7 Questions to 7 Mentors: Rachel Hughes
Rachel Hughes is Lead Pastor of Gas Street, Birmingham, with her husband Tim. Tim and Rachel planted Gas Street from HTB in 2015 with 50 people. They renovated an old gas works building in the city centre and now have over 800 people worshipping there across 3 gatherings on Sundays.
What is your morning routine? Or do you have certain daily habits which keep you productive?
Yes I do have a daily routine. I don’t always manage to stick to it especially if one of our kids is having a mini “crisis” or if I’ve had a late night. But I usually get up at 6am, head down to the treadmill in our basement and listen to Bible in One Year whilst doing some exercise. I absolutely love starting the day with BIOY as it sets my head and my heart up for the day.
I then try and do a bit of journaling and reflecting of any bits from BIOY that particularly stood out. When I journal I use these headings; Replay: what happened, what did I feel in the last 24 hours? Rejoice: I write down what I’m thankful for. Repent: self-explanatory! Resolve: anything that I’m determined to accomplish or character traits I need to work on (that section is pretty long!) Request: any prayer requests that day.
By then our kids are usually up and about and looking for food! Which takes us swiftly into the “crazy hour” of breakfast, getting the kids ready, last minute homework, and piano practice. Tim takes the kids to school and I walk the dog before work which gives me an opportunity to pray… Then the work day begins!
Can you pinpoint three books that have greatly influenced you in your life and work?
Apart from the Bible obviously. Pinpointing 3 is SO hard… Probably the first Christian book I read was The Cross and the Switchblade, by David Wilkerson. It had a huge impact on me as a teenager; the story of a man radically living a life of obedience and those stories of incredible transformation amongst gang members in New York. I remember thinking “Wow! With God; anything is possible.”
God on Mute, by Pete Grieg had a powerful impact on me, and still does, I still reference that when I’m struggling with unanswered prayer or God doesn’t seem like he’s intervening in a certain situation. I think Pete is a fabulous writer so not only is the topic brilliantly explored but I just love the way he writes.
Another one would be King’s Cross, by Tim Keller – an absolutely brilliant book about the death and the resurrection of Jesus; I just couldn’t put it down. It’s brilliantly insightful and one of those books that makes you fall in love with Jesus all over again.
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?
I think one of the most important things you can do in your first year is to invest quality time spent with your core team. One of my personal challenges is that I can easily become task-oriented over people-oriented. I like getting stuff done! In that first year there are so many tasks that need doing; and that’s ok, actually it’s essential, but it’s easy to neglect those core relationships in the flurry of activity. It’s those relationships that will sustain you and the church into year 2, 3, 4 etc… And of course not everybody who begins the journey with you, will stay on the core team. Some people will move on and that’s ok. Sometimes that’s really painful but it’s also par for the course; not everyone who was there at the beginning is called to stay long term.
The answer to the second part of this question is the converse to the above; don’t neglect your core team.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess or try to cultivate?
I think it would have to be Integrity. Integrity is one of those character traits that’s foundational; if we can get this one right so much else falls into place. People are very good at seeing through anything that is fake or inauthentic. The temptation as a church leader, particularly a new one, is to pretend that we’ve got everything sorted and that we know what we are doing at any given moment. And sometimes the best way that we can show real integrity is to be honest about how we are doing. That doesn’t mean hanging out our emotional “dirty laundry” every week. It means not being afraid to show people that we are firstly fallible; capable of making mistakes, getting things wrong. But secondly fragile; capable of feeling hurt or misunderstood.
Our integrity as leaders will be tested and tried. True integrity requires accountability; it’s impossible otherwise. We need to be accountable before God, ensuring that our prayer life is robust, honest and real. And secondly, that we have really good friends who are going to ask us really difficult questions, who are going to hold us to account. Integrity is walking the talk, it’s practising what you preach and it is formed in the day to day tiny decisions we all have to make every single day.
What do you do if you feel temporarily unfocussed?
I love just getting outside, going for a walk, taking some exercise. So a quick fix for me would be good old-fashioned fresh air,; clear my head, get my heart rate up a little bit. At other times a good book or a podcast will reignite my thoughts and ideas, or boost my faith and expectations.
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?’
I can’t pin point one particular failure (there are too many), but one thing I’m working on at the moment is, at times, to listen more than I speak. I am very much an external processor and I love sharing ideas, thoughts and opinions. But in our team meetings I’m learning that listening is at times more powerful than speaking. I feel like I fail most weeks on that one!
What is a new realization you’ve had in the last year?
I’ve been thinking a lot about faith. In the Gospels when we see Jesus move in miraculous power to heal people or resurrect people from the dead, or restore sight or illness – for example the woman who touches Jesus’ cloak - she’s been bleeding for years, and Jesus responds to her faith. Pretty much every time you read about Jesus healing someone, he is responding to their faith. So in the context of Gas Street, Tim and I are longing to see a move of God that is beyond anything that we could manufacture or engineer and if the gospels are anything to by that will only happen in response to our faith.
So what does it look like for us in a culture, and in a part of the world, where it is so easy to be self-sufficient in every area of life; what does it look like to grow in faith? Faith has a sort of paradoxical nature in that it is a gift, but it is also a choice and I want to choose to live a life of faith. And that might mean that I need to choose to be less self-sufficient and less self-reliant, but I also need to pray that God would daily give me that gift of faith.