Monday, December 20, 2010


As Christmas approaches we have an opportunity to reflect on the “year that was”, as well as the coming Christmas season.

At Willow Creek Australia we have cause to be thankful for the many lives that have been impacted and influenced through attendance at WCA events, or engagement in any of the other WCA resources or programs. We are hugely grateful and indebted to all of the volunteers who help these events run so smoothly.

As we look forward to another Christmas season, I pray that all of us who know Jesus will reflect something of His love for us to the people who are a part of our lives. May our lives bear witness to our relationship with Jesus, not necessarily by what we say, but by who we are because of that relationship. Let’s pray that all we say and do, and the people we serve this Christmas will be influenced because of our love for Jesus.

Finally, I have very much enjoyed my 6 months at Willow in my role as interim CEO. It’s been great to work with all of the staff, and also with the volunteers I have met or spoken with on the phone. I am very excited by Andrew McCafferty’s (Australia) appointment and the contribution he will make to the continuing ministry of WCA.

May God bless you and your families this Christmas,

Arthur Conomos
Interim CEO (Australia)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Power of Delegation

A good leader knows that to delegate is to multiply their effectiveness exponentially.  Effectiveness results from building teams and releasing others into ministry.  This means that the leader is self secure and is content to see others flourish. 

Humility is at the heart of a true leader.  A really good leader is so gripped by the vision and interested in developing people that they will gather around them a team made up of people who can do things much better than they can do them.  Greater is the one who multiplies the workers than the one who does the work!

All great leaders have learnt the art of delegation.  If not, at least three very negative things result.  First, they will limit the amount of work and responsibility they can handle, thus limiting their own growth.  Secondly, they will inhibit the growth of others, thus limiting the growth of the whole organisation.  Thirdly, the quality people in the organisation will leave to find a place where they are appreciated and can make a difference.

Delegation is not passing the buck.  It recognises that the task is so big that it can only be done by recruiting and empowering others.  It also means that the key leader must be free to allow others to do things differently from how the leader might do them!  Where there is a will there is a way and where there is a team there is more than one way!

The parameters for delegation depend on the competencies and experience of the delegatee.  If the person is highly skilled, has experience in the task, is mature as a leader, etc, then they can be trusted to get on with the task with little interference from the leader.  On the other hand, the delegatee might have little experience, and have minimal competence, so that the leader would need to meet regularly with them to check how they are going, what resources they need, etc.
In the first case the person might only require encouragement and personal support/recognition, while in the second case the person would require regular contact and clear direction from the leader especially in the early days.  These are two extremes, and there would be many instances of delegatees sitting somewhere in between.  Frequently leaders overlook this.  Also competency varies from one task to another.  A person who needs little supervision on one delegated task, may require much tighter supervision on a different task.

In delegating tasks it is important to make clear what is expected of the person in terms of the task itself, its outcomes, its time lines, etc.  It also should be clear what support they will receive and what reporting relationships are established. Absolute clear communication is the basis for fruitful delegation.

When should a leader delegate?  It is paramount for leaders to ask key leadership questions of themselves:  What must I do that no one else can do?  What do I do that results in the greatest outcome for the organisation?  What is the best use of my strengths?  Almost anything else can be delegated, thus empowering people and releasing latent potential.

Dean Brookes
Uniting Church Minister
Leadership Development | Coach and Mentor

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beyond Our Shores

The countdown is on... Less then a week until I board a plane destined for a far off exotic land. I am soon to embark on a short- term mission trip and with only five days until we leave the excitement in our team is palpable.

I have visited the travel doctor who jabbed me with three too many needles for my liking, I have scoured the stores for culturally appropriate clothing (much harder then you would think) and have exchanged my cash to the (previously) almighty US dollar.

Each year there are hundreds of thousands of people, just like me, who take part and serve on a short-term mission trip in nearly every earthly location imaginable.  Yet I have to admit, even as I stuff my mosquito net into my backpack, there is a small part of me wondering if the rapid rise of popularity for these short-term ventures are for many little more then a noble way to spend their holidays.

This adventure of going to a country for a few weeks to check out God's work around the world is a relatively new, somewhat post-modern phenomenon. Today we can practically traverse the globe in relative affordability and comfort. Yet in past times, the words 'short' and 'mission' rarely appeared together.

Those in by-gone eras, called by God to share the message of Jesus with other cultures, were known to pack all their belongings, not into a suitcase but rather a coffin, their coffin, with no guarantee that they would ever return to their homeland. Theirs was a life-long mission, one of language learning, culture, living and sharing with people.

Today, some would say that the landscape of mission has changed forever, that long-term cross-cultural mission (where people spend at least seven years in a country) is gradually falling into extinction.

Our attention spans have grown too short and our careers too important. And yet it is clear that truly effective cross-cultural mission is based on a foundation of strong relationships, a common language and discipleship, all of which take years.

Despite the downward trend, there are still many who are raising their hands to serve overseas long-term as they follow God’s call to be witnesses for Him in all the world. These people who are willing to go the long haul, to spend years learning the culture of the people and sharing Jesus as they go about every day life are certainly not relics of the past.  Rather they are the key to the future of Jesus’ life changing message reaching all corners of the globe.

So with this in mind, what role does short-term mission have to play? Not long ago, I was sitting in a seminar exploring this very topic. And while there were a number of opinions bandied around, there was one wise man who described these taste-and-see visits as an ‘investment of hope’.

An investment of hope not so much for the unreached people, but for us.

Short-term mission, when done with a focus on cultural learning and reflection can change us, open our eyes to see how God is moving in and through people and culture to bring them back into relationship with Him.

Through short-term mission our world becomes bigger and God’s love even greater and if we allow it, the few weeks that we spend in someone else’s land can forever move us.

Haylee Freudigmann
National Young Adults Consultant

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I want to be a flexible Christian

I am one of the most inflexible people I know.  When I do stretching I’m always the guy people laugh at who can’t reach past his knees when everyone else is touching their toes.  I’ve always been this way, and from time to time I’ve tried to do some stretches to get better, but I’m mostly resigned to the fact that I will be inflexible for the rest of my life. 
Thankfully for me when it comes to being a flexible Christian, it’s not about how far you can reach when you stretch.  Rather it’s about your ability to remain faithful to God but flex in order to take the good news of Jesus to the people around you.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul talks about his flexibility as a Christian.  Paul was flexible enough to become like a Jew to the Jews, to become weak to win the weak.  Famously he says, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”. 
Paul did not compromise his faith to reach others, but he did not remain alien to the cultures he was ministering either.  I’ve noticed as I work with an increasingly unchurched generation of young people the need for me to flex in my outlook so that to the high school student, I become like the high school student.  This doesn’t mean I get acne and crushes on the pretty girls, but rather it means that I seek to understand their world view and culture in order that I can best shape the Gospel for them.
 The same is true for my non-Christian friends, I do not adopt their values, that wouldn’t be flexibility, it would be weakness.  Rather I seek to understand their culture and be flexible enough to allow it to influence the way I practice my ministry to them.
Christians have to be flexible if they want to win people to Christ.  We have to be flexible because we are not like people who don’t know Jesus. 
Our lives are so radically transformed by the Spirit that we are not like anyone else in this world.  We must be flexible but always remain connected to the source. 
Sadly many Christians often end up like me when I’m doing stretches, unable to bend past their knees and happy to let all those people they can’t reach slip away. 
I pray that I would not be like this but would continue to work hard at being a flexible Christian for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings and see many people bought to a knowledge and love of Jesus.
Chris Bowditch
Youth Minister
Holy Trinity Anglican Church Doncaster

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


What would you give up for a greater purpose? Coffee, TV, chocolate?

How about every form of communication... for a week!

For the average 16 year old girl, communication is almost as important as breathing. Mums roll their eyes as the telephone rings for the 5th time on a school night, Dads take temporary ownership of mobiles when sms texts beep all the way through dinner, and brothers stand at the bedroom door trying to overhear a top secret conversation between their sister and her friends.

So what could compel three young ladies to take a vow not to communicate for a week – no talking, texting, facebook or emails?

