My Interview with 5 Sr. Pastors Leading Multisite Churches of 5,000+ Pt-4

I recently sat down with 5 Sr. Pastors who are all leading Multisite Churches ranging from 5,000 to more than 15,000. Here’s some of what they had to say regarding church leadership. If you missed the first three parts of this series you can check them out here:

Part-1 “How do young leaders earn the right to be heard and succeed on your team?”

Part-2 “What are some indicators that momentum is moving the wrong direction and how do you turn the tide?”

Part-3 “What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in going multisite and what are some of the most significant things you’ve learned as a result?”

This is the last of the posts in this series and is and a collection of some final thoughts and take aways from my interview.

Tyler Johnson: I think it’s fundamental to being made in the Image of God and that the Holy Spirit resides in people is that there’s untapped potential like crazy in Christians. And when you restrict them from the ability to exercise their full shape, if you want to use that terminology, I just think you miss a lot. Now it’s far more challenging than that. It’s far more simple or cleaner to say there’s a top chain of command and we’re going to make decisions trickle down. I don’t think you get near the results or keep the leaders if you do that. But if you push decisions down…I think it’s a belief one for us theologically that these people are made in the Image of God and leaders develop…when I say leaders just think discipleship…discipleship happens at its best when people are given the most amount of freedom and they’re resourced to do it, with coaching. So we’ll talk a lot about in leadership development about leading with a retractable roof, like Chase Field. I mean there are times when you’re leading somebody that the roof needs to be closed. I mean its like put your head down and go. But then there are a lot of times that the roof needs to be open and you can say the sky is the limit. And we try to create environments where they get to make decisions and because of that there really is no ceiling for us. If you don’t give them the room to make decisions I don’t think in the end your going to disciple, lead them well, and or keep them.

Scott Ridout: One of the things we’re trying to communicate to our staff is the larger we get the more specialized our staff have to be and that’s a de-satisfier. Especially when you’ve been a generalist in ministry and you’ve had a lot of authority. I think it is Larry Osborne who says any time you take away preference, prestige or power there’s disappointment. So we’re teaching our staff the hedgehog concept that Jim Collins talks about. There are three circles 1) what you’re passionate about 2) what you can be best in the world at 3) this is what we’ll pay you to do. In other words you could be the best on the entire staff at something, but this is the job that we’ll pay you to do. You’re doing what’s best for the team. We need you to play this role…and it can be a de-satisfier, unless your vision and passion is for the mission more than your personal gratification.

Cal Jernigan: I think one of the things that was a huge revelation for me in the move I made from doing Youth Ministry to leading a large church was this issue of courage. I don’t think we have a clue about this whole courage issue. Nobody told me that being the Sr. Pastor of a church was going to be more about courage than anything else. But what I’ve discovered is between these guys up here who are leading successful churches and so many guys out there leading churches is this courage factor. This ability to do what you don’t want to do but you know you need to do. And as I travel around and I talk to other churches it’s not uncommon for me to be in a conversation where I find myself saying, “You know exactly what you need to do, why don’t you do it?” And the reality of it is, the price to pay to do that is a price we’re not willing to pay because it’s going to relationally damage somebody. And you think about how many of us went into the ministry because we had a pastoral heart and we wanted to love on people. And you get into leadership, and the higher level of leadership you get into the more you find yourself saying, “This is going to hurt, but this is the right thing to do.” I think to rise in leadership you have to embrace a heart full of courage.

Don Wilson: There are two sides to this…I know it’s my sickness…and that’s the fact that driven leaders are addicted to growth. Whether we admit it or not, we probably are. And so the struggle at times, is you want your ministry to grow, but you’ve got to be careful that you don’t pray that other ministries don’t grow. Because if we’re not careful, and I’ve been guilty, that we want the Kingdom to grow as long as it’s not too close to our kingdom. And working with the mega-church pastors in the state the last couple of years…if you’re going to be a leading church, you’re going to take a lot of hits. And the problem, if we’re going to reach this city for Jesus Christ, my big term is, “We’re the visiting team, we’re no longer the home team.” 90% don’t go to church anywhere. And we better figure out, all of us, how to work together more or we’re all going to lose.

Scott Ridout: I think the one thing that we’ve done in the last 18 months that has really helped us out…is that we’ve always said we’ve got a culture worth reproducing. We like our staff culture we like our staff culture, we have a culture worth reproducing. But I don’t know that we’d ever defined it…what made our culture what it is. So we took some time last year as an Executive Team and we asked, “In the last 3 months what were the conversations with Staff and leaders that made you say – yes they get it?” Another question we asked was, “What are the conversations and moments with Staff and leaders that made you cringe?” And we took those answers and asked, “What are the underlying values?” And we tried to define what made us…us. Because there’s Christian culture, and that’s what Scripture says about all Christians. But not every Christian goes to your church. And then there’s church culture. And people can be in your church and that’s based on your vision, and values, and maturity pathway and stuff like that. But not everyone in your church can be a leader. And so what is the leadership culture of your church? And so what we came up with is seven statements that define the leadership culture at our church. How we handle ourselves, how we handle each other, how we handle volunteers, how we handle our guests. For example when it comes to challenge and confrontations, “We love first, lead second, but we always do both.”

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