Manufacturing and Church Plants: Match Made in Troy, MI…and Heaven

Last Updated on: Jan 8, 2019 @ 9:46 am

By Bill Clark

January 10, 2019

Bill Clark is the CEO of Portable Church Industries. He joined the company in January of 2018 after a 22-year career in manufacturing. He also is the Executive Director of Hope Water International, a non-profit organization that provides clean drinking water to communities in Africa. Bill’s first experience with a portable church was with a 2003 church plant in Jacksonville, FL.

In 2003, my wife Gloria and I attended Christ Church in Jacksonville, Florida and were part of the launch team for one of their new portable campuses. Now, 16 years later, after spending most of my career in manufacturing, I’m working with portable churches again – this time as CEO of Portable Church Industries (PCI).

As we begin a new year, I want to share a few thoughts on my first year in this role and what we see moving forward.

First, since, I’m fairly new to PCI, I want to tell you how I joined the company.  Like I wrote above, I’ve worked in manufacturing most of my career, mainly in the automotive sector. When I’m not working, I love to run!

10 years ago, I joined a small running group with one member being on the executive staff of the church I attend. After a few years of running and completing a few marathons together, this friend asked if I would lead the launch of a new initiative at our church aimed at raising money to install clean water wells (and launch a church along with it) in Africa by running marathons. This was in 2012 and seven years later this organization, Hope Water International (www.hopewaterinternational.org), has transitioned into a 501c3 and is still going strong, engaging churches and church plants all over the US to run, cycle and swim for clean water.

Being part of Hope Water gave me an insight into the church world and a love for the church planters. I admired their sense of risk taking and unwavering faith in doing something God put on their hearts.

I continued asking God where He wanted me next, assuming I would need to choose either my new love for church plants or my history in manufacturing. That is, until a friend on our Hope Water team asked me to call Pete van der Harst, the owner of Portable Church, as they were looking for some help.

I never knew manufacturing and church plants could be found in the same job, but our God knew and He prepared me for this new season at PCI.

Volunteers First

During my first day on staff at PCI, I took a tour of the facility and was amazed by what I saw: carpeted cases, children’s toys, custom trailers, testing cool audio/visual systems… The breadth of what we provided made me ask, “What don’t we do?” And the answer I received made an already confident decision to join the company even more reassuring. My tour guide said, “We don’t preach or sing. But everything else we do.” 

Over the next few months as I engulfed myself in everything church plants and multisite church launches, I was especially moved by one focus our organization has that took me back 16 years to my days of setting up a portable church. When I was on the 5AM setup crew at Christ Church I remembered how easy and quick the process was. Within 30-40 minutes we turned a middle school auditorium into an awesome worship venue.

I did not realize it back in 2003 but after spending a few months at PCI I figured out why the setups I participated in felt so easy. It is because PCI, who provided the system to Christ Church, has a laser focus designing systems for the volunteers. Systems that make setup and teardown safe, efficient and fast, which honors one of the most critical teams to the success of the church…the volunteers. We want our church partners focused on reaching their communities, not volunteer burnout. 

And that’s powerful.

So how does a manufacturing background fit?

This idea of designing a portable system as efficiently as possible to support the volunteers ties so closely to the heart of manufacturing, my world for over 20 years. The purpose of lean is to design all processes, from manufacturing to administrative functions and communication, in very efficient and effective ways to honor the employees. Done right, this will create a happy team and spill over to great customer service.

In 2018, our team did an amazing job focusing on some of our internal efficiencies from the layout of our facilities to enhancing our project management process and bringing more transparency to how each department is doing. All basic lean principles. And I believe this has resulted in a more engaged and motivated staff which results in better products, systems and service to our clients. 

Year Two

As we head into 2019, our 25th anniversary, I am excited to continue to build on our momentum and growth we are experiencing. In 2018 alone, we partnered with over 100 church plants and new multisite campuses, opening up over 40,000 seats to hear the Gospel. Coming from my previous role of producing plastic parts for car interiors, this mission is easy to get excited about and I am grateful to be part of an organization with such a powerful mission of expanding the Kingdom.

More specifically, we are going to continue to enhance our internal processes and services, generating more value to our church partners. From more efficient and creative designs to less cumbersome processes, our goal is to make our internal systems flow as smoothly as a setup on a Sunday morning.

Externally we plan to focus on assuring our current and new clients feel like I did during my plant tour on day one…wowed by our depth of knowledge and capabilities. From custom cases to cutting edge portable LED video walls, we truly are a one-stop shop and while we won’t sell you on our ability to sing, we will convince you of our ability to create an incredible worship experience.

And last, from my time at Hope Water to this past year at PCI, I have realized how critical relationships are for church planters. I had a friend who launched a church in Orlando, FL tell me the first year of his  launch he underestimated how important the relationships were with every person he encountered. From the guy at the grocery store to the lady at the gas station, every relationship was important if he truly wanted to make an impact in his community, launch his church successfully, and achieve what he felt God was calling him to do.

A huge part of PCI’s approach to relationships is to make sure our churches love being portable and have great trust in us. Trust in our abilities. Trust in us providing the best value. And trust in us as the portable church experts.

I believe you, the church plant and multisite leader, are the most exciting people and ‘industry’ to serve and deserve the best support structure to do what you do. After being here for one year, I have to admit I am not an expert. But I am convinced we have them on staff, waiting to support our customers with any technical, non-technical, or other question they may have on a portable system. Just don’t ask us to preach. We’ll leave that up to you!

Bill Clark

Chief Executive Officer

Portable Church Industries