Steve and Dana Clifford

Combatting Authority and Ego in Succession

About The Episode


“God loves your church more than you do…Invite Him into the discussion.” Meet Steve and Dana Clifford, former pastors at Westgate Church in San Jose, California. Without underestimating the hard work and the time it takes to healthily transition from one pastor to another, Steve and Dana give insight into how their successful transition has contributed to healthy new seasons in their lives and their church. Learn about the timing and prep it took to get there in today’s episode.

Welcome to Episode 083 of the Leaders in Living Rooms Podcast with Sean Morgan.

Insights From Steve & Dana


  • When a couple is transitioning from two large roles in church, it’s a good idea to transition one at a time in ministry rather than both at once.
  • Be intentional with how this can impact ministry.


  • Start the transition conversation early to give yourself time to plan well. 
  • It might feel too early, but that is often a sweet spot to give yourself adequate time to feel prepared and have the needed depth of conversations.
  • An early beginning to translation can lead to building trust with an incoming pastor.


  • What is the outgoing pastor’s new role going to be?
  • Is he still an elder or on the executive team? 
  • Who is his boss?
  • What is his oversight on the teaching calendar, etc.?


  • There are challenges when you see your successor making changes. Rather than take offense, think through how you can support. 
  • The sting outgoing pastors feel from changes often stems from pride or fear.


  • John got out of the way for Jesus. He understood his role. 
  • Similarly, pastors can let go of ego and get out of the way to make space for new credit to others.


  • Help the outgoing leader leave sooner. 
  • When you can’t genuinely cheerlead your successor, you gotta go.
  • Incoming pastor needs to have the courage to confront when this happens. Then, go to the board with proof of confrontations that have made it a need to move.
  • Regular conversation is key.


  • It was hard to be quiet in meetings or in situations after making the transition.
  • It was easy to let go of ego and changes.
  • It was surprising how much a break was needed, for sleep patterns, for no responsibility, etc.
  • It was surprising how God has new opportunities!


  • Ways to set your family up for success in health during ministry
    • Preaching 60% of the sermons in a year
    • Taking breaks regularly
    • Finding things you all like to do
  • The spouse of a pastor needs to feel freedom to practice the gifts God has uniquely given. Sometimes it’s more involved in church ministry and sometimes it’s not.

Episode Links

If you’re a leader approaching a succession or transition. Or maybe you’re a few years in and beginning to see how complex transitions leadership is… go to The Art of Pastoral Succession and checkout my brand new course in partnership with Carey Nieuwhof. 

Are you in Transition or have one on the horizon? Check out our 2023 cohorts and get connected with us at: 

Who are Steve and Dana?

Steve has served the Bay Area for over 30 years as a pastor with the last 21 years spent at Westgate church. Through his leadership, Westgate has grown from 300 to 2500 and he has helped generate a generous mindset in this church where it has gone from giving a few thousand dollars a year away to giving away $2 million a year. He has led this community through building campaigns. Under his leadership Westgate has planted 2 churches and helped countless others by his involvement in the South Bay Pastors Network (SBPN) and his being a founding board member of TBC ( He and his wife Dana also bring the unique perspective of doing ministry as a team and have served in that capacity for almost 20 years. Dana served as pastor at Westgate for 15+ years and was the campus pastor for our largest campus for over 5 years. Finally, Steve and Dana have led Westgate through a succession transition and placed Jay Kim as the new lead pastor of Westgate, freeing up Steve and Dana to now invest in pastors around the Bay Area.  They are grandparents to two great g’kids and Dana is currently working on a Spiritual Direction Certificate.


Thanks to our sponsor: Food For The Hungry.

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Quotes From Episode

“If it doesn’t feel too early, you’re probably too late.” Steve Clifford

“If you can do it, it’s a beautiful thing for the old guy to stick around and really be the number one cheerleader.” Steve Clifford

“When you can’t with integrity genuinely cheerlead your successor, you gotta go.” Steve Clifford

“God loves your church more than you do…Invite Him into the discussion.” Steve Clifford

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About the Host

Sean Morgan is a coach and speaker with a national reputation as a catalyst of fresh vision. His passion is to help ministries navigate obstacles and turn them into opportunities.

Throughout his career, Sean has pioneered initiatives impacting thousands of leaders across the country. He started out serving as Executive Pastor and CFO at New Life Church in northern California.

As host, Sean gives you access to amazing conversations, hard-won wisdom, and poignant insights from world-class leaders in intimate “living room” settings.

Your Host

Sean Morgan

Leaders in Living Rooms
Craft & Character

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