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7 Questions with Deborah Candler
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Deborah Candler
Name: Deborah Candler
Current title: Pastor
Current organisation: Glow Church and Australian Christian Churches
Deborah Candler grew up in Horsham, Victoria to Christian parents who instilled in her a love for God, a fascination with the Bible and a vision to preach and teach. Deb spent the first half of her career as a children's dentist and a community oral health educator before transitioning into ministry where she has continued as a life-long learner gaining post-graduate degrees in Theology and a Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership.
Deb sees her role of pastor as a gift to the 'body of Christ' and as such spends a good deal of her time lecturing for various Bible Colleges, delivering individual and corporate mentoring and key-note speaking for diverse denominations, and oversees the health and well being of (particularly) women leaders and pastors within the Gold Coast ACC.
Deb is also an author and currently has her second book with a publisher due for release later this year. She is married to Philip, the general Manager of the international Maritimo boat building company. They are prolific mentors to Christian leaders and business owners and co-developed an award winning apprenticeship mentor training package with an emphasis on healthy relationships and life-skills.
Deb is also a trainer with MATE (motivating action through empowerment), a by-stander and cultural change course in response to domestic violence. In collaboration with the combined churches on the Gold Coast and Griffith University, the course is now licensed to deliver to all faith based communities with the aim of exposing and changing the cultural norms that create normalised environments ripe for abuse.
Together, Deb and Phil have four children, eight grandchildren and two more due to be born July 2021 and January 2022.
Deb and Phil absolutely love their life on the Gold Coast and laugh at the thought of working till they are ninety to finance Birthdays and Christmas for their expanding family!!
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Leadership will always be challenging because it often requires us to 'go against the tide' or against popular thought - this requires courage - and wisdom. Courage and wisdom are learned and cultivated through personal experiences and resolve, deliberate training and spiritual maturing. The most challenging aspect of ministry for me has been navigating leadership in a (still) predominantly male shaped ministry space. Although most modern churches boast of having many women in leadership, and the fact that over 60% of church goers are women (and this hasn't changed since 2006 according to Pew Research), this hasn't significantly altered an old and flawed understanding of the male-female relationship as it is set out in the Bible. This has caused a confused theology in many of our churches, where we say we believe something and endeavour to show it, but model something entirely different when it comes to transformative leadership in all its full auspices of collaborative decision making, apostolic gift recognition and scriptural alignment. It is perhaps why I am often introduced as a "women's leader" ("women's" in case someone missed it - and incorrectly inferring I minister to only one gender), when it would sound utterly ridiculous to introduce a male colleague as a "male leader". 'He', it seems, is still the universal norm - more suited to the cultural environments in which we derived this social (not Biblical) construct. Suffice to say, over the years this has been a veritable minefield to traverse, find suitable contexts in which to use my skills and gifts, to thrive and create pathways for others to do the same. To that end, I have put that experience and my education to good use and have written a book soon to be released explaining how we got to this, how to reinterpret it, and how to embrace a more reforming Christian ethos that more reflects the Bible we so earnestly embrace. 'FRAMED' explores the embedded beliefs that have been handed down to us and is a reader-friendly bridge between a simple theological exploration and the more in-depth weighty theological books which most people won't read. I, and it seems many of the world's most respected scholars and theologians agree that unless we come to a reformed understanding of the Bible's view of men and women, then we will continue missing the mark of what it truly means to be the divine image bearers. And miss the mark of how the church is supposed to look.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
When I was a kid I heard my dad give countless sermons. People loved them. He shined the light of those Bible stories like a mirror onto our souls and people - all sorts of people were drawn to them. it was like he'd reclaimed the art of giving the sermon, and reclaimed the purpose of the bible - to include everyone. When I was twelve years old, I had a dream that I was giving sermons - and when I woke, I wanted to be her. It never left. Growing up in the country back in the day afforded few (if any) opportunities for no-bodies like me to begin a pathway of ministry - particularly when, in our denomination only men assumed ministry leadership positions. So moving to Melbourne on a scholarship led me to the world of dentistry which became my training for loving people, self management, public addresses, individualised consideration, embodying an example, a love for further education, and so much more. I transitioned out after completing some further theological training and the first church I was employed at afforded me opportunities to teach (and eventually run) Bible College, head up various ministries and preach. Since transitioning from that church I have found myself predominantly contract teaching/lecturing, mentoring and training for various churches. Serving the role as oversight for women leaders and pastors for ACC Gold Coast has been a privilege and a good use of who I am and how I am wired. As diverse as my roles seem to be - they are a great combination of my core - my capacity - and context (the church, which is my sweet spot).
