Developing a Leadership Pipelinepodcast

Kevin Peck on the Conviction, Culture & Constructs of Leadership Development


Kevin_Peck_podcastThank you for joining us today for this episode of the unSeminary podcast. We have Kevin Peck from Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas with us today.

Austin Stone began 15 years ago and now has seven campuses at five locations in and around Austin. Kevin began working with the church about a year after it first began, when he moved back to Austin to take care of his father. Kevin currently works as the lead pastor in conjunction with the original founder of the church, Matt Carter, who has the role of pastor of preaching.

Kevin is with us today to talk about leadership development within the church and how Austin Stone is handling this part of their ministry.

  • Make leadership development a core conviction. // The truth is the leaders of your church won’t be there forever. At Austin Stone, they decided early on that developing the next generation of leaders within the church was a key issue if they were going to continue to reach the lost in their community. As new people come to the church, it serves to strengthen this conviction for leadership development. Austin Stone has made this so much of their DNA that it would be abnormal not to work on leadership development and raise up future leaders.
  • Keep tweaking the constructs. //As time moves forward, people will change and the culture will change, so the constructs you use to develop leaders will also need to change. The conviction will remain the same, but always be willing to change the constructs and tweak them to suit current needs.
  • Leadership is theologically about plurality. // Austin Stone strongly holds that leadership development has a theological basis, and that is the plurality of leadership. From the beginning, God chose to demonstrate the image of God not through just one person, but through Adam and Eve. Another example in scripture: we see Moses trying to do leadership on his own and it doesn’t work. There needs to be more than one person in order to make leadership succeed. As Kevin explains, “Listen, what’s best for the church is for people not to be hinged on our abilities, our talents…but it should be hinged on this plural leadership so that if one leader either dies or gets sent across the seas or falls in ministry, all of those things God has already taken care of by offering to us the wisdom and grace of plural leadership.” In this way the church isn’t dependent upon one person and isn’t left trying to fill a void with people who aren’t ready or who aren’t capable of taking on one large role.
  • Have a clear articulated leadership pipeline. // Make becoming a leader within your church a clear path for anyone who is interested. That doesn’t mean that everyone who wants to become a deacon, for example, will become one, but the path to deaconship needs to be there and laid out well for those who want to follow it. This can be an application and interview process, or any other process that might work best for your church. The important thing is to have specific next steps so individuals know what is required for the job and what process needs to be completed in order to move forward.

You can learn more about Austin Stone at their website and you can reach Kevin on Twitter @_KPeck_.

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Episode Highlights

1:00 // Rich introduces Kevin Peck and welcomes him to the show.

01:20 // Kevin talks about his history within Austin Stone Community Church.

02:51 // Kevin talks about his role within the church.

04:10 // Kevin talks us through their leadership development concept.

06:38 // Kevin explains the plurality of leadership at Austin Stone.

09:15 // Kevin talks us through their leadership development pipeline.

13:21 // Kevin talks about making disciples of Jesus.

15:28 // Kevin highlights the link between Austin Stone’s growth and their leadership development culture.

17:47 // Kevin introduces us to Design to Lead, a book he has co-authored with Eric Geiger.

Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // Evernote and Wunderlist

Ministries Following // Redeemer Dubai: Dave Furman and Scott Zeller

Influential Book // In Christ: In Him Together for the World by Steve Timmis and Christopher de la Hoyde

Inspiring Leader // Russell Moore

What does he do for fun // Coaches kids’ sports teams

Contact // Twitter: _kpeck_

Episode Transcript

Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast, so glad that you’ve decided to join us. You know, we try every week to have people on the show who we think are going to help you lead in a new way and kind of take your church to the next level and I’m just so honored today, we really are privileged to have Kevin Peck from Austin Stone, a great leader, leading really a fantastic church. Kevin, welcome to the show.

Kevin – Hi, thanks for having me Rich.

Rich – Folks that don’t know, Austin Stone is a fantastic church in, of all places, Austin. I think you have five campuses now in and around Austin, is that true?

Kevin – Yeah, actually we have seven campuses at five locations. We double tap a couple of locations so that we get bang for our buck on these facilities.

Rich – Fantastic. Well why don’t you tell us a little bit about Austin Stone for folks that don’t know and about your role there?

Kevin – Yeah you bet. We started about 15 years ago, it’s a church planter, a guy named Matt Carter actually took a church planting class, a seminary when he was down in Huston and felt a call to plant churches and at the time Austin was one of those kind of random southern cities that still showed up on a list of most unreached cities in North America. So him being kind of an entrepreneurial guy, he said, “Hey, if we’re going to tackle this, let’s go to hard places.”

