7 Questions with Gary Hourigan

Name: Gary Hourigan

Current title: National Director of Church Health and Growth, Network Leader, Company Director

Current organisation: International Network of Churches

Gary Hourigan, together with his wife Terri, are currently Network 75 leaders for International Network of Churches. Gary is also a member of the INC National Executive, responsible for the development and implementation of church health, church growth and church planting strategies.

Gary and Terri have been married for 41 years; have 3 children and 4 grandchildren. They have been in ministry for over 27 years, and Gary has experience as a senior pastor, ministry trainer, bible college lecturer and church health consultant, trainer and coach.

In addition to his work within INC, Gary has consulted extensively with numerous other Organisations over the past 10 years to develop church multiplication strategies which include health and growth, coaching of pastors and church planters, development of leadership training systems for a churches, assessment of potential church planters etc.

Gary had dedicated his life to the development and resourcing of Christian movements, churches and individuals in pursuit of fulfilling the call of God on their lives. He has a passion to see the great commission fulfilled and is committed to the strategy of multiplying healthy reproducing disciples, leaders, churches and movements.

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1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?

I would say balance. Balance on a number of fronts.
- Maintaining work/life/ministry balance
- Maintaining the balance between looking after the existing congregation and staying on mission
- Maintaining the balance of doing the work of ministry and developing the next generation
- Maintaining the balance between executing the demands of ministry and maintaining an inner rest

2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Prior to ministry I had a career in banking and finance for 18 years. During this time I developed skills in financial acumen, management and leadership etc. These provided a base for the skills I would later need in ministry.

A few years after becoming a Christian, and whilst still pursuing a banking career, I became more heavily involved as a volunteer in the life of the local church. As time progressed it became evident that there was a Call of God on my life for ministry, and so I resigned from my career and went on staff as an assistant pastor in the local church. It was not something I ever intended to do, but I have learned that God was developing me for the role well before the decision.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

As a leader/coach I find that prioritisation is one of the most important skills/disciplines a leader needs to develop. Without it we can lose sight of the most important things we need to get done, and rather get sidetracked with all of the urgent matters from day to day.

I therefore like to plan on a monthly, and then weekly basis, rather than a daily basis. If I know the important things I want to achieve in any given month or week, I can organise my life accordingly. And that means my whole life. In my planning I include time for everything I need to fit in (spiritual time, family time, rest time, exercise time, and then the important work matters that need to be dealt with). I prefer an electronic diary, however I print out my weekly diary every day. This way I have an overview of the big things I need to accomplish and very little takes me by surprise.

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?

I will set aside the Bible in answering this question. Obviously it is the most important written influence any Christian needs, and especially Christian leaders.

Other than that, this is a difficult question to answer, as there has been so many over the decades. The most powerful ones are the ones that equip me for what I’m going through at that specific time. However in recent times I have been passionate about helping churches/teams/leadership develop the right culture surrounding them. I can find many biblical examples of life-giving culture and life eroding culture, as I can in many organisations. Also as an avid rugby fan, I have become a student of The culture of healthy sporting organisations. A book By James Kerr called “Legacy” has given me great insight into what makes up the culture of healthy organisations.

5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

That the real fruit of a leader is not necessarily the results you achieve but the future leaders you develop.

6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?

This is an area of passion for me. Too many times leaders (including me) have tried to mass-produce leaders. Experience has taught me that this cannot be done. We are far better to follow the Jesus model of having an inner circle of people who intentionally develop and ensure that in their development they can develop others. 2 Tim 2:2. To that end, leadership development is less about teaching information and more about equipping Leaders with the practical skills that they will need on the ground.

To do this you must identify the outcomes you are trying to produce rather than the content you are trying to teach. Once you know that and are committed to developing Leaders (easier said than done) you then must adopt a coaching approach whereby you walk beside these inner circles to empower, encourage, equip, support them in the journey. They can then do the same for others, provided the process is written. I have spent much of the last two decades writing this material.

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?

Even though much of my attention, and the content of these answers, is centred around leadership, the purpose of my leadership and developing leadership in others has always been from ministry context. In other words we lead and produce other leaders so that more ministry can be done. And when I say ministry, that is seeing people’s lives change through the power of the good news that is Jesus Christ. Therefore, the most significant story or stories from my time as a church leader are those stories where I have seen people come to know Christ and be restored in their relationship with Him and others.