Over the past few years I have spent some time interviewing Christian leaders: some of the interviews were part of my doctoral work on crucibles of leadership, and some are part of my ongoing podcast series. I recently wrote an article for the Evangelical Alliance in which I talked briefly about some of the leadership lessons from these interviews.
Here’s a quick summary:
1. Surround yourself with good people
In recounting their stories, many leaders look back to people who have helped inspire and encourage them. Biblical examples include Jethro and Moses, Moses and Joshua, Mordecai and Esther, Jesus and His disciples, and Paul and Timothy.
2. Team matters
Avoid being a maverick: team matters, just as it did in the work of Jesus and Paul.
3. Culture beats strategy
It’s the old adage that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.
4. Be reflective
The value of being reflective – perhaps something that comes with time and perspective – is that it makes it possible for other leaders to learn from good practice. The goal is not to create conformity or uniformity, but to help share good practice and to allow others to learn from a seasoned leader’s experience.
5. God loves you
As Henri Nouwen wrote: ”You have to listen to the voice who calls you the beloved, because otherwise you will run around begging for affirmation, for praise, for success. And then you’re not free.”
And, if you want to put some meat on the bones, click here for the article.
This week, Edwin Ewart, principal of Irish Baptist College, continues his story (you can catch up with part one of the interview here).
We talk about Edwin’s ministry path, with pastorates in several Baptist churches, starting with Letterkenny, in Donegal, then Belfast (Mountpottinger) and Coleraine, before his move to the Baptist College.
As principal, doesn’t see himself as pen-pushing principal (though there is admin to be done), but his greatest joy in the work is its teaching. We discuss some of the challenges faced by Bible Colleges (Edwin is part of the Association of Bible College principals), including the tension between the residential model and the in-service model of training (IBC has a couple of ministry placements – one local and one cross-cultural) as part of the course).
Along the way we discuss preaching (how long should a sermon series run?), the old pastoral chestnut of the extent to which the pastor/minister should have friends in the congregation, and how easy it is to be sure of the will of God in terms of a ministry calling – not least in the context of trying to determine when it’s time to move to a new situation.
We also talk about books: Edwin shares some of the influential books he has read and some of the things he has learned along the way.
Among the early influences, Edwin talks about his involvement in a Baptist youth fellowship and the influence of the church pastor, an early mentor. He also talks about some of his first steps into preaching – delivering epilogues alongside a music group.
He describes the formative influence of his involvement with the Christian Union during his time at university. University years were formative – not least in that it was here that he met his wife, but also because of a significant group of friends.
The opportunity to be involved in speaking that had begun to shape his thinking in terms of a sense of call to vocational ministry, and his pastor gave him strong encouragement to pursue theological training. We discuss the opportunity for leaders to encourage people in this way.
After studying at IBC and entering pastoral ministry, Edwin maintained his contact with the college as a visiting teacher before eventually joining the staff full time.
We talk about the challenge for Bible College students to maintain both an academic approach and a devotional approach.
For your own reflection:
As you listen to Edwin talk about the influence of his pastor, what are some of the things you have noticed about mentors?
Would you describe yourself as a reader? What are some of the books that have most helped you?
Would you agree with what Edwin quotes from Charles Spurgeon in relation to the importance of earnestness in preaching?
What do you make of Edwin’s advice to approach the devotional life with both discipline and variety?
You can find out more about the Irish Baptist College – including the opportunities for study they offer – on their website.
Following his training in Dublin, Clive served his time as a curate in North Belfast followed by his first incumbency in West Belfast, in an ‘interface’ part of the city (listen for the account of the exploding bread van!).
From Belfast, he moved to his current church in Switzerland, and describes some of the challenges around the move.
He describes some of the ways he sensed God calling him to move (including the Sunday when he made his first visit to All Saints – a Sunday when there just happened to be a Northern Irish preacher in the pulpit!).
He discusses the ‘vertical’ learning curve that awaited him in arriving in Vevey – a learning curve that has continued throughout his time there. As well as the challenge of living in a new culture and parenting their children through a French-speaking school system, there was the challenge of leading a church full of strong leaders. He shares some of the ways he felt he was able to build a team, including the importance of emphasising relationships.
We also discuss some of the factors that contribute to a leader staying fresh – with particular reference to life in a ‘revolving door’ type church: Clive mentions some of the factors that have been helpful to him.
I asked him what advice he would give to a young 22 year old version of himself, heading out in training and his leadership journey. Here is the summary:
Leadership is a long term journey, so be patient, expect to change and to grow.
