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Vision to Reality: How Executive Pastors Shape the Church’s Future with Phil Taylor

Thanks for joining us for the unSeminary podcast. We’re welcoming back Phil Taylor, a seasoned leader with over 20 years of experience in various pastoral roles and a passion for helping pastors turn vision into reality, which he does through his ministry, Backstage Pastors.

Tune in as Phil shares insights on the importance of the Executive Pastor’s role in the church and how they can build their relationship with the staff and Lead Pastor.

  • The Executive Pastor role. // Over the last ten years, there’s been a big shift in churches accepting and understanding the need for the executive pastor (XP) role. Churches recognize that they are more effective when they have strong second-chair leaders that have both the skills and authority to make change happen. Many churches now have multiple executive pastors, often dividing responsibilities between ministry and operations. Sometimes an XP even takes on more of a co-pastor role with the lead teaching pastor.
  • When do you need an XP? // Deciding whether a church needs an executive pastor can be based on the style of the lead pastor. A big vision thinker will often need an executive pastor to work with him sooner. A lead pastor who is more comfortable thinking strategically about details may be able to get by longer without an XP. But when you get to the 1500 range in attendance, Phil recommends that your church explores hiring an executive pastor.
  • Be attentive to the soul. // Phil has found, in his coaching work, that executive pastors aren’t always as attentive to their own souls as they could be, being focused more on getting things done. Given the task-oriented nature of XPs, they must be intentional about attending to their emotional and spiritual well-being. The updated edition of Phil’s book, Defining the Executive Pastor Role, delves into this crucial topic, encouraging leaders to cultivate emotional intelligence and engage in spiritual disciplines, such as observing a sabbath.
  • Be aware of your impact on the staff. // Because executive pastors tend to be more driven and high capacity, it can create feelings of unrest on the church staff when people feel they need to be doing as much as the executive pastor. Don’t make others feel guilty for being gifted differently. Approach your people with a soul-focused attitude, and step back from the focus on the work, turning again to worship.
  • Ease into the role. // Two of the chapters in Phil’s book talk about next steps for the new or aspiring executive pastor and their first year in a new church. One thing new executive pastors often forget is that people can struggle with change. Don’t jump into making a lot of changes in your first year unless they are immediately necessary; rather, take time to earn trust.
  • Build the LP/XP relationship. // The relationship between the executive pastor and the lead pastor is the most important one in the church because it sets the tone for the church and the staff culture. It requires weekly time together, open communication, honesty, and a commitment to avoiding triangulation. It’s essential to honor each other publicly and work collaboratively to steer the church towards its vision.
  • Plain Joe Studios. // Another way that Phil helps pastors turn vision to reality is with his work at Plain Joe Studios. Plain Joe helps churches, Christian schools, and not-for-profits tell their stories more effectively. They have a personality profile that can help churches better understand who they are and how they are different from other churches in their city.

You can find Phil’s updated edition of Defining the Executive Pastor Role on Amazon and learn more about his other resources at www.backstagepastors.org. You can also email Phil for help or coaching.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: The Giving Church

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey, everybody welcome to the unSeminary podcast. I am so glad that you have decided to tune in today. Really looking forward to today’s conversation, with today we’ve got Phil Taylor with us. He’s been on before and we’re having him back, a return guest. And you know when we have return guest that means people we really like and we want to continue to tap their expertise. For people that don’t remember Phil spent twenty plus years serving in churches of all different sizes as executive pastor, lead pastor and you know while simultaneously serving pastors across the country through leadership cohorts, individual coaching, teaching at conferences. He’s author of a number of different books Defining the Executive Pasture Role, Elder Leadership ah Development from Application to Affirmation. Really these are two books of a series called The Backstage Pastor Series. On top of this coaching he helps churches through ah um, an organization called Backstage Pastor Backstage Pastors. Plus, he also works, his day job on top of all that, his day job is at Plain Joe. We love the Plain Joe guys – A Storyland Studio. Super excited to have Phil on. Phil, ah glad you’re here. Fill in the picture, kind of tell us a bit what did I miss there? That’s obviously the the bio stuff but what did I miss that we want to make sure people hear about?

