31 October 2016
Introducing Emrys Jones
Emrys Jones is the new director of finance and operations here at the Alliance. We take this chance to find out a little bit more about him and what he's bringing to his new job...
Tell us a little bit about your journey to faith.
As a kid I was sent across the road to the little parish church which needed choir boys for the choir so I had quite a lot of insitutional church experience there. It wasn't until I went to university that I first experienced what I would call people's personal relationship with Jesus. It took about three to six months in that process where God was increasingly knocking on my door and opening up opportunities. I was invited to go and see a friend who was being baptised as an adult – he had been an officer in the British Merchant Navy and when he was giving his testimony I had never seen a "man's man" talk so openly about a personal faith in Jesus and the difference Jesus had made in his life.
Then I went to a Bible week which I thought was absolutely bonkers! The thing that was probably a watershed for me was a friend asking if I was a Christian and realising that I thought salvation wasn't really achievable and my friend pinning me down and asking me again if I was saved.
What were you doing before you came to the Alliance and how has your faith directed your journey of work?
I embarked on a career based on my university degree in material science so I worked mostly for large international companies, managing large teams of engineers, winning multi-million pound contracts and exporting goods. Then I did an MBA and moved into business development and sales management, mergers and acquisitions, and looking for new business opportunities.
At that time, my church was encouraging prayer triplets so I was meeting with two other men for half an hour in McDonalds at 7am on a Friday morning asking each other a set of accountability questions. One of those questions was "Do you know what God's plan for your life is?" And I obviously said "no" once too often because my mate suggested I create a crisis, quit my job and work out what God wanted next for me. It was the most reckless thing I could ever have done – I'd spent a long time climbing the greasy pole, earning a lot of money and it seemed an absolutely bonkers thing to do on the one hand but it seemed really the right step to make too. We did a lot of praying and seeking counsel and it seemed the right thing. I offered my notice in at work, turned down lots of offers of promotions and more money, and worked my six month notice.
I knew I would look into not for profit and I ended up at Care for the Family. I planned to give it a couple of years, and eight years later it was time to move on...
What I think I brought to Care for the Family, and what I'm bringing to the Alliance, is an ability to help organisations manage people and make things happen. I'm really focused on good stewardship of resources, getting the best for the beneficiaries of the organisation and helping the organisation achieve its goals most effeciently. That's why I'm here.
What do you think makes a good leader?
There's no point being a leader if you're out ahead and your team's left behind. Being a good leader is about engaging your team, giving them a vision of what needs to be done, and giving people confidence that they can achieve what needs to be done. In many cases the gap that visionaries open up is the need to break down the steps in order to get from where we are now to where we want to be. Making people believe that they can effect that transition is so important in a leader.
There's elements of needing a strategic overview, knowing where you want to go and how, but also as an effective leader, you need to be able to dive into the detail to challenge poorly thought out assumptions. You've got to be able to master the detail so that you don't become overly optimistic because that increases the likelihood that your team will fail. So you've got to be able to both challenge your team and also give them the confidence that you are bothered enough with the day-to-day stuff that they have to contend with. A manager will manage their day – the thing that enables them to make that strategic change is by the leader continually painting that picture of where we've got to get to and making sure that isn't drowned out by the trivia of everyday.
What kind of leader would you say you are?
It's an interesting question! When I left Care for the Family they gave me a framed print of comments from the team which covered all the bases from "tyrannical" on the one hand to "friend" on the other hand! I think they were all fair comments - I wish I had more grace and wisdom. The thing that I've learnt most from working in a Christian organisation is the importance of relationships with other organisations, para-Church groups, Church, and internally too. Relationships are really important.
I think I empower people: I want people to work up to the level of their ability and not down to the level in their job description. It's about challenge – that's where the tyrannical comes in! - I detest sloppy thinking when people haven't thought things through, reviewed things, got the wisdom and counsel of others.
What's the thing that you'd say is most exciting about the UK Church at the moment?
I think the Church is a really exciting place to be but I think the average person in the street has a difference perception to mine of what Church actually is. We have a perception challenge and for the 2,000 years of it's existence the Church has not be great at marketing and PR!
When I look at the things that churches are involved in I see such amazing opportunities for the Church - I trained as a CAP money coach and met with our town council to get them behind it, and we were sponsored as the Mayor's Charity of the Year. It was great to talk so plainly with them about what CAP is doing, I was proud to be a Christian actively helping to make a difference to society.
In some ways, in an era where people don't have the exposure to Church that we used to, the lower religious literacy is an advantage – if the story of Jesus isn't a familiar one, the excitement and passion that people can experience when they first hear the good news of Jesus is going to be different from when I was young.
And there's nothing like hearing testimonies, rather than the old exposure of Church that people used to experience. That's one of the exciting things about the launch of greatcommission.co.uk - it talks into pretty much every situation that God has intervened in and changed people's lives. We may be challenged about our theology and our belief in God, but we can't be challenged on our personal experience. So it's great to have this range of resources that are unchallengeable because they so authentic.