So he headed down here with his family about 15 years ago and about a year in I came back to Austin, because I’m from Austin, I’m actually a local Austinite, was coming back to take care of my dad after my mom died. I was in management consulting at the time and thought, “Hey, I’ll help out with this young church plant,” since I was a lost guy when I lived here in Austin and thought, “Man, I’d love to see the church flourish here in a city that I’m from.”

So I just asked them to help out for a couple of years and the price was right, I was free, so he said, “Yes,” and 14 years later I’m still here, enjoying, leading and service the city of Austin by not only planting the Austin Stone but also hopefully generating more leaders and more gospel workers for our city and around the globe.

My particular role kind of developed over time. As Matt and I continued to work together for the last 14 years, we just saw that we had a good complimentary set of gifts and Matt loves to preach and therefore leads and I love to lead and therefore preach and we thought, “Hey, we trust each other, we like each other, let’s do this together.”

So about seven years ago, I kind of took on the role of Lead Pastor and he became Pastor of Preaching and we kind of slipped that traditional role of Senior Pastor so that we more form our campus, because one of the things we love to do here at our church is just demonstrate the plurality of leadership that we see really explicitly in scripture. So that started with us two and now it’s grown into a much larger team where we love to share leadership so that God’s church can keep going forward regardless of the human instruments that he uses.

Rich – Fantastic. Well for folks that don’t know, Austin Stone is one of those fastest growing churches in the country, you guys are doing great ministry in a lot of different ways, God’s using you in some pretty amazing ways, but it’s got to be hard to keep up with all that. I love what you touched on there, the plurality of leaders, I mean, you’re modeling that at the very core of, kind of the leadership structure but that’s really kind of dominoed down from what I see, really throughout your entire organization. What is kind of leadership development looking like for you at Austin Stone these days?

Kevin – For us leadership development became, at our heart, kind of a core conviction, not one of those add-ons, not an extra program, not one of those things that we thought, “Hey, this would be a good idea but as long as we pull off worship services, we’re still winning.” It actually for us became a core theological concept for us, a core theological motivation for us, because we just realized, really, really early on, that we’re going to die at 100% chance rate, we’re going go, death is coming for us and therefore multiplication, replication is going to be not just an add-on but a necessary part of us, actually caring for our city in a way that actually sees us rightly as just creatures.

So that’s become a must do part of our ministry structure, so because of that we kind of see leadership development in three parts, we don’t first aim at a program, we really aim at saying, it started with a conviction, then for us it developed in a culture and then we start talking about the constructs that can help us develop leaders.

So for us, that really has been a good framework. So we continue to enhance in our congregation as new people come in, this conviction for leadership development, because convictions are going to cost you something and those convictions, as we talk about them and as we build models for them, it develops as part of a culture where it becomes abnormal not to do it, it would feel wrong not to do it.

Then we keep tweaking the constructs, because things are going to change, people are going to change, we’re going to learn new stuff about how leaders are made and then we can kind of change the constructs.

So for us, it starts at the very beginning with conviction. So we’re teaching on it all the time, not only on multiplication itself, but we’re teaching on plurality of leadership on a regular basis and we’re teaching on God’s global vision, that God wants more than us and which just leads to a natural theology of, we’re going to have to multiply and not just add here at Austin.

Rich – Yeah, I love that. Why don’t you lean in a little bit on the plurality of leadership? I think we live in a, I don’t know whether you’d call it a superhero timeframe of church leaders or a kind of star obsessed, like there’s always the one guy or the one leader at the top that’s making it all happen, which just isn’t biblical or true. Kind of unpack that a little bit, how do you explain the plurality of leadership to your people at Austin Stone?

Kevin – Yeah, so for us I mean it really starts at the very core with a couple of different things. Number one, that God’s desire and design for mankind is to demonstrate the image of God to the world but he decided from the very beginning to do that through a plurality of people. So when God makes mankind in his own image, he makes male and female, so from the very beginning, in order to demonstrate the image of God, God is adding more than one guy. If anyone could have pulled it off it should have been Adam, but he doesn’t do that, so he does Adam and Eve.

Then from that you see throughout scripture, even as early as Moses, you see the Jethro principle of him trying to forget that first message and do all the ministry on his own and his father-in-law comes in with great advice and says, “What you’re doing is not good,” and there’s a multiplication of leaders.

So for us, we’re just kind of seeing that thread throughout the scripture and for us we’re saying, “This has to happen from a very theological concept.” Then secondly and always secondly, we see it as just a real practical theology of humanity. Humanity is going to, ever since the fall, we’re going to die and if we care about the glory of God as the supreme thing for the church, then our glory, our fame, our being lifted up, always become secondary, at minimum secondary. So therefore for us we say, “Listen, what’s best for the church is for people not to be hinged on our abilities, our talents,” all sorts of the things that God’s put really good stuff in us, but it should be hinged on this plural leadership so that if one leader either dies or gets sent across the seas or falls in ministry, all of those things God has already taken care of by offering to us the wisdom and grace of plural leadership.