Phil Taylor — No, that’s great man. it’s it’s it’s so good to be back on the show. And you know, really the the orienting direction of my life is to help pastors bring vision into reality. And sometimes that happens. Through Plain Joe Studios helping ah a new building get built, or a new brand get realized or something like that. And sometimes it happens through ah coaching an executive pastor, or somebody who wishes they had an executive pastor. Or um, speaking at a conference or writing a book, whatever it might be. But the the orienting direction is bringing vision into reality and how do I how do we help leaders do that most effectively.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so cool. Well friends, I want to be completely honest. I think that Phil’s book, well first of all, you know that we love executive pastor here at unSeminary. You know we’ve got a lot of folks that are in that seat or executive pastor adjacent roles. And Phil’s book, Defining the Executive Pastor Role, from my perspective is ah a must read for anybody in the executive pastor role. It’s I think it’s must read for like a lead pastor who’s thinking about adding an executive pastor. This is a great resource. And I noticed that there’s a second edition coming up and we’ve got it’s a 10 year it’s all I can’t believe it’s been almost ten years since the release of that book, and so I wanted to get Phil back on to talk about really the executive pastor role and kind of what’s changed and what’s new. He has a unique perspective on this because of his ah, you know his vantage point.

Rich Birch — So I wanted to talk a little bit about that so why don’t we start there. When you think about you know the executive pastor role, what has happened what’s changed over the last ten years?

Phil Taylor — Yeah.

Rich Birch — What are some of those things when you look back and you say, oh this is maybe a little bit different than where we were ten years ago?

Phil Taylor — Yeah, it’s crazy. Ten years ago it was still really a new role that a lot of people just didn’t even understand or know anything about. Churches where sort of still discovering that role. And so I think one thing that’s changed is that there’s there’s really wide acceptance…

Rich Birch — So true.

Phil Taylor — …on the part of churches and church leadership on the need for it. So that’s one really big change. Like nobody’s saying like what what now? Why do… who? what? executive what?

Rich Birch — Um, what is that role? Yes, yes.

Phil Taylor — You know so people are a lot more open to just even having one, which is great. And of course that has triggered a lot more people ah, wanting to enter into the space so you’ve got a lot more people that are are aspiring to that role, which I love to see, because I really do believe the churches are more effective when they have strong second second chair leaders that are not just not just operating out of a good skill but also have the permission or authority ah, to be able to make change happen and to bring good things into reality. Um, and so there’s some awesome things that are happening there. I think another big change that I’ve seen is um, the idea that um, many churches have multiple executive pastors now.

Phil Taylor — So that’s that’s ah a really new thing that just wasn’t around before. Churches would have one if they had any, and and maybe you know if you were in a church of 20,000 people or something they might have a couple of people. But ah the idea that that you in a church of say 1500 it’s become much more common to have multiple. Usually it gets split down the lines of ministry or leadership, like staff oversight, and then the other side is usually operations. So you’ll see a lot of churches that are kind of bifurcating the role. Some are having three ah, you know that’s become much more common. And then I think an an interesting trend recently is that sometimes the executive pastor is actually taking on a lead pastor title and functioning in more of a co-pastoring role with a lead teaching pastor. So just some interesting developments happening there. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah, that’s interesting how it keeps you know evolving and I think we see this as a real critical role so much for sure for churches as they grow beyond that, you know, eight hundred or a thousand. Actually that might be an interesting reflection, where do you see this role, you know, start to be common. You know where it starts to be like hey this is you know is there a church size, is there a kind of telltale signs that churches end up, you know, starting to see in their environment that drive them towards saying hey maybe we should add this?

Phil Taylor — Yeah I think it actually has more to do at the smaller sizes with the the style of the lead pastor. So if you’ve got like a kind of a classic big vision thinker who is the lead pastor, um, that person is usually going to need an executive pastor at smaller size. Ah whereas um, if you’ve got an executive pastor who, excuse me, a lead pastor who has a little more of an administrative mind ah they perhaps are a little more comfortable thinking strategically, not I don’t mean big picture strategy, but like a little more of the details, they can often get by longer without one.

