What I Learned as Head of Staff

June 20, 2012 — 4 Comments

Earlier this week, I finished my last day as the head of staff at my church. It wasn’t the longest of tenures, but it was the first time I served a church in that role.

When I began my position at FPC, Fort Dodge, I was one of three pastors to our church of roughly 800 members. I worked primarily with youth and young adult ministry. Over the course of the last few years, there were some staffing changes, and as of May 1st, I was the only pastor of the church until we received an interim pastor. I am excited to say that we received our new pastor this Monday, almost two months later.

I was terrified of all the work I would have to do during these months. I already was super busy with student ministry responsibilities, especially in May when everybody graduates. It was going to be tough to add those to all the head pastor responsibilities like regular preaching, pastoral care, weddings, funerals, leading session, etc… Our church has a ton going on and there are many evening meetings. There were going to be many long days.

As I began in this new role, the strangest thing happened. The time flew by.

I loved these past seven weeks! It was exciting to serve the church in so many new ways. I got to partner with amazing people in a variety of ministry contexts. In spite of the long days, I had a spring in my step, and I enjoyed giving my all. Contrary to my expectations, I didn’t feel exhausted at the end of the time.

I’ve thought about why this happened and I’d like to suggest to you some of what I’ve learned from these past weeks.


1. Ownership is vital. I distinctly remember the feeling I had when I realized I was the only pastor. In addition to utter terror, I felt a new sense of clarity. It was up to me to continue the legacy that had been handed down before, even if for a short while. I needed to step up and continue in the same vein as those before me. Everything I did mattered.

2. Empowerment is essential. While serving as an associate pastor, I’ve had opinions about various parts of the church, but never really shared them because I didn’t think it was my place to. I didn’t want to be a steamroller. “Who am I?” I thought, “I’m just the associate.” This sort of thinking crippled me from sharing my experience and thoughts because I didn’t’ think it was my place to share them.

But when it was just me, if I didn’t offer my input, nobody else would. People looked to me to see what I thought and where I thought we should go. For the first time, I felt more fully empowered to make decisions.

3. Initiative is imperative. If I didn’t step up, nobody else was left. If I wasn’t making sure we prayed for the life of our church as a staff, no one else was. If I didn’t provide a strategy for moving in a new direction, nobody else would. If there was something I thought we could do better, it was up to me to mention that and do something about it. People were looking to me to provide leadership, whether I felt equipped or not.


During these seven weeks, I experienced the amazing gift of all three of these. As a result, I was totally invested in my position. I had a sense of ownership while I felt empowered to take the initiative on a regular basis. When I was fully invested, it felt so much easier to work long hours, do extra research in my spare time, and try new things.

So here’s the application for any leader.

Do you create an environment that fosters ownership, empowerment, and initiative among those who you manage?

If you want those who work with you to have passion, drive, and a willingness to give it their all, make sure you develop a sense of ownership within them, empower them to carry out their vision, and encourage them to take the initiative.

Nothing will kill the passion of a coworker faster than destroying their sense of ownership in your vision or their ability to act upon that vision. When people don’t feel empowered to act on their own volition, you get minimal investment, and terribly uncreative solutions to problems.

So whether you work with volunteers or paid staff members, how can you cultivate ownership, empower your workers, and instill initiative in them? What else have you found to help motivate coworkers? What makes it more difficult?



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I'm a pastor, writer, speaker, husband, father, and follower of Christ, to name a few titles. You can find my contact information in my About page.
  • scrhill

    Morale around the office is so important. I know that coworkers can feed off of each other’s energy level (or lack of energy level!). If you exude passion then it will be contagious to those around you. If you are excited to be at work, it will catch on. In a church it is important to create ownership in the ministry with lay leaders because this was their church long before you as the pastor arrived, and it will continue to be their church long after you leave. Help them to get on board with your vision and hopefully they will drive the vision to the larger congregation.

    • You make a great point about contagious passion. Are we working and living a winsome way that encourages others to do likewise? That’s a good reminder for us all.

  • thedavro

    Dude I was so hoping you would say you found out being head of staff is much easier than being associate or youth pastor! But seriously, I really enjoy your blog and just wanted to encourage you because you’re doing a great job of making frequent (quality) posts.

    • Haha! I dunno about it being easier, but I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed it. It was also hard to tell because not only was I head of staff, but I also had my youth pastor responsibilities, too. Thanks for the encouragement about the posts. I’ll keep em coming.