The Church at Rancho Bernardo: Thriving Through Transition

Jared Herd is Lead Pastor at The Church at Rancho Bernardo in San Diego, California. Affectionately known as CRB, the church has been ministering in their community for 25 years, but Jared only recently joined the team.

As a young pastor, Jared knew it was important to learn from the experience and insights of others.

“There’s someone else out there who can solve in 5 minutes what’s going to take you 500 hours,” he said. “If you pick up the phone and ask, it’s going to cost you a little money, but it’s going to cost you a lot more if you don’t.”

Like most pastors, his first instinct was to connect with older pastors to draw from their decades of ministry experience. But unless they are retired, there is a slight problem with that.

“I know a lot of senior pastors who have really been in the trenches. I reached out to several of them, and they were helpful, but they don’t have the time to sit with you or answer your phone calls,” he said. “They’re dealing with their own stuff.”

This need for additional counsel was what drove Jared to connect with CDF’s Leadership Capital team.

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Jared Herd, Lead Pastor of The Church at Rancho Bernardo

Overcoming Skepticism

The lead pastor of CRB before Jared had called upon CDF Capital’s coaching team. But Jared will admit, he was hesitant.

“I was always a little skeptical of the consultant world because I felt like they don’t really know what it’s like to be a pastor,” he said. “Some of that’s healthy—you don’t just want anyone to come in and give you advice. But the nature of consulting is that you’re working with 50 different churches in a year. You’re seeing everything. I’m seeing one thing.”

Jared was not going to let his skepticism spoil an opportunity to lead his church better. So in 2016 when he was invited to join a new cohort created by CDF’s Leadership Capital, he said yes. This cohort was designed by Sean Morgan, Leadership Capital Vice President, to come alongside lead pastors who had recently transitioned into their roles and who were succeeding former long-term senior ministers. After a church has been led well for many years by the same pastor, Leadership Capital’s desire is to make sure the church remains healthy under new leadership.

Pastor Jud Wilhite from Central Christian Church in Las Vegas was reflecting with Sean on his own journey as a “post succession” leader. He began to see the need to help others lead well through this special season of ministry—inheriting an old church and moving forward from there.

“It’s been great to pioneer approaches to help post succession leaders like Jared navigate well during this unique season of ministry.”—@_seanmorgan

Jud was willing to take some risks and assemble this cohort with Sean and CDF’s Leadership Capital—they gathered 13 new lead pastors together for Post Succession coaching, providing these new lead pastors encouragement, wisdom, and a network of support.

It turned out to be an innovative step that has now helped dozens of new lead pastors—Jared being one of them.

“It’s been great to pioneer approaches to help post succession leaders like Jared navigate well during this unique season of ministry,” said Sean. “No one else is doing this specific work—it turns out a lot of the unbreakable laws and axioms of leadership are quite different during the first 3-5 years for a new lead pastor.”

For five years now, CDF’s Leadership Capital coaching has been bringing clarity, health, and alignment to CRB. Because of the different coaches and their wealth of skills, the entire CRB leadership has been able to grow in a variety of ways—from the founding pastor transitioning out with grace to the elders gaining wisdom in board governance.

Broader Perspective

Pastors are often tempted to let intuition and trial and error determine what works best for their churches, but working with a team of leadership coaches like those at CDF Capital can give those same pastors very real, practical recommendations based on what has worked for other churches in similar situations. Decisions once made in a vacuum now can be hashed out with other points of view.

“We’re about to change our service times,” Jared said. “I know my church. I know what a handful of churches in this area are doing in terms of service times, and I can see on websites what other churches are doing, but I don’t really know why they’re making the decisions that they’re making.”

In other words, he would be trying to guess what is best for his church. But with the team of coaches available at Leadership Capital, Jared has someone to call who can give him a broader perspective. In this current season, Jared is calling on the experience of coach Ted Vaughn.

“I can pick up the phone and call Ted and say, ‘We’re thinking about changing our service times. What are the best times that you see other churches going to? What do I need to be thinking about? And what’s the best way to interact with our congregation as we make this change?’ And Ted has had that conversation 100 times. He can tell me what to do in a phone call, and otherwise I might just do something on my own and lose 200 people unnecessarily. That kind of stuff is really helpful because you’re working with someone who has seen so much.”

Whether Jared is asking about the best way to explore a problem or simply sharing about his team’s struggles, Ted has helpful recommendations for nearly every situation.

