Part of a series ‘Leadership at Large‘.

Sarah Kuswadi: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to your current roles?

Des Smith: I’m forty-five years old, am married to Suzie, and we’ve got four primary-school aged children: Dan, Sam, Jemima, and Joel.

I used to work as a lawyer but became a pastor in 2011. In late 2017 we moved from Tasmania to Adelaide, and I became senior pastor at Trinity Church Adelaide. Trinity—and the network of which it’s a part—loves planting churches, and for over a decade had wanted to plant a church in the western suburbs of Adelaide. But for one reason or another, it never happened, and then when COVID hit, we thought it would push it back even further. However, it brought it forward! Through a series of circumstances, we realised we could plant a church in the west very soon—we just needed to find the planter. After lots of thinking and praying, it because clear it was us! So in February 2022, we planted Trinity Church Mile End, which in March 2023 became Trinity Church Lockleys when we moved to another, more central suburb. We’ve been there since.


What does leadership look like in your current roles?

Trinity Church Lockleys, which currently has about 130–140 people on a Sunday. As such, there’s lots of leading teams of volunteers, through their team heads.

This year, we employed our first associate pastor, Hendre (who’s amazing), and he now leads our Membership and Ministry areas (I lead in Magnification, Mission and Maturity). It’s great having another pastor, but we still very much see ourselves as primarily there to help our volunteers, not to only do the ministry ourselves. God has filled our church with godly, gifted people, so we’re keen to spend as much time as we can helping them do their ministry, so we can maximise our ‘gospel surface area’ as a church.

On staff, we also have a part-time ministry apprentice, Luke (who’s also amazing), who looks after our kids and youth ministries, and Antonio, a part-time office administrator (likewise, amazing). So leadership looks like working with them, alongside all our volunteer teams and their leaders.


What has God been teaching you about leadership?

That it really is about getting other people to use their gifts, and bringing out the best in them, not doing it all myself.

By personality, I’m a chronic overfunctioner. My instinct is to do everything myself. But I’ve realised this is deeply lazy. Overfunctioners do things ourselves because we find that easier than doing the hard work of finding others to do the ministry: recruiting them, inspiring them with vision, equipping them for the work, and then caring for them. So I’ve realised that I really really need to get out of that habit, and to genuinely see my role as an enabler of others, not just a doer. The results speak for themselves! When you enable the church to use its gifts, and its creativity, and follow its passions, unsurprisingly, its gospel surface area grows.

Another thing God’s been teaching me is that it doesn’t matter who has the good idea, it’s just got to get done. That is, I’m not actually a failure as a leader if my ideas aren’t always, or even often, the best ones. I’ve got to recognise the best ideas when I see them, and then lead us all to get on board with them.


Can you tell us where you had had to change the way you lead recently?

See above! I’m still very much a work in progress.


Who are leaders you find inspiring (besides Jesus) and why?

I really look up to my boss, Paul Harrington. He has this amazing sense of calm about him, which I find comforting (I’m naturally more manic in nature). He’s also extremely personable and always up for a phone call to help me, even when I know he has a million other things to do. He’s obsessed about grace, in the best possible way, and is always encouraging us on staff to do everything in response to what God has already done for us. And he’s great at vision-casting and helping people imagine what could be, not just what is. For someone who’s more of a worker-bee/just-get-it-done person, it’s great to remember to be creative and imaginative in leadership, not just diligent and faithful (though obviously those are good things too).


Is there a Bible verse that you often come back to for encouragement?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2)

I love that idea of being in a massive stadium on the last lap of a marathon, with all of God’s people from the past up on their feet and cheering me on. It’s a good thing to picture when I’m doing it tough, especially when I’m tempted by sin. I also love the image of Jesus waiting there for me at the finish line, having done it all before—and for—me.