Michael Bowden was happy in his work and not looking to change employment in September this year when the Human Resources Manager role for the LCANZ popped up as an automatic job suggestion in his LinkedIn online business networking feed.
That was on a Friday afternoon. The then HR Business Partner for Calvary Health in Adelaide said within two days he knew he was meant to apply.
A lifelong committed Christian, Michael believed that God was calling him and that all his previous experiences in professional life had prepared him to serve in this way.
‘So many of the items in that advert just resonated with me’, Michael said of the job notice. ‘I saw it on a Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon I was convicted to apply, and I applied.
‘My wife said, “What are you doing?”, because I just disappeared into the home office. I said, “I’m applying for a job”, and she said, “What? Why?”. And the only answer I could give her was, “God’s told me to”.
‘There was a real touch in my heart – in my spirit – to apply. I was happy. There were none of the logical reasons that are normally there when you look at moving on.’
Michael started his working life as an apprentice boilermaker welder, holding roles in manufacturing and then factory management, before moving into the recruitment sector, unemployment services, education, aged care, and human resources.
His appointment as Human Resources Manager follows the seven-year tenure of Dr Chris Materne, who served as Church Worker Support Manager since 2016.
Michael said the concept of servant leadership was a very important model for him as he takes on the task of ‘serving the congregations of the church, and the people who assist the congregations, and the workers within the congregations’.
‘For me, it’s always been about serving and supporting the teams that I work for rather than being a figurehead’, said Michael, who has a Diploma in Human Resource Management, a Graduate Diploma in Management and a Masters of Business Administration. ‘I very much look at leadership as a reverse concept – the people in my team don’t work for me as a manager, I work for them to help them do their job.’
Unlike Michael, Stephen Kroker had already worked for LCANZ agencies for more than 25 years when he took on the role of Financial Controller at the Churchwide Office this month.
Stephen, who most recently served initially as Operations Support Manager and then Finance and Administration Manager at Australian Lutheran World Service since 2021, was Lutheran Education Australia’s Business Manager between 2012 and 2021. For part of that time, he concurrently served as a finance analyst with the then Lutheran Schools Association of SA, NT and WA. Originally a chartered accountant in the private sector, Stephen began his church work as Immanuel Primary School’s Business Manager, where he served from 1995 to 2012.
Stephen said serving the church – whether in paid employment or in the wide-ranging voluntary roles he has held at congregational, district or churchwide level – was ‘an opportunity to respond in a small way to God’s infinite grace and love’ – and use the gifts he has been given.
‘I’m thankful when I’m reminded how blessed the LCA is by the people I’ve had the chance to serve alongside’, he said.
Stephen joined the Churchwide finance team after Debbie Venz, who served for 13 years as LCANZ Business Manager, returned to her home country New Zealand. She has since taken up the role of District Administrator for the Lutheran Church of New Zealand.
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