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7 Questions with Anne Graham
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7 Questions with Anne Graham
Name: Anne Graham
Current title: Senior Pastor
Current organisation: Highway Church
Anne is married to Byron with 3 children and 10 grandchildren. Anne is Australian born and has had the great privilege of pioneering a church on the Gold Coast 26 years ago with just a handful of people. Today that church is in three locations on the Gold Coast and reaches into many parts of our city and nation along with a very expansive and successful work in India.
Anne has worked as the State Women's Director for Queensland Christian Women for 7 years but was part of the National and State team for women for many years prior to becoming the leader.
She was also part of a team that supported and raised funds to build the very first Women's home for Teen Challenge in Toowoomba.
Her journey continues with speaking engagements and pastoring Highway Church alongside her husband of 42 years.
Faith and family are two very strong core values for Anne and they have never changed.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Being pioneers your faith and confidence always took us into days that had not eventuate yet. The challenges can often be centred around what you do not have.
Oftentimes a shortage or money or resources seemed to be the normal for us particularly in those early pioneer days when we were juggling building a church, raising a young family and at that same time we had a small family business that we were solely responsible for.
We did not take a wage from this young church for over 6 years but with the growing demands on our time eventually something had to decline and the other rise so we chose to close down our business which we had also pioneered some 16 years earlier and had developed into a solid income stream for us and completely be focussed on the church.
It was the right time and move for us and to be honest I can't remember ever being worried or panicked about the lack of money but rather saw it as our next step into our future.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I think I became a church leader by association. I seemed to always find myself in the company of people who were leaders in their fields whether that be business or church leadership. I often found myself being the only woman on a board or a team and I have grown as a result and found myself inspired by different perspectives and approaches to handling a range of scenarios.
I believe many things have been caught rather than taught for me as I have been around people who are very successful in what they have done in their lives and their consistency and longevity has always been an inspiration to me.
I try and figure out what makes them want to keep showing up, you will always find at the core is a deep sense of conviction in what they do
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My days always begin early. Early mornings are always the most productive. By 9am it's not uncommon for me to have spent a few hours either praying or reading the bible or listening to a podcast.
The work of the ministry is a constant giving out so I am sustained and able to function best with clarity and hopefully wisdom if I have allowed time for me to receive first.
I take my personal growth seriously and I need to be responsible for my spiritual, emotional and physical health. I don't believe there are any shortcuts to these things other than making room somewhere in your day for this to be a priority.
I'm not a fanatic at all but just a walk for an hour listening to a podcast or praying as I walk has tremendous benefits for me personally.
My week never looks the same from one to the next but it usually is filled with church schedules, meetings, location pastors meetings, staff and board responsibilities.
Plus the preparation of sermons and so much more so I love having Mondays off where I can choose what that looks like but irrespective whether it's a day off or not it will mostly begin with that personal devotional time.
The later hours of the day are best spent talking with people but the planning strategic and spiritual part of the day in terms of preaching or teaching is best in the mornings.
Of course, life never really goes according to my ideal but for the most part I go with what works so I have something to give.
I have a very wise woman in my life who is well into her eightieth year. She rings just 3 people a day but each phone call is a meaningful one where she has significantly touched base with another.
I like her wisdom here. Instead of a list of 20 or 30 people to connect with she manages to build health into her connections by not spreading herself too thin.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The book that has had tremendous impact on me is the Legend of the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I devoured the story of Honi this 1st century BC prophet who drew a circle and stood in this place of faith that was unwavering until rain came to break the drought that had come to this generation prior to Jesus coming.
Honi with staff in hand began to draw a circle and he stood in the circle calling down rain on a drought and broken land. Elijah had called down fire but Honi the Circle Maker was calling down rain.
I am still moved as I read those words and it said "Then it happened".
The faith in me still rises as I read and relay these words and believe that God is still looking for circle makers that will stay the course and then it happened in our time.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Just today I listened to a very famous worship leader. Well known by most and he was asked this same question. A man who fills platforms and stadiums in front of thousands.
He couldn't answer this question without tears and humility as he said 'never make it about you'.
For him he said "It's all about Jesus. Keep Him at the centre of it all. Don't get caught up in your own celebrity status or notoriety, keep tender and humble of heart."
I sat with an 87 year old man who has been a National Superintendent of a major church organisation plus he began a political party here in Australia and to this day he stills preaches when he is given an invitation and he can rarely make it through a conversation as he speaks about the goodness of God.
My answer would be to stay tender. Stay humble, remain a student and always open to learning yourself even if you are at the top of what you do and learn to guard your own heart so that you don't become preoccupied with the wrong things and become bitter.
I would also add be grateful for the opportunities and privileges that have come with the role you carry. It may not sound like a leadership response but I am convinced that the wellbeing of our heart and attitudes is paramount.
Much can happen in our leadership roles to drain us from being our best and often times the heart is at the centre of much of what we do. So we would do well to guard it from strife and the wrong influences that become toxic to making sound decisions in our organisations.
Don't forget the 'why' behind the 'what'.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
Good communication is so important. I think we have become so much more efficient over the years as we have perfected and continue to work on our best avenues for good healthy communication from the top and flowing down into all the departments.
We have less gaps now because of the many layers of teams and meetings that happen during the course of a week which has minimised confusion down the line.
Establishing a clear culture of who we are, what we believe and why we do what we do is translated often through different meetings.
Keep reinforcing the culture over time as new people are added to the team. We are still the same as we were 26 years ago at the core but have changed how we go about many things as we have had to adapt and change .
Every group, department and team matters so it's important that the vision and culture is clear all the way through.
We are predominately a family church with a missions heart but we are very generationally minded so changes come from time to time but the core and DNA of who we are remains the same.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
In 2008 / 09 we were in a very significant growth period as a church. Our church attendance had doubled and was on the way doubling again when my husband who I co/ pastor with was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
The seriousness of this diagnosis was massive and he spent almost a year away from work recovering from something that had no guarantees other than our deep sense of belief that he would recover.
Questions came to the table. Would people leave? How would the finances be affected? Would the momentum of the church be lost? Would the people lose confidence in me as the main face for the church over an extended period of time?
What we saw happen was growth and not decline in every aspect of the church.
The numbers of people kept coming and we grew by another 100 people in what was already a big growth time. Our finances did not suffer and neither did the moral of the team.
I think what helped this was keeping our language positive and faith building along with keeping them informed and in the loop where possible.
I saw strength and unity present and not a dispersing which was a concern of a few.
Happy to report that my husband made it through from stage 4 cancer and the church went from strength to strength.
You never really know the health and strength of your organisation until it has been tested in some way. We are grateful that the foundations that have been laid stood well in the day of trial and the church family came together as family does.