7 Questions with Jason Heale

Name: Jason Heale

Current title: Senior Pastor

Current organisation: Hillside Community Church

I was born and raised out in West Auckland, New Zealand. God grabbed a hold of me in a huge way at the age of 17, in my last year of high school. I felt a call towards full time ministry and completed a Ministry Internship Diploma and Bachelor of Theology at Laidlaw College. I have a passion for theology and how it interfaces with the culture around us. I really desire to see people come to grips with what it means to truly encounter the risen Jesus and live that encounter out in the world around them. I’m married to Cristiane, and we have two beautiful children.

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

Misunderstanding. This is the thing that I have most often encountered. When people hear that you work for or lead a church they will more often than not get the absolutely wrong impression of who you are and what you do. Then people who you minister to also misunderstand your role. They come with expectations—you must be a councillor, a CEO, a manager, a visionary, a preacher, a prophet, a lawyer, a project manager, and everything in between! Trying to navigate the expectations, and misunderstanding of people has been what I have found most challenging.

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

I was called to the work at the age of 17. I was a university doing something that was totally unrelated to the church and ministry, and God called me dramatically. So I dropped out of university to go to seminary and prepare for the call that God had given me. It’s been 18 years and I’ve never looked back.

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

My day starts early and I’ve made a resolution with myself (in our modern age) that I will read my bible before anything else—I call it ‘Scripture before phone’. This is the first thing that I do. After that it’s everyone getting ready for their days. With the kids off to school I usually get the admin out of the way first. I find that I do my best thinking in the morning, and so that’s when sermons and writing happens. Afternoons and evenings are for meetings. It’s a pretty simple system, but it works for me.

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?

5 Smooth Stones For Pastoral Ministry by Eugene Peterson. This book came along at a significant stage of change and upheaval in my life. I was seriously doubting if I was going to be able to be faithful to the call that Jesus had given me. I had run myself ragged for 10 years and was as close to going through major burnout as you could get without actually going through it. This book came during a 6 week break that I took and I read it multiple times in that break. You could say I devoured it! I was refreshing, and helped me to reframe and realign what it meant to be a pastor, what that call was on my life.

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

You’re never prepared, and so you have to trust God. No matter how long you’ve been working in ministry, no matter how long you’ve been in leadership, no matter how many decisions you’ve made, or how much change you’ve lead people through, you’re never fully prepared for what is next. There will always be something that you haven’t seen, something that you’ll have to navigate that you haven’t before. You are not God, you can’t see it all and prepare, but you can do your best and trust Jesus with the rest.

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

The same way that you raise your children to become healthy adults. It starts with intentionality. You have to decide what you intend as the end result, and then work towards it. You also have to start young. Get the kids involved in leading and taking responsibility as soon as you can. Make sure that all of your ministry leaders are looking for those who are leaders, and seeing where you can plug them in to the life of the church, where they can take greater degrees of responsibility, where they can practice their leadership in a way that is applicable for their stage of life and level of maturity.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?

Seeing some of the young children that I taught 18 years ago grow up into leaders who are committed to leadership, to the church, and to passing on the faith to the generation below them. This, I think, is the greatest compliment that you can receive as a leader, to see the legacy of faith passed on and being passed on. This just tells me that the Christian faith will endure through all trials. There is true legacy and inheritance being passed on, and that is worth more than anything in the world.