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Nowadays it varies depending on which hat I am wearing. I am no longer 'clinical' about a traditionally viewed 'quiet time' (which I am assuming this question is pointing to!) My reflection and prayer times often happen as I walk the lake opposite to where we live. This might be morning, late afternoon or even evenings. Practicing the presence of God has been enlightening and transforming although it can create a passive spiritual life void of disciplines so I am in the habit of many things that make life and work actually work: - I regularly read the Bible (with a hermeneutic propensity) so I have an assumption that Holy Spirit will illuminate things that will be relevant to us in our days and in our ways. - I reflect (usually as I walk) to allow spiritual gems to take root and incubate. - Philip and I regularly (and incessantly) talk - about everything! With our different skill sets and personalities and experiences, we help each other navigate our workplaces, decisions and even how we communicate to others. We talk about difficult and weighty issues that help form our opinions about other things. This sets us up to know whatever happens on any given day - we have each other's back and will be open to be redirected. - I have space to prepare. Because I deliver training, lecturing etc,,, I need lots of prepping time which means I can be well prepared on the day. On a prepping day, I will allocate time to research, prepare notes and powerpoints, and recordings etc. On a delivery day I will have more time to pray, gather my resources, enjoy a coffee, and arrive fresh. - I sort out my wardrobe the day before so I am in auto mode when it comes to the less important things. - I eat light (fruit and coffee) in the morning. More protein and cabs mid-dayish. Anything we like and have time to prepare in the evenings. - We have developed the routine of dimming lights and slowing down after dinner (except connect group night) which aids the production of the important brain hormone melatonin, in line with Arch Hart's "The Hidden Link Between Adrenaline and Stress" (Thomas Nelson). - We pray together most evenings (the most vocal one is the less tired one!) - Oh, and Friday is often date night!
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?
"Why Not Women" by Loren Cunningham and theologian David Joel Hamilton was put into my hands by my mentor - it changed me forever. I could now piece together the history, tradition and theology surrounding some of the mindsets that have limited women in ministry and broader settings. It sent me on a trajectory of research and as such I have met the most extraordinary men and women in and outside of faith and worked with some of the most collaborative, creative and effective teams. This foundational trampoline caused me to jump higher and help others to do the same. It has enabled me to answer age old questions with clarity and grace. I know this is cheating but a second, Stone and Duke's "How to Think Theologically" has also had a profound effect on how I lead, mentor and pastorally care for people by highlighting what we all bring to the scriptures and how our embedded ideas can distort true meanings (Fortress Press).
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Soooo many! We are always learning lessons, we never stop, and we can never assume a position as a leader of one whose 'halo' never slips, or who has all the answers. As collaborative and transformational leaders (according to the definitions of Transforming leadership as opposed to merely transactional leadership) we network, group-think, get objective outside mentoring and good relevant counsel. The most significant leadership lessons have been while in environments where the above elements of transformational leadership were missing. The fall out was self evident and the old adage of learning what not to do is often as important as learning what to do. I am heightened in my awareness of transformational styles of leadership as presented to us so clearly by Jesus that I will sometimes return home feeling like I fell so short of that grace standard. All the more reason to make amends and re-shape how direction, guidance and teaching can be done.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
Embody the vision and model it like Jesus. Stay consistent with valuing everyone. Create pathways for people to express their gifts as they grow in their Christian walk. Love and invest into them. Serve them as Christ loved the church. Impart, inspire, instruct. Model and become an example in your own life. Stay appropriately transparent and accessible. Teach the needed skills of communication and managing up-line - across - and down-line to build confident and effective leaders who can reproduce that. Stay in touch with what's going on in the 'pews'. Show humility to change in order to help others with theirs.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
Preaching in a refugee camp church in Thailand several years back, Philip and I were touched profoundly by the enthusiasm of so many people with so little (in our terms). To us, they were stranded, forgotten, poor, and had few (if any) options. To them however, they had found Jesus! Fifteen and sixteen year olds were caring for infants and toddlers. Old men and women were growing vegetables to cook for as many as their sparse resources could reach. Primary school children rose at 4am to worship and pray. Children of all ages were passing exams and casting visions of becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers and pastors. And then there was He la'rue. Her daddy told her that her name meant rock that floats. With so many stones sinking like stones do - she would float to the surface and help her people. She believed it with everything in her! And then there was Esther. She was in her fifties but looked much older. L'oreal's 'Plump and Restore with spf 30' had never touched this face. Esther walked hundreds of miles regularly to teach in the village schools and bring the good news of Christ through her preaching. In her denomination women could not preach. Esther could care less for the rules that messed with people (like Jesus!). She shined a joy that could not be diluted by her circumstances and the people fortunate enough to come under her care and tutelage bore witness to her remarkable resilience and conviction. My leader's disposition has been as shaped by such encounters as it has by all our sophisticated conferencing and speakers.