The Village Church’s executive director of operations explains how his church is meeting its objective to plant churches with decentralized ministry, but centralized operations.
Jim Wagner · July 21, 2014
The Village Church in Texas was originally founded in 1977, then “re-planted” in December 2002 under the leadership of Pastor Matt Chandler. The church has been steadily growing ever since, with five campuses across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
To learn more about The Village’s unique administrative setup, as well as to discuss the latest trends in church administration, Worship Facilities Magazine caught up with The Village’s executive director of operations Doug Stanley for a brief Q&A.
Worship Facilities: You’ve been executive director of operations for The Village for a little over eight years. What does your job entail?
Doug Stanley: My overall responsibilities have changed over time. The departments that currently report to me are finance, facilities and general operations, which includes event management, legal issues, risk mitigation and intellectual property. I also have high-level responsibility for an area we call “resourcing” that deals with certain aspects of licensing our created works such as books, music and curricula. Resourcing interfaces closely with our communications department, which is involved in many of our creative processes at The Village.
WF: Professionally, as an “industry,” is there consistency in job descriptions between various churches? Or is your role unique?
DS: I find each church does it differently, depending on the people in their respective roles and the system of governance for the church. How we [at The Village Church] work is somewhat unconventional. We have three lead pastors who are peers, which is unusual. Most of our staff is organized under the lead pastors into two major areas that we call “ministry leadership” and “ministry services.”
At some churches you have an “operations” title, and it’s mostly related to facilities responsibilities. I’ve never found anybody with the same title doing the exact same work as I, though some have been close. And we [at The Village] shuffle certain aspects of our roles when it makes sense to do so. For example, I had been responsible for our production and technology departments since their inception, but we recently moved those teams into our communications department because they work closely together.
WF: Tell us how the operations is organized at The Village Church.
DS: We have a hybrid organizational model. Our ministries are decentralized, so the ministry staff reports to a local campus pastor or spiritual formation pastor. Ministry services, however, are centralized.
Central services include operations, finance, HR, communications, production, technology, and even facilities. We do have a facilities manager at each campus who is primarily responsible for that campus. The facilities director is centrally located, though, and we can move people around to assist with projects at other campus locations as needed.
WF: This structure seems to work. The Village is about to open its fifth campus, correct? Is this a merger or acquisition?
DS: Yes, we are [opening a fifth campus], but The Village has never legally “merged” with another church. We have acquired property from declining churches, which is the case in this most recent campus.
From a legal perspective it’s not a merger; the previous entity ceased to exist or moved elsewhere. From a congregational perspective, at two of our campuses, some of the former members remained and became members of The Village Church.
WF: That’s an important distinction. Thank you. What about future acquisitions?
DS: We are starting new campuses. We will put money, people and effort into a new campus for a number of years so it can thrive and grow. We are also looking forward to a time when that campus can become an autonomous, local church, like a child who eventually leaves home. It’s multi-campus as a strategy for church planting.
WF: Tell us about your own professional and educational background.
DS: I have a degree in biomedical engineering. I did some bioengineering work—artificial internal organs, medical devices, etc.—and I worked at NASA for a little while. Then, most of my career was in management consulting.
I was a consultant at Accenture for a number of years, then worked for a technology startup, then my own management consultancy. That led me to working for The Village Church.
WF: How did you transition from a corporate role to a church leadership role?
DS: I was a member of the church and was very invested here. I was here on [Lead Pastor] Matt Chandler’s first Sunday in 2002 when there were 168 people—now we’re around 11,000.
I took on lay responsibility here in the beginning and formed a relationship with Matt, and the lay leadership eventually turned into a full-time position in 2005.
WF: As executive director of operations, you must have some insight about common church administrative concerns. First, what about safety and security?
DS: Well, there are a number of different aspects to security. We do hire security personnel. We have both plain-clothes and uniformed officers. We deploy security at every campus, and our security budget has increased every year.
There are security risks we must mitigate. Even in what you would perceive as a low-crime, “suburbia-type” location, there are still enough incidents to warrant broad security measures. We do have people behaving strangely or doing suspicious things.
Obviously, we are also very concerned with child safety and have multiple layers of security in place for the protection of our kids.
WF: That relates to recruitment and hiring. How do you go about finding good, reliable employees?
DS: We prefer to hire from within the church, a covenant member of The Village Church. Everyone on staff is an active member in the life of The Village.
When you’re hiring from the outside, you really have to assess the fit of somebody to not just the staff, but to the church. If someone is already well-known inside the church as a covenant member, we don’t have to learn as much. For example, I just hired a new operations director, and we did that internally. The job description was posted within the church and we had 40 or so applicants.
In some areas, like technical positions—particularly those in production and that sort of thing—we have had to go outside, and it gets tricky. Basically, we explore our networks and talk to other churches.
WF: We hear a lot of “energy conservation” talk these days. How does that effect operations?
DS: We engage conservation from a perspective of stewardship. We don’t do anything that we specifically label as “green initiatives,” but there are many things that we try to do to increase efficiency and decrease costs. So, by their nature they are “green.”
We occupy a lot of old buildings. That’s the nature of our model—we take over places that have been around for awhile. The equipment is usually old and the building doesn’t have modern insulation.
In some cases, we have implemented EMS systems for HVAC at a campus that didn’t have one before. We have done a lot of fine-tuning of our EMS, professionally reprogramming the systems—scheduling and timing—to get those costs dramatically down by optimizing the building’s heating and cooling.
There are also cases where we’ve done a lot of work—millions of dollars worth—to replace old equipment because of failure or to be better off from an energy perspective. Frankly, without spending a fortune, there’s only so much you can do with buildings that are 60 years old. So, it’s a stewardship tradeoff. We try to be very lean on our budget and manage our dollars well so we can reserve as many of them for ministry as we possibly can.
WF: Do you see your role changing in the near future?
DS: Nothing slows down here. We are contemplating a shared-services network model for campuses that transition to autonomous churches, which is quite an undertaking. Our resourcing opportunities continue to grow and we have a lot of work to do in that area. I am blessed to be in a challenging environment that’s always in motion, seeing lives changed on a daily basis.