Andy Sipes (00:00):
As a leader, if you can just make a decision, "Hey, let's go." And that doesn't mean you don't flex along the way to see that in action when there's so many unknowns that you really can't take into account, all of them, people are going to follow.
Summer Sipes (00:14):
And I think communication was really key. We became better communicators to say, "Hey, here's what we're doing, here's why we're doing it." To listen, "How can we help with objections or obstacles that are there?" We remained available. And I think that's a key. I believe it's just being available.
Welcome to the Modern Church Leader where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Berry.
Frank Barry (00:51):
Hey guys, Frank Berry here with another episode of Modern Church Leader. It's great to see everybody today, really excited about our guests. I'm joined by Andy and Summer Sipes all the way out from Frisco, Texas. And we're going to talk a little bit about their roles and what things have been like over the last 18 months and how church is going there. Andy and Summer, it's great to have you guys today.
Summer Sipes (01:12):
Thanks. Good to be here.
Andy Sipes (01:13):
Frank Barry (01:14):
Well, it's great to have you guys. It's actually unique, we've never done a show with a husband and wife that both work at the church and got to talk through not really what that's like, though I guess we could have a whole episode on that, but just interviewing a husband and wife that are working on stuff at a church. So this is awesome.
Frank Barry (01:33):
Why don't we start off by, Andy and Summer, you guys tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you got into ministry, even how you got to serving at the church you're at today and that whole journey.
Summer Sipes (01:45):
Andy Sipes (01:45):
You want to start or you want me to?
Summer Sipes (01:46):
You go first.
Andy Sipes (01:50):
All right. So got down to Texas from Ohio after college, came down to go to Dallas Seminary. And Summer I had met really right before I graduated and left, and she was a couple years behind in school. So came down here and I was finishing up after a couple years and she was graduating college. And so she wanted to come to DTS as well. And so, "Well, I guess we're going to be in Texas. I need to find a job in ministry." And through a professor, found out about Frisco Bible church. And I told him, I said, "I need to be in Texas," and all that. And he's like, "There's this church in Frisco." I said, "No, not California, Texas. He told me about this town of Frisco that was getting ready to be a boom town the north side of the Dallas metroplex area.
Andy Sipes (02:44):
Interviewed, got the job as a children's pastor and started from there. And then Summer and I got married later that year and she started school. Pick up there.
Summer Sipes (02:55):
Yeah. And then I went to school for the next several years and wondered about how I was going to find a job, because we didn't want to go to church separate. But at the time there wasn't. I love youth and that's what my degree was in, and that was my passion and wondered how on earth that we could make that work together? But the Lord created a spot. And so I stepped in as the middle school director, did that for about six years and then went home. We had kids and decided that for the sake of our relationship and my heart desires, I went to disciple them pretty directly, and so stayed at home for a little bit. Came back in as our assimilation and membership director. And then was about to exit that position on my own accord, and the Lord opened a door for student ministry, which again was my true passion. Have been back in this for the last six years.
Frank Barry (03:46):
Yeah. And now you kind of oversee all of student ministry, meaning middle school and high school?
Summer Sipes (03:53):
Yeah. I oversee 6-12 and I have a middle school director and a high school director, that I get to oversee the general direction of our student ministry and make sure we're on point and heading in the right direction.
Frank Barry (04:06):
Summer Sipes (04:07):
Frank Barry (04:08):
Andy, you're the executive pastor there?
Andy Sipes (04:12):
Frank Barry (04:13):
Is that correct?
Andy Sipes (04:14):
That is correct. Early 2000s transitioned to the exec role. I like to tell people I've done about everything except women's ministry. Haven't done that and student ministry.
Summer Sipes (04:28):
But he does get roped into doing that as well.
Frank Barry (04:30):
I was like, you've probably done student ministry and just didn't know it.
Andy Sipes (04:36):
I have an executive pastor that oversees a lot of the people ministry stuff. So he actually oversees Summer. And so I'm more of the administrative operations and a few ministries thrown in there.
Frank Barry (04:53):
Got it. Just real quick, just in case not every church has an executive pastor, it's kind of a thing. I don't know when it became a thing, but you might be like an operations' person or an admin person or depending on the size of the church. So what exactly does your role do? Give us a little more? Tease that out a little bit more for us.
