Navigating Ministry Transition

“I’m always trying to grow,” said Nate Grella.

After ministering in various roles at a church in Ohio for 7 years and a church in Pennsylvania for 5, in 2017 Nate felt like God was calling him to something else—but he did not know what. So he prayed. Around that time, CDF Capital invited Nate to The Ascent, a yearlong, 3-part leadership journey for pastors.

“It was a unique opportunity to connect with other leaders,” Nate continued. “I met some really great people who I’m still friends with today.”

It is also where he met his new boss, Drew Sherman.

Nate and family
Nate Grella and his family

From the Ground Up

Nate’s group mentor at The Ascent knew that Nate was open to new opportunities and that Compass Christian Church in Texas was looking for another pastor. The connection was made, and shortly after the conference, Compass called Nate and spoke to him about various pastoral roles.

Compass was growing exponentially, and something unexpected happened: though they had been planning one campus expansion, the leadership felt called to two different communities simultaneously—both to North Richland Hills and to North Fort Worth. The Compass elders decided, “We should do both.”

“Seeing lost people make a decision to follow Christ with their life is the most exciting thing to me.” —@nategrella

Suddenly Compass needed another campus pastor. They began talking to Nate about North Fort Worth. Nate was already heading to Texas for the third segment of The Ascent, so they planned to conduct the interview during that time.

“That weekend, it was very clear that God had orchestrated everything,” Nate said.

Nate drove out to North Fort Worth to explore the community. Everything was under construction. Shopping plazas. Housing developments.

“There was a plaza that had a Chick-fil-A and an In-N-Out Burger,” he said. “I saw those and I thought, We’re in the right spot. They’ve done their studies. They know where to go. They know where the people are.”

But while businesses picked up on the growing opportunity in North Fort Worth, very few churches were in the area. Compass planned to meet in a brand new high school—one of the largest in North Texas and right in the center of all this growth.

Nate, his wife, Amanda, and their two kids saw this move to a new state and a new church as an open door from the Lord.

“We look for areas where God is moving, and then we jump in head first.” —@drew_sherman

Drew Sherman, Lead Pastor of Compass, saw the Grella family as answer to prayer.

“At Compass, when it comes to being a multisite church, we tend to look for areas where God is moving, and then we jump in head first,” said Drew. “North Ft. Worth was exploding, and we knew that was the sight of our next campus. We did a nationwide search, and God led us to Nate and Amanda. I can’t imagine that there was a better couple more uniquely gifted and passionate than the Grellas. Nate is the real deal and has the energy and the integrity to stay the course for our new campus. We are thrilled beyond belief to have him leading the charge.”

For some, starting a new campus in an unchurched area would be intimidating. But for Nate, that was part of what made the position so appealing.

“Seeing lost people make a decision to follow Christ with their life—that’s the most exciting thing to me,” Nate said. “That’s why I love that we get to be somewhere that there aren’t a lot of churches and start from the ground up.”

I’ve Been There

When leaders are equipped to lead, churches are equipped to grow.

“There are still leaders that I report to,” Nate said. “But this is a different role, and I make a lot of leadership decisions. I’m the one trying to keep a pulse on our campus. What I love about Compass is the autonomy. There are certain core values and nonnegotiables. But there is a lot that we can do based on where we are and the culture and the setting.”

 

Image above: Nate Grella preaching at Compass Christian Church North Fort Worth

 

Drew has purposefully created this empowered leadership culture at Compass: “My heartbeat is to mentor and lead younger, gifted teachers to help them realize their potential in God’s Kingdom.”

That autonomy has elevated Nate to a new level of leadership.

“I have had roles where I was a team lead, but now I am not just leading a team—I’m helping them lead their ministries.”

While Nate has not led in this capacity before, his years of ministry in various evolving roles gives him an advantage that many pastors do not have.

“Each of those roles has helped me see things through the eyes of my staff members,” he said. “I understand what they’re working through because I’ve been there.”

While both external ministry transitions and internal ones can be challenging, Nate sees how God used those to increase his ability to empathize with his current Compass team. While God rarely leads us on a linear path, He teaches us at every turn.

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