New Hope Christian Fellowship (Hilo Foursquare Church)
When Marsha Krieger stepped into the role of children’s pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hilo, Hawaii, in 2001—following her extensive service in the church’s children’s ministry since she had first started volunteering in 1986—she was sure this would be the pinnacle of her ministry call. And she was thrilled about that. Nothing made her happier than to see young people catch the vision that they had a God-ordained purpose for their lives.
“As a children’s pastor, I didn’t dream of doing other things,” says Marsha, who along with her husband of more than 30 years, Tom, has three adult children. Tom also works on staff, as the church’s facilities/project manager. “I was the best children’s pastor I could be, and I ministered out of that calling.”
Which is why, in 2009, she was quite surprised when she was asked to assume the role of executive pastor. This new season of ministry has been, she says, an exciting, new adventure that has stretched her in a healthy way. What has she enjoyed most about it thus far?
“On a regular basis, I get to encourage people to be who God has created them to be,” Marsha told Foursquare.org, reflecting the same heart she carried as a children’s pastor. “It has also been exciting to catch the heart of our senior pastor, Sheldon Lacsina, for the church and people, and partnering with the staff and leaders to accomplish the vision. And it has been a thrill ride to uncover gifts and abilities I didn’t know I had.”
Being in a new role has caused her to lean on Jesus more than ever before for guidance and direction, she notes, as well as to tap into gifts and abilities she had not needed to use in her previous positions. It’s an exhilarating journey the self-described “navy brat” never dreamed she’d be taking.
Raised in a military family and therefore moving often during her childhood, Marsha says she had a “semi-non-religious” upbringing. They rarely went to church. But that was to change—in an interesting if not confusing way—during the time her family lived in Canada.
Marsha, Filipino on her mom’s side, had taken her first holy communion in the Roman Catholic Church. When her Jewish grandmother on her dad’s side called her father, she reminded him that he had promised to raise her grandchildren as Jewish. So, for a short while, Marsha explains, her parents did the “religious war thing” where the kids attended synagogue on Saturday evening and mass on Sunday morning.
“I used to joke that I went to bed on Saturday looking for the Messiah, only to find out He had been crucified, died, buried, resurrected and on His way back by Sunday morning!” Marsha humorously recalls.
But a seed had been planted in her heart, she says, and she gave her heart to Christ at a Christian retreat in 1985. She began attending New Hope in 1986, and started volunteering in the one ministry that made the most sense to this mother of three who was also a teacher’s aide in a Montessori preschool—children’s ministry. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s now been just over a year since Marsha became New Hope’s executive pastor. What are the things she’s discovered that an executive pastor can do to best serve his or her church and pastor, so that the overall ministry is most effective?
“I represent, first and foremost, Jesus; and secondly, His appointed leader for our church,” Marsha asserts. “As I lead, make decisions and partner with the staff, I must come from a desire to serve, because that is what Jesus exampled to us. I also must filter everything through what I know or believe to be the senior pastor’s vision. My role is to come alongside the senior pastor and help him to facilitate the direction he senses the Lord leading us in.”
She notes that it is also important that one not see his or her role as a temporary assignment until God calls him or her elsewhere. She believes we are where we are by God’s grace and design, and should not move our hearts from where we are called to serve—partly because the congregation deserves for us to be the best we can be in our current roles.
Finally, she explains, it is key for an executive pastor to be a trustworthy sounding board.
“The staff needs to trust me, and that I desire the best for them,” Marsha says. “At the same time, the senior pastor must be able to trust that I am not going to be an Absalom, or that he is not going to know what is going on. It is important to be courageous, confident, competent and compassionate in this role, and to know which ability to dial up or down depending on the situation.”
Functioning as a healthy team makes all the difference, and Marsha is thankful for the team with whom she serves. In fact, she says, they’re more than a team at New Hope—they’re a family.
“I thank God that our church staff are not just co-workers on a mission from God, but are family carrying out our Father’s business,” Marsha says. “It is a joy to serve here!”
And she reminds us that we never know where God may take us. But as her own life shows, that’s a pretty exciting way to live.
“God’s plans and the way He does things may not coincide with how I think things should progress,” she muses. “My assignment is to stay faithful to the call that Jesus has placed on my life without compromise or making excuses.”
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles