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7 Questions with Geoff Folland
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Geoff Folland
Name: Geoff Folland
Current title: Team Leader
Current organisation: Power to Change Australia
Geoff grew up in the Hills District of Sydney's northwest attending Epping Gospel Chapel. Always driven to be a high achiever, he went to James Ruse Ag High School, studied a B.Ec at Sydney Uni, and qualified as a Chartered Accountant while working for one of the Big Four firms.
In 1995, he returned to Power to Change and served at Macquarie Uni from 1995 to 2008, except for a one year stint in Boulder, CO in 1998/9. This allowed him to get to know the rest of his wife's (Liz) family following the tragic death of her mum. He moved into a state leadership role while completing his M.Div at Denver Seminary in 2010. He returned to a direct campus team leader role in 2014, leading the PTC team at Sydney Uni and Notre Dame. He finished that role at the end of 2020 and moves to Melbourne for a national leadership role in 2021. Geoff married Liz in July 1997, and they adopted two children from the Philippines (Philip, 19 and Katrise 15)
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Dealing with the conflict generated by dysfunctional team members. The dysfunction caused me to question my own judgment and performance in exhausting ways.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I arrived on campus looking for a community of Christians to support me during my time at university. Instead, I stumbled onto a mission organisation committed to developing and equipping me to help change the world. I grew so much in those four years and saw God use me in the lives of other students. After graduating, I worked in the accounting profession. I enjoyed it and thrived but realised God used me best on campus. So, after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I quit and went back to campus.
I arrived at Macquarie Uni with a deep conviction that God ruled this campus, irrespective of who the Vice-Chancellor was. God really blessed those first few years and we saw dramatic growth. Other leaders in our organisation noticed what was happening and invited me to take on greater responsibilities. I think that's how many people become leaders.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
The campus ministry schedule is quite schizophrenic. During semester, there is a regular weekly schedule that includes team meetings, discipleship times, etc. In those weeks, I start the day reading the Bible and praying. I listen to podcasts or audiobooks on the commute to/from campus. I meet with people all day. I enjoy dinner with my family and, less often than I used to, deal with emails or other urgent admin at night. Friday is my regular admin day.
During the non-semester weeks, I am often away at conferences or working on those important/non-urgent tasks. The daily routine doesn't change much.
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?
I've read so many books on leadership it is hard to choose just one. John Maxwell's "Developing the Leader Within You" started me on the leadership journey. I made a practice of reading "church growth" books in one hand and books by Eugene Peterson (anti-church growth) in the other. I think the biography of Bill Bright (Amazing Faith) captures the essence of "mystical activism" which is at the core of Power to Change organisational culture. We are committed to the activism of helping fulfil the Great Commission. But we also emphasise dependence on the Holy Spirit for personal holiness and ministry effectiveness.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
My life verse came back to me in a fresh way recently. It is Galatians 5:6b, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love."
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I am convinced that Jesus laid it out for us in the Great Commission. Making disciples is a three-step process: BAPTISE (ie lead people into a personal relationship with God and an identification with his people), TEACH THEM TO OBEY (ie teach them what Jesus taught his people but also help them apply it for life-change. This should happen in large group, small group and one-to-one contexts) and GO (develop them to the point where they can develop others). Healthy cultures are the key. The culture has to be 100% committed to expressing 100% of God's truth AND 100% of God's grace. No legalism. No licentiousness.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
Every student who takes a step in the disciple-making journey is precious. But those I get to observe going through the whole cycle are the most encouraging. I met R when he arrived on campus. He read Eckhart Tolle and had no interest in God. But he'd met some of our people during Schoolies, hung out with them and promised to connect when he arrived on campus. He began to do Christianity Explained with one of our leaders and decided to follow Jesus by the end of 1st semester. He got plugged into a local church. At the end of his first year, he was on a summer project meeting people just as he had been met the year before. At the end of the next year, he was a key student leader, effective in sharing his faith with those in his classes and other activities.
What's one question you'd love to ask other leaders in our audience to generate discussion about leadership? Eg. 'How do you do difficult conversations well?', or 'What's one tip for leading a remote online team?'
What is your most important advice for developing the integrity of emerging leaders?