So we’re constantly teaching our people, “Listen, because of humanity, we need plural leaderships and because of God, we need plural leadership,” and our folks are embracing it because I think everyone, at least in our day and age, while we like these gigantic heroes, we’re also become more and more distrusting of them, because humans keep being human at alarming regularity.

Rich – Very true, well that’s very good. Now the amazing thing is, I think there’s a lot of church leaders who, they would believe that but are unable to kind of operationalize that, have been unable to build a culture. What have you done at Austin Stone to kind of take that and then transform that into a culture that actually values and is developing leaders?

Kevin – Man, that’s great, thanks for asking that. Well a couple of things is, first and foremost we’re going to model it in our leadership structures. So we will always talk about, “Listen, we’re not going to make major decisions without a team.” Now it doesn’t always have to be the same team and that’s the real magic sauce, is there are lots of conversations happening every day that we want to happen in team, but if you narrow it down to a team that makes all the decisions, then really what you’re doing is not creating multiplication, you’re just creating a bottleneck.

So even at our Elder team we have one Elder team in one sense but at another sense we have teams of teams. So there’s one set of Elder teams who’s going to focus on legal and financial decisions and crazy enough, I’m not on that, nor is Matt Carter on that, but rather we have to listen to those guys make decisions, as a different team may make strategic decision, they’re going to be forced to have plural leadership as they make a decision together about, “Okay, if I need resources and you have a vision, we’re going to have to get together and talk.”

So there’s a modelling of it in the way that we make decisions, which really does trickle down to the whole organization, but secondly, in developing leaders, one of the biggest issues for us is not only teach the culture and teach the convictions, but to actually have constructs. If you don’t have the constructs, the ideas never actually move forward.

So we get real practical and tactical, we do a couple of things. Number one, we have a very clear, articulated leadership development pipeline at our church. There’s not a secret pin that shows up on your pillow if you’ve turned the leadership [Inaudible 00:10:49]. It’s not like being in the Skull and Bones at Yale or something like that.

So if people want to become an Elder, if they want to become a Deacon, we’re not saying you’re going to become one, but we’re saying you can raise your hand and here’s the course to get into.

Rich – Interesting, very cool.

Kevin – So one of our constant lines to them is, “If you’ll have the courage to raise your hand, we’ll have the courage to tell you, “No,” if we don’t see the calling,” but we’re not going to just leave it as an unspoken, “We’ll let you know if we think you’re great.”

Rich – Right.

Kevin – So here’s what we do, we have an articulated pipeline that says, “If you want to become a leader, sign up for this.” There’s an application process that you go through, there’s an interview process that you go through to get into our leadership development pipeline.

Then from there we have really carefully articulated competencies, and these competencies kind of follow three categories. We have theological competencies, because this is at the core of the church that is going to disseminate God’s word, so it’s not just skill based competencies, there’s some theological based competencies.

Second, there are skill based competencies, there are some skills that you have to do to progress through different leadership layers.

Then finally, there’s some character competencies, because again, this is the primary qualifier, at least in scripture, for what it takes to be a biblical leader.

So we’re basically going to just level out the competency map and say, “You’re going to have to achieve these different benchmarks as you go forward.” So there’s no secret how to get in, there’s no secret how to progress.

Then finally, we’re always going to have was we call, ‘Sending Platforms’. There’s going to be an opportunity for people not only to get trained, but once they get trained, to find leadership positions, whether they’re in the church, in the world or at other churches. Those are all wins for us, but we have real specific ways that we’re helping place our leaders in leadership positions.

Sometimes leadership pipelines are just education pipelines, because they don’t have that final piece that helps you find a place to lead and we’re working really, really hard to make that happen.

Rich – That’s fascinating, there’s a lot there, thank you so much for that. On the very frontend, people self-identify. First of all, I don’t want anyone to miss that, I love what you’re saying there, it’s got to be super clear, super obvious, there’s not like the secret handshake, I love that, because I think a lot of times in churches we add friction in areas we shouldn’t, we make things more complex than we should and I just love that, I think that’s great. What about the converse problem of that, the people who raise their hand aren’t necessarily the people?

Kevin – Right.

Rich – Aren’t you disproportionately asking people, the guys who necessarily are saying they want to be leaders aren’t maybe the people you want to be leaders, how do you deal with that?

Kevin – Yeah and that just starts with, I think, some good biblical discipleship conversations. What I love about leadership development is, it at its core is a subset of spiritual formation.

Rich – Right.

Kevin – So leadership development is not something different, it’s a subset of it.

Rich – Right.

Kevin – So even in the conversation of someone saying, “I don’t think you’re called to lead at a higher level or a bigger group of people,” we’re still getting our job done and spiritually forming them.

