7 Questions with Andrew Simpson
Name: Andrew Simpson
Current title: Associate Pastor
Current organisation: Mooroolbark Baptist Church
Andrew serves as Associate Pastor at Mooroolbark Baptist Church in Melbourne’s Outer Eastern Suburbs, overseeing the discipleship, care and connections ministries. He is passionate about developing emerging leaders and communicating the gospel in a down-to-earth and practical way.
Andrew has considerable experience in leading in both large and small church contexts, having previously served as a pastor at Crossway Baptist and North Church. He holds qualifications from the Sydney College of Divinity (MACL), Monash University (BA) Australian Catholic University (Grad Dip Ed, Grad Cert RE) and Harvest Bible College (Grad Dip Theol.)
Andrew is married to Cadence and together they raise their young daughter, Jemima. In his spare time, he loves delving into the world of aviation, history and politics while drinking excellent coffee.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Keeping my personal spirituality fresh in a way that’s separate to my ministry. I think I drift a-lot in my relationship with God into the ministry space, when sometimes I need to spend time with my Father. It’s switching off that part of me that will read the bible and go “I could use that in a sermon” or “I should message that verse to this person” and actually stopping and letting God minister to me instead of through me.
I’m thankful for people like my wife, who will often stop me mid-conversation and ask me what God has been speaking to me. If I find it hard to answer, often that’s an indication that I’ve been relating to God in a ‘work’ space and not a ‘personal’ space.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I first felt a call into Pastoral ministry when I was about 14, but I largely dismissed it! It wasn’t until I had a small group leader in my first year of University who encouraged me to try youth leading, so I nervously signed up to lead a group of year 7 boys at Crossway Baptist in Melbourne, my family’s home church. It turned out to be a natural fit - and I started to get opportunities to get more involved. I got to sit under some incredible leaders at Crossway, some of whom took me under their wing and delegated authority and responsibility to me.
I stepped into my first pastoral role at 21 years of age - but quickly discovered I needed some time to grow up and get some real-world experience! I resigned from my ministry position and trained as a High School teacher. I believed I’d be following that vocation for the rest of my career and embraced it. One day, Leanne Hill approached me to rejoin the pastoral team at Crossway. I joined on as a Pastor to Young Adults for 2 days a week, whilst also teaching. and over the next 7 years progressively shifted to full time pastoral ministry.
How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I’m still working that out! As a new dad and a pastor in COVID my normally structured life has gone out the window!
As a general rule, I divide my day into blocks (morning, afternoon and evening) and try and work only two of those blocks in a work day. With lots of night meetings, it means I can usually be present for a block of the day to engage with my family.
I try to spend the first hour and last hour of each day attending to phone calls and emails. Where possible, I try and plan for team meetings in the morning (with coffee) because the energy levels are higher and people are more focussed, which makes for great collaboration. Where possible, I try and put 1-on-1 meetings and solo projects in the afternoon.
Our team culture at Mooroolbark is great, we have an open door policy and regular opportunities to walk down to the local cafe for a takeaway coffee and a chat, which is great for refocusing.
4. What one book had the most profound impact on your church leadership? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
A recent discovery has been Brene Brown’s ‘Dare to Lead.’ I’d head lots about Brene’s research into shame and vulnerability, and this book translates and applies that research into an organisational context. Although not specifically focussed on a Church context, it’s been so helpful in understanding how to build teams that are courageous, robust, emotionally intelligent and willing to have hard conversations.
I’ve discovered this book at a really providential time. I’ve joined the leadership team at a Church with a rich history and lots of invested people who have built into the community for decades. At the same time, we’re wrestling with how to reach and impact a community around us that has changed significantly, even in the past 10 years.
Brene’s framework has been so helpful in engaging in some conversations that have been historically ‘difficult’ for our church to have. As a leadership team we’re learning to ‘rumble’ around topics about culture, leadership and corporate expression in a way where there’s lots of room to question everything, disagree and challenge in a way that feels safe, secure and facilitates participation.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The best leaders embrace honest feedback. As I look back on leaders that I’ve sat under and worked alongside, the ones I respect and admire the most are the ones who are prepared to ask for critical feedback and use it as an opportunity to reflect, learn and grow. I’ve seen leaders damage their own reputation by being defensive, insecure and attempt to minimise accountability. It’s a constant reminder to me that I’m still a work in progress, and I will always have blind-spots. I want to be the kind of leader who can be approachable, teachable and humble as I continue to learn what it means to be a Christian leader.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I’ve found Mike Breen’s strategy from ‘Building a Discipling Culture’ to be a really effective framework for developing leaders. Breen’s blueprint has 4 steps:
Recruit: This stage is about picking the right leaders. How do we know who to invest in? Where do we start? What kind of people do we invest in? - Historically, when we’ve had a need for volunteers in a ministry, the only qualification is having a pulse. The recruitment step looks at a person’s character as well as their skills to identify the right person for the right role. It has meant for us that sometimes leadership roles sit vacant for a longer, but it’s better for the organisation than having a toxic person in the role, or having someone whose skill set doesn’t match the role’s requirements
Train: This step is all about providing an opportunity for emerging leaders to learn. More than just giving people a list of instructions and information, it’s about creating an environment where people can learn by imitating - or watching - and having character and competency modelled in community.
Deploy: We try and set leaders up for a win by creating environments that are safe to try things out (and even fail) in the hope that they will demonstrate initiative that leads to innovation. This is a high encouragement zone with the understanding that it will take time to see results and success.
Review: We take regular opportunities, both structured and relational to look back and reflect on what is working, and what isn’t, as well as how an emerging leader is developing. Two great questions in this space have been : “what is God saying to me” and “What will I do in response to that?” This step is usually the one that can fall under the radar, so it becomes important to structure this into the leadership development process.
This isn’t a linear process, and often we will circle back on different steps of the pipeline as needed.
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a church leader so far?
It’s honestly such a privilege to walk with people through seasons in their life. Back in 2015, I started a leadership development huddle with 4 guys who had just graduated from High School. Over the past 5 years, I’ve had the privilege of seeing them wrestle with their calling and vocation, their faith and their identity. I now get to watch from a distance as they lead in Churches, get married and forge their careers and see the work that God has done in them. I get to sit back and celebrate their successes, with incredible thanks to God that I got to be a part of their journey.