Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Peter Gilpatric, who is joining us from Inland Hills Church in Chino, California. Really happy to have you Peter.
Well, thank you, it’s a pleasure to join you for sure.
Peter, you are the executive director at Inland Hills. Would you describe the path you took to get to your current position?
Well, it was quite an odd one, to be sure, because I was at current time sitting on the board. I’ve been part of the church since its inception. We were fortunate enough to be one of the founding families when the church started about a little over 26 years ago. And we were in this zone of looking for this executive pastor person because it was part of it, and probably should have seen just long ago. But the senior pastor at the time was just carrying way too much of a load, especially administratively, and was just far too involved in the day to day parts of operating the church. And so were doing an extensive search and we talked to few people and we found this one individual in particular, and then we were on our last interview and we said, boy this is the right person and made the offer, which I felt was pretty good one, and when it was all said and done, he declined. And the senior pastor was pretty, well, disappointed to say the least. And so I, thinking I was cheering him up, called him one evening, looking through the job description and started telling him, his name was Dave, I said, Dave, this job doesn’t look that difficult. And I said, I went down, I said, yeah, I can do that. Yeah, I’ve done that before, and I think I can do that. Just kind of a jaw-dropping moment. And of course, after that, the rest was history. And I found myself wrangled into an executive director role, that was exciting from the moment I stepped into to that role.
So how many years now have you been the executive director?
It’s been a little over six years. I say a little story behind that, like I said, I knew the senior pastor for, well, probably about 25 years, well no, 30 years when I stepped into this role. And it wasn’t much more than five, six months after that, because I said, Dave, I’m going to do this. I’ve been in the business world, business management, what not throughout my life, and I can do non profit. Sure. But you’re going to have to walk alongside me. I’ll be honest learning curve. He says, no problem, we’ll do this together. And five, six months in, he was diagnosed with leukemia and was kind of down and out. And we fought that battle for about four years prior to him passing. And so I felt, of course, feeling sorry for myself, and he was the one that was battling. I said, hey, you can’t do this to me. And so I was reaching out to fellow executive pastors in the area for some guidance and was very fortunate to latch on to some good executive pastors in the area.
Wow, that’s quite an introduction into the executive pastor role.
Yeah, it was, and it’s still quite a ride. Now I have the pleasure of a certainly much younger lead pastor, and God is very faithful to be, sure.
So, I wonder if your initial assessment of it being a pretty easy job still stands?
Well, when it’s all said and done, I say I kind of, hold this role and position very truthfully and respectfully that before in the business world, it just seemed like, well, obviously the vision and purpose wasn’t as great, but no, the job having leaning into God every day and having some amazing staff around me has made the job easier to be sure. But me, I forgot, but not so much for me.
Would you describe how your church is structured and what exactly falls under your responsibility?
The church has been structured, I think quite well from its inception, the way it was designed, but structure were largely a board govern church. And then of course, internally, we have a lead staff or ministry staff, and administrative staff, and I largely am responsible for all the administrative staff and anything that goes along with that. So I see my greatest role is to support, and if you will, clear the way for ministry to happen. And we have an amazing support staff, guys and girls that work hard and make my job easy for sure.
How have you incorporated technology into how you administrate?
Boy, technology is so fun and exciting and of course scary for an older guy like me. And so I’ve been really lucky, purposeful and surrounding myself with a bunch of smart, younger people that understand and get technology and use it to sort of church’s advantage. We have a very good support staff in the area of technology and Internet and director of operations that is very privy to a lot of this. So I get to walk alongside of them and watch them make some amazing decisions in regards to the church, and we’re just looking at a new database that we will upgrade to, we outsourced some of our administrative functions as far as payroll is concerned, and the way children and students are checked in on a weekly basis. So technology is going to play nothing but a larger and larger part of how church is done.
Yeah. I think a lot of us figuring out how much time to spend on how much technology.
Yeah, and there’s the big key areas, of course, we just started. We just launched a new church app and have kind of a soft launch, although now the whole world knows, but a live streaming. And so the new lead pastor said, I think there’s a place for this and there’s a lot of things that can be done with technology really that eliminates paper mailing and just a lot of things that is exciting because now on your phone or on your iPad, laptop, you can access so much information. And so I think it’s just smart that the church adapts into that.
Yeah, absolutely. What are some of the specific administrative challenges that you face?
