The Leadership Journey Podcast: Paul Bowman

Paul Bowman

Surviving and thriving in Christian leadership. What are the self-care practices and support strategies that leaders serving in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland have found helpful for sustaining health, wholeness and leadership in the context of the stresses of ministry?

This week’s guest on the podcast is Paul Bowman. Paul has been involved in youth ministry for over 25 years and currently works in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast. Paul has recently completed his MA with the Irish Bible Institute and I had the privilege of supervising his work on a very important dissertation in which Paul explored some factors that contribute to thriving in Christian ministry. The podcast interview explores some of what Paul discovered and wrote about in his work.

By way of follow up, feel free to get in touch with Paul, either via Fitzroy or via my blog, if you would like to hear more or would like to invite him to speak to your group.

Meantime here is a list of the recommendations Paul makes at the conclusion of his dissertation:

  • Christian leaders together with their church should create clear and reasonable expectations for leadership and ministry.
  • Congregations should be better educated about the stresses associated with leadership and the importance of supporting the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of their leaders.
  • Greater emphasis, training and resourcing should be made available for team ministry as a means of combating isolation, and role overload.
  • Christian leaders need accountability and support to ensure they are availing of adequate rest and maintaining their spiritual self-care. The use of a maintenance contract as suggested by Brain (2001) which incorporates a plan to work, rest, study and be a spouse and parent could be a useful means of accountability that clearly communicates self-care needs.
  • Christian leaders should pursue their calling daily and set specific goals for their spiritual, physical, emotional, social and intellectual development.
  • Christian leaders should take a twenty-four hour period off each week and prioritise activities that recharge emotional energy.
  • Christian leaders should intentionally set aside a day each week to observe the Sabbath.
  • More resources should be made available to enable leaders to make use of retreats, and spiritual directors.
  • Sabbaticals should be financed and made available to all leaders including additional pastoral personnel every five to seven years.
  • Every minister and youth worker should be assigned an experienced mentor throughout the first five years of his or her ministry.
  • It is encouraging to note that PCI is placing greater emphasis on how it supports ministers and their families. Lockhart (2019) refers to the reimagining of presbytery as a fellowship. This is a welcome development though it needs further work in terms of the practicalities of pastoral care. It is beyond the scope of this study to explore this aspect of denominational support, but two recommendations seem appropriate: The promotion of ministerial fellowships or Pastors in covenant groups. And, further study is necessary to consider how supervision could be a means of support and development at a presbytery level.
  • Additional research is needed to look specifically at the role of training and how it equips leaders with the knowledge and skills of self-care.

Book recommendation: Reset, by David Murray

As some of you know, I had a heart attack in October. During my recovery period my wife flagged a book that she thought I might find valuable to read. She was right – she usually is! The book was David Murray’s ‘Reset’. I think I’d been aware of it, but I’d not paid adequate attention to it.

Interestingly, ‘reset’ was a word that had occurred to us as a theme in my recovery. Another point of resonance was the fact that David Murray had written the book in the aftermath of some severe health crises of his own. Health crises have a way of binging us to a standstill – like an unforced sabbatical – and give us an opportunity to evaluate – and reset.

In ‘Reset’ David Murray uses the image of a car that’s gone into the garage for what we call an MOT in our part of the world (currently in Northern Ireland, it just happens that the MOTs really need an MOT!). The book is an opportunity to review how we are doing – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and relationally – and we are taken systematically through a series of ‘bays’ in which various aspects of our lives can be challenged with a view to reset.

David writes in a way that is theologically solid, soundly practical, and pastorally insightful.

There are ten chapters (all conveniently fitted with words beginning with R!).

1- Reality Check
2- Review
3- Rest (on sleep)
4- Re-Create (on the body)
5- Relax (on the mind)
6- Rethink (on identity)
7- Reduce (on purpose)
8- Refuel (on health + energy)
9- Relate (to God and others)
10- Resurrection (on newness)

If you are a Christian in any kind of leadership, or simply trying to keep up with the fast pace of 21st century life, you need to read this book! While your circumstances may not allow you to implement everything the book might suggest (it’s all very well for Roger Federer to sleep 11/12 hours per day), at the very least the book encourages you to review how you are living.

I should add that David has written the book mainly with men in mind. His wife, Shona, has written a very similar book where the applications relate more to women: it is Called ‘Refresh.’

I should also add that Pauline and I will be chatting to David and Shona about their books for an episode of the podcast: watch out for it in early March.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Jude Cairns

Jude Cairns, Chief Executive of Love for Life

This week the podcast returns after a gap of 4 months – largely down to the host having had a heart attack in October! The guest on this episode is Jude Cairns. Jude is the Chief executive of Love for Life, a Christian charity that aims to equip young people so they are able to make good choices about relationships and sex.

Jude has previously worked for Youth for Christ, and Habitat for Humanity. She has been in her current role for 9 years and her work involves leading a team 12 people.

In the course of our conversation she talks about her desire to ‘make things better’ – a driver of leadership, the experience of living overseas for a year and the defining moment of losing her father to illness. She also talks about the influence of the Arrow Leadership programme and shares some of the things she has learned about leadership along the way.

For your own reflection:

1 – Do you think the Church in the West needs to be more courageous in its witness?

2 – What would you say are the main things you have learned about leadership?