A Conversation with...
Name: Mark Ryan
Position: Executive Officer SA | CSA National Portfolio - Christian Formation
CSA: Great to have you along to tell us about your leadership story. How long have you been working with CSA?
Mark: Two and half years.
CSA: What work did you do prior to working with CSA?
Mark: Prior to working with CSA I was an Assistant Principal at Temple Christian College in Adelaide. Most recently, I had been overseeing Christian Life and Mission, and previous to that I has been working in the area of Student Development. My background outside of teaching includes study in ministry and theology and pastoral work in the church.
CSA: What do you see are the current major leadership issues in Christian education?
Mark: It's never an easy time to be a leader, but one of the real challenges currently is trying to make sense of the torrent of information that comes to us on any given day. It's almost a cliche now to say that we live in uncertain times, but our culture is shifting rapidly, both locally and globally. We must have leaders who are not overwhelmed by the uncertainty, who are not threatened by a changing landscape, who have a robust faith, and who can be a non-anxious presence for the communities they serve.
CSA: Describe some of the best supports in your own leadership journey.
Mark: The best supports I've had over my time in leadership have always been people. Like many others, I read, listen to podcasts, and generally try to be a good student of culture, to better understand the context in which I am leading. However, I have always found that surrounding myself with people with whom I can talk through issues, bounce around ideas, and grapple with how faith and life connect, has been the most beneficial support to my leadership.
"We must have leaders who are not overwhelmed by the uncertainty, who are not threatened by a changing landscape, who have a robust faith, and who can be a non-anxious presence for the communities they serve."
CSA: What's one piece of advice you might give to emerging leaders in education?
Mark: I'd always start by encouraging young leaders that you don't have to feel like you have it all sorted before you put up your hand to take on bigger leadership roles. I've had times when I wasn't sure whether I had the capacity to take on certain roles, but nevertheless I felt like I could have an impact. The next step was to garner enough courage and trust God that he would give me the strength to do what was required. In each case, it was a steep learning curve, but I discovered capacities I didn't know I had! So that would be my encouragement to young and merging leaders - often we don't know what capacity we have until we are prepared to make ourselves vulnerable, take a risk, and trust God.
CSA: What role has your faith played in your leadership journey?
Mark: Faith has played a huge part in my leadership journey. It's never really been about position, but about playing my small part in God's Kingdom project. God is making all things new, he is restoring every aspect of his creation, and he invites us to join him in that mission. Being a leader is a privilege in that we get to help shape and lead communities that will actively participate in and grow God's Kingdom - on earth, as it is in heaven. It is the understanding of who I am, as an image-bearer of God, together with a vision of God's future, that helps orient my leadership in the present.
CSA: What is your favourite CSA Resource or Tool and why?
Mark: Do I have to have a favourite? At a push, I would say our OpenBook resource. I think as Christian schools we have a remarkable opportunity to help form young people in the image and likeness of Jesus. However, to do that well, we as staff need to be well-formed ourselves and we need our imagination shaped by the life-giving story of the Bible. Open Book is an invitation to step into the grand narrative of Scripture that shapes so much of who we are and what we do - and of course, it is beautifully produced.