Phil Taylor — But by the time you’re up into the 1500 range pretty much you know every church nowadays is going to have an executive pastor or at least somebody doing that role whether they carry that title or not. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, they might be called something else for sure.

Phil Taylor — Exactly.

Rich Birch — I’ve had that happen you interact with leaders and and they I’m like well what do you do? And they tell you a little bit about. I’m like, oh you’re the executive pastor. You don’t have that title, but that’s that’s what you’re doing.

Phil Taylor — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Um, now so let’s help me ah, ah, kind of debunk this. So executive pastor – there’s people who would say, hey man, those two words don’t fit together. How can you be both an executive someone who is like maybe interested in systems and, you know, it can even come off as like business-y.

Phil Taylor — Yeah.

Rich Birch — And then pastor isn’t that about being a shepherd, caring for people. How do those two fit together?

Phil Taylor — Right. So I think there’s I think we actually tend to fall on one side or the other. In the book I talk about the idea of the the capital “E” versus lowercase “p” executive pastor, right? So do you lean on the executive side, or do you lean on the pastor side? And it’s been my experience that people that lean on the executive side, you know, they often are coming from the business world. Ah, and those that lean on the pastoral side maybe were in a different role in the church before.

Phil Taylor — And so it’s it’s really just a matter of of saying. Okay there are times when I need to put on the executive hat and I need to operate out of out of that part of my skill set. And then there are other times when I need to put that away and put on the pastor hat and and really operate out that out of that skill set. And the trick is to know which, you know, which hat you’re supposed to be wearing when. And I find actually that that can that can be difficult sometimes when you wear the wrong hat at the wrong time that can be that can create some problems in your church. So.

Rich Birch — Um, well one of the chapters I noticed that you added that I’d love for you to unpack a little bit is the the soul of the executive pastor, speaking about really heart issues and kind of the interior life of of these roles.

Phil Taylor — Yeah.

Rich Birch — What was it that led you to the place where you’re like, oh this is the conversation we need to have. We need to to kind of turn up the volume on that?

Phil Taylor — Yeah, absolutely yeah I’m I’m really excited about that particular chapter and the impact that it might have on perhaps even the executive pastor culture. So you know one of the things that I’ve noticed in coaching executive pastors now for, I don’t know, 15 years or so, is that um we as ah, a species of of pastors – the executive pastor type person – we’re not always as attentive to our souls as we could be. We could be a little driven, right? Or a lot driven, you know, or kind of the get stuff done kind of people, kind of task oriented, right? And so um I see that in in the pastors that I coach and I see it in myself as well. And so um, the idea of of looking at matters of the soul sometimes doesn’t come out as strong for us, right? In fact, even the idea the soul of the executive pastor, I had one person joked that it was an oxymoron.

Rich Birch — Oh gosh.

Phil Taylor — That we actually do have souls.

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, yeah.

Phil Taylor — So um, so you know for for me that journey of discovery it really started not long after I wrote the first edition of the book. And so for me, it’s been about 10 years digging into that and really looking into you know the concepts surrounding emotional health or emotional intelligence EQ, right? Some of the softer skills of leadership and just really paying more attention to the way that I even practice the spiritual disciplines. And adding that layer of ability to my leadership I think is super important.

Phil Taylor — For me personally I have to work extra hard at those things. I have to work extra hard on emotional intelligence. I have to work work extra hard and active listening, and just some of the the important pieces around being aware of some of those those less task-oriented skills. I’ll say it that way.

Phil Taylor — And so you know I’ll do this thing with with pastors that I coach in the first session world. We’ll talk through some of the things that they really want to go after in their time with me. And I would say like 75% of the time that I’m coaching a a new or existing executive pastor, the idea of emotional intelligence is almost always in their list of things they want to go after. And the reason why is because they’ve tripped over it, and so have I.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yep.