Andy Sipes (05:14):
Okay. Our lead pastor, my counterpart and I lead the church together in many ways. My role is, like I said, administration. So overseeing financials, operations, facility, our communications, our connections, assimilation, hospitality, guest services, and worship actually is under my oversight as well, although I can't play tune. I can carry a radio and carry it around, but no musical abilities, unfortunately. Jeremy, my counterpart, does, like I said, Summer and her ministries, our children's ministry, our adults, men's, women's, things like that. So we work kind of together.
Summer Sipes (06:07):
I think a lot of what the executive pastors at least in our context too is weighing in our elder word, which is we are an elder led church. But they set the vision of the church and the mission, and Andy and Jeremy take that and they make it happen. They're the directors of that process across the church and the finances and all of that stuff.
Andy Sipes (06:29):
So I like to equip people to do it. I just give them what they need and they're the ones that really do it and do it really well.
Frank Barry (06:38):
That's awesome. Do you enjoy that role? Coming from children's ministry, where you started doing a lot of stuff all the way till now, sounds like, Summer, you stayed in the lane that you really love, mostly with kids and youth and in that zone. There was maybe of time in the assimilation world.
Summer Sipes (06:57):
[crosstalk 00:06:57] I love little ones, but they're not my favorite to work with. I like them once they hit middle school. I'm one of those weird, rare people that think middle schoolers are really cool.
Frank Barry (07:08):
Yeah, that's awesome.
Summer Sipes (07:10):
But [crosstalk 00:07:10] my lane.
Frank Barry (07:12):
Andy, do you dig the role that you're in now? Is that, "Man, I love this kind of work?"
Andy Sipes (07:19):
I really do. May I say I love really being able to equip people and help talk through where they want to go and help them bring that vision to fruition. I love the variety of it just to be involved in so many different areas. It's budget season for us around here. I love budget time. I just think it's a fun time. To me it's a vision fun time. It's like, "Okay, dream about next year and what you want to do in your ministry. So let's put numbers to it and really see what God would show us for the next year and how we're going to accomplish that vision." I like to be able to finagle and work those things and help make it happen.
Frank Barry (08:06):
Right. I get that. I mean, what... Sorry, go ahead, Summer.
Summer Sipes (08:11):
I like to spend the money.
Frank Barry (08:16):
Oh, too many comments on that one. We'll just leave it alone. Tell us about the last like 18 months. You can give us the synopsis for you guys out in Texas. You're saying it might even be different for your area of Texas, but what's the last 18 months, 20 months been like?
Summer Sipes (08:37):
Yeah. So for us, again, Texas tends to be a little bit more open in general. And even in our context, we were only out not in person for about three weeks at the beginning of it. And then we came back with a lot of adaptations and things like that, but felt the import of meeting together in wise ways. And so ministry for us really kept rolling. It was unique and different and we had to plan differently and think differently. But at large, we were super blessed by a senior pastor who led us to say, "Hey, in this space, we're going to pursue our calling to be ministers of the gospel. And we're going to love one another in the process, no matter where you land on the spectrums of masks or no masks, you're in person, not in person, wherever you are, we can disagree, but we're going to love each other and we're going to pursue Christ and that's going to look a bunch of different ways."
Summer Sipes (09:31):
And so we had to adapt some ministries, but the Lord has been very good to continue you to grow us through this time, to confirm a lot of the things that we were doing that were really, really cool, like working and equipping our leaders to do ministry. And just the body of Christ really came together and cared for each other well, whether they were in person or online, it didn't matter.
Summer Sipes (09:52):
And so it's been a really hard season of ministry. It's been exhausting. In many regards, we've had to work a lot harder because you essentially have two different congregations that we're trying to maintain as one congregation. And student ministry having to take care of for every event for a while. It was like for every event we're planning, we're planning five different events, because we don't know will we have leaders that are out or will they be in or who will be there, who's not there? Will something be closed. It's just so many different things.
Summer Sipes (10:26):
But it's been a sweet time even in our area to encourage our other churches in the area, we're good friends with them, to be able to come together on Zoom calls and things like that to encourage each other, because I know their contacts was even different than ours. And they've had some struggles that were unique to them, but to be able to come together and support one another even in the area was really cool.