 

Image above: The Church of Rancho Bernardo baptism service

 

“Our lead team meetings were on Monday mornings—walking in out of the weekend, we were all exhausted. We’d been doing that for about four months, and it wasn’t productive,” Jared said. “I was talking to Ted one day and he asked, ‘Why in the world do you have that meeting on Mondays when you’re all exhausted? You could have that meeting on Wednesday when you can put two to three hours into preparing for it. It’s the most important meeting of your week. That’s the brain trust of your church. There needs to be a very clear agenda for what you’re talking about; everybody needs to do their homework.’”

Making the change was like flipping a switch. All of a sudden those meetings became valuable, productive times for Jared’s team.

“There’s a lot of stuff like that where you just don’t think about it, and Ted comes in and helps us make a couple tweaks that make us a lot more effective.”

Ted also attends CRB leadership meetings once a month to help the team prioritize their efforts and address the right issues.

“He’s done some exercises with us where he puts something on the board like, ‘What’s working? What’s not working? What’s tanking?’” Jared said. “I remember walking out of one of those meetings and one of our executives said, ‘I can’t believe we got that far that fast.’ The staff looks forward to when Ted comes because it’s inspiring, and it gives us a new angle on what we’re dealing with.”

What’s Your Mission?

When Jared stepped into his role as lead pastor, The Church at Rancho Bernardo already had a rich history and deep-seeded desires to carry out social justice. But the problem was, nobody had a solid grasp of what God had been doing in and through their church.

“Leadership Capital really encouraged me to develop vision and core values that were unique to our church. The coaches called it the riverbank of our church. They basically said, ‘Every church is unique in terms of why it’s in the community. I think you need to spend some time figuring out why CRB exists and what it is that God has put you in this community for.’”

That process started about a year ago, and CRB just launched the new vision to the congregation a month ago.

“We had an elder involved in that discussion and some staff. We had a lot of meetings trying to figure out some of the core language and core values for the church. CDF Capital was quite valuable during that process.”

“Leadership Capital really encouraged me to develop vision and core values that were unique to our church.”—@jaredherd

Now CRB’s efforts are more aligned with their identity.

“We had some interesting tension of being a church that was trying to be for the next generation,” Jared said. “Everything the church had done had seemed kind of dismissive of everyone 50 and older, and that was pretty concerning. One of the things CDF identified that was really helpful was that we were an intergenerational church, and that was OK—it was actually something to be celebrated. So the opening of our mission statement is, ‘We invite every generation to experience the love and grace of Jesus . . .’”

Image above: The Church of Rancho Bernardo community day

 

The Church at Rancho Bernardo could not effectively vision cast until they had sifted through their past and thoroughly examined the makeup of their church.

“Leadership Capital’s role wasn’t so much helping us figure out where we were going but figuring out where we had already been and who we were and celebrating that. They helped me see that my job wasn’t about coming in and saying, ‘Hey, here’s where we’re going.’ God put this church here for a reason, and my job was to strip away any distraction from that reason. Part of the reason we’re here is because we’re an intergenerational community, and we need to be an intergenerational church. That’s been core to our community since day one, and it’s unique about us, and it’s something we’re going to celebrate.”

Covert Operations

Some church leaders might imagine that hiring coaching somehow undermines their authority as a leader. Or feel that they are handing the reins to someone who does not know their church. But with CDF’s Leadership Capital, all that leadership expertise comes into play covertly, and it only serves to support and build up a church’s existing leadership team.

“They are more like SEAL Team 6,” Jared said. “They have quietly provided some pretty significant help that most people don’t see, but they experience the impact of.”

“They have quietly provided some pretty significant help that most people don’t see, but they experience the impact of.”—@jaredherd

When Jared first connected with the Leadership Capital team, there was not a metric the church was trying to improve. CRB did not need help increasing giving. Their attendance was growing just fine. People were getting baptized, growing, and serving. But Leadership Capital helped them work through deeper problems that were holding them back from being who they are called to be.

“Ted is coming in this week to help us develop a mid tier of leadership,” Jared said. “This is high priority, so about 8 of our staff members are going to talk through that with him tomorrow. I don’t even know what we’re going to do because there are several directions we could go, but that’s the level of trust I have in him.”

Even thriving churches are putting their trust in CDF Capital’s leadership coaches. Pastors like Jared know that sometimes it takes an outside perspective to see what is truly going on inside your church.

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