Phil Taylor — And so when you when you trip over that and you end up you know, causing hurt for somebody or you end up being too direct with someone and you’re not reading the room properly, whatever it might be um, you recognize then that there’s ah, there’s a layer of leadership here that needs to be added for my effectiveness to continue. And so I think that’s super super important.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s great. Can you give us an example of maybe some coaching that you give to executive pastors to be more aware of their emotional intelligence or to lean into that more or, you know, a telltale sign that maybe they need to do that more. Give us a little bit of what how that conversation goes with that looks like.

Phil Taylor — Sure, sure. So I think um, you know, there’s a lot of different directions that it goes but I’ll try to just pick maybe one or two. Um a lot of times as I’m talking with an executive pastor, one of the things that will that will sort of rise to the surface is that they’re they’re not super aware of how their pace of work is impacting the people around them. So I you know I had somebody tell me one time that that executive pastors seem to have like this, at least some of them, perhaps the classic type of executive pastor seems to have like some sort of superhuman ability at just getting stuff done.

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor — Like it’s it’s it’s confusing to other people around them. They’re often like threes on the enneagram or something like that, and they just get stuff done all the time. Well, the interesting thing is that for those around them, that can actually create feelings of unrest. That can create you know feelings of like well I’m not doing as much as that person. Or whatever it might be. And so even just recognizing that perhaps God’s giving you a bigger plate. You know we talk about how much can go on a plate and I think God sometimes just gives certain people a bigger plate for whatever reason he’s given them the ability to squeeze more in.

Phil Taylor — And so to be able to say, hey you know what, like one, let’s not make others feel guilty for for being gifted differently. Um, but two, um, where where do the spiritual disciplines fit in for you? What does sabbath look like for you?

Rich Birch — Oh That’s good. Yep.

Phil Taylor — Are you taking a sabbath, you know, or does sabbath feel like an afterthought? Are you actually going to church when you go to church on Sunday? I remember you know realizing one Sunday that our church had had 6 services that day and I had sort of danced around the edges of church all day long. Like I’m standing outside of some amazing party and never going into it, you know. And it was because I was just running around putting out fires and shaking hands and dealing with you know, a big, a big church and thousands of people, and saying, gosh like I actually didn’t go to church today. That’s not good for my soul. And so just you know recognizing that.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good.

Phil Taylor — And and just see looking for ways to um, approach your people with a different attitude, more of a soul-focused attitude. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s good. I know for me one of the, yeah, I definitely have seen that pace of work and that may not, can be interpreted, you know, in a like by people around you as like either, you know, you can send messages that you’re not necessarily sending wanting to send.

Phil Taylor — Right.

Rich Birch — And so I know for me a practical thing on that front has been to have a really kind of open conversation around, you know, the form of communication that I use with you articulates what I’m thinking about…

Phil Taylor — Yes.

Rich Birch — …on response time. So like if I send you an email, I’m not anticipating that you’re going to get back to me right away.

Phil Taylor — Right.

Rich Birch — My expectation is that would be within a day.

Phil Taylor — Yeah.

Rich Birch — You know if I send you an email, if I email you on Saturday I’ll have a random thought Saturday afternoon, I send you an email, I do not expect you to get back to me until Monday…

Phil Taylor — Yes.

Rich Birch — …or whenever your next you know, kind of workday is. And then text messages, same thing. Like hey if I text you I’d love to hear back in an hour, but you know it’s not like a, you know it’d be great to hear quickly, but you know you know it’s not, you know you do you don’t have to step out of the conversation you’re in now give it in in another hour. It’s totally fine. Now if I call you, if I actually pick up the phone and call you, then that’s when I’m saying, I actually really do need to talk to you.

Phil Taylor — This is important. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Like there is something… And it’s amazing how much just defining those with people can relieve the pressure. And obviously for the people among us who yeah, most of our staff are not people that are struggling with the opposite problem, which is you know they’re not responding, but that does help with those folks as well. But most people they are like, oh okay I feel better I feel better because I realize the way you’re communicating to me, you know, it kind of matches the communication that I’m expecting back. Because I think it’s that there is that problem of like just because I’m working on stuff doesn’t necessarily mean, I’m clear trying to clear my deck, doesn’t mean that I expect you to be doing the same thing at the same exact time. Um, you know that I found that helpful, um, particularly on that you know you know we have different work pacing and all that as as leaders. Um, yeah, that’s interesting. That’s cool.

