Leadership Development in Real Life (with Dave & Emily Williams)

Dave and Emily Williams are a twenty-something couple with two young kids. Over the last few years they have taken on increasing levels of responsibility at Christ Church Manchester, and currently head up two congregations of the church. In this interview we talk to Dave and Emily about their leadership journey, and also hear from Colin Baron some of his 'behind the scenes' thoughts in this leadership development case study.


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What Is Your Background and What Aspirations Did You Have For Church Leadership? (Dave & Emily)

  • Dave grew up in a Christian family in Kings Church Hastings.
  • Backslid as a teenager.
  • Came back to God and discovered grace shortly after university. 
  • Quite quickly got involved in full time ministry as a drummer in an evangelistic band with the Message Trust
  • After coming back to God had been given a word about church leadership. Parked it and assumed that it would be for when he was much older - though a church leader had got hold of it and was trying to invest in Dave a bit.
  • Emily grew up in a little village and always went to church and youth group. 
  • Then joined a Hillsong-esque church, before moving to London for a gap year where God spoke about moving to Manchester.
  • Moved up to get involved in a church plant and connected into CCM.
  • Didn't really have aspirations for church leadership but just wanted to get a degree, be obedient to what God wanted and make disciples.

When You Got Married, What Was It Like to Start Dreaming Together For the Future? (Dave & Emily)

  • When they were engaged they were in different churches, so they needed to surrender their church future to God and seek where he wanted them to be. 
  • This was part of a bigger thing where God was giving them a combined calling
  • Some of Dave's bandmates had wives who were sacrificing a lot for their husbands' ministries, but felt that God wasn't calling them to this but a joint ministry together.
  • They started to throw themselves into church life. 

What Were Some of the Things That You Saw in Dave & Emily That Made You Invest In Them as Leaders? (Colin)

  • Zeal - desire to get stuck in and get stuff done.
  • Servant-heartedness.
  • When they got married, they were running a small group and loads of people wanted to go there. 
  • This led Colin to ask people why they wanted to go to that group and consistently people said that they loved it there, which was the first thing that led him to think of Dave and Emily as church leaders. 

What Was Going On In the Church at the Time and What Did You Do to Give Dave and Emily Their Leadership Opportunity? (Colin)

  • There was a site in Gorton and another evening congregation in Fallowfield.
  • A new morning congregation had been set up in Fallowfield, and was led by a couple who would be going to plant in another part of the city - so there was a vacancy there to bring Dave and Emily into.

How Did You Feel When You Were First Offered This Opportunity? (Dave & Emily)

  • They wanted to serve the church in whatever capacity was needed. 
  • It felt like there was a need and they were happy to step up and give it a go.
  • Once the Withington site had been planted out, most people who were left were in Dave and Emily's house group anyway.
  • At this point Dave started to get involved preaching a bit.

What Things Have You Done to Help Equip You For What You Are Doing? (Dave & Emily)

  • At CCM, there are always opportunities to step into - so they were able to get lots of practical experience by having a go at things. 
  • Whilst getting involved in this, they then started to bring in other training such at Catalyst Leadership Foundations Training.  
  • Dave realised that he had a bit of a gap in theological knowledge and the training was great from this.
  • Bringing in things from the workplace is very useful too.
  • There is a format to apply the learning in church life and develop 'muscle memory'.
  • It's great to get perspectives from other church leaders - especially leaders from outside the movement.

Where is the Balance Between Letting People Have a Go and Giving Them Support? (Colin)

What are a Couple of the Highlights of Your Time Leading? (Dave & Emily)

  • Baptisms are a big highlight - even more so when it's someone who you haven't really been involved with but others in the church have brought them in and led them to Jesus.
  • Watching people develop their home groups and people are feeling really welcome there.

Have There Been Any Challenges or Harder Times Along the Way? (Dave & Emily)

  • A challenge was developing into a role that had not been anticipated.
  • It takes a while to be able to operate as yourself in a wider team and for the best of you to come out.
  • For a while it seemed like he was mainly seeing other leaders when there were problems, so Dave didn't feel like he was being a blessing to those other leaders all the time.

What are Some of the Things That You Would Commend Dave and Emily For In Their Leadership? (Colin)

  • They have two kids and have grown a church to 130 people. 
  • They haven't had a lot of money to do it.
  • There's a faith level there for God's provision.
  • They have grown a lot.
  • Both are preaching and preaching well.
  • As Dave mentioned about working in a team, they have done well learning grace for that kind of environment.