Well, and I’m just thinking in regards of future, is really staying ahead of the game, and it’s a delicate balance, almost a dance too, because you’re wanting to honor. I stick to the budget. That’s something I learned early on. As a church, we all live within our means, but at the same time, hiring and looking for that next person to fill a particular role. And as we, part of the vision for the future is multi-faceted in respect that they weren’t entertaining the possibility of going multisite and building out our current campus and building a large auditorium. So that means that’s going to involve greater staff resources. So, timing is everything, but it’s important that you be proactive in that respect and be looking for those individuals, and you may be bringing them on a little earlier than you actually need them, but then they’ll be there, so it’s smart in that regards.
Do you find that you often pull for people who are already within the church or from the outside?
From within will always be a first resource, and of course the phrase we would like to find someone that has Inland Hills, I see DNA running through their veins already. And to really take ownership of just being their home church. So that is our first and foremost choice and preference. But oftentimes you find, depending upon the position you’re trying to fill, that you need to reach from without as well.
Peter, where do you go to learn more about being a great executive pastor?
Well, I had mentioned a little bit before, it’s probably been my greatest resource, although reading, I read basically to learn and some people read for fun. So I will read a book intentionally because I know if there’s something to glean from it. But my greatest source of, I’d say, of encouragement and learning has been through other executive pastors. Those that are in my role, and of course, I’d probably built a good 20, 25 friendships through various churches in the surrounding area, that had been a huge source of support and encouragement and sharing, and I say bouncing ideas off of. Because oftentimes in this role, it’s easy to become or to isolate yourself thinking I had….gosh, I’m probably the only person who’s going through this. Well, bottom line is you’re not. And everybody else is facing the same thing. And so a collaboration with other, of those in your same role, I think is vital to succeed.
Is there like a network you’re part of, to meet these other executive pastors, or is it mostly your personal?
Yeah, there is. Well, there’s a few in the Orange County area, but the most of them span through the Inland Empire, and they reach out pretty far. It often amazes me, gosh, you came how far to come to this meeting? And now we try and meet at least quarterly throughout the year. And then of course me or they are always accessible via email or a phone call, and it’s been a huge source of encouragement and information for, I think, all of us.
Yeah, I think that’s a resource that a lot of executive pastors would really love to have, regular meetings.
Yes. It’s important.
Kind of branching off of that, what encouragement would you give to other executive pastors?
Wow, of course not just to say, get involved in a networking of other executive pastors, however, I feel vital, that is. But to know that, yeah, you’re not alone in this role. Each one is unique. I found that out talking with a bunch of the other executive pastors, but each one of us has certain roles that we’ve been gifted in, and the God is using us as… and of course, I rely heavily, heavily upon, yeah, God, I can’t do this on my own. This is much bigger than I am. And so it’s a good place to be to where you feel like, and this may sound kind of corny, but overwhelmed to the point to where, yeah, I fully get it – I can’t do this on my own. So I stay completely reliant on a relationship with the God that is far bigger than anything that will come my way. And then of course, surround yourself with a strong and united staff is also key.
I want to go back and ask a follow-up question from the story you told at the very beginning. You talked about the initial pastor you worked under passing away four years into your job there. What would you like to say to other executive pastors going through such an intense time of transition and leading the staff and leading the church through something like that?
It was difficult, to say the least, and yet it really did…God did some amazing things and unified the staff, and I believe made us stronger than ever before. This was not a succession plan that I would wish on anyone. There are a lot of the stories going on out there about succession and looking for that next person. And I can honestly say that all along, God was in this. Once again, I wouldn’t have chosen this type of succession plan. But it was difficult, but God always wins in the end. And I said, I feel for anybody that has to struggle through something like that. But God had a plan in it. And our lead pastor, it was almost seamless in that regards. And of course, I liken it to the senior pastor and God taking the spirit and just placing it upon this lead pastor who was a son and, of course, the funny part is I knew the lead pastor when he was his son’s age, Andrew. And it was almost for me, kind of scared because I can remember back when Dave was an associate pastor and he was even even younger than Andrew and was… yeah, it was kind of an aha moment to say, okay God, I know you’re in control and.. yeah, two very amazing men, and I’m humbled to be able to serve alongside them.
Peter, thanks for just sharing your experience, your wisdom and some encouragement to other pastors, too. It’s been great to have you on today.
My pleasure, thank you Courtney.
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