Rich Birch — But one of the things I noticed in the book was you talked about um, really new executive pastors, new aspiring first year as a new, you know, at a new church that kind of stuff. Are there some telltale maybe mistakes that executive pastors make where they… help us avoid the pothole, help us avoid maybe the landmine even, of like oh this is a thing I see happen all the time where it goes sideways when someone starts in this role.

Phil Taylor — Yeah, that’s that’s um, two of the chapters. One of them is next steps for the new or aspiring executive pastor and then the other one is your first year in the new church. So I think um I love new executive pastors. I love working with new executive pastors. That kind of freshness is is really fun to work with.

Phil Taylor — But you know one of the things that that I think a new executive pastor might frequently mess up is um, they they recognize that they’ve been hired as a change agent, right? So they know that they’ve been brought in to to bring bring some order to something or get things moving in the right direction. Whatever it might be. There was a need and they were brought in to fill that need. But what what is easy to forget is that people really struggle with change, right? So um I will usually say, hey be really careful what you change in your first year, you know?

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Phil Taylor — It’s important that you don’t step into that too quickly. And really ask yourself like is this a change that could wait until like year two when I’ve got a little more trust, you know?

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Phil Taylor — So I’ll I’ll give ah I’ll give a negative example from my own journey. Um in in one of my churches there was ah a real need for a refresh of the branding. And and for some unknown reason I decided to tackle that in my first year. And and it it really ah, it really burned some some credibility and trust with the team that I was trying to get to know. And in retrospect I wish I’d waited a few years…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Phil Taylor — …I think I probably could have gotten a better results if I waited a little bit longer on that. Um, but then on on ah on a more positive side, sometimes you step in and there’s change that’s needed right away and the reason why you were hired was to have the courage to make it, you know?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Phil Taylor — And so it might be something as silly as like um, you know there’s there’s no ushers helping people find seats and you say, well gosh, like where are the ushers? You know?

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor — We want people to just find their seats on their own…

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor — …you know, haphazardly. Let’s let’s maybe help them a little bit. It’s a big church.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah, yes, yes.

Phil Taylor — Yeah um, and and so sometimes you solve a problem when you’re solving a problem that everybody knows is an issue that nobody’s going to complain that you made that change. One of the churches I was at was really paying its its staff well below proper rates. Nobody complained…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Phil Taylor — …when I fixed their pay in the first year, right? Nobody said could we wait a couple of years to do a raise for me I’d really rather wait…

Rich Birch — Yeah, I’d like to take longer on that. That’s funny.

Phil Taylor — Yeah, nobody complained about that one. So yeah I think just recognizing like what change is appropriate for early and earlier and what needs to wait a year or 2 until you have to trust to do it.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. One of the things you know I do a fair amount of coaching with churches as well and one of the um, kind of it’s a little bit comical, but also speaks to I think some of the issues that we face as as executive pastors is there are two conversations that happen on a fairly regular basis. One would be with an with a lead pastor who at some point in the couple days I’m with them pulls me aside and says you know I just I just love our our executive pastor, man. Phil’s just so good. He gets everything done. So good with the team that guy’s amazing with the checklist. That guy is good on the email but can you help me get along with them, like help me kind of relationally.

Phil Taylor — Rght.

Rich Birch — Or at some point the executive pastor pulls me inside and says, man I just love my lead pastor – that person, Phil’s incredible. Preaches like nobody else – I think they’re God’s gift to communication and cast a big vision, and man, I would follow that person into the fire, but can can you help me with the relationship, like I just feel like maybe we’re we’re missing each other.

Phil Taylor — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Talk to me about that. What what are you I want to take advantage of your expertise. What what do you say if somebody on either side of those, really, it’s about this relationship with the lead pastor. How on either side of that conversation, what can we do to make that even better?

Phil Taylor — It’s so important. It’s the most important relationship in the entire church staff…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Phil Taylor — …because it it sets the tone for everything. It sets the tone for the church and staff culture. It sets the tone for the staff feeling at ease with their leadership. And and the staff knows when the LP and XP are not getting along very well. They know it.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Phil Taylor —They sense it.