Andy Sipes (10:49):
Yeah. One of the things that, probably one of our biggest hurdles early on was we didn't have a live stream of our services. And so figuring out how we can get that up and going, our worship tech team researching and finding out what they needed to do that for the three weeks when nobody was in the worship center and their recording and doing that to, "Okay, we're going to bring people back, how we do both those things. If we moved cameras up right in front of the stage, people couldn't have sat there. And so just overcoming those obstacles to have the financial resources to be able to build a broadcast room and new mixing board and monitors and just people to be able to run that and do that, it was pretty amazing what our people were able to do and our volunteers that jumped in. As like, "Yeah, I'll be a part of that and help out and be there. So that was really great.
Summer Sipes (11:49):
And that has really expanded the reach of, again, the reach of the church to be international. Now we're in places that don't have local churches currently available to them. So our congregation, so to speak, the people that we get to minister to are all over the world now. And that is a really cool thing I think across the country that we're seeing is that the gospel is going out in new ways because of this whole time period.
Andy Sipes (12:19):
I was able to... It was weekly for a while, Zoom calls with probably 30 or so other executive pastors, administrative pastors in the Dallas area that one of the other execs put together just to talk about what we were doing and encourage each other and talk about the obstacles of ministering during this time. And so it was really neat and encouraging. One of the guys in particular we've kept in touch and been able to deepen other friendships just through that coming together. So that was really neat result of that.
Andy Sipes (13:00):
But like Summer was saying, it was just a lot of adaptation and trying to figure it out.
Summer Sipes (13:07):
Andy Sipes (13:07):
Yeah. Being flexible and knowing, "Okay, when we go back in person, are we even going to have anybody here? Is anybody going to come?" We added one service [inaudible 00:13:18] service and then our third service back and just all the timing of that. But our leadership just decided, "Hey, here's the decision this time. Here's the decision next time." And just led confidently but with compassion and God really has blessed this season for us.
Frank Barry (13:35):
Summer Sipes (13:37):
And it's cool when the Lord is the one that's guiding our ministry. That there's confidence that no matter what we're doing, he's going to step into that. And so it takes the pressure off of us to be able to rely with him on that and let him lead and let us just be part of what he's going to do. And the fear of failure is removed when that happens.
Frank Barry (14:01):
What'd you guys learn through all of that? Three weeks out isn't that much time, but you put in live streaming and, Summer, you mentioned being super flexible. But are there any big learnings that you took out from the church leadership perspective that you're applying to church going forward?
Summer Sipes (14:23):
I'll answer. During that time, I actually also get to coach with youth specialties and we went on Zoom calls during the month of May and June. So I got to see a lot of different things across the country. And what was really cool is that we have spent years investing in those, our congregation that is the body here, to lead ministry and to own ministry and not to be staff-driven. And so what I learned in that is that it really, I like, I think that is what the Bible calls us to, is to equip people to do ministry. And they stepped in and were able to do stuff. And so that has allowed us to come in with deeper trainings for them to continue to hand off ministry to people in even broader ways than we did before.
Summer Sipes (15:09):
To be flexible with a plan. To know that, again, if I trust that God is sovereign over everything, that means that if this event didn't work or this training, whatever the thing is, that there was something better that was going to step in. And then to be able to see, he was gracious to show fruit pretty fast of why he did that.
Summer Sipes (15:28):
And so I think just the confidence in this space is what I'm taking out of it. I think though it was difficult, he was so faithful and at every step of the way to see people come to know the Lord, to see leaders having confidence that they could do what we'd been telling them to do, but now the training wheels were kicked off and they were having to do it. And so just more opportunities for that, in my direct area, pulling students into ministry was really cool and using their creative gifts especially as digital natives, they had a lot to offer in this space. And so they even helped the church at large to come on in social media platforms and different things like that.
Summer Sipes (16:09):
I also think I have learned to be continued. I know so many places, church staff, and even churches in the area, see themselves as competition rather than siblings in Christ that are working together for the same mission. And so I've learned the importance of the encouragement of my friends in the area as sounding boards, as people who are praying for me and I'm praying for them, for staff members who I love and have always been there. It's just a really sweet sense of leading alongside the body of Christ rather than it being a solo venture.
Frank Barry (16:44):
I love that. Andy, I want to hear yours, but I want to dig into that a little bit more too.
Frank Barry (16:48):
I would say, and we alluded to this, I think there's a power when you just calmly set a course and you lead. We didn't have all the answers. We didn't know we were doing the things right or wrong. We did the best that we thought possible and said, "Hey, this is what we're going to do. And we're with you, whether you're here in person or not, but this is what we're going to do. And I think our people responded. We had great online community. We had great in-person community. The virus went up and down. We'd lower numbers as people stay home and they'd tune in online and still feel connected.