How Do You Balance All of the Things That You Have Going On? (Dave and Emily)

  • There isn't much of a system.
  • Being able to be flexible has been a big thing. They try not to book the diary more than 70% in a week to leave space for things that come up.
  • Trying not to say yes to things unless they are sure they can commit - learning to turn things down.
  • Looking at life holistically. Sometimes the church needs more of your time, at other points the kids need more time. Not overly compartmentalising things. 
  • Being busy means sleeping less than some other people. Learning to operate when you're not at 100%.
  • Not watching much TV.
  • Holidaying hard.

How Do You Lead Together as Team? (Dave and Emily)

  • There has always been the calling to this but working it out is the difficult bit.
  • Sometimes it feels like ministering together. other times it feels like ministering alongside each other.
  • Operating out of the house a lot and hospitality.
  • Getting out of each other's way and letting each other do things without needing both voices in every thing.
  • Believing in each other and encouraging each other after setbacks.
  • Also learning to public speak together.

Q&A

1. How have you released leaders yourselves in your congregations? (Dave and Emily)
  • There's always space. 
  • There's a congregation with a high buy-in.
  • There are high percentages serving. Lots of people in community groups.
  • There is a high turn over people, so they need to bring through 5 new preachers and 3 worship leaders a year.
  • Because there's so much to do, always looking to offload things.
2. How do you create space in a church plant for people to lead when you have lots of leaders in a small team? (Colin)
  • Start a second one!
  • Sometimes people think they need to get to a certain number before they can do anything. 
  • It's actually growth - giving people opportunity. 
  • Or within your original group it may be right to do less and let them do more. 
  • But in a church plant context the primary leader does often need to set pace.
  • For more thoughts on this, listen to the podcast episode on 'Making Space For Leaders'.
3. What Have Your Learned About Leading People Who Are Older Than You? (Dave & Emily)
  • A key factor in Dave and Emily's development has been a congregation that allowed them to grow.
  • Some key older people have bought in and given Dave and Emily a lot of grace - which meant that early on they were some of the easiest people to lead.
  • Over time they do want to see growth - integrity and competency - and if they see this then they tend to be happy. 
  • If you handle yourself well then people go with it, regardless of your age.
4. How Does The Church Timetable Differ at Different Points of the Year? (Dave & Emily)
  • The summer is quieter (though lower numbers mean some people serve more) so a lot of planning happens at this point.
  • September to December is a busy time of welcoming new people and a pastoral season.
  • From Easter it tends to be quieter again.
  • Don't run all the meetings over the Summer - and be deliberate having people who will be around at each point of the year who can do things like preaching, kids work and music.
5. What Is Your Strategy For Developing Preachers? (Dave & Emily)
  • It is centralised as a church - there is a preaching course. 
  • Send as many people to this as possible. 
  • There's a lot of people who are quite articulate - then look for integrity in people and start a journey with them.
  • The process is different for different people.
  • A blessing of the high turnover of people is that there are always opportunities.
  • Trying to get people have a few goes at it to get used to it. You learn by doing.
  • Having two congregations helps - it creates space and need for people.
6. How do you balance taking risks with people and giving them opportunity too soon? (Colin)
  • It is always a risk - but you can minimise that risk.
  • Try to be around when you ask people to do something.
  • The closer you are the bigger the risk you can take.
  • Look for people who are teachable and can handle feedback.
  • You don't know what people's capacity is until they have a go. 
  • Pressure is not bad - unless it reaches breaking point. 
  • Some leaders over-protect people.
  • A lot of people actually want the challenge of having a go at something.
  • Another key point is talking about things that didn't go to plan and make having a go at things that may or may not work the normal thing.
7. What Is It That Keep Your Going When Times Have Been Hard? (Dave & Emily)
  • It's all about the flock.
  • It's amazing seeing God at work in people's lives. 
8. Do You Have Any Final Comments For Leaders Who Have Young Leaders to Raise Up? (Everyone)
  • Head knowledge is useless until you have the chance to apply it.
  • There are enough leaders in the church - our job is to find them, nurture them and give them space.

Recommended Resources

To accompany this hangout, we recommend the following book: 

Note - If you buy a book using the affiliate link above, Broadcast will receive a commission from Amazon to help more churches get planted, at no additional cost to you.



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