Meet Lee Coate: IC Coach and Executive Pastor at The Crossing in Las Vegas
Lee Coate is a connector and mentor through his work in the local church. He currently serves as the Executive Pastor at The Crossing Church in Las Vegas which was recently ranked as the 8th fastest growing church in the US by Outreach Magazine (2014). Lee oversees the ministries and staff of this rapidly growing church, is part of the teaching team, and serves as the chief strategic catalyst. A church planter prior to his time at The Crossing, Lee understands the unique challenges of our current culture and believes in the influence possible through the local church.
A graduate of Northwest University, Lee received his Master’s in Global Leadership from Fuller Seminary and is currently completing doctoral work at Bethel University focusing on Missional Effectiveness. In his role with Intentional Churches, Lee is currently facilitating and coaching churches around the country from 400 to 5000 by guiding them towards exponential growth through strategic planning.
Tell us how your experience in one of the fastest growing churches in America prepared you for ministry and serving churches.
The last nine years serving at The Crossing has been a journey in the momentum of ebbs and flows of ministry. We have experienced seasons of numeric growth, but also times of great challenge. Many of those challenging times were out of our control, especially during the recession that hit Vegas hard in 2008-2010. The conversations during that time with our leadership team centered around “are we going to just buckle down and try to survive” or “step courageously forward towards where God wanted us to go?” I would rather go down following someone with a vision than sink slowly, waiting for them to find one.
The physical challenges of low finances and less staff actually lifted us to new heights. We began to lean into who we were, operate consistently within our unique DNA, and challenge our people to step up. It was at the moment we had to be very clear about who we were and what we could do consistently despite our challenges. It was an incredible time of learning and stretching our leadership capacity.
As our church continues to grow, I have felt my leadership shifting. I have become much more of a developer, rather than a doer. My days are filled with conversations centered around collaboration, culture, crisis management, communication, and critical strategic thinking. (Those all start with C). I need to be available to my team to help them get and stay unstuck. There are key areas of macro-strategy I need to be involved in and setting the course. Beyond that, there are a series of ongoing conversations I am a part of to keep things churning. Some of these are formal (strategic gatherings, team meetings) while many are informal. I call those “walk arounds”. I walk around, wander into various offices, sit myself down, and spend some time having strategic conversations and problem-solving. And I love it.
What have been the highs and lows of serving churches through IC and The Crossing?
It is always amazing to see churches grab ahold of a true strategic plan that was birthed out of a process they were personally invested in and begin implementation. Seeing both small and large WINs result of that leading to greater impact is inspiring. In many cases, we have truly been able to embed an operating system mentality within the leadership which has implications for long term kingdom impact. Helping these churches regain their focus and become laser focused is key to a partnership with them. In one particular church that I recently had a six-month visit with, I just knew that it had taken hold because the language they were using reflected their buy in. I like to say, language creates culture. Often times as a coach, the most important thing I can do in assessing culture and the immediate need is to listen. Within their words, there are most likely keys embedded to break through the barriers to growth and impact. Lows? Pretty simple. When a church sees the IC partnership as just another moment and not an opportunity for momentum. I know this is happening when the work is not happening, the champion is not “championing”, and the church team has moved on. It’s disappointing and frustrating to watch as “what might have been” slips away. Fortunately, this is becoming rarer.
How did you become a part of IC?
I was privileged to be invited in on the ground floor when the idea of IC was in its infancy. I remember sitting around a conference room table with potential future members of the team and hearing about this dream to partner with churches in creating strategic growth plans. It was completely speaking my language and leaning into areas I wanted to be a part of.
Share some wisdom or encouragement you have learned from being in the trenches of ministry.
I can never forget that God wants to continue to transform me in the midst of serving in ministry for others. And that transformation is the most important thing. But the greatest threat to transformation is speed and fatigue. So if you’re waiting for things to slow down or mellow out, you’re going to waiting awhile. I mistakenly believed that the objective was to finish all the tasks in front of me, hire an amazing team, create a well-oiled system and then I could just sit back and watch God work. It’s like waiting for normal to show up. It never does in ministry. So one of my big learnings was how to operate within the fast pace of ministry with health and endurance. Living at an unsustainable pace will lead me to an unsustainable place. And it’s not a pretty place.
Leaning into the areas of replenishment for me personally has been key. Even as things continue to move at a rapid pace, we all need to be conscious of personal, spiritual health. One of the big ah ha’s recently has been understanding that the pace will never change, so I have to. In other words, many church leaders operate under some false reality that at some future time things are going to slow down or get easier. Reality check: that is never going to happen. The pace of ministry is always stretching. I have been learning and coaching my team to not wait for the pace to change, but rather work towards changing our approach to pace and health. This means changing our patterns, finding breathing room, and scheduling strategic times of replenishment.