Your highest calling is to Jesus (not necessarily to his church), so never short-change your devotional life.
The Lord is faithful: trust him!
The Lord loves the Church more than you do!
For your reflection:
Clive talked about the sense that God was speaking to both him and his wife in relation to their move overseas: how important do you think it is for a leader and their spouse to be on the same page in discerning God’s call?
The move to Switzerland had implications for Clive and Yvonne’s young family: how can churches and agencies support families who move overseas, with the particular challenges that brings?
What are some of the ways you have found to be effective in building a team?
As you listen to Clive talk about some of the factors that have helped keep him fresh along the way, what are some of the things you have in place to help you? Should you be putting some things in place?
This week the podcast takes something of an international turn as the guest is Clive Atkinson, chaplain of All Saints Anglican Church in Switzerland. Clive is originally from Northern Ireland (he and I attended the same secondary school, though a few years apart), and has been living in Switzerland for over 15 years.
All Saints Church is a vibrant expat church, part of the Intercontinental Church Society, serving the English-speaking community around Vevey in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. While the church is anglican, various denominations and nationalities are part of the community.
In this first part of our conversation Clive talks about the early influences on his life, growing up in Northern Ireland and his coming to faith as a teenager and the formative years at university where he had some ‘deep end’ leadership opportunities with the Christian Union. He also talks about some of the people who had a big influence on his life, including Harold Miller – a previous guest on the podcast.
In talking about the life of the church, Clive describes the way they have a vision that involves being intentional about sending people out into their regular jobs – referencing the work of LICC.
Next week, Clive will go on to talk more about the journey of ministry and how he came to be in Vevey.
For your own reflection:
Can you name people who have had an influence in your life in the way Clive discusses the role of Harold Miller? Are you in a position to speak into the lives of people you mentor?
Clive talks about the work of LICC and their emphasis on whole life discipleship: for those of you in church leadership, is there something you can learn from the way Clive’s church has adopted the idea of ‘this time tomorrow’ and their vision of sending people out into their Monday to Friday work?
By the way – here is that photo we talked about!
Also – you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or Castbox.
Sir Nigel Hamilton, former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is back this week (if you missed the first part of Sir Nigel’s story, you can catch up here).
In this week’s episode Nigel talks about how Christian leaders can live out their values in their workplace, and talks some more about his career path, a path which ran in parallel with some significant events in the history of Northern Ireland. He talks about the power of leadership moments, including what might be considered relatively simple gestures as a way of establishing an organisational culture. He also discusses the inspiration of biblical characters such as Joseph and Daniel (and the relevance of Psalm 71:18 in his current season of life).
A few years after retirement from the Civil Service, Nigel underwent significant surgery, and he talks about the significance of Stuart Townend’s song, There is a Hope, and how it helped him to share his faith with fellow patients.
Among other things, he talks about his involvement with New Irish Arts and their recent Greater Love presentation.
His top leadership lessons (and he feels that the Church could do better in terms of leadership):
Have a clear understanding of what you are aiming for
How will you go from where you are to where you are going to go?
Be aware of the role of each individual
The importance of a value base
Listen to the podcast:
For your own leadership reflection:
What steps can you take to develop the culture of your organisation?
Which biblical characters have you found to be particularly relevant in your leadership journey?
Next week the podcast takes something of an international turn as the guest is Clive Atkinson, chaplain of All Saints Church in Vevey, Switzerland.
This week my guest on the podcast is Sir Nigel Hamilton. Up until now, my guests have tended to be leaders whose careers have been set in the context of the Church or some specifically Christian organisation.
Sir Nigel’s story is different in that his career was worked out over more than 30 years in the Civil Service, including eventually serving as head of that organisation. So, instead of needing to work out how to relate to elders and deacons, he was working out how to relate to more than 30 various government ministers.
Much of his career spanned what’s become known in Northern Ireland as ’The Troubles’ and in the interview he reflects on some what happened during the time. He also discusses some of the ways he found support as a Christian during his career, including his involvement in the Methodist Church (in which he had become a lay preacher).
In this context we discuss the importance of church leaders supporting members of their congregation who are involved in senior roles outside the walls of the church. He also talks about what it means to exercise Christian faith in senior leadership situations.
For your reflection:
If you are a senior leader outside of the walls of your church, what could church leaders do to support and encourage you?
If you are a church leader, how might you support members of your church who are leading outside the church?