Meet Jim Stanley: IC Coach and Executive Pastor at Traders Point in Indianapolis

Jim serves as  Executive Pastor of Operations at Traders Point Christian Church, northwest of Indianapolis, where he has provided leadership in navigating a total campus relocation, a number of major campus expansions, and a lead pastor transition. During his roughly twenty years at Traders Point, he has shepherded a number of staff and leadership re-structurings, necessitated by the changing dynamics of a rapidly growing, now mega, church.  Jim is energized by guiding teams toward greater organizational clarity and alignment and helping them identify and tackle what’s most important during any given season.  Nothing animates him more than seeing people, both paid and volunteer, in the right “seat” working toward an Ephesians 4 picture of the church. Jim also serves annually as a facilitator with the Executive Pastors’ Forum, a group of executive pastors from Christian Churches around the country.  He has enjoyed coaching youth sports for over a dozen years.  He and his wife of 25 years, Jennifer, have four children, Clark (20) and triplets, Jack, Erin, and Trey (15).   

Tell us how your experience in one of the fastest growing churches in America prepared you for ministry and serving churches.  

Well, while we were pretty much always a steadily growing church in my first 12-13 years at Traders Point, the “hockey stick” growth we’ve experienced over the past 9-10 years has been a relatively recent phenomenon.  As a result, I can remember and relate to the very leadership dynamics (e.g. staff and leadership structures, meeting and decision-making processes) that churches of the size that I’ve been serving through Intentional Churches are wrestling through presently.  

Most all of these churches are (or have been) just above or just below the 2,000 attendance threshold. For much of my time at Traders Point, that’s right where we were.  It has been a blessing to witness the Holy Spirit work through healthy, Godly, empowering leaders here in Indianapolis to help us break through so many of the leadership and size barriers that constrain too many churches from reaching the potential I believe God intends for them.  Having seen these breakthroughs in our context has given me a vision for its potential to happen in so many other contexts like those where I’ve been able to serve through IC.  This perspective gives me a framework from which to push and challenge others — appropriately, of course — toward breakthroughs of their own.

What have been the highs and lows of serving churches through IC and Traders Point?  

The highs for me have been to see sets of leaders commit themselves to a process of self-discovery and learning and then doing what it takes to remove or mitigate the barriers that have been dis-empowering their staff and keeping their church from reaching its full potential in multiplying impact and influence for the Gospel.  Recently, I have seen God answer prayer and move in a couple of situations that, early on, appeared to be too much to overcome.  These have been incredible and humbling to witness.

Conversely, I think the disappointments have come in seeing some elements of leaders who don’t seem to be on the same page with one another or rowing together toward a shared vision.  This, when combined with an underdeveloped aptitude or passion for the learning and self-discovery necessary for them to remedy their misalignment can make achieving breakthrough seem almost insurmountable and the coaching task extremely daunting.  But God is really, really good, despite my/our deficiencies.      

How did you become a part of IC?  

I knew both Doug and Bart back in college and was impressed by what both had accomplished since graduating.  I also had reconnected with Doug as a fellow executive pastor through our XP network.  After about three years of running strategic exercises and processes on my own through what resources I was able to cobble together from the likes of Patrick Lencioni and Jim Collins and reaching the end of what I thought I could effectively do “on my own,” I learned that Doug and Bart had started IC. I asked Doug to come to our leadership team offsite and conduct mini StratOp for us, simply to expose us to the process and some of the tools.  Following that, we quickly engaged Doug to come and work with us and about three months later he did the first of now three installs for us at Traders Point.  As a believer and quick adapter of the process, I was invited to go through Intentional GrowthPlanning training later that year.  

Share some wisdom or encouragement you have learned from being in the trenches of ministry.

Wow, where to begin?  I suppose most of any “wisdom and encouragement” I can share would come from mistakes I’ve made or from NOT doing what I’m going to attempt to impart here. The list below is just what comes off the top of my head from nearly two dozen years of doing this.  

  1. Your wife and kids, not your ministry, are the “roses” you need to “stop and smell.”  Take time to do it while you can.
  2. Balance is your friend.
  3. Hear all the sides and get all the perspectives before coming to conclusions and imparting decisions.
  4. Initiate conflict resolution.  Don’t wait.
  5. Go to the other person and ask, don’t wonder or speculate.
  6. Asking questions is way more effective than making statements.
  7. Letting go, when it’s time and appropriate, is far less painful than clinging to or hanging on too long.
  8. As you develop tenure or expanded responsibilities your influence will likely change and potentially become less visible and more indirect.  Don’t fight it, tempting though it may be.  Steward that season well as a new adventure and be vigilant against what C. S. Lewis says is that “ever-present yapping dog at your door” pride.
  9. Read Haydn Shaw’s Generational IQ and learn how to relate to the other 3-4 generations that are not your own.   The health of the church around you in the future will depend to some degree on your doing that well.
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