7 Questions with James Aiton
Name: James Aiton
Current title: Senior Pastor
Current organisation: Favor Church
Married to Kate - Father of 3 children (Hope, Sienna, Aslan)
Pastor of Favor Church
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
The disconnect between the vision that you have from God, and the present reality that doesn’t look anything like it. Especially starting a church from the ground up, this was the hardest thing for me to push through. Speaking vision, and believing that it can happen, but dealing with a current situation that looks impossible to even move to the next step, let alone the 50 you have laid out in your head.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Graduated high school in the Philippines, while my parents were still in Australia. They took over a small church in Brisbane, so I moved back and lived with them. Had no intention of serving (grew up not liking the ministry because of everything I’d seen). Slowly started learning to play the guitar and helped out on worship team. Then my dad ask my sister and to help out in the youth of 4 kids if we wanted to continue to live rent free at home. That’s where it started.. About 5 months later after serving more and more I felt God call me into full-time ministry as my career and calling. Was a shock to everyone, including myself! It was defining and clear though, and from that moment i've never wanted to do anything else.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My days are all over the place in this season. With small kids, usually i’m woken up early, and try and do devotions in between getting kids sorted. Working at our church consists of a mixture of meetings, sermon prep, relational catch ups. Spending time with my family and eating together and getting them into bed is a nightly mission, followed by time with my wife. (During Covid season, we haven’t had meetings or date nights outside, but sometimes have zoom meetings that start about 8pm).
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 know leaders are readers.. I’m just not a good reader. I prefer the mantra of ‘leaders are learners’. I’ve started many books, but haven’t finished them. I prefer reading articles on leadership. I love the organizational leadership of Craig Groschell that he shares through his podcast.
The greatest impact on my leadership is sitting with Pastors/Business leaders and talking face to face and learning. I always love asking older people what their bigger mistakes were, and how they would do things differently. These conversations have shaped and molded me more than any book could have.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Flexibility and adaptability. I think this would be the answer of EVERY church leader that has just lived in and through Covid. We are still in the middle of it with no end in sight, so we are still mid-flex. I don’t know what the government is going to do next week, so we plan multiple solutions in advance, always remaining flexible for whatever can happen. It’s forced me to try new things that I was uncomfortable with initially, and put more trust in my team.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
Everything I teach I model. People will never catch what you teach, they catch who you are. So I model everything that I want our leaders to be, and it attracts people. Once they are there, I HAVE to take risks on people. In a new, growing church, it forced me to take risks on people that I never would have in an established church. Now that we have grown, and more established, i’m trying to keep that same spirit of taking risks with people, and giving them opportunities, not reverting to the comfort of taking it easy.
You also need to have stuff for them to lead. Whether it’s people or programs, there is no need for new leaders, if there is nothing growing in your church. So focussing on the health of your church, will naturally expose the need for leaders, and challenge us to put people in those roles.
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?
Leaving the comfort and security of a great job in a growing and influential church, to move to a nation that I had grown up as a child, but looked and sounded different from everyone there is the hardest thing i’ve done in my life. I had built credibility over 12 years in Australia through various leadership positions and accomplishments, which all meant nothing when I moved to the Philippines. What God has done in the last 5 years of living here, and 4 years of the church is by far the most meaningful story of my leadership life. I guess the story is that when you take a risk, step out and faith, in response to the call of God, then anything is possible and he won’t let you down. From huge financial faith steps to leasing our first full time space, to right now stepping into a new Sunday venue which increases our venue capacity by 500%, God has been so kind and gracious the whole way. Our church has become our family when we had none here, and God has been very kind, and we are grateful!