My First Challenge as the Executive Pastor of a Church Plant

I met Dylan on Twitter a few weeks ago and instantly connected with him and the vision they have for their church plant.  As a rookie Executive Pastor, figuring things out for the first time, we thought it would be amazingly helpful to document his learning process and throw it up as a series on the blog here. He’s a great guy and we encourage you to reach out to him with additional questions or to support the work they are doing in Nashville.

My name is Dylan Wickliffe. I’m the 23-year-old executive pastor of a church plant in Nashville called Church Alive. I’m engaged to a wonderful woman and I love coffee (who doesn’t?).

Full disclosure: I am by no means an expert church planter, experienced pastor, or success guru. In fact, I’m the exact opposite. I am a young, inexperienced, executive pastor of a brand new church. That’s the exciting part. This blog will serve to transparently document my learning process in the hopes that it helps others in a similar situation.

Let’s start from the beginning, who is the executive pastor? Why is the no. 2 guy necessary?

To paint this picture more clearly, I’m going to need the help of the Dark Knight himself.

You see, Batman has many important people in his life that attribute to his overall success in defending Gotham City. The most notable is his sidekick, Robin. At first glance, the pastor/executive pastor relationship may resemble that of Batman and Robin. And it’s totally true! I am Pastor Scott’s sidekick. I’m his right-hand man. However, I think a MORE accurate depiction of who the no. 2 guy really is would be Batman’s other best friend, Alfred.

Alfred is Bruce Wayne’s (Batman’s), butler. He has the heart of a cheerful servant who loves Bruce, loves his job, and wants to do all he can for the Wayne property to make it better. (Starting to click yet?)

Here’s the kicker: Alfred doesn’t just serve as a butler. He is also the brains of the Batman operation. He built the Batmobile, designed the Batman uniform, built all the gadgets and weapons, etc. Basically, Alfred goes above and beyond to make sure Batman is able to save Gotham City from inevitable turmoil.

The executive role is unique in this way because it requires an equal balance of emotional, practical, and technical fortitude.

My goal is not to be the best sidekick I can be, but to make Pastor Scott the best lead pastor that he can be.

I heard from Scott, “If you do only what you can do, and I do what only I can do, then together we will do what only we can do.” Your lead pastor has a vision that God ordained upon him, to start a church, make disciples, and change the world. Most people don’t think about all the hard work that vision entails. A church is so much more than reading the Bible through a microphone. That’s where the no. 2 guy comes in.

My first piece of advice is Get the letter to Garcia

Pastor Tavner Smith of Venue Church told us the story of Andrew Summers Rowan. Here are the highlights:

When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents, Garcia. The only problem was no one knew where Garcia was. Someone said to President McKinley, “If there is anyone who can get a letter to Garcia, it’s Rowan. When The President gave him the letter, Rowan didn’t ask “Where is he?” “How do I get there?” “Can I get some travel money?” Instead, he packed the letter and hit the road and figured it out.

 My first word of advice to all executive pastors (both new and old) is be Rowan. Get the letter to Garcia. Your lead pastor has a job that only he can do and so do you. Find a way to get it done.

The first task of this nature that my Pastor gave me was our database.

We use Church Community Builder (CCB) to keep track of all of our information for staff, members, guests, and giving. CCB links directly from our website and is extremely user-friendly once you know how to use it. I haven’t noticed many bugs or issues, but the learning curve has been the speed bump for me on CCB. It’s easy to add people to the database, update their contact information, and create personal notes for every person. It is all manual data entry though, so keep that in mind when your church expands to thousands of people: data entry will be a full-time job. For now, that’s my job.

In the future, my job will be to train the team (which we’re calling Church Alive Central) to enter the data. CCB is such an amazing way to communicate to your church Monday through Saturday. Whether you’re sending a mass email to the entire church or you just want to check in on the Worship Department, there is a way to do it. CCB also generates giving reports to easily keep track of who gives what. I have been working with CCB since January and I still learn something new every day.

My first big challenge: Am I in over my head?

I came into this church plant as a worship leader, so when the opportunity presented itself to take the role of executive pastor, I said yes, but I was clueless. I felt like I was in over my head. I went from collecting musical equipment, writing songs, and meeting musicians to learning the church database, manipulating spreadsheets, generating reports on ChurchMetrics, and designing email templates in Mail Chimp. It was like landing in a foreign country. Everything seemed like it needed translation.

And honestly, this got to me. My first challenge as a newly-appointed executive pastor was that feeling of being in over my head. Am I really called to this? Am I prepared? Am I qualified? These were just a few of the doubts running on repeat for me.  

The journey of a rookie Executive Pastor is challenging. I won’t lie and pretend I know it all and that I’m not shaking in my skinny jeans, but with great risk comes great reward. My now good friend, Derek Gillette from Pushpay gave me some really good words of wisdom that I think serve as a good takeaway for this post:

Don’t let your fear of failure outweigh the faith you have in your calling. Remember, God chose you for this role. It’s less about being qualified, and more about being chosen. When we truly believe this, it removes any fear we have of not being taken seriously.

I’m looking forward to this blog and any feedback that comes from it. Feel free to reach out to me via social media (@DylanDoubleYou) with questions, comments, prayer requests, or anything not covered in the blog!

Much love,
Pastor Dylan Wickliffe

Meanwhile, don’t neglect to look into these other resources for young executive pastors.

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