Building Staff Culture While Leading During Trying Times with Rusty George

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Rusty George, the lead pastor at Real Life Church in the Los Angeles area. He’s talking with us today about what it’s like stepping into the lead pastor role after the founding pastor.

  • Don’t squeeze into the previous mold. // When you are stepping into a leadership role at a new church, particularly as the lead pastor, it’s important to be your authentic self. Trying to squeeze yourself into the mold of the previous pastor will feel disingenuous because it’s not who God created you to be. Some people will be surprised at things changing with the new leader, but continue to lean heavily on vision rather than memorializing the past.
  • Right guy, right place, right time. // When God puts you into a position, it’s so you can bring your unique wiring and gifting to the table to serve the church. A church consultant taught Rusty that what makes a church grow is having the right guy at the right place at the right time. We need to be ok with not everyone being happy with us and stop apologizing when we follow God’s leading to make changes at the church. If you’re going to follow a legend into your new role, you’ve got to be really certain that it is the call of God because there will be some dark nights of the soul. It’s only the knowledge that it’s the call of God that will keep you going.
  • Be clear on your calling. // While transitioning to his new position, it was initially expectations of other people that Rusty had to wrestle through and quickly get over. Ultimately, however, it was his own doubts and questions that were the bigger challenge to overcome. We can compare ourselves to other leaders at other churches and feel like we haven’t “made-it” yet. To get passed this ineffective thinking, be really clear about what you’re trying to do. Are you trying to just make people happy, or are you really trying to reach people in the community? If you’re trying to really reach people, double down on that and explain that it might change the way the church teaches, the programs offered, where the church meets, and so on.
  • Get to know your staff. // Each of your staff represents a constituency of people and you want their buy-in right away. Spend quality time with your staff so you can get to know them. Work together to make the vision and mission statements clear. Have fun together, share wins, and build those relationships with each other. Appreciate the past and accept the new when it comes to changes within your staff.
  • Have unifying, specific initiatives. // To articulate and move people in your congregation toward vision, cut the plans down into bite-sized portions rather than just focusing on plans far into the future. Have a specific mission for the future but create micro-plans to focus on along the way which serve to unify your people. If you are unsure about how to develop unifying, specific initiatives, ask: Is how other people see your church what you want it to be? How do other people react when they hear your church mentioned? Identify that unifying mission for your congregation so that others in the community will know what your church is about.
  • What to do after prayer. // Rusty’s book After Amen: What Do you Do When You’re Waiting on God helps us understand what Jesus teaches us to do after we pray. The book offers seven steps of faith based on scripture that we can take after prayer which can affect the type of answer we might receive from God. Rusty offers a number of resources on his website for churches who might want to use this book to preach a sermon series as well.

You can learn more about Real Life Church at reallifechurch.org and about Rusty and his book at www.pastorrustygeorge.com

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Medi-Share

Medi-Share is an innovative health care solution for Christians looking to save money without sacrificing on quality. As the nation’s largest health care sharing community, Medi-Share members take comfort in knowing their eligible medical expenses will be shared by their community. Click here to download the FREE REPORT: The 10 Things About Mental Health Every Pastor (& Leader) MUST Know!


  1. […] Rich Birch – Rich has a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, he founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers.  Today, Rich speaks at conferences like Orange, WFX and various regional multisite church events. He is a featured writer on Auxano’s Vision Room, ChurchLeaders.com and MinistryBriefing.  His most popular post of the year was Building Staff Culture While Leading During Trying Times With Rusty George. […]

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.