7 Questions with Tom Harper
Name: Tom Harper
Current title: CEO
Current organisation: Networld Media Group
Tom Harper is publisher of BiblicalLeadership.com and CEO of Networld Media Group, the site's parent company. He has written four books, including Servant Leader Strong: Uniting Biblical Wisdom and High-Performance Leadership (DeepWater Books, 2019), Through Colored Glasses: How Great Leaders Reveal Reality (DeepWater, 2018), Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H, 2010), and Career Crossover: Leaving the Marketplace for Ministry. Tom serves as a lay leader at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., where he attends with his wife and three children.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Leading in a church has really stretched my personality to be more “with the people.” After all, a church is nothing but people! We all serve, worship, fellowship and learn together. It’s a “one another” environment that resembles a family more than an institution or organization.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My first area of serving was an occasional teacher, then a deacon, and finally an elder. My family and I are at a large church. I became an elder this past January, right before the pandemic hit, so seeing behind the scenes how our church has navigated the lockdown has been an amazing learning experience for me.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I read some Scripture and/or pray in the morning, while I eat breakfast. Two days a week I’m in 7 AM prayer groups. When I start my day I check the news, a LinkedIn group I manage, email, etc. My most productive time as I’ve gotten older is the morning - so that’s when I try to do creative work and any phone calls that need extra energy. I try to do a workout a few times a week at night (the only time it fits into my life!)
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 believe biblical leadership principles work the same at church as in business. I’ve read many books on church leadership and growth by authors like Thom Rainer, Wayne Cordeiro, Gary McIntosh and others, but I have to say the business book Good to Great was the biggest eye-opener for me when I read it back in 2001. It made me realize how powerful the right combination of leadership, strategy, timing and execution can be. And it translates really well into the church.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Recently I’ve learned (along with everyone else) that everything can change in a moment, without notice. Plans should be mostly short-term. The 3- and 5-year plan approach has lost relevance in today’s world.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I believe offering different levels of volunteer leadership opportunities is a great way to help people develop new leadership skills. Sometimes, creating a need for leaders is the best way to develop leaders. When people are forced to learn leadership on the job, they tend to learn it faster and more deeply!
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?
As a deacon, one of our responsibilities was delivering communion to people who couldn’t physically attend a worship service. I brought my kids along with me, and we had many funny, touching, and painful experiences. They look back on those times with fondness. They’ve told me they’re not afraid of going into nursing homes or hospitals now, and I’m excited to see how God might use this experience in their adult lives. The lesson for me as a leader is that anyone - including children - will benefit from being stretched and asked to serve in the church. If we simply ask people to serve and lead, and equip them through training, the results can be amazing and far-reaching.