need to just either be with a one on one relational connection or just by myself with the Lord and with a book. So that needs to be really a quiet place for me.
Now, when you do that, is that something that you can do there at the church and the offices, or can you do it at home, or do you have to go somewhere else to do that?
I usually have to go somewhere else. I would take breaks throughout my work day, but usually, I’m just — I’m sitting in my office right now, and I’m surrounded by white boards, and charts, and calendars, and it makes me nervous just thinking about it. So yes, I usually just have to step outside. I go for walks when it’s not 10 degrees out like it is now. In the winter, I tend to just go to the library.
Well, you live in a good area for that. Connecticut is beautiful.
It is. It is.
Trey, what encouragement would you give to others who are in church leadership?
Sure. The thing that the Lord has been teaching me just over and over again, is to just be thankful. Just be thankful for even just people who are different, honestly. My senior pastor and I, we have a really good relationship and he trusts me, which I really appreciate, because he doesn’t want to deal with the things that I like to deal with. And so we have a really good relationship. But it’s easy for me, in our relationship, even to just get upset and I’ve dealt with this as a young and immature person of just like why he doesn’t see the world the way I see it. And I just learned over the last couple of years and that I just really need to just practice thankfulness, thankfulness for him, and thankfulness for the other people around me. The more I just look at the diversity of the church in our current stage, the more I’m just thankful for the Lord that not everyone sees the world the way I do. So I would just encourage people who — because administrators are systematic people and they want things done a certain way, and that’s a great gift. But we also just need to definitely be thankful for those who see the world differently.
That’s a great word for all of us, I think. Trey, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Thank you, Courtney.