CE Interview: Jenni Catron: Executive Pastor, Cross Point Church, Nashville, TN
By Ronald E. Keener
Since Jenni Catron moved from being an artist development director in the Christian music industry in Nashville, to being executive pastor of Pete Wilson’s Cross Point Church, she hasn’t seen the two being wholly different. “I like to say that ‘I put feet to the vision,’ which is what I do now for Cross Point.”
She worked nearly nine years in the Christian music industry with some amazing artists, she says, including TobyMac of dctalk, Stacie Orrico, Audio Adrenaline, and Rebecca St. James. Her role was to be the liaison between the artist and their management team and the record company. “I was the champion of their vision inside the label, responsible for overseeing all marketing and promotional efforts.”
How did you get involved with Cross Point?
My husband and I were a part of the volunteer launch team that helped start Cross Point. It’s so rewarding to reminisce the first meeting of about 30 adults who dreamed about the potential for a new church in Nashville. For the first couple of years I volunteered but didn’t have aspirations to be on staff. I was pursuing my dream of being an executive for a music company.
When Cross Point started averaging about 500 in attendance each weekend, Pete and I began discussions of me coming on staff to oversee the administration side of the ministry as well as to lead the staff team. March 1 was my seventh anniversary on staff and it’s amazing to look back on all that God has led us through with now five (soon-to-be six) campuses and more than 4,000 in attendance each weekend. Each season has led us to growth and new opportunities we’ve never imagined.
Who was the pastor of your youth and what is your conversion story?
When I was eight years old my Great Uncle Tom invited my mom to attend church at the small Assembly of God Church where he played piano and organ. As I recall, Uncle Tom had been pestering mom to attend this church for some time and when she finally “gave in,” it really became a turning point for our family. I remember my mom walking me through the prayer of salvation in our living room shortly thereafter. Uncle Tom was the person who taught me by example to love and serve the local church. Every Tuesday afternoon I walked from school to Uncle Tom’s house for piano and voice lessons and every Sunday Uncle Tom would call upon me to sing or play in our Sunday service. Not only did Uncle Tom influence my decision to follow Christ, but he was part of shaping my earliest leadership moments.
How do you define leadership in terms of what you do in working and guiding others in this area?
Leadership is such a complicated word with a lot of different interpretations. I think the best leaders represent a balance of what I refer to as the Four Dimensions of Leadership: Visionary, Managerial, Self and Spiritual. Great leaders need to be able to cast vision for where they want to lead others, they need to be able to manage the details to get them there, they need to have self-discipline and be self-motivated, and as faith-based leaders we need to provide spiritual direction and encouragement. Every leader will naturally excel in one dimension more than the others but the best leaders understand the importance of growing in each area.
Outreach magazine named you one of the 30 emerging influencers reshaping leadership. How did you get that honor?
I’ll be honest, I have no idea! I was shocked and honored when I found out I was on that list. I do believe that God has given me a very unique voice as a woman in ministry leadership and my heart is to steward my role and influence wisely.
In what ways is your church implementing social media with the congregation?
Social media is a big part of our communication at Cross Point. Everything we do, whether sermon series, student ministry events, community groups activities, missions and outreach opportunities, etc., includes a plan for communication via Twitter, Facebook and our blogs. We’re in the process of creating an app built especially for us and we’ve begun using QR codes on our print pieces as well.
During the 2010 flood in Nashville, Twitter and Facebook were the best methods for us to get word out quickly about flood relief efforts.
What is the church’s next step in multi-sites? Merger is a growing interest; is a merger being talked about with other churches in the area?
Our vision is to reach the greater Nashville area with the hope of Christ and we’re investigating every opportunity that will help us accomplish that vision. Four years ago multi-site became a key way for us to accomplish that vision and we plan to launch campuses as long as it continues to be effective in reaching people. This year we plan to launch at least one additional campus. We have discussed several mergers but as of yet, there has not been a partnership that has been a good fit. In addition, we love resourcing other churches. Our team spends a great deal of time personally coaching and encouraging other churches, especially church plants. We are investigating creating a Cross Point Network for churches outside of the Nashville area.
What would you advise other pastors about leading campus pastors of a multi-site church?
Multi-site is messy. There is just no way around it. When it comes to leading campus pastors, I think it’s important to be sensitive to the tension and challenges that a campus pastor feels. They are responsible for casting the vision of the senior leader, while also being accountable for the day-to-day leadership of their campus.
