7 Questions with Curtis Cecil

Name: Curtis Cecil

Current title: Lead Pastor

Current organisation: Jefferson Nazarene

After 20 years in retail management (18 with Family Christian Stores) I responded to a call to ministry that I had felt when I was 8 years old.

While in retail I had been blessed to be a part of the beginning of 2 nonprofit groups leading missions groups around the globe, as well as to be mentored by many great leaders.

I became an Executive Pastor for what would become a network of churches. And now lead pastor of a church of 300 in NorthEast Ohio.

Been married for 20 years. We have 7 children from ages 18 to 5. Two of our children are deaf so we speak American Sign Language in our house.

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1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?

It's easy to speak about leadership issues, gaining followers, etc. The issue that I find most prevalent is this desire to take it personally when someone disagrees with your God-given direction for the church congregation.

Typically as pastors, we do not seek to change items just because we like conflict, we do so after months if not years of prayer and seeking God's direction. Then after ensuring our board is in agreement.

This year especially with Covid changes to our worship, live streaming, meeting in public etc. I had individuals who felt that I was "taking away" their favored Sunday School or what they liked most about the church (like those old flyers that no one had touched in five years).

2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I was called into ministry at the age of 8, but due to being a preacher's kid and having seen some of the dark sides of ministry early on, I fought it.

I went into retail, Christian Retail, and found a great ministry. I was blessed to lead 3-4 missions trips a year with a non-profit connected with our company.

One one trip, with an organization I knew well and who had offered me a position, I had a local pastor from the country we were in come up to me and say "God has you in a great ministry now, but it is not the one He has prepared you for".

To say that I was shaken a bit was an understatement. I enjoyed my retail job. As well, I didn't want my children to experience some of the hurts I had as a Preacher's kid.

Then 6 months later a woman in our large church outside DC, whom we didn't know, walked up and said "God told me 6 months ago I needed to tell you this and I fought him... but he said 'You are in a great ministry now, but it is not the one he has prepared you for'".

Needless to say, this Jonah stopped running and began to seek God's direction.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I keep a cycle of writing, preparing, and practicing sermons that are 4 weeks out. Researching 4 weeks out, outlining 3 weeks out, writing a sermon 2 weeks out, and practicing the week of.

To do this one must keep a regular, if not monthly, a day alone with God. I seek him and ask for direction for the upcoming 6 months to a year.

Then each week I only allow appointments (unless they are walk-ins) on 2 specific days so that my other days are all sermon prep, and reading for growth.

I am an avid reader and truly believe that one must be a lifetime learner.

4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Hero Maker by Dave Ferguson is a book that has impacted the way I train up leaders. I seek to ensure that no matter the size of the church, that each ministry leader looks at all their volunteers as potential leaders. Too often we overlook the next generation and say "when they get older" or "when they know more". Yet, we should be seeking to be the Hero maker lifting them up instead of seeking to make ourselves the Hero.

5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Hold on loosely. It's not my ministry. They are not my leaders. When you do so it is easier to have a Kingdom-minded approach vs a "sand castle" approach.

6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?

Primarily through teaching, preaching, training, and making Hero Maker a priority in all of our language. It is in our core values, it is in our membership class curriculum. It is everywhere.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?

This past month we have seen a 61-year-old come to church for the very first time in his life, give his life to Christ, and be baptized. He is on fire for God in a way that reminds those of us who have been saved for a while that God can reach anyone, at any stage, in any way!