The Leadership Journey Podcast, season 2, episode 16: Roz Stirling


Roz Stirling is the director of Cleopas, a Christian ministry that functions to help provide space for leaders (and others) to draw aside to pay attention to their relationship with God. She is also involved in providing spiritual accompaniment and is keen to develop resources to help people with personal spiritual formation.

In this first part of our conversation Roz talks about her family background where both of her parents were important influencers in her development. Church provided her with some of the earliest opportunities to be involved in leadership with young people. She talks about her career as a teacher during which time an incident took place that gave her a deep call and passion for the Church to be relevant to young people.

After teaching, she spent some time working in the North of England with UCCF, an experience that carried quite an element of culture shock and proved challenging until she realised that she needed to pursue a more relationally-based form of leadership.

After some work with the YMCA she moved to work with the Presbyterian Church as ‘youth officer’, a role she carried out for 21 years.

Next time Roz will be talking about her work with the Presbyterian Church, her experience of burnout and illness and how she came to develop the work of Cleopas.

Two questions for reflection:

  • Roz talked about the influence of her father in helping her to persevere in challenging work circumstances: do you have people who have spoken to you like this?
  • How important to you is the relational aspect of leadership?

Listen to the podcast here:



This week we wrap up the conversation with Russell Birney. If you have missed the first two parts, you can catch up with them here and here.

In this week’s episode Russell talks about the process of leading change (be aware that people have different attitudes to change), and about some of the biggest challenges he faced in leadership.

He also has advice about retirement, and shares his main lessons on spiritual leadership:

  1. The importance of a consistent walk with God;
  2. Making sure your personal priorities are in order: beware of the cost of ‘success’!
  3. Be accountable to someone who will pray for you and strengthen you;
  4. Dispense with the idea of status!

And here is James Lawrence’s visual representation of how people respond to change (from his book, Growing Leaders):


A question for leaders:

  • Are there issues which you believe to be ‘red lines’, where people need to be challenged?

Next week’s guest is Roz Stirling, director of Cleopas Ministries.


The Leadership Journey Podcast Season 2, Episode 15: Russell Birney part 2


Russell Birney is back this week, continuing his story (you can listen to the first part here).

In this part of the interview Russell talks about his ministry in three of the four churches where he has served, starting with two years in Carrickfergus where he was somewhat pitched in at the deep end before moving on to the challenging environment of Newry where people were feeling the weight of the Troubles: he stayed in Newry for 9 years.

He then spent over 20 years in High Kirk, Ballymena, where he faced the challenge of bringing change to a church whose previous minister had been there for 36 years.

In this context he talks about key influencers that helped shape his thinking about and his excitement for the Church: David Watson in York, and Ray Stedman in California. (You can still pick up copies of David Watson’s book, I believe in the Church).

Questions for your own reflection:

  • Have you any examples of being pitched in at the deep end in leadership? What happened and what did you learn?
  • Russell talks about his view of the importance of pastoral visitation: if you are in church leadership, how do you react to Russell’s view? What is your own practice?

The Leadership Journey Podcast Season 2, Episode 14: Russell Birney


The guest in the first episode of the podcast in 2019 is Russell Birney. Russell is a retired Presbyterian minister whose ministry spanned several decades and included over 20 years as minister of High Kirk in Ballymena. He is a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

In this first part our our conversation we talk about Russell growing up in Fermanagh, about his experience of coming to faith (it was not a straightforward journey), and about the decision to pursue training for Presbyterian ministry.

Along the way we discuss mentoring and the value of having friends and people who speak into our lives.

Next week I’ll be talking to Russell about his ministry in several congregations, some of the challenges he faced, and some of the important things he was learning about ministry as well as conviction about the importance of the Church.

Here is this week’s episode: