"It's like a breath of fresh air"

Our flagship leadership course - the School of Leadership - is celebrating its tenth year. We brought together two of its first participants, Chris Jones and Mark Stanford, with two from the most recent cohort, Denise Hayes and Andrew Stott, to swap experiences and discuss how they have benefitted.

They talked about what they valued from their time on the school of leadership along with how they carry the friendships and lessons learnt on long after they finish with the school. Notably they spoke about the honesty of the sessions, the ability to share.

Below are some highlights of their chat.

Chris Jones: I was two or three years into the job at Ormskirk and thinking where do we go from here. I felt like a reluctant Chief Executive and I had to get a grasp of the strategy. When I came on the course we immediately seemed to gel. We prayed together and supported another but most of all we had this pile of useful information, real information from practitioners showing what they did. So you were frantically writing notes. But it was the best thing I have ever done.

Andrew Stott: I would agree with that. For me it has been the best of all the courses I have ever been on. When I first thought about it I felt like the School of Leadership would just be yet another course. But it became an absolute privilege to put the space in the diary. It was a breath of fresh air wasn’t it.

Denise Hayes: It was real. It wasn’t just people sharing the success stories but it was genuine stuff, especially the tough things, which encouraged you when things weren’t going that well.

AS: They told you it warts an all. If it worked it worked, if it didn’t they told you they’d tried it – it gave you that idea that we could go out there are try something and if it failed so what. And what I liked was it wasn’t people coming in from a theory or a text book – it was honest people saying this is how we did it. This is our story. And I enjoyed listening to their stories.

CJ: Like you say it wasn’t done in a way that we’re wonderful and we’re superior and you lot are rubbish. It was done in you lot can do it as well kind of way.

Mark Stanford: For me one of the reasons was I was pretty new at the post at St Philemons It helped me do some of the things I was going to anyway and was a place I could be held accountable. It was really helpful to think through some of the vision stuff and certainly it played into our team as a whole as well. Colleagues asked what I was going to do and I said the first thing is to think through our vision and values. They said that’s great let’s do it as a team. It was a lot of hard work but as a result of that we did come up with something that stood the test of time. When I faced challenging battles in the church it was the School of Leadership which gave the courage to say I know I am doing the right thing
CJ: It’s the word leadership that is so important. We’re not just pastors keeping the show on the road – we’re leaders. I’m not a big personality type but there were so many models of leadership we were given it wasn’t all about that.. You could be a different
DH: Ten years on when you look back where is School of Leadership for you? How vital has it been for your ministry over the years?

MS: It was strategic it terms of where I was taking St Philomens at the time and now I’m in a new post it is still informing the things I am doing in Formby. Stuff I am starting to apply in terms of strategy for the way forward

DH: When I got the invite it was the fact that I had heard from others that had been on the course that had encouraged me to go on. People were saying it was the best thing they had been on.

CJ: The word that comes to my mind is confidence. It gave me confidence to do the things I wanted to do. I had colleagues I could share with and pray with.

AS: It has continued to give me focus. There were times I felt I was jumping without structure and it changed that. It helped me to lead my first ever PCC away day – looking at the strength and weaknesses of the church. And I have been able to use the same skills with other churches as we look to build a team ministry. Would I have had the confidence to do that? -  I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do before the School of Leadership. And that’s not just benefited one church but four.

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About the School of Leadership

The SOL is an intensive one day per week programme between Jan and March each year. The teaching is delivered by practitioners and happens within a small group learning environment - each SOL is limited to 12 clergy.

Find out more here.