7 Questions with Rob Douglas
Name: Rob Douglas
Current title: "Between Jobs"
Current organisation: Baptist Church
Rob Douglas describes himself as a storyteller, author, pastor and community leader. He has been involved in the ministry of Baptist Churches in Western Australia for 40 years and is currently producing a five minute good news story that is loaded to YouTube each week. Rob's stories are at inspirenewscast.com
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Early this year, 2020, I resigned from the church I had been pastoring for seven years as a result of ongoing narcissism and bullying from the chairman of the Board. Dealing with this kind of behaviour creates a situation where it becomes increasingly difficult to be an effective leader. For a long time I couldn't see it and simply excused the person in question, saying "it was just his way", but over time I came to realise that I was being "managed" and that withdrawing myself from the situation was the only way I could protect the people I was called to serve. My actions forced the chairman of the Board to resign from the church which then gave the church that freedom to begin a new season.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was a young man of 25, working as a journalist when I sensed that God wanted me to go to theological college. I wasn't sure what I was letting myself into, but had a sense that the church had an important contribution to make to the world. In my final year at college I took up a placement as a full time pastor in a rural location and for nearly 20 years continued to serve in small rural locations as a tentmaker pastor. Rather than making tents, like Paul, I used my experience as a journalist, launched a newspaper of which I was editor, but also had other great opportunities, including working as education officer at a prison, and running a small not for profit that included establishing a women's refuge. I later also spent nine years working with a denomination not for profit leading programmes in the area of disability, mental health and counselling.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
At the moment, some people refer to me as being retired, but I like to think I'm "just between jobs". I am enjoying the freedom of not going to work each day, and am using my home office. I produce a weekly video news story, so regularly go out to do interviews, then spend a fair bit of time editing the finished product. Life is much simpler at the moment than it has been for most of my ministry life.
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?
Early in my ministry someone gave me "Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness" by Jerry Cook. It's a very small book but it had a profound influence on my ministry from then on. Cook talks about taking ministry out of the hands of the pastor and putting it into the hands of every church member. He calls on people to let go of those things that take ministry out of the hands of people, and instead creating a church in which everyone learns to love, accept and forgive others. Over time I've been led down rabbit holes of church growth and other leadership themes, but this book has helped to get me back to the simplicity of the church and the importance of those basics of love, acceptance and forgiveness.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Someone told me early in my ministry that there is no such thing as a problem person, just people with problems, This has been my mantra over the years and has helped me to deal with lots of difficult situations, Often someone we think of as a "problem" person is only acting that way because of something that has happened to them in their past, their upbringing, or even health issues. But the most recent leadership challenge, helped me to see that narcissism can create a situation where some direct action has to be taken, rather than hoping that it will go away, even through pastoral care. There are times when a person will continue to manipulate you and make you feel that everything is your fault, and your ministry will be stifled if you allow this to continue. It's been a hard lesson, but my wife and I have always had a sense of peace about the action that we took.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
Remain honest and accountable; communicate well; and listen .... listen .... listen.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
Being in the community and influencing the community has always been a key part of my ministry. One day after church my wife and I had a few people over for lunch, and there was a knock on the door. The Shire President was there and came into our home in an agitated state to ask advice about a major development being planned that was attracting significant local criticism. Over time I helped to develop a marketing plan to address the issue and often found myself meeting with the Shire President. One one occasion as I walked out of his office I asked myself, "Was he talking to his marketing consultant or his pastor?" Being a pastor is about being real in our community; offering yourself as a real person, and not hiding behind an ecclesiastical mask or closeting yourself behind the four walls of a church.