What is your current position and role of responsibility at Calvary Church of Santa Ana? What interests you about serving in nonprofit work?
My current role is Executive Pastor which is responsible for the finances and operations of Calvary Church of Santa Ana and Calvary Christian School. I am also part of the executive leadership team which helps implement the vision we have of being a church family that is better together, being changed by the Gospel to love like Jesus across all cultures and generations. I have so much fun working behind the scenes using the gifts God has given me to be a small part of a local church on a grand world-changing mission. My job is making sure we are doing our part as a church to use God’s resources effectively and to mobilize others to reach out and serve with us. Calvary partners with other churches and non-profit ministries in our mission and I love serving to strengthen those relationships so we can accomplish more together. In my role at Calvary I also have the privilege to serve as the president of the Orange County chapter of the Church Network (which gathers local churches to learn from each other for those in administrative roles and share resources), to serve on the board of SIL (which founded Wycliffe Bible Translators and has 4000+ missionaries serving minority language communities with their language needs), and to teach one accounting class at Biola to help encourage future leaders to use their skills to serve the church whether as a volunteer or in vocational ministry. The best part of my job is that I get to do it with a gifted team of friends. All six of us on Calvary’s leadership team went to Biola and we have been working together for at least 10 years and we are excited to see how God will continue to use Calvary to reach Orange County and the world for Jesus Christ.
Talk a bit about your giftedness. How & when did you discover what you are good at?
My giftedness is in leadership and administration and some of the strengths God has blessed me with are being a maximizer (helping people move from good to great), arranger (arranging variables to productive configuration), relator (enjoying close relationships) and achiever (internally motivated to achieve). It has taken some time to learn and put labels on my strengths and gifting, but I have appreciated all of the people who have and continue to sharpen me and make me a better employee and person as a result of their care and mentoring.
My parents both have the gift of administration so they saw it in me as a young kid and helped me set up my own graphic design business and find other jobs in the computer industry that challenged me in high school. I chose Biola to pursue an information systems degree, but Professor Woodward helped me discover how the accounting profession was a better fit for my gifts. He also helped me grow in my teaching and maximizing gifts after I graduated Biola so I could come back and teach students and help them discover their gifts in the accounting field. I was able to exercise my leadership gifts at Biola in student government. I made some great friends in student government (we have been emailing jokes and prayer requests and getting together off and on for the past 20 years) and was able to work with and learn from Biola’s administration. Dr. Miller, the Provost at the time, continued to mentor me years after I graduated.
I went to work at Arthur Andersen after college as a result of Biola alumni helping me get an interview and I discovered in that job that I could manage people and solve problems under pressure. Arthur Andersen imploded as a company a few years later, and in the process of looking for another job, the executive pastor at Calvary encouraged me to work there. My current role at Calvary is a great fit for me to be able to use my giftedness to serve the church and the past 16 years here has been quite an adventure!
How has your education at the Crowell School of Business and Biola equipped you for your work? Talk about Business as Ministry and how this manifests itself in your work today.
My Biola experience was great not only for the amazing education I received to be technically trained to be an accountant and get an amazing job right after graduation at the largest accounting firm in the world, but it was even better at developing an environment where I could discover how God had wired me to serve the body of Christ and develop friendships that have helped me be a better worker, husband, and father in the 20 years since I graduated. I tell people all the time I would pay the tuition just for the friends I have as a result of my experience, and that was before I met my amazing wife as a result of a Biola connection! I also really appreciated the professors care for me and personal interest in preparing me for life after college and to see Business as Ministry.
Business as Ministry looks a little different now for me working in a church versus when I was working in an accounting firm, but it is still important. Our church is full of business people who I hope to encourage to see their work as ministry. Many of them also use their giftedness and businesses to serve the church which is a real encouragement to me and it helps me be a good steward of the resources God has provided the church. I am also challenged by many of my marketplace friends who use the platform of their business to do ministry to see how I am serving the vendors our church works with and representing Christ to them. Because I work in a church, I also like to encourage people to use their business gifts to serve ministries too, because I see the needs on a daily basis.
It has also been a blessing after 15 years of teaching accounting classes at Biola, to hear stories of many students who are doing amazing things for the Kingdom and see them help each other get great jobs so more marketplace ministry can happen. I love having former students share in my class or come over for dinner to meet with current students and tell them not only about their career path and how to get a job, but they also share about how they are exhibiting the Business as Ministry mentality and the impact it is having on their coworkers. Many of them also have the privilege to work with other Biola alumni and they are encouraging each other through prayer times as they strive to live on mission in the marketplace.
As you know, the Crowell School of Business recently launched a Master of Management, Nonprofit Organizations degree — designed for leaders in nonprofit and faith-based organizations who want to increase their leadership and management skills, while also pursuing theological training and spiritual transformation. Your thoughts regarding the need for this?
Seeing Biola take the lead in this area is very exciting for me because I see the need for this training being in the Executive Pastor role. Traditionally you had to either get a seminary degree or a graduate management degree and there wasn’t an offering that did both. I have heard many pastors say they wish they had had more business and leadership training in seminary, so it is great to have this option for any church leader. For those of us in church or ministry leadership, it is awesome to be able to have more intentional training in these areas learning from the theology and business experts that Biola has. I only wished this degree had been available sooner, I would have done this instead of my MBA. Ministries and churches need to excel on the business side of their organizations as a witness to the world and as a good steward of the resources God has provided them. Many ministry organizations have over half of their costs in people, so learning how to not only manage them but focus on their spiritual needs and health and have the systems in place to do effective ministry is essential. All of this while understanding how to support the theological vision of the organization will be a great blessing for many future generations of leaders trained by Biola. My prayer is that as a result of this degree, the churches and non-profit ministries in the world will be a more effective witness for the cause of Christ and many more people will be in heaven as a result.
BIO: Michael Welles earned his B.S. in Business Administration from Biola University graduating Summa Cum Laude, earned his MBA from California State University, Fullerton and is a CPA. Prior to Calvary Church of Santa Ana, Mr. Welles worked as an auditor for Arthur Andersen LLP. He has been married since 2009 to his Biola roommate’s sister, Kelly McDowell, and they have a 4-year-old daughter.