Helping you plant a church

7 questions to 7 mentors

7 questions to 7 Mentors: Emily Layzell


Emily has been in church ministry for over 20 years. At age 21 she became Assistant Pastor at Soul Survivor church in Watford, working with young people locally, nationally and internationally. She now serves on the senior leadership team at HTB. Emily is married to Martyn and they have 4 sons.

Instagram: @emily.layzell

Twitter: @layzellemily

1.    What is your morning routine?  Or do you have certain daily habits which keep you productive?

There is a fair amount of activity in our house in the morning getting our children up and out to three different schools, but I try to make sure that the first thing I do in the morning is talk to the Lord, before my feet even touch the floor, because I know that once I’m up all the jobs around the house start shouting at me.  So before I’ve even got up an out of ben I ask God to fill me with his Holy Spirit, I pray for my family and I ask God to give me wisdom in the things that lay ahead that day.  Not long just five or ten minutes.  Then when the madness has settled and subsided around the house, and the others have gone off to school I just spend some time reading the Bible.  Then if I’ve got time I’ll walk around the common which is fortunately right by our house and I spend some time praying then. Or if I don’t have time and have to jump on my bike then I use that travel time just to pray about other stuff, other people, situations that are on my mind as I sort of cycle into work. 

For me trying to form healthy habits of trying to focus on God at the start of the day are really important but I can get a bit bored with the same routine so I need a little bit of variety.  And I’ve noticed over the years that I change the way that I want to read the bible every year.  So I did Nicky and Pippa Gumbel’s Bible in One Year last year which was brilliant. This year I’m enjoying Beth Moore’s ‘Portraits of Devotion’ which again is great.  So having some variety helps me keep it all fresh and alive. And I think It’s Important to remember as well that every season of life is different so when and where and how I read the bible changes with the seasons. 

2) Can you pinpoint three books that have greatly influenced you in your life and work?  

The Bible! But assuming that’s a given.  This is really hard because there are so many great books that have been helpful and inspiring and also a timely read.  The three that come to mind would be.  

The hiding place, Corrie Ten Boom. I read that when I was a fairly new Christian and it was such an incredible story and testimony of God’s faithfulness and his power. And reading miracles, provision, passion and power on every page. I just found that richly inspiring. And that was incredibly formative for me as a person at the start of my Christian journey. 

Essentialism, Greg Mckeon. We idolize being busy and I often think there is a bit of a battle to not want to just live a frantic life, but I want to live a fruitful life and I think in ministry the job is never done, there’s always more to be done and there’s a danger of burn out.  So I’ve just found Essentialism just a really helpful book a reminder in keeping me from being overwhelmed at times and trying to prioritise the important things. 

Come Holy Spirit, David Pytches. I’m always going back to that again and again. It is such a great handbook of making sense of the Holy Spirit and his work.  Making sure that he’s central to all we do and encouraging others to move in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

3) If you could tell people one thing to do or one thing not to do in the first year of a church plant what would that be?

Having a great team around you makes a huge difference.  And taking seriously those four Cs – character, chemistry, competence and calling and being quite ruthless with all those four.  You need to have all those four in a team member to some degree or other.  I think its better to have a role that is vacant, than have the wrong person in it otehwerise you’ll end up spending a disproportionate amount of tiem and energy trying to make it work with that particular person that you should be pouring into your team as a whole or your vision or your project.  The phrase that I keep saying to plants going out from HTB is ‘don’t be hasty in hiring unless you’re fine with firing!’ 

4) What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess or try to cultivate?

Kindness. The word by its nature is pretty understated, and perhaps it can be quite undervalued as a character trait but I think there’s a reason why it sits slap bang in the middle of the list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5. Romans 2 talks about it being God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. And I love the frequently quoted words ‘people may not remember exactly what you did or what you said but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.’

5) What do you do if you feel temporarily unfocussed?  

Go for a walk and get some fresh air.  Or if I can’t do that I’ll listen to some songs, worship. Or, songs from ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack! It doesn’t sound very spiritual but I love the creativity of the music and there’s something on those songs! My eldest son and I looked into the writers and composers and one of them is a guy called John Debney and we discovered that the worked on the Passion of the Christ film and it was an article that we read about his work on that that he talks about his faith.  And I can just feel an anointing of creativity of God on those songs on that album. So genuinely if I’m feeling distracted I love to put ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack on and it helps me refocus. I find it inspiring and actually really life giving! 

6) Can you describe a failure or very difficult time you’ve been through and how you dealt with it and learnt from it.  Perhaps you have a 'favourite failure?’

 There’s way too many to count, even from today and it’s only about 3 o’clock! I think one of the things that comes to mind is quite a public failure when I was working at Soul Survivor and I was speaking to hundreds of teenage girls at a Soul Sister event in Holland and I just felt like my talk went really badly, I struggled to connect with them and it wasn’t till sometime later that I didn’t really put any thought into the fact that I was speaking into a different cultural context.  So my frames of references were all wrong and they didn’t translate very well. And I remember talking about how ironic the word ‘abbreviation’ is that it is such a long word, but of course it isn’t that long when you translate it into Dutch! And that stands out as quite a public failure or humiliation! and it was right at the start of when I was beginning to speak and teach so I found that something to learn from.  I don’t like failure at all and I really struggle with failure so I really want to get more comfortable with failing to keep myself from playing it safe.  I know it’s quite a dangerous prayer to pray. But nothing grows in the comfort zone. So as the American pastor Robert H. Schuller said ‘I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.’ I stand by that. 

7) What is a new realisation you’ve had in the last year?

I don’t think its so much new but maybe a reminder again that thought at times being in church leadership and ministry can feel like an endless mountain to climb. You can never get to the end of the day and say I’ve done everything and ticked it all off, but the Lord says ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ and that it’s all his work anyway, it’s his church.  And he gives us opportuinities but ultlmately it’s his responsibility and the invitation that he extends to us to play our part is a joyous one and it’s not a new thing but just a fresh revelation again that it’s not meant to be a burden but a privilege and a joyous invitation.

Martha Bryant
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