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7 Questions with Jeff Baxter
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7 Questions with Jeff Baxter
Name: Jeff Baxter
Current title: Next Gen Pastor
Current organisation: Mission Hills Church
Jeff and his beautiful wife Laurie have been married 26 years. They have three wonderful children, Lillian (21), Levi (18) and Lara (13) and an adorable chocolate lab, Lindor.
Their family loves to explore Colorado, especially with a coffee in hand. Jeff can usually be found rooting for the Colorado Rapids Fut'bol Club or other European soccer leagues, if not vicariously playing them on the XBOX.
He has been in full-time ministry inside and outside the local church for over 20 years, primarily in the greater Denver Colorado area. Jeff received degrees in education, theology and leadership, culminating with his D.Min. degree in Family Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. He’s had the pleasure of leading youth and adult teams to over 14 countries, speaking at camps and conferences and authoring books central to the next generation. In the past years, Jeff and Laurie developed a passion for leading teams to Israel and helping people see the Bible come to color. Jeff loves to dream, cast vision and implement strategy in a team environment to reach and keep the next generation for God’s glory.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Staying focused on my personal growth in Jesus.
As a church leader, there are so many moving parts and time suckers including people to manage, emails to answer, the weekly demands, the urgency of people's needs, the coming worship service, social media and family demands. These are all good, but without an intentional focus and growing with Jesus, the rest fall short.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was on a short-term mission trip to Romania and God did two things. First, I fell in love. My future wife was on the trip and we saw something happening as we were both serving together overseas. Second, God was calling me from teaching middle schoolers in a school to full-time vocational ministry speaking, writing and discipling.
A year later, I would head get married and head off to seminary for more training and land at a wonderful ministry as a speaker and mission trip leader which God would use to direct me to serve in the local church.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I like to think of my work days in three blocks of time (morning, afternoon and evening). I try to leave one of these blocks of time free any given day. So I might work in the morning and afternoon, but not in the evening or afternoon and evening, but not the morning. I try to be home with my family most nights. I also check email and respond early in the morning and set up blocks of time for preparing, praying and dreaming.
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?
The Top Ten Mistake Leaders Make by Hans Finzel. This book and man have had a profound impact on me. He used to be the Executive Director of CB International planting churches all around the world. He had learned over time the biggest mistakes leaders make like putting paper over people, having a top-down attitude of leadership or forgetting to plan for the future are some of the mistakes. These are timeless principles which every leader is tempted to fall into.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
It is easy to manage people rather than coach people in your organization, ministry or church. Managing is just getting by and moving things around. Coaching is about helping people get better and setting them up for success. It is so easy to fall into managing and just going through the motions. It is much harder to proactively pray in moving people forward sharing teachable moments and coaching for the future.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
We are still working on this. It is not easy. In Next Gen ministries at our church, we are intentionally bringing interns on for a short time and residents for a longer time to coach them in ministry. All along we are watching to see if there is a fit with chemistry, competence and character for our church in order to bring them on staff. I would say this is more of an art form than a science, but we need to continue to work on the systems to be even more intentional. The goal is to develop and hire or move people inside the church or organization.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
I am getting older (some laugh at me in the background) to see students in my ministry 10 to 15 years ago who are now grown up, some married and still others have children who are in ministry today. They remember the craziest things when I was leading them and are grateful for my investment. These stories humble me every time and are so encouraging to hear years later. They spur me on to keep staying faithful as a leader to keep impacting coming generations.