Frank Barry (17:34):
And so I think just that as a leader, if you can just make a decision, "Hey, let's go." And that doesn't mean you don't flex along the way because as more information comes, as things change, you need to do that and ready to do that. But just to set a course and say, "This is how we're going to go until we know more and go," and just bring people along in that, I think that's been really powerful to see that in action when there's so many unknowns that you really can't take into account all of them. And so just make decision, lead, and people are going to follow.
Summer Sipes (18:11):
And I think communication was really key. We became better communicators to say, "Hey, here's what we're doing, here's why we're doing it." And then to listen, "How can we help with objections or obstacles that are there?" And so, just the ability to step in and communicate in new different ways with the congregation at large made people feel a part of that. They felt like they knew the direction, they weren't floundering as to, "Oh, what are they thinking? What are they doing?" And then we remained available. And I think that's a key, just being available in the many forms it takes.
Summer Sipes (18:49):
I remember we actually did our winter retreat in the middle of pandemic and a lot of adaptations to that. But in the course of an hour, I fielded a conversation from a family that was like, "I can't believe you're not wearing masks everywhere all the time, even while you're sleeping." To the parent that said, "How dare you make my child wear a mask?" And I'm like, but... In both scenarios to be able to look at them and say, "Hey, maybe that actually isn't the actual issue here. Let's talk through what our mission is and how you can be a part of that. "Hey, put the mask on. If that means we're going to have another dozen or so students come to this event because you wore that mask so be it. Let that go." Or, "Hey while we're outside, it is okay for us not to have it on." Or, "Your kid can have it on and here's what we're doing to be safe and wise in that space."
Summer Sipes (19:41):
I think it's just being confident and leading knowing that the Lord is the ultimate one that's driving the ship. And of course correct if He needs to.
Frank Barry (19:51):
You guys both mentioned pastors groups or leadership groups that you connected with during the pandemic, somehow that sprung up. So maybe you guys can just share a little bit as we maybe wrap things up a little bit. How do those get created and what are they? How did it happen? What is it? What purpose did it serve through all of this? These connecting with other church leaders in your community and doing this together.
Summer Sipes (20:24):
For student ministry, we had had a network back when I first started. And then when I stepped back in, I looked around and it didn't seem like there really was one. So I literally went to everybody's website and figured out who the youth person was and emailed everybody and said, "Hey, let's meet and figure this out." And then because we were course correcting some things in the ministry, didn't have time to lead that space, so we handed it off, but stepped back in with a couple of my friends in the area back in January and repackaged it to really focus on the need for youth pastors I think, to be encouraged and to continue on when things are hard, and we know what each other are going through. And so it kind of had a threefold purpose for at least the Frisco Student Ministry Network. One is to encourage one another. And so we meet once a month and for an hour [crosstalk 00:21:16]-
Frank Barry (21:16):
And this is youth pastors, student ministry from churches all over the area?
Summer Sipes (21:20):
... Yeah. Anybody that works in student ministry in Frisco and surrounding areas.
Frank Barry (21:25):
Summer Sipes (21:26):
In Frisco alone we have over 65, 70, it's changing every day, 1000 students. And so any one of us, we can't hit everybody, but if we link arms, then we can hit a lot more. So we encourage each other, we equip on different topics that are pertinent to what we do as ministers of the gospel. And then we also really work hard to engage the community. So this next month meeting our county judge is coming in for our area county to talk to us about how we as a student ministry and how we as churches can help partner for the good of our community even. Lots of different functions, but I think it's critical for a healthy area of church to not do it by yourself.
Andy Sipes (22:15):
Our church is about 27 years old. I get that right. And a couple years after it started-
Summer Sipes (22:23):
27, we talked about it before.
Andy Sipes (22:26):
... Yes. Our lead pastor's also our founding pastor. Started meeting with a couple of the other pastors at town. At that time there was probably a handful of churches in town, and they started this pastor's Alliance. It's morphed and changed over the years to it's present for form where our senior pastors, lead pastors in town will get together monthly and share a meal and have conversations about what they're doing, what's hard, what's good. So, having those established relationships. A couple of the pastors in town have been around for 15, 20 years as well. And so they've been here a long time and been able to develop really good friendships. And so to be able to enter this time is like, "What do we do?" And so just be able to pick up the phone and call some of them and say, "Hey, what are you guys doing? How are you communicating that?" And really having somebody to lean on and to be frustrated with, be excited with. And so those were already established.