Justice. Or more rightly, injustice.

Lani, Tayla and Brittany first heard of the A21 Campaign when listening to 2010 Summit Speaker Christine Caine at Hillsong during their school holidays. They heard ‘about the A21 campaign and the things happening around the world and how Christine is trying to stop it. She shared all the statistics and it was then we decided we would do all we can to help.’

They are most passionate about helping young girls who are sold into the sex trade industry, saying ‘the statistic that made our hearts race was the fact that this [human trafficking] is the number two crime in the world and nobody knows about it. Human trafficking is happening right on our door step and we are oblivious to it.’ With reports of girls as young as four being sold by their families into brothels and forced to serve up to 40 men per day, they decided ‘we could no longer sit down and do nothing; we were determined to help set these girls free.’

Considering what the most important thing in their lives was that they ‘could strip away in order to raise awareness and funds’, they realized one thing they all had in common was a love to communicate.

Their aim was to raise $1200 to set one girl free. ‘We managed to raise $2400 which is an amazing effort by the community.’ This means that two girls were able to be freed from the sex trade industry. In addition to this the freed girls receive assistance with any medical needs, are provided safety homes and help to rebuild their lives. ‘With every girl that gets saved, the girl and the people who bought her go to court, [which means] more human traffickers get sent to jail, and it will begin to help change legislation in those countries.’

Whilst they all found the week to be extremely challenging, they highlight that they ‘managed to get through it with the support of our family, friends and God.’

For Lani ‘the most frustrating part of the whole experience was not having my phone or internet. Verbal communication was definitely hard for the first couple of days but I adjusted to that, it was more the fact that I could not text, email or facebook any of my friends that really got to me.’

For Tayla ‘the hardest part was definitely not being able to verbally communicate. We adjusted to it after a while, but there were still a lot of challenges, like not being able to have a decent conversation with our parents, not being able to communicate the little things in life and not being able to share my opinion.’

For Brittany ‘the most frustrating thing was being silent at places other than school, because the community did not know about the reason behind the mask, and I couldn’t tell them exactly either!’

In case there is any doubt, these are three remarkable young ladies. Reflecting on the week and what they learnt about themselves Lani says It’s funny how in a week of being silent I learnt more about myself than I have my whole life. I am so ridiculously blessed with the life I have. My family and friends love me and are all so supportive, even when we couldn’t talk they kept filling my heart with positive and encouraging comments that made me keep going.’

So often, young people don’t see their potential to make a difference due to their youth or lack of financial resources. But anyone can say “here I am God, use me” and then respond in obedience when he takes you up on the offer. Well done girls for proving this point!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stop Well And You Will Go Well

In the last 5 or 6 years I have revised a long held and practiced life and work value. I now believe and follow the principle - “Stop well and you will go well”, and would commend this to all passionate, strongly motivated Christians and Christian leaders.

There is a Biblical sabbatical principle for God's creation which I think we ignore at the peril of quality of life, faith and ministry.    There is a rhythm of created life which ensures a greater chance of sustainability and ongoing well being if we explicitly replenish regularly our spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical batteries.

Through my role as a mentor to Christian leaders in the last 6 years I have become aware that one of major threats to ongoing leadership within Australian Christianity and churches is burnout - and its key symptom of emotional exhaustion. 

For the most part of 6 decades I have been worried that people might think I am lazy or unmotivated if I was conscientious about regular days off, taking all my holidays, not accumulating too much long service leave, taking regular spiritual retreats and taking sabbatical leave on a semi-regular basis.

It is probably not surprising therefore that I had a significant burnout experience along the way.   I did not really listen to my heart, my head and my body despite regularly feeling quite tired, stressed and depleted.

I now believe that unless I am able to stem the flow of adrenalin periodically, the wear and tear on me in each of the key areas for life, faith and ministry (spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical) will open up the probability of me running low on resources.   To attain and maintain a 'quiet centre' is now a central issue for me.

Even a casual reading of the gospels affirm that Jesus regularly withdrew in order to sustain the intimacy of his relationship with His father and to revamp his resources. 

About 5 years ago I was asked to teach a Christian Spirituality Course in England entitled “Contemplative Prayer and Retreating”. I did not really know what 'Contemplative Prayer' was! Nor had I not read any of the major texts listed for the course.  

As I sought 'frantically' to prepare to teach, I became convinced that I had missed an essential aspect of good stewardship.  Life, faith and ministry are all most effectively embraced in ways which foster 'finishing well' as an aim and regular replenishment as a practice.  I trust it will not take you as long as it took me to embrace this rhythm of God's creation.

Stop well and you will go well.

Keith Farmer (Mentor)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Willow Creek Australia has a NEW CEO!

Andrew McCafferty has accepted the Board's invitation to become the CEO of the Willow Creek Association in Australia. Board Chairman, Graham Humphris shares the news below:

Andrew comes to Willow Creek after serving for 16 years on the staff of Scripture Union Queensland.  He has been part of the leadership team at SU for over a decade and has lead and managed the tremendous growth that has taken place in the school chaplaincy program in the state.  Andrew has been part of a team that has planted an active and growing church in the last 4 years in the North West suburbs of Brisbane, and also serves on the Board of Malyon College (formerly Queensland Baptist College of Ministry).

I want to also take the opportunity at this time to thank Arthur Conomos who has served the Willow Creek Association as interim CEO in the period of transition between Tim Hanna and Andrew McCafferty now taking up the role in the New Year.  Arthur has led the team exceptionally well, and will continue in this role through to the end of the year.

Thank you for your support for, and engagement with, Willow Creek and we look forward to our partnership with you growing as Andrew leads our great team in equipping and encouraging you to realise your leadership potential as people are transformed by Jesus through engaging with your churches and ministries.

Monday, November 1, 2010

We LOVE our volunteers!!! (week 4)

Wollongong was ‘Summiting’ on its own last week and did an awesome job!

Jo was a fantastic producer for this GLS site! She is clearly loved and respected by her team and the production side of the GLS was ‘almost’ flawless. Thank you to her and her team for all they did and the hours of preparation that went in to seeing this site run with excellence. Danielle led the event team beautifully. She has a grace about her that makes people think that everything is flowing and easy...well, that’s what I thought anyway! She is warm and engaging with her team and each volunteer was really a blessing to the delegates. So many commented on how well they were looked after for the two days.

Whilst the bulk of the Summits are over in Australia and New Zealand, internationally we aren’t even yet half-way through, and there are still many sites and countries preparing for their events. Please pray for them, God is truly doing a great work through the Summits!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We LOVE our volunteers!!! (week 3)

A big thank you goes out to all the volunteers from our week 3 sites – Gold Coast, Launceston, Perth and Sydney.
On the Gold Coast we had Elizabeth - a very gifted and beautiful young lady, who led her team with grace, and strength and fantastic enthusiasm.  Production was led by the wonderful Lyndal, whose amazing efforts engaged the delegates from the very first song, and continued throughout the entire two days.
Down in Launceston the beautiful and bubbly Barbara managed the event and her team of superb volunteers with loads of joy and enthusiasm.  Another outstanding success with the production & worship team led by the delightful Chantelle confirmed that the Island State has what it takes!!  Her confidence and relaxed attitude had everyone simply enjoying all that God had in store for them. 
Over in Perth Sally had the volunteers ‘flowing’ with ease and efficiency. No problem was too hard and she was a huge blessing and did an incredible job. Belinda had a grace that was efficient but gentle. She led the production team along with hubby Dave [who looked after tech] and was on the ball and created a seamless programme.
Sydney volunteers were led by Emmy and JT. There was never a moment when the efficient Emmy wasn’t smiling and this carried through to her team. It was wonderful to have JT’s experience and professionalism close at hand. Producer Tiffany led the charge inside the auditorium, with some beautiful team prayer times. This set the tone for whole event, and kept us all focused on the big picture.
To all the volunteers, you were amazing!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We LOVE our volunteers!!! (week 2)

We have passed the half-way mark with Summit week 2 happening last week. A big thank you to all the volunteers from Canberra, Melbourne and Toowoomba for another outstanding job!
Canberra’s event manager Annie did a great first-time job, especially overseeing all the catering – the food was a hit with delegates and volunteers alike! Expert Producer Michael had things humming along and programmed down to the minute, he and lighting man Tim’s commitment to executing their event leaves us lost for words!
Our first time guys in Melbourne did a great job! Natasha was outstanding!  She was totally under control with an unbelievable team of volunteers supporting her and at the ready to do whatever was necessary, what a blessing each of them were to our guests.  It was an honour to be a part of. It was great to see this new production team in full swing under the leadership of Stephen. They were committed to the task and there was great communication between the team which led to seamless transitions! 
In Toowoomba Danny never stopped moving, he and his team of volunteers had everything in top order, there was always a smile on his face. Leading up to the Summit Natalie was always a friendly voice on the phone and on the day no question any delegate could ask was too hard for the ‘Girl in the Blue Scarf!’ Inside the auditorium ran smoothly thanks to Brendan and his team. He had a big job, both producing and worship leading but he pulled it off with masterful ease!
The willingness of the volunteers to serve in all sites was a beautiful thing to behold!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Something You Will Never Regret

Attending the 2010 Global Leadership Summit was a truly uplifting and spiritually rejuvenating experience. As with all conferences some speakers resonated more with me than others but those that did, did so in a very significant and impressionable way. Highlights for me included the presentation and story of Blake Mycoskie and TOMS Shoes – the power of giving and what can be achieved through the desire to give is an inspiration for us all and lies at the heart of the gospel message. The humility, dedication and faith of Tony Dungy and his message of leadership by encouragement is something we all need to take on board. The interview of Jack Welch produced such pearls of wisdom for anyone aspiring to leadership but was also a delightful observation on character and a journey towards faith. Providing us with insightful presentations of his own and leading us all through the conference was the person of Bill Hybels, himself an inspiration not only in what he had to say but also in what he has achieved at Willow Creek. That in itself is a story that one cannot but help marvel at and be inspired by.

I felt God very much at work during those two days, both personally but also communally. I do hope I will be able to attend again in the next few years. In the meantime, I will be urging anyone who is remotely interested to take the bull by the horns and go. It is something they will never regret.

Warner Wild
Chaplain, Kings College
Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We LOVE our volunteers!!! (week 1)

This last week was Summit week 1 in Australia and we want to thank all the volunteers of Adelaide, Brisbane, Geelong and Newcastle for an outstanding job – we couldn’t have done it without you. We particularly want to highlight a few people who were amazing leading their volunteer teams!
Adelaide’s event manager Steve, was like ‘The Invisible Man’ - Here one minute and gone the next!  As soon as you mention something needs to be done, before you finish speaking he’d be off to make it happen. Producer Ben had things organised and under control, he & the team were committed to delivering everything they did with excellence! 
Christine led the way inside the Brisbane auditorium, she was always calm and nothing seemed to faze her! Alicia did an awesome job building up her team, the result was amazing - every member was always smiling and knew exactly what their next move was!
Veteran event manager Ian was a champion in Geelong.  Co-ordinating a great team of willing volunteers, he made the summit look effortless!  Justin led worship again with ease and charisma – so high functioning (in-house joke!), and Leonie was fantastic bringing the team together to produce a great GLS.
Our first timers in Newcastle were fantastic. Producer Phill was calm under pressure, focused and diligent. He encouraged his team well, took initiative to observe the program and tweak it along the way! Captain of the volunteer army and event manager Glen managed his troops in such a way that everything was done before you even thought to ask!
We think it’s important to publicly say how much we value you guys, every team had a beautiful heart to serve, so thanks and thanks again!
Also we just had to show off the Newcastle Reclaim Dancers (click to youtube video below), who did two amazing dances at Belair Baptist - this is just them practicing, but you girls were great!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are We There Yet?

Ever heard the sound of that song coming from the back seat of the car?

It’s kind of obvious that “we’re not”! If we were the car would have stopped and we would be out. Really what our kids want to know is how much further in comparison to how far we’ve come. Give me a reference point so that I can adjust my expectations.

We are no different with life, asking God, “are we there yet?” Can’t I just get to the destination and enjoy it. The reality is our whole life is a journey.

Every time we get to a “there” it becomes a “here” - a starting point for the next part of the journey.As I entered into the work force as a school teacher I knew that God had called me to touch the lives of kids. During that time my husband and I began a Sunday gathering for kids in a local community house; this later grew into a church. After four years of teaching in a school, God called us on another part of our journey as pastors in the Salvation Army. We spent the next 13 years pastoring two churches, one in Wainuiomata and the other in West Auckland. Over the past 9 years I served as a full-time teacher in a local school for 4 years and have been on the Willow Creek NZ staff for 5 years.Whilst my past does not define my future, it sure shapes it. Looking back over the past experiences, both those which I gladly embraced and those I would rather not have had to bear, have all contributed to who I am today. This includes my successes and failures, disappointments and celebrations; following my hopes and dreams. I have continued to learn more about myself, gained new knowledge and understanding of people and ministry. While my journey has lead me in different directions my underlying desire to love God and serve him with passion and enthusiasm has never changed.

Now I am entering into a new “there” for my ministry as I relocate from NZ to Melbourne to take up a position on the staff of Crossway Baptist Church as Children and Young Families’ Pastor. It was one of those moments that came quite unexpected when I was asked if I would consider leading this significant ministry. For me there were many ‘buts’... however God graciously walked with me through this questioning time, leading me to respond “Yes!” Crossway were willing to hold the position for me for over 6 months and now, in December, I take up this new part of my journey.

I will still continue to invest in Children’s ministry leaders in New Zealand though the ENGAGE children’s ministry training, mentoring (via Skype) and of course the JUMP children’s newsletter.

I am confident that God will use my gifts, strengths and passion to grow His Kingdom, impacting children and their families for Him.

I have enjoyed the privilege of sharing the past few years of my journey with you and look forward to where our paths may cross again in the future. Until then… enjoy your journey.

Margaret Spicer
Executive Director

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Review

Rather surprised by the title of the series our Senior Pastor presented to us one day: “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”, many were not sure what to expect. However, as a church community we begun an eight-week journey of discovering what it truly means to be ‘Emotionally Healthy’ in light of our Spirituality.

In contrast to the common belief that ‘feelings’ are unreliable, the EHS series was completely different to anything we’d looked at before. The messages, readings and daily devotionals prompted us to begin to peel back the layers of their identity, and discover where years of hurt, pain and issues had deeply affected their character. Surfacing scenarios that are hidden in the hurt and pain of the past isn’t always easy. It left many people feeling ‘raw’ and challenged and needing to draw close to God for comfort.

One of the most impacting parts of the EHS series is its simple request for participants to allow time for contemplation. The ‘two-minute-silence‘ model of the devotionals was new to many who had often not taken time to stop, consider and reflect in silence and solitude. Some literally required a pair of ‘ear-muff’s’ to block out the distractions of daily routine, but for others it was a refreshing addition to their quiet time.
The EHS series promotes vulnerability and deepens real community. Some members commented that it is exhausting to reflect and deal with past issues which they’d already come to terms with. But the series encouraged them to realize that things which they thought had been put to rest, had actually just been buried and never really given acknowledgement and the time to grieve that they deserved. While the journey was not all about digging up the skeletons in the closet, the series challenged our thinking and responses, helping us to realize how important character is to God.

The series is neither a quick-fix for hurts nor a substitute for counselling, but rather challenges its participants through revealing why certain tendencies and patterns exist in their lives. Peter Scazzero offers a refreshing and inspiring look at change and what it means to be made new. Our own Senior Pastor reminds us constantly that, “God is in the business of transformation”, and the EHS series was a true reminder of that.

Many were confronted in coming to that place of realizing there is an emptiness in our hearts that hurt won’t allow us to fill. God’s desire to provide freedom and healing meant that many masks were taken off, with individuals realizing they no longer needed to hide behind facades of composure and togetherness.

One church member described the EHS experience like “putting together puzzle pieces and seeing a mirror image of the various components of self and all the emotions we are made up of.” Whilst challenging and confronting, the outcome is refreshing and empowering. Seeing hope and a light amidst the darkness makes it worth the pain and struggle.

The Bible small group studies were both rich and enlightening. The sense of community within our home-groups throughout the 8 week period was incredibly comforting. Experiencing transformation together helps you to realize that the journey isn’t a solo one. There was tremendous healing that took place when various ones stepped out, confessing challenging experiences in the ‘safe-place’ setting of the home group.
We live in the midst of a culture that sub-consciously promotes self-sufficiency and independence. We’re part of a wider community however, where God urges us to depend wholly on him in complete surrender. Jesus is the only constant in life, and though people fail us, He always remains. The series reminded us as a church of the real frailty of humanity, not to destroy our confidence or bring us to a place of hopelessness, but rather to promote the hopefulness and eternal life offered in Christ!

The EHS series will leave us as a richly fulfilled community. It has enabled us to truly disciple people and bring them to a place where they can encounter God in a real way because they understand their own reactions and responses to life’s challenges. We’ve come away feeling like we’re moving forward, and gaining victories over self in order to present the true Christ to our community.

Jade Giles

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Experience at the Summit - Alan Vink

After 8 years to be at ‘Willow’ once again was a highlight in and in itself. It’s a church that has blessed me, helped me a great deal in my leadership, as it has done for thousands of others around the world.

I was looking forward to this year’s Leadership Summit with great anticipation to be there in person and experience the whole 2010 event first hand. I was certainly not disappointed.

Bill Hybels opened with another ‘trademark’ talk, reminding us of some fundamentals of leadership, “From Here To There!” He reminded us how easy it is to find yourself in a leadership slump facing what seem insurmountable challenges. He gives wisdom and direction for leaders to keep the church/organization moving forward.

Then, Jim Collins spoke on “Never, Ever Give up!” He referenced his book “How the Mighty Fall.” So insightful in exploring the stages of decline of organisations. This talk alone is worth the conference fee. There were so many more highlights from great speakers like Christine Caine, Andy Stanley, Jeff Manion, Adam Hamilton, Daniel Pink and Jack Welch.

All of these talks/interviews and others will be shown at all sites in New Zealand. You won’t want to miss this. I am absolutely convinced that the GLS is a world-class event like no other, and would cost literally thousands of dollars in the secular context.

As I see it, there are distinct benefits in you bringing your team:

  • It’s a dedicated time where you as a pastor get to spend some quality time with your key players.
  • It’s an investment in your key people most of whom are volunteers, of course.
  • It’s an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve heard and have a conversation about the issues that really matter to you
  • It’s a way of saying thank you, but also putting some new skills (and inspiration) into their heads and hearts, that will be a blessing to them, to your church, and to their lives generally. To come alone you get enriched, to come as a team and the impact is exponential.

So why not make a decision today, to come to a site near you. You will be glad you did!

Alan Vink
Alan is the Co-ordinator for the Executive Leadership programme at Vision College and consults in Organisational Development.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When Motivation Is Gone And The Demands Keep Coming

Most mornings I wake up facing a day that holds promise and beauty. Opportunities are in front of me, in the warmth of familiar tasks and encounters and in the challenges that will come personally and for our team.

Some mornings I wake up a little flat. Running away looks dreamy and so does hibernating in front of Oprah or the entire Jane Austin BBC box set. Maybe for the guys it’s a day of Top Gear, being in the shed, out fishing, or indulging in a novel when we ‘should be getting stuff done’….

The occasional black day can be jollied along as we simply pick ourselves up by the bootstraps. But sometimes those days keep coming.

When there are a few of these in a row here are some hints:

Get Moving Early. Structure up your morning so you can move along almost automatically. Put exercise clothes by the bed so we can fall into them. Schedule tasks into time slots so that we don’t have to be deciding and choosing - we simply follow our plan. Regular exercise can feel like the last thing to help, yet it is wonderful long term killer of the sluggish feeling.

