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7 Questions with Stephen Schultz
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Jonno White
7 Questions with Stephen Schultz

Name: Stephen Schultz

Current title: Assistant Bishop for Mission -SA-NT District

Current organisation: Lutheran Church of Australia

Born in Adelaide in 1972. Graduated from Adelaide University with a Bachelor of Arts (1991). Graduated from Luther Seminary, North Adelaide (1996) and was ordained as a pastor of the Lutheran Church of Australia in the same year. Served as associate pastor at Bethlehem Church, Adelaide (1997-2002) and lead pastor at St. Michael's, Hahndorf (2002-2017). Have served in current role as the assistant bishop for mission in the SA-NT District of the Lutheran Church of Australia since 2018. Married in 1996 to Jen and have two boys, Josh and Sam.

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

Working in a rapidly changing landscape for the church in our country with a system of church that is not readily adaptable to that change. A clergy dependent model of church has hindered our capacity to be the church.

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

From the outset of working as a pastor in my first parish I took on various roles in the work of the wider church, serving on committees and task groups and increasing my understanding of the bigger picture of church. Other leaders in the church noticed my leadership capacity and continued to encourage me to serve in various roles. By the time I was approached to consider the call to the Assistant Bishop role I had been prepared for the leadership of this role through all of my previous experiences. I didn't set out to be in such a leadership position and I didn't plan for it. But God prepared me for it in his own way.

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

The first thing I do, without exception, is devote my devotion time. That is a non-negotiable that usually occurs at 5am. When I am not on the road I am usually in the office by 7am. This gives me the opportunity before anyone else arrives to prioritise my day. There will be meetings to attend and things to prepare for. I generate lists whereby I know what needs to be attended to by what date and what things can be flexible. I ensure there is space available for the unforeseen and for other staff members under my supervision to speak with me if needed. I have regular meetings with my Bishop as we plan strategically and collaboratively to address the issues we face. I am to leave the office by 4pm for a 40 minute commute, often using that opportunity to make phone calls. Once I am home I try and switch off for a couple of hours, especially if I have a night meeting. I go for a walk with my wife and our dog so that we can debrief about our days and connect with each other. If I don't have a night meeting I try not to work in the evening unless I have pressing commitments. I am usually in bed by 10pm, where I read for a bit and have my night prayers before sleep.

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?

It is hard to pick one book, because so many have provided snippets of really helpful insights and no one book (apart from the Bible) has had a profound impact. So, when reflecting I went for the one that immediately came to mind and that was Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership. The snippet I gleaned from this book is about selecting a team in ministry in relation to their competence, character and chemistry. That has been very helpful in identifying individuals to serve on teams.

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

That you have to engage the grassroots members in ministry-mission and communicate effectively with them.

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

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Being transparent about the issues you face. Respecting the opinions of others and drawing a group of people together to help address issues. Being willing to listen and reflect back what you have heard. To be very clear about the processes and structures that exist and the avenues for people to engage with that.

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

I have been trying to create an environment in our church where we can adapt more readily to the changes we are facing. There is some resistance to this at the leadership level and I needed to communicate to the members of one congregation that there was some resistance to the kind of changes we needed at the church hierarchy level and that they were currently deliberating over it. The response of one elderly man was a question about when they (the congregation) had the opportunity to be involved in that deliberation. It was a wonderful reminder that the grassroots people of our faith communities need to be engaged in the decision making affecting their capacity to be the church.