7 Questions with Paul Arundell
Name: Paul Arundell
Current title: Director of Education
Current organisation: Brindabella Christian College
I have spent my 36 year working life in Christian Education and have at varying times been a teacher, parent, board member, chairman, principal and executive principal. I have been blessed to be married to Helen for 33 years and to have 3 adult children and one grandchild who are all walking with God and were each positively impacted and shaped by the gift of Christian education.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
As Moses discovered, God's people are often hard to lead as they all know God as well and can have very strong views on how things should be. And while God is our King, we have to unite and keep on the same page a diverse church of denominational preferences, differing parental expectations and societal attitudes, as well as Governmental regulations and directives. Inevitably this requires the art of compromise and for some, that word in itself is heretical. Welcome to the challenge of Christian education leadership.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
That in itself is a big concept - what structure? My personality type is a little bit more random than the word implies, but I do prioritise starting the day in God's word, ensuring that I stick to a daily reading plan. I also do a vigorous 30 minute walk and run to look after my body. It sets me up for the day as I often find that the way God speaks to me in that time, sets my thinking and responses to the day's challenges, questions and opportunities. I try to list the priorities for the day and chip away at them, in between endless emails and other interruptions. I'm not a workaholic, so I try to knock off at a reasonable time and connect with my family in the evening to relax.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
"It's all about relationship." Relationship requires the deliberate growing of trust and while this sounds like a motherhood statement, you'd be surprised at how lacking these are in many Christian organisations. This is because deep trust happens when we love unconditionally, are prepared to be vulnerable, choose to believe the best in others, even despite behaviour to the contrary and get over our drive to control people and circumstance. Personal character and consistency is also often underrated.
4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I will be naughty and use two as they complement and build on each other. I'm often shocked at how lacking Christians can be in Grace to one another. What's So amazing about Grace by Philip Yancey, challenged me deeply about the cost of Grace and its bedrock place in God's Church. It also enables us to have something meaningful and profound to offer a broken and unforgiving world. Dan Allender's book “Leading with a Limp” builds on this nicely, as he has, in my opinion, the best take on a genuine servant leadership. He unpacks the cost of leadership which demands my always putting the needs of others before my own and being ok with betrayal, disappointment and the brokenness that this inevitably entails, but which God honours and redeems. His summary of the leader as Prophet, Priest and King is most helpful.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
Having worked in remote parts of Australia, I'm incredibly conscious of how God's Holy Spirit is the best recruiter of all, going ahead of our plans and advertising. Once employed, good staff will connect with a school that has soul. That means that there is a deliberate movement towards a messy Shalom community where the vision is about God's Kingdom and even oddballs can find a place. A place that understands that we need to work hard to ensure that we are worshipping the one true God and not all the shiny idols that compete, such as edifices, status, materialist success and so forth. Christians need to be reminded to keep the main thing the main thing and that starts with lots of focus on God's word and the unfolding of the Kingdom of God. Building a culture of affirmation and growing people rather than focusing on what is wrong is also helpful. Yet it is also important to give people permission to leave, when God opens new doors, as we can easily become too comfortable and stagnate without change or a new challenge.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Love. Students need to know that they are heard, respected, loved, accountable and have a place. Great school culture happens when this is fostered and grown among the students so that they become the custodians of good culture. Just focusing on wellbeing is also a trap. Opportunities to serve and to be other person focused create purpose and the grounding that is needed in our culture of narcissism and self- interest. You must be able to model and show genuine care for your people.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
There are many but here is a favourite. An unmarried staff member came to see me to resign because she was pregnant and believed that I would demand it. When I asked her to tell me her story, there was a tale of brokenness and betrayal yet with the promise of redemption. The school therefore went on a journey whereby God’s Grace enabled the community to rally around the couple and staff even organised a wedding that they couldn't afford. Did they break the rules? Yes! Did God redeem a broken situation? Definitely, and the whole school community came together to bless and not cast stones. As Jesus said - "neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."