This week’s guest is Helen Warnock. Helen has worked in Northern Ireland with Youth for Christ and with Scripture Union. Since December 2016 she has been Principal of Belfast Bible College in Dunmurry.
In this first part of her interview Helen talks about the kind of work she has been doing in her first 18 months at BBC – a college that is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. She talks about some of the early indicators of leadership (organising street concerts as a child in her local housing estate!) and the family heritage of Christian faith.
She describes her years with YFC, when for part of the time she was responsible for a major monthly youth event in Belfast, how she decided to move to Scripture Union (where she became the first director who was not a Presbyterian minister, and where the first three years represented a steep learning curve), and her more recent move to BBC.
Along the way there is an opportunity to reflect on discerning God’s leading, both personally and for organisations, some thoughts on how a 150 year old organisation can remain as relevant today as it was in the past, and discussion of the role of friends in helping to keep her on course.
For your own reflection:
Helen talks about ways in which experiences on mission teams helped to form some of her priorities: reflect on ways some of your own early experiences of mission or ministry have contributed to where you are today.
In the interview we discuss seasons of events and how to know when it is time to stop and event (even when it has previously been successful): have you any experience of events that may have run longer than they should, or others that have been stopped prematurely?
Do you have space in your leadership to be a ‘thinking practitioner’?
Do you have friends who can speak to you in the way Helen describes her conversations with her friends?
For more on Belfast Bible College, visit their website – in particular you might like to find out more about the new MA that is being launched this year.
In fairness to other Bible colleges where I am also involved, I should mention Irish Bible Institute, and its MA, as well as the Irish Baptist College and its MA: I find myself in the odd, but privileged place of having input into all three MA programmes!
This week Ken McBride is back on the podcast. In this episode he talks about his move from rural Northern Ireland to Orangefield Presbyterian Church in East Belfast, where he stayed for 32 years. Among other things, he talks about how he changed the culture in the church to enable every member ministry and discusses some of the influences on his thinking.
He also talks about the changing face of denominationalism in Northern Ireland (‘we can’t afford the luxury of inter-denominational fighting’).
He discusses the important subject of resilience, highlighting several of the lessons he has learned about this along the way – not least the realisation that he works for ‘an audience of One’, a commitment to regular Bible reading and prayer, and team ministry.
As a church leader, how can you help your church to retain what is good while being sensitive to new emphases that the Holy Spirit may want to bring? How easy is it to do ‘what’s right’ without worrying about the label?
How do you think leaders can cultivate a resilience that will enable them to serve over the long haul?
How do you find the balance between staying true to a course of action while remaining humble enough to admit you could be wrong?
Are you part of a leadership team? How are you cultivating the sense of team?
This week’s guest on the podcast is Ken McBride: Ken retired last year after over 35 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. For most of that time he was minister of Orangefield Presbyterian, in East Belfast.
Ken talks about his childhood faith (‘I gave the little I knew of myself to the little I knew of God, and it’s been a constant journey ever since’) and some of the seeds of leadership that appeared through his involvement with a band who were engaged in music and apologetics. He also discusses how God used the most famous verse in the Bible to lead him out of a period of doubt in his twenties.
Perhaps surprisingly for someone who would go on to spend so much time in church leadership, Ken was initially resistant to work in the institution of the church, though he was inspired to be involved in ministry. Along the way he has learned to allow God to bring him into his plans, rather than the other way around: as a self-confessed talker, he had to learn to listen!
For your own reflection:
Do you tend to ask God to bless your plans more than you ask him to tell him his plans?
This week there is more from Bishop Ken (Fanta) Clarke, mission director of SAMS (UK and Ireland).
The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness (Robert Murray McCheyne).
This week Ken talks about risk taking and younger leaders, about his experience of culture shock when he went to Chile, about the need for leaders to take time to be reflective, and the challenge of trust.
He also tells the story about a somewhat nerve-wracking experience in isolation on an African mountain and what he learned at that time!
And there are these four key pieces of advice:
Don’t be a maverick: think team!
Remember that team members have different capacities;
Have soul friends;
Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23).
For your own reflection:
How easy to you find it to take time to reflect on your purpose as a leader and on the purpose of your church/organisation? How much time do you spend listening to God?
If you lead a team, do you train them well enough that they can leave but treat them well enough that they don’t want to?
This week’s guest on the podcast is Paul Reid who, along with his wife Priscilla, led Christian Fellowship Church in Belfast for over twenty years.
Paul talks about coming to faith in his teens and his early upbringing in a Brethren Assembly. He and Priscilla left this to start a house fellowship and their group eventually became CFC in East Belfast.
He talks about the influence of Spring Harvest – both in his sense of call to leadership and in his experience of the Holy Spirit, and of several notable Christian leaders, including Terry Virgo and Roger Forster.
He also discusses the controversial ‘shepherding’ movement and the reason why he and his fellow leaders felt they needed to resign from their leadership roles.
Some questions as you listen:
Paul talks about some key turning points in the early years of his life and ministry: what events and seasons do you look back on as being formative in your own journey?
What do you think about the idea of leaders admitting to their followers that they have got something wrong? Is this a sign of strength? How can leaders distinguish between a conviction that they need to persevere in a course of action and a sense that they need to retrace their steps?
Part 2 of Paul’s interview will available after Easter – this will include discussion of several other controversial issues that Paul’s journey has seen him tackle; and there will be a 3rd part, in which Paul will talk about some of what he has learned about leadership and what advice he would give young leaders.