7 Questions with Carl Willis
Name: Carl Willis
Current title: Executive Pastor
Current organisation: Restoration Church
Carl Willis has been in vocational church ministry for the past 22 years. In addition to his ministry role, he is also an entrepreneur and international keynote speaker. He has been married for 32 years, has 3 children and is expecting his first grandchild.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
The greatest challenge that I have faced as a church leader is the heartbreak of wanting more for my people than they often want for themselves. In our culture today many people have settled for claiming Christ, but fail to fully live in Christ. This leads to believers who fail to live fully in the richness of God's daily presence. The chaos of the world fills their life with anxiety, stress and pressures that they were never meant to carry.
Over time I have seen many fall by the wayside, simply because they did not understand that we find our greatest fulfillment by being fully and completely surrendered to Christ.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I felt God's calling on my life when I was 14 years of age. I said yes to that ministry calling, but ultimately ran from it until I was in my late 20's. In the course of my running I made many mistakes and I felt that God would no longer use me, because of a prodigal past. What I discovered was that God's grace was waiting for me to fully surrender and that he had used the experiences of my running to create a greater level of effectiveness in my ministry.
I started by serving as a teacher and then a deacon, then becoming part of the preaching rotation in my local church. Over time, I knew that God wanted me to lead a congregation and I began to seek His guidance. I was invited to preach on several occasions at a small church that was without a pastor. I began to develop a deep love for the people and was ultimately asked to become their pastor.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I structure my days by priority. Being both a business owner and a pastor puts a great demand on my time, so knowing the priorities are key.
I start each day in prayer and personal Bible study.
From that point I check my email and respond to anything that is pressing.
From 10AM - 2PM, I meet with people. This is one of the key priorities for me, so I block off these hours, because it is when I am at my best.
Around midday, I will make a quick check of email again to look for any pressing matters from the morning.
From 2PM to 3PM I take a break for activity. This could be taking a walk, working out or simply doing chores around the house or office.
From 3PM - 5PM, I work on administrative items. This might include follow up, planning or study. I also check my emails again during this time for anything pressing from the afternoon and I return any phone calls during this time.
From 5PM - 6:30PM, I cook dinner with my wife and we sit down for our evening meal.
From 6:30 - 9PM, I will do creative work, plan my priority tasks for the following day. This is also a time that I set aside for learning through books, documentaries or research on topics of interest that are generally business, financial or leadership related.
9PM - 10 PM I use this as my unwind time. This could be listening to music, watching YouTube videos or watching something entertaining.
10PM - I go to bed.
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?
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell.
My greatest takeaway from this book is that I must constantly be increasing my capacity as a leader. If I fail to continue growing, my organization will stagnate.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
During Covid-19, many people found themselves feeling helpless and distraught, because those who they were trusting for leadership had not planned for the unforeseen. This season helped to see the need for being consistent in preparation for those unforeseen events that catch us by surprise. Our stability and confidence during those times are what give others a greater sense that they will be alright.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
From the very beginning leadership development must be a part of your church's DNA. The continued communication and implementation of this core value sets the expectation for the church that leadership development is just something that we do normally and naturally.
From the very beginning we as leaders should always be watching for those that God is raising up. If we are intentional about looking for future leaders we will quickly be able to recognize them.
Once we recognize a future leader we need to have a process to develop that individual into an effective, well equipped leader.
In our church, we have a program called Restoration U. It is a one year intensive leadership discipling program, where we teach solid biblical foundations, leadership principles and ministry skills. Once a person completes this program we release them to the ministry role that God has for them within the church.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
A number of years ago a young man in our church went on a mission trip with me. During that mission trip, he and I broke from the team and went together to Uganda for a few days, so I could conduct a leadership conference.
During our time together we began to discuss the things God was stirring in his heart and I began to impart my life into his. Since that time, he and I began meeting on a regular basis. Through our interactions, God began to clarify the call on his life. He has gone on to create a business that mentors men in developing a deeper walk with Christ and has the opportunity to pour his life into theirs. He has told me on many occasions that I am a spiritual father to him.
It is the joy of watching God work in the life of another person that makes the challenges of leadership all worthwhile.