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor —Just like kids know when mom and dad are fighting. And so it’s super important to give that relationship more attention than probably any other relationship on the staff. And so I think you know very similar to a marriage um, you know time is going to be the absolute key. You’ve got to get a regular amount of time together. I think meeting weekly is critical for the XP/LP relationship. Um, there’s got to be a great deal of honesty between those two people. Um, if if either person is is not sharing fully with the other person…

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor — …it’s a recipe for disaster. Um, there can be zero triangulation, right? So in other words, if if somebody comes to the lead pastor and says a staff member comes to the lead pastor and says I’m struggling with the executive pastor in this way or vice versa, right? Somebody comes to the executive pastor and says I’m struggling with the lead pastor in this way, you cannot give in the triangulation.

Rich Birch — Right. That’s so good.

Phil Taylor — You’ve got to figure out right away. Well wait a minute is this something that you should have just gone to him about and talked directly to him? Because if you haven’t I’m going to send you back there.

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor — And and so if you ever if you ever find yourself getting into you know triangulation, three different people. No one’s talking to the right person. You know the lead pastor or the executive pastor has to shut that down…

Rich Birch — Yeah, you got to shut it down for sure. Yeah.

Phil Taylor — …right away. Because it’ll it’ll it’ll just create a toxic culture right away. So yeah I think time, honesty super important. And then I think like honoring each other publicly.

Phil Taylor — So you know let let’s say you’re the executive pastor and and in your church that means that that you preach say 10 times a year, right? Um when you get up to preach you know and you’re referencing perhaps the passage of scripture that the lead pastor was in the prior week. You know, toss in a little man Pastor Steve sermon from last week, I got so much out of that.

Rich Birch — So good.

Phil Taylor — And yeah I learned this from it, and so now as we head into chapter 2, you know, so you’re just got to you’re doing a little plug there, right?

Rich Birch — That’s so good.

Phil Taylor — Um, and and just kind of honoring each other publicly I think is super important.

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s so good. I know I found very similarly I think a part of what I found when I was in that role, I found that with our staff team there is like um a weird thing that can happen in a church where if the lead pastor is the primary communicator and they, which is obviously really super common. You know they’re teaching thirty forty times a year. There’s like an assumption that can happen internally around like well we just kind of assume that that person, you know, ah, is going to do that every week and it’s going to be amazing. And and there can be an undercurrent of like how hard is that anyways?

Phil Taylor — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Like all they do is pull that message together. And I found that a part of my job was to defend that internally and to extinguish anything that smells like that internally and say, listen, I am glad—like you said the example of Steve—man I am so glad that that Steve works week in week out to ensure that we’ve got great teaching at the church and that takes you know the the toll that that takes on him as an individual, the toll that takes on her to prep all that to pull that together, man I am just so thankful that they’re willing to do that for us. Um, that even that alone that gets noticed by the you know the lead pastor. They see that kind of like oh they’re really in my corner. And and they also can um you know they can you can say that as an XP and and kind of value raise the value of teaching as an XP in a way that they that’s good for the church but in a way that is the lead pastor Frankly, just can’t do because they’re the one that speaks on a regular basis, you know.

Phil Taylor — Right exactly.

Rich Birch — And it’s just kind of weird for them to be like, you know, teaching’s really important, you know? So um, yeah, interesting. Interesting. Yeah, that that’s I to me I think is such a critical piece of this this relationship piece is so ah, you know is so important to the overall picture of you know how this this works.

Rich Birch — So let’s talk a little bit about the book. So you pulled the book together. You’ve you’ve re- kind of cast it. You’ve you know gone over it, added a few chapters. Was there anything else about this update addition you want to make sure people are aware about that that you know you made changes that you want to kind of highlight to folks?

Phil Taylor — Yeah, I think every page is different. You know it’s It’s even more than just adding a few new chapters. Every single chapter has been expanded or updated.

