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Founder Nonfiction caught up with Bob Santy, the Pastor of Business and Finance at Sunridge Community Church in Temecula, California. Like many of the business owners and entrepreneurs we work with at our publishing house, Bob is an innovator, a fresh thinker, and a problem solver. He doesn’t settle for the status quo, but is constantly pushing things forward on the organizational side of the church in which he serves.

Let’s start with a bit of history. How long have you been at Sunridge Community Church and what roles have you played there during your time on staff?

My family and I started attending Sunridge in 1996. Shortly thereafter, we become involved by joining a Home Group and then began serving in the church. That transitioned into becoming a Home Group leader, which transitioned into becoming a Home Group Divisional Leader.

Eventually, I was asked if I would consider becoming an elder and went through the Sunridge elder training program. Although I was flattered to be asked to serve the church in the role of an elder, I didn’t feel Iike the timing was right and initially said no to the opportunity.

Then in late 2005, the leadership of Sunridge was experiencing some differences in opinion, which ultimately resulted in an embarrassing division in the church, where about half of the leadership and congregation parted ways. It was at that point I was asked again to join the elder board as a lay elder and I accepted. The departing staff had left a key staff position open and by June of 2006, I joined the staff as the Pastor of Business and Finance.

What does your role as Pastor of Business and Finance entail on a daily basis?

In a nutshell, my role primarily provides oversight to the operations of the church; areas like finances, facilities, the office, IT, HR, and communications/marketing, but I also take on some pastoral duties like performing weddings, memorials, and baptisms, overseeing our benevolence fund, and leading classes like Financial Peace University (FPU).

I foster relationships with strategic vendors, such as our insurance broker, to find health care packages that are both affordable to the church and provide adequate coverage for the staff.

Sunridge, like many churches, has had its share of ups and downs. How would you describe the importance of your role at Sunridge when the church has gone through difficult times?

I think my practical approach has really helped navigate our church through some pretty tough financial periods. When I came on staff in June of 2006, Sunridge was three quarters of the way through the fiscal year and was still trying to operate at a budget that was assembled when the attendance (and giving) was much greater. In addition, the church had a commercial loan on the building, and commercial loans balloon every five years. Giving was no longer keeping pace with the budget or the covenant with the lender. It was clear we needed to make some painful adjustments to our expenses and find a new lender.

Correcting the budget necessitated the elimination of all non-essential spending, which meant a drastic reduction to ministry budgets, with the exception of supported missionaries, as well as reducing the ongoing maintenance to the facility, with the exception of the HVAC systems. In addition, the corrective measures required a reduction in staff and compensation. These corrective measures provided us the opportunity to become more attractive to lenders, eventually allowing us to secure a new loan with the current lender at a largely reduced interest rate. This alone saved the church more than $144,000 annually.

What changes have you implemented in your time as Pastor of Business and Finance and how have they helped the organizational side of the church run more smoothly?

Coming on staff I found that there were some really good processes in place and I am very grateful for those who put them in place to allow me the time to grow into my role. I have always leaned towards continuous improvement and refining processes, which has provided the opportunity to make some pretty big changes at Sunridge. A few examples would be:

  • Moving to Church Community Builder as our church management software. This building block allowed Sunridge to revolutionize how we deal with things like group management, online sign-ups, child check-in, online donations and payments, donation tracking, and room and resource management.
  • Moving to a Voice over IP phone system
  • Documenting policies and procedures for things like purchase requests, child safety, new hires, and employee exits.
  • Installing a keyless entry and security system
  • Using 15Five as a way of measuring objectives and key results in a positive environment.
  • Implementing an all-volunteer web team

What role does good stewardship play in your decision making?

Because I believe everything is God’s and He allows us to manage it, we need to manage whatever resources He entrusts to us well. This is a particularly exciting time to be at Sunridge, as we can see God is trusting us with more resources. The entire staff at Sunridge wants to steward them well.

For the first time since I’ve been on staff, strategic sinking funds are being set up to ensure that critical assets like the sound system, HVAC units, and other areas of the Sunridge campus can be replaced when the time comes. In addition, renovation projects like our multi-purpose room and the hallway, are funded through designated giving, not loans.

Who were some of your mentors, and how have they helped shaped you as a person and a pastor?

God certainly has surrounded me with some of the most amazing, Godly mentors and leaders you can imagine! For starters, people in the church world like Britt Sipe (Sunridge’s Lead Pastor) and John Gaskins (an Associate Pastor) have been instrumental in grounding me in practical ways to live out God’s Word.

In the business world, I had the pleasure of working at Callaway Golf while Ely Callaway was alive and he made a lasting impression on me. When assembling the all-volunteer website team at Sunridge, I had the opportunity to watch Matt Smith balance business and volunteering. From a personal standpoint, I had the most wonderful parents who showed me unconditional love and support. And of course, there’s my wife, Diane. Without her, none of this is possible because she had the courage to invite me to church and introduce me to Jesus, the greatest mentor of all.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I hope I’m seen as a servant leader. One who listens, cares, gets in the trenches with the team, casts vision, and includes others.

Any big plans for the future of Sunridge that you’d like to bring about?

For the last couple of years, it has been high on my priority list to raise the level of stewardship awareness at Sunridge. To accomplish this, a plan is in place that includes monthly stewardship blogs (Bobservations), two to three FPU classes per year, quarterly emails to those who give to Sunridge, including stewardship as part of Sunday messages when appropriate, and sending a handwritten letter to those who give for the first time.

Since entering our facility in 2004, our attendance and giving necessitated what I like to call “purposeful neglect.” As Sunridge started to grow, we began to reinvest in this valuable asset. So far, upgrades have been made to our roof as well as to our multi-purpose room. Sunridge is planning additional renovations throughout our campus, starting with the entry and main hallways. We started raising funds in 2017 to refresh its look and create a better first impression for guests, and we now have a tentative start date of early 2019. We also have plans to replace our aging sound system, which is something we’ve been saving up to do. When it comes to our facility, we are always dreaming, and hope to one day put in a playground, add some hangout areas, and keep improving other spaces as needed.

Of course, Sunridge will be relentless in pursuing ways to accomplish our mission of helping people find and follow Jesus through our vision of deepening faith, bringing hope, and giving love to our community and around the world.

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