Tackling the Early Days as a New Executive Pastor with Matt Gilchrist

Thanks for joining us for this week’s unSeminary podcast. Today I’m talking with Matt Gilchrist, executive pastor at Hope City Church in Missouri. Matt is talking with us about getting up to speed as a new XP at a church and how to connect with your lead pastor, your staff, and spouse during this season of transition.

  • Joining the team. // Matt has a very complementary relationship with Cody, the lead pastor of Hope City Church. Cody is a real visionary and loves leading the church, but as it grew he knew he was carrying more than would be healthy for him in the long term. The church has grown quickly in the seven years since it’s been planted, but some of the systems and structures weren’t in place as they needed to be. Matt came on staff as the executive pastor to focus both on ministry and on the operations side of church.
  • Connect with the lead pastor. // The relationship between the lead and executive pastors at a church is critically important. Often the lead pastor is responsible for casting the vision and the executive pastor is responsible for executing on that vision. Spend even more time together than you may think you need in order to stay on the same page. At Hope City there is a staff circle on Monday to share wins from the weekend, and Matt and Cody meet for lunch weekly to make sure they’re on the same page. Ask lots of questions and build trust with each other. The lead pastor especially needs to know that he can trust his XP. Matt wanted to make sure that Cody knew he would always have his back and that Matt wanted to be an extension of his thinking. Check in again Wednesday or Thursday before the weekend rolls around. Touch base throughout each day and week if you can’t meet in person, whether by phone, text or email.
  • Connect with the people you lead. // Matt meets with ministry team leaders at Hope City Church every other Wednesday when there isn’t a staff meeting. He lets them know ahead of time what they will be talking about when they meet so that they won’t feel ambushed by his questions. They set 90-day goals throughout the year to determine what they want to do. Meeting regularly helps them track how they’re doing as they work toward those goals.
  • Be intentional about building relationships. // When Matt came on board, in some of his first meetings with the staff he also had the opportunity to hand out raises, and this was a great, positive way to connect with his new team. Take time not only to have regular one-on-ones with your team, but also engage in casual gatherings such as lunch together with the larger staff, or playing games in the office. It may not all be ministry minded, but it helps build relationships with the people you lead.
  • Empower and communicate. // Empower your team leaders to handle issues that may come up and be as collaborative as you can with them. Talk about what is the decision that needs to be made and work to quickly communicate it so leaders can pass it to their teams. People want to know that they can contribute and they want to be given opportunities to contribute. The more you can pay attention to these things, the more quickly it will help you and your teams to gel.
  • Be intentional in your conversations. // When you are starting someplace new in ministry, you can’t ask enough questions. Ask and learn from other people in similar positions and exhibit a collaborative spirit. Also be intentional as you communicate with your spouse about this part of your life. You won’t be able to share everything about what’s happening in the church, but you still need to have meaningful conversations because your spouse will know when you’ve had a bad day or when you’re in a difficult situation. Find a balance in what you share so that you are able to talk life and ministry with your spouse, but not share so much that they can’t worship and enjoy church on Sunday.

You can learn more about Hope City Church at

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Risepointe

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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.