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor — There’s not a page that that remain the same.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Phil Taylor — So it’s it’s truly ah, a brand new book. Um, and I’m just super excited to see you know the first one kind of traveled around the globe unexpectedly, and and and had an impact in places that I just wouldn’t have anticipated. And so I’m I’m just really I’m humbled by that and I’m excited to see how God uses this next one.

Phil Taylor — I think um you know I’m sure you’ve seen this with some of your podcast work rich but it’s always amazing to me when somebody says that they actually changed careers based on something that you’ve written or or done, right?

Rich Birch — Oh sure. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, yeah.

Phil Taylor — And and I’m I’m so humbled by that to know that there are actually executive pastors who chose the role after reading the first edition of the book. And so you know some of the new chapters that I added really are are written for those people who are ah maybe you’re functioning as a discipleship pastor, or you know some other role in the church and you’re you’re thinking perhaps I might actually be called into the executive pastor role that critical second chair role. Ah this book is for you. It’s it’s meant it’s meant to encourage you, and and help you discern that, you know to really listen to the Spirit’s guidance and direction and um and and find some discernment there for your own life.

Rich Birch — Love it. Your your book also tell us a little bit about the second book in your series. It’s Eldership Development from Application to Affirmation. Again, one of these, not a lot, in fact I can’t think of any other books that are on that specific ah topic, but man critically important. We all know that the you know the selection and kind of care and feeding of elders. There’s stuff out there on like nonprofit boards. Sure, some of that’s applicable. Um, there’s overlap there but eldership has its you know has some uniqueness to it that we need to do well. Talk to us a little bit about that resource as well.

Phil Taylor — So there’s lots of great books on on eldership that focus on the theology of an elder, right? Or the theory of an elder – how how they should look, what they should do. There’s lots of great books on that. Half a dozen, you know think of Alexander Strauch or Gene Getz, or just a bunch of different good books on that topic. And and usually they’ll those books will spend maybe a few pages or at best half a chapter on what it looks like to actually develop those others. How do you actually get them, right? And so I’m ah I’m a systems guy – I think in strategic systems. And so when I when I built a system over a number of years at a couple of different churches, I had a number of pastors asking me for it and so I…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Phil Taylor — I just put it together into a book and said well, if it’s valuable to me, maybe it’s valuable to others. And so my my goal with the book was to save pastors a hundred hours…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Phil Taylor — …in in building their own system, right? Like I said the the first time that I see an Amazon review that says this book saved me a hundred hours…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Phil Taylor — …I’ll know that I succeeded.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Phil Taylor — Right? And there’s there’s a few of them on there that say that actually…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s great.

Phil Taylor — …so I was really pleased. But yeah, that’s that’s the goal is to just say, look um if I happen to be good at thinking this way, let me take what I’m good at and give it to you as a as a gift…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Phil Taylor — …and you can now take it and and build it in your church. And I even I give away the Word files that are associated with it. So people email me and say can I get those Word files. Great take them.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Phil Taylor — Edit them at will…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Phil Taylor — …I don’t care what you do with it. You know?

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s so good.

Phil Taylor — So yeah.

Rich Birch — That’s so good. Well where where can people pick up… I want to so like, friends, I said this at the beginning I think. You know both of these are great resources. Obviously we’re primarily talking about the executive pastor book. But I I really do think that this is essential reading. This is you know it’s it’s a great book for people who are either thinking about this, are you know wrestling with it. Are you know like I said lead pastors who are thinking, hm maybe I should add an executive pastor? Maybe you’re wondering what that could look like or or maybe you know you’re you’re talking about that you know relationship thing that I talked about earlier that. Maybe you’re a lead pastor or an executive pastor and you’d say hey why don’t we read this book together…

Phil Taylor — Read it together. Yeah.

Rich Birch — …to help us, you know, as a third party. Um, obviously on top of that you could actually just get Phil. He’ll help you work through that as well. Ah, but where can people pick up this. So again, it’s Defining the Executive Pastor Role. It’s a part of the Backstage Pastor Series – Bringing Vision into Reality. But where where do we want to send people to pick up copies of that?