So what we’ll talk about with leaderships is, we feel like most people are going to be called to lead in some capacity and it may or may not be in the capacity that you want, but in some. So we get everyone to raise their hand and say, “I’d like to start,” because at the bear minimum God has called every believer to make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples. So at some level you’re called to lead at least a few other people, just biblically speaking.

Rich – Yes.

Kevin – So when you raise your hand and we’re aiming in the first course for that, in the first section of your leadership development we’re saying, “Can you make disciples that make disciples?”

Now after raising your hand for there, it’s going to be a collaborative conversation, whether we’re going to learn the skills or necessary to lead a group of ten and then we’re going to have another collaborative conversation to say, “Do we think, do we cooperatively think that you should learn what it means to lead the leaders of groups of ten?” Then again, there’s going to be this other benchmark time period, assessment period to say, “Do you need to move on to the next set of competencies that help you lead leaders of leaders of groups of ten?” Which is now resource management, resource allocation, a whole different set of competencies and each way there’s a great discipleship conversation. So it’s not even a loss when they’re raising their hand for the next level but the answer’s, “No,” it’s still doing what the church is called to do, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Rich – Fascinating, this has been a great conversation. What would you say the connection between Austin Stone’s growth, your impact in the culture, your ability to impact and then connect, get people plugged in, discipled, what is the connection between that that’s happening and this leadership development kind of culture? That obviously has been driven deep in what you’re doing, how are those two linked together?

Kevin – Yeah, I think our big failure points throughout Austin Stone’s history, if you asked us where our big failure points were, we would be able to point back to a place where we ran out of leaders.

Rich – Okay, right.

Kevin – There was a place where, there were still people who wanted to come to Christ because, while we love plurality and we love leadership development, we still have some incredibly gifted leaders at the helm and what we’re not saying is that really gifted men don’t have enormous impact, they do, the problem is what do you do with that impact and what do you do with fruit? In so many places you have the incredibly gifted leaders that can attract the crowds, but they can’t mobilize the crowds, they can’t move the crowds, because the crowds eventually won’t have the skill, they won’t have the experience and they won’t have the character shaping or the theological robust development in order to kind of lead past the just, “Okay, I’m in, I’m in for Jesus. Now what?”

So we would get these place where crowds would gather but then we couldn’t mobilize those crowds into being able to being good disciple makers, good leaders and so we couldn’t multiply, we could just add and that was the growth barriers. Growth barriers happen for us when you don’t have enough leaders to multiply, you only have enough leaders to keep adding.

So for us that, that has been for us, when we feel like growth barriers, there is a possibility it’s parking, don’t get me wrong, there is a possibility of its seeds, but what we’re finding is, if you have enough leaders, they’ll got and solve the parking problem.

Rich – Yes.

Kevin – So when it’s constant, what we call those kind of plumb lines for us, is every problem is a leadership problem at the end of the day.

Rich – Very good.

Kevin – Because if you have a problem it could have got solved if you had a leader to solve it.

Rich – Absolutely, that’s fantastic. Well this has been a great conversation. There’s a lot here. You feel like when you’re just taking a step in here like, “Gosh, there’s so much there I wish I could dive in.” Now what I understand is, you’ve teamed up with Eric Geiger, Lifeway Resources, you’re releasing a great book called, Design to Lead, it comes out September 1st. Can you tell us a little bit about that, because I’m hoping people are leaning in, they’re madly trying to take notes but they probably want to dig a little bit deeper? Tell us, why did you write the book and what are you hoping church leaders will benefit from reading it?

Kevin – Yeah, we wrote the book, I think primarily because we saw this problem as a problem that everybody kind of gets the sense is an issue, but there’s not a real robust or clear pathway to solve it. At least in our experience, there’s good resources out there for each kind of different aspect of it, but no one really puts it together in an easily to follow form, so that’s what we did.

So the book kind of follows the three things that I just outlined and we spend the first third of the book talking about, “Here’s the convictions that are necessary for you to have a leadership development happening in your church.” The second third of the book is, “Here’s how to build a culture of leadership development,” and then that third part of the book talks about, “Here’s how to build formal constructs for leadership development within the church,” because it all, for us, builds off of the conviction that God actually designed the church to develop leaders, and secondly, in a really intentional double ensemble there, he designed men and women to lead, that’s part of the [Inaudible 00:18:50], is if God is ultimately building a kingdom as a kingdom and he made us in his image to be these servant leaders, these servant kinds across the world, then we’re designed to lead in some sense, so how can the church take a front row seat in the goal to make leaders of mankind?

So we think the church really ought to be at the forefront of developing leaders for the benefit of God’s church and the benefit of God’s kingdom across the globe. So hopefully this resource will be helpful to people and so that was our intention to write it, with a book you always have to wait and see.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.