Andy Sipes (23:37):
And so going into this time it wasn't like we're having to figure out and creating the wheel ourselves. We were able to really draw from each other, learn from each other. The executive pastors that I'm involved with in town, there's even broader networks. And one of them created a Zoom call for execs. And we had had a topic each time over several weeks in June and July last year, that was looking at a lot of reopening churches that weren't open, how they were doing it.
Andy Sipes (24:12):
And so there's probably 30, 35 other execs or admin pastors that were on that. And I remember we talked about cleaning, "Hey, how are you guys doing your cleaning protocols? Who are you using? What resources? How are you communicating that? What's the signage?" And so just to be able to have that network, us locally here in town already in place and to be able to expand that and to have a broader network of, "Hey, we're all trying to figure us out together." It was really encouraging to be able to be a part of those, to have follow up conversations individually with some of those people. Like, "Hey, tell me a little more about this or that." Or, "Why'd you guys do this?"
Andy Sipes (24:58):
It was neat to be able to see that network that we'd put in place for many years and built and grown and kept those relationships going, of, "Hey, we're all in this together. We're all trying to reach the kingdom. We do it differently, but we're in this together. How can we help each other?" It was really always refreshing and rewarding.
Summer Sipes (25:18):
Yeah. I think it's just, there's practicalness to having a network of people in the area, because those are the people that know the area that you're reaching. So there's that practical training, but there's also that encouragement that's necessary. And I do think it's super important for our communities to see that the church of Christ is on mission together. And so when we've had people visit, even if sometimes it's just not a fit. And so we can look at them and say, "Hey, you know what? I think you would actually go over to of Frisco first. Here's their pastor, here's their youth staff. Let me call ahead of them and tell them to look out for you." There's just a care for people that I think can expand.
Summer Sipes (25:57):
And in a generation where we see a lot of divided families, I may have a kid one week and then they're with a divorce situation. And they're over at one of my, the friends in the area churches the next week. But we have care that can cross over because the two pastors know one another and can care and love that kid better. So I think we end up caring for people better that way too.
Frank Barry (26:22):
A hundred percent. I think that's on so many levels atypical. I don't think that's super normal everywhere, but I also hear stories of it. I interviewed another pastor a couple weeks ago and in the midst of COVID, a group like this sprung up and they were encouraging one another, getting together every week, having a meal, talking about what's going on. I just think we need peers. We need people in the trenches doing what we're doing that we can learn from and share our stories and-
Summer Sipes (27:02):
Frank Barry (27:05):
... talk about all the failures and what worked and let it down a little bit together. And then that leads into, "Oh, the church down the road, they're our friends and great. If you are here one Sunday and over there another Sunday, we love that. Let's find the right place for you." I just think that's a cool way for the church to show up in a community in a bigger way. Not because there's a hundred individual churches, but because there's one big church that has a bunch of different locations, if you will, right?
Andy Sipes (27:39):
Frank Barry (27:40):
Serving that community. So that's beautiful. I think that's super cool.
Summer Sipes (27:45):
Frank Barry (27:45):
Where can folks go just to find out more about you guys and about the church? And if they're ever visiting or want to check you out online, what's the website?
Summer Sipes (27:54):
The website is friscobible.com. If you want to check out students, we're \students. And we're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Mostly Facebook and Instagram. So @friscobible is the Instagram and Facebook. We also have @friscobiblestudents on both as well. So we'd love to have conversations.
Frank Barry (28:16):
Well, guys, this has been great. Thank you guys for coming on.
Summer Sipes (28:19):
Yeah. Thanks for having us. This is super fun. Thanks for what you do.
Andy Sipes (28:20):
Thank you. It's been fun.
Frank Barry (28:22):
Yeah, absolutely. And everyone watching, make sure to go check out their website friscobible.org?
Summer Sipes (28:31):
Frank Barry (28:31):
Okay, friscobible.com. And we will catch everyone next week on another episode of Modern Church Leader. Thanks guys.
If you enjoy this episode of the Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple podcast or Spotify so you never miss an episode. And we'll see you again next week with another conversation here on the Modern Church Leader.