Phil Taylor — Yeah – amazon.com easiest place to do it. And the funny thing about republishing a book, Rich, is that Amazon takes a little while to figure out that you you you want to point people towards the new book. So ah…

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor — So when you go to amazon.com you’re just going to want to make sure that you you grab the one that has a little badge on the front that says 10 year anniversary edition.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Phil Taylor — It it should be pretty obvious when you go there. But otherwise you may end up accidentally buying the old one because it’s somebody’s used copy that they listed for sale or something like that.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s…

Phil Taylor — But but yeah, it’s it’s should be there on Amazon ready to go.

Rich Birch — Nice.

Phil Taylor — And I’m excited to see see it impact others.

Rich Birch — Well, that’s good. Yeah. I’d love like again, friends, I’d love for—we’ll put a link in the show notes to that as well—but we would love for you to pick up ah copies of that.

Rich Birch — So talk to me about your day job as well. So you work with Plain Joe Studios – love those guys. They do good work. But talk to me about what you do with Plain Joe for people that are unaware of Plain Joe.

Phil Taylor — Sure.

Rich Birch — What ah how do you help churches? What are the kind of problems that you’re helping churches solve?

Phil Taylor — Yeah, so we we come alongside of churches, Christian schools, not-for-profits and help them tell their story more effectively. And that’s going to happen in a few different ways. I think a lot of people come to Plain Joe when they’ve got a building that they need to build, perhaps brand new, and they want to think through what that building should be. Or they’ve got a building that they’ve perhaps purchased and they want to renovate it.

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Taylor — Or they’ve got an old building, they’ve been living in for 50 years and it’s time to update it and bring it up into current worlds, whether that’s kids ministry or lobby space or whatever it might be. Just breathing some new life into an existing building. But the the important thing there is that we’re we’re figuring out what your story is and we’re telling that story well. That’s the goal.

Phil Taylor — And then of course you know you you start to look at this building that you’ve just updated and you say, well gosh, do we want to put our old logo back up on that new building? And so that triggers a lot of conversations around branding and ah, thinking through what that looks like. And a lot of churches really don’t have a good handle on what their story is, and so a lot of times we’re we’re starting off the whole process by just taking a church through what we call our personality profile where we help them really understand what who are you? What is your story? What is what is different about you and in your city compared to other churches? And so you know taking a day to really discover that together.

Phil Taylor — Even renaming a lot of times we’re renaming churches and and helping them think through I’ve renamed gosh, half a dozen churches in the last year and a half.

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Phil Taylor — And and that’s a lot of fun to be able to just take a church that maybe has had had a name that made a lot of sense a hundred years ago and and that name just means something different today that those words meet something different today than they did a hundred years ago. So yeah, telling your story well. Buildings, brands, websites, AR, VR, strategic thinking, all of that, storytelling. That’s it.

Rich Birch — Love it. Love it. Well, that’s maybe a topic for the next ah, next time we have you on. That would be a fascinating tap tap your expertise around renaming and what are some things that churches should think about if they’re if they’re wrestling through that. Because I feel like I bump into that all the time where people are… it’s like ah it’s like a question that’s floating in the back of a lot of church leaders brains.

Phil Taylor — Should we? Yes.

Rich Birch — They’re like ah, man, should we do this? And and then they get tripped up on the you know I’m not even sure what that would look like, so that might be an interesting thing we could talk about.

Phil Taylor — Yeah, so we got a whole process we take churches through on that.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Phil Taylor — It’s it’s it’s actually really fun. It’s it’s it’s pretty fun to help church rename. So.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s cool. Great. Well thanks so much, Phil. Is there anywhere, you know, we want to send people online to connect with you…

Phil Taylor — Sure.

Rich Birch — …or to connect with, you know, Plain Joe, Backstage Pastors – give us where we want to send people online.

Phil Taylor — Yeah, ah my website is backstagepastors.org. And you are welcome to email me [email protected]. And I generally answer all of my email…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Phil Taylor — …so you can be you’ll be sure to get a response back. So.

Rich Birch — Love it. Thanks so much, sir, appreciate you being here and all the best on the relaunch of the book.

Phil Taylor — Thanks, Rich! Good to see ya, man.

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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.