When I was leading a church that was stuck, one of the most important things I did to find my way forward was spend time with pastors who had led through the stage that had me stuck.
One of them was Charlie McMahon, Senior Pastor at Southbrook Christian Church in Centerville, Ohio. Charlie had led Southbrook from 150 to 1,500 and had been through some rough stretches and lived to tell about them. I had always admired Charlie’s authenticity and knew he was someone I needed to talk to. So I asked Charlie if he could meet me for lunch.
As I was pouring out my heart, my frustrations, my insecurities, Charlie gave me the greatest gift any pastor could have given me at the time: an open invitation to join his staff meetings whenever I wanted to join them.
He said, “Just come and be a fly on the wall. Soak in the vibe. Listen to the conversations. Talk to our team members. Just take it all in. I think it would encourage you.”
I took him up on the offer.
The very next week I traveled down to Southbrook and joined their staff meeting.
A few things happened from spending time with another church’s staff that are worth noting:
1. The team at Southbrook taught me how to run a staff meeting. They ate together. They laughed together. They dreamed together. They prayed together. It was like a birthday party meets strategic planning every single week. It was awesome.
2. Charlie taught me what it looks like to lead multiple staff. At that point in our church’s life it was just a worship pastor and me. Staff meetings were kinda lonely, honestly. Just two dudes getting lunch. As I watched Charlie I saw how he monitored the staff culture, led a meeting, and cast vision.
3. I saw the impact a well-led staff could have on a church community and left each week hungry to learn more. Instead of that experience making me more desperate because it confirmed how lonely I actually was, it made me hungry. I wanted that culture. I wanted to lead a team, not simply fly Tonto and the Lone Ranger style.
4. That experience at Southbrook gave me the conceptual roadmap I needed to understand what areas I needed to focus on: which staff to add, how I needed to change, and what kind of facility space we’d need to facilitate such growth.
5. Charlie saved my ministry. I honestly don’t know what I would have done had he not extended that gracious invitation to me. I was so depressed and frustrated that I was seriously contemplating going to law school. Charlie taught me how to lead a church in serious growth and enjoy my life while doing it. For that I’ll never forget his kindness.
Senior Pastors – what are some invaluable truths you’ve learned from a mentor?