Eat As Well As You Can. Choose fresh food, good food, water and a little bit of what we fancy to improve our well being. Even though sugar and chocolates promise us we’ll feel better, they are not great long term helpers.

Plan A break. A mini break will probably need to suffice at first. A half day, a full day or two days if we can. Do whatever rejuvenates us best. It will probably involve some rest, a location that is tinged with nature (as close by as a garden or the local beach), and an activity we enjoy.

Health Check. If we haven’t had one for a while, visit a health professional. As people with full lives we can often ignore signs that our health has deteriorated and we might be in need of a little help. 

Take A Good Look. Checking in with a supervisor, coach or spiritual director can help us identify any parts of our being that might be crying out for change. The space and conversation they offer have been a real source of help and perspective for me and I hope the same for you.

These are my hints, what have you tried and can share?

Monica O’Neil
Vose Leadership
Perth, Australia

Friday, September 24, 2010

Keep Working on Your Insides!

Over recent years, the society-wide discussion around character, integrity and trust has become, in many ways, the new ‘lightning rod’ in leadership circles.

It doesn’t take much reading of scripture to conclude that character is a central theme in both testaments and summarized superbly in 1 Timothy 3:1-10. It is interesting to note that this passage says very little about gifts and ministry skills - rather emphasises a leaders character in the church and in the home. Personally I like to think of character and integrity as “truth in the inwards parts”. As Psalm 51:6 says, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”

Kouzes and Posner1 describe good character and emphasise that “Credibility is the foundation of leadership. Period.”

When working on your character...

  • Do what You Say You Will Do. When it comes to deciding whether a leader is believable, people first listen to the words,then they watch the actions. They listen to the talk, and then they watch the walk.

  • Watch out for “Image Makeovers”. It can be easy to create the ‘image’ of a leader. Image is skin thin! Character on the other hand is about the quality of a person’s heart. It is the personal commitment to live by biblical values - the courage and determination to do what is right, no matter what the cost. Leaders who pay attention to their inner worlds will last the distance.

  • Admit mistakes. We all make them. Why then is ‘sorry’ such a difficult word to say? The truth is, admitting a mistake is often hard, especially when you’re leading. Yet admitting your mistakes communicates a profound message about your basic integrity as a leader.

  • Endure Hardship. Paul urged Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:12). Leading a local church is as challenging as it’s ever been - with setbacks, disappointments, and hardships being part of the deal. Leaders of strong character will seize these occasions and learn valuable lessons that can only come in the hard times. Wise leaders allow these occasions to shape and further strengthen their character.

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost.

When health is lost, something is lost.

When character is lost everything is lost.”

- Billy Graham

Alan Vink

Alan is the Co-ordinator for the Executive Leadership programme at Vision College and consults in Organisational Development.

1. Kouzes and Posner - The Leadership Challenge, John Wiley and Sons, 2007

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Prodigal God Curriculum Review

We have recently run the series ‘The Prodigal God’ through our Life Groups at church. The series has brought a fresh perspective on the popular parable most commonly known as “The Prodigal Son.”

We often think that this story is primarily about the younger son, but Pastor Tim Keller expounds the text in a way that reveals to us that this is a story of two lost sons and not just one, two sons that sought happiness and fulfillment in two very different ways. The younger son sought the road of self discovery and the elder son sought the road of moral conformity and tragically for both sons they found themselves at a relational distance from their father.    

The Prodigal God series demonstrates the heart of the Gospel message. Whether one has sought the road of self discovery or moral conformity, only God can provide the way back for people through Jesus Christ. Pastor Keller also show us that, like the elder brother, how often we try and win God’s approval by trying to live self righteously and basing our relationship with God on our performance, when in fact we are only righteous on the basis of our relationship with Christ.

This series is strongly biblically based, giving the participant some rich insight into Ancient Near Eastern culture that surrounds the parable, which ultimately adds to the significance of the story that Jesus told.   

I thoroughly recommend the ‘Prodigal God’ series as a means for people to deepen their understanding of the enormity of God’s love for them and to discover afresh that Jesus Christ is the true source of our identity.

Pastor Anthony Townsend
Victoria, Australia