They are constantly swapping between first-chair and second-chair leadership. That can be a very challenging place, yet it’s the reality of the campus pastor role. The more aware you can be of that tension and the more intentional you can be to keep communication open, the stronger you will be as a team.
Anything special you are doing to ensure connectedness between the campuses?
Communication is the key to effective multi-site ministry. Because all of our campuses are within a 45-minute radius of our broadcast campus, all of our staff can meet together weekly. This provides us both relational time with each other as well as time for planning, trouble-shooting and problem-solving.
We use Kulabyte for our delivery system. This system offers a “nearly live” delivering of the broadcast feed, kind of like DVR technology. One of the things I love about this is that our lead pastor can give special instructions or talk to our campus pastors on
Sunday morning during rehearsal if there is anything last minute that we need to communicate.
For a young church as yours, what is your strategic planning model? What vision are you working against?
Our Cross Point vision statement can be boiled down to three elements: discipleship, community and evangelism, and our vision is to try to maintain a balance of those three things at all times. We really believe that that balance results in a healthy church. We want a culture where our attendees are being challenged to grow in their faith, while also building relationships with other believers and purposefully inviting the unchurched.
Everything we do as a church should support one of these elements of our vision statement. Strategically we plan in 12 to 18 month increments. We’ve attempted to do five and 10 year plans but they just don’t work well for us. If we’re healthy as a church as defined by the balance of those three points of the vision, the natural bi-product is growth. We tend to be responsive to growth but proactive towards creating health.
The staff seems highly organized in terms of goal setting and accomplishment, performance evaluation, periodic goal assessment, and the like. Do you have a particular approach, or follow anyone’s model, for that?
I stole a lot of our management philosophy from the company that I worked for in the music business and I’ve adapted it to work for our team. Each of our staff creates goals every six months for their role and then they are evaluated on those goals every six months.
Additionally, we use Patrick Lencioni’s idea of a thematic goal. We create one thematic goal for the entire organization and then each campus and respective campus staff apply that goal to their individual responsibilities.
How is the economy affecting the church and giving? How have you kept the budget healthy and balanced?
Our 2012 budget is just under $5 million. We operate pretty lean, but because of that value we have been fortunate to weather some of the economic ups and downs of the last few years. While we have not met our budget goals every year, our team does an amazing job of keeping expenses under actual receipts. We’ve finished every year of Cross Point’s history in “the black” and we have not had to lay off any staff due to budget reasons. Fiscal responsibly is a huge priority to our entire team and everyone takes their role in that very seriously.
How do you see the power of branding as expressed at Cross Point, and how that makes a difference when new people are deciding to remain at Cross Point?
Because my background is in brand management and marketing, I think it’s a very important for every individual and organization to understand the power of their “brand.” I know people sometimes wrestle with the idea of brand development for the church, but branding really boils down to understanding your strengths and gifts and doing your best to be consistent in them. At Cross Point we’re very intentional to be true to the Cross Point brand. I want our attendees to feel confident that if they invite a friend to any of our Cross Point campuses, they can be sure the experience will be consistent. We know that we’re not the only church or the best church in town, but we do believe that God has called us to a unique style of ministry that reaches the people we are best gifted to reach.
I’m told you like drinking tea?
Oh, I love tea! I’m sure that I was supposed to be born British. I really drink all different varieties, but a good Rooibos loose leaf tea with a hint of orange is my favorite. www.CrossPoint.tv
Cultivate her’ mentors
Jenni Catron began an organization called Cultivate Her in working with and mentoring women leaders. Here she explains its purpose:
A few years ago a woman leader that I really admired challenged me with this: “Jenni, how you steward your influence as a woman leader at Cross Point directly impacts every woman who comes behind you.” That might seem rather obvious but it was a wake-up call to me of the importance of how I steward my place of leadership.
I think sometimes we as leaders underestimate how much others are watching us. For me, I had lulled myself into a place of thinking that I had to focus on my own growth and that I wasn’t ready to develop others. I felt too young and inexperienced.
That challenge prompted me to start Cultivate Her as a place where I could share what I was learning and encourage other women leaders along the way. Our goal is to connect, engage and inspire women leaders to help them feel confident to lead well, wherever they lead. I meet locally with women leaders in Nashville, we use the blog for creating conversation for women leaders around the globe, and we’re working on ideas for coaching and mentoring opportunities this year. www.cultivateher.com