Birkman Expertise Now Available to Congregations and VCI Teams

Date Posted: 4/9/2015

Rev. Peter Cammarano, Chapelwood UMC, Lake Jackson provides Birkman assessments to local churches (and Vital Church Initiative teams) to guide leaders where they can be most effective.
Rev. Peter Cammarano knows firsthand that people can wither and lose their enthusiasm in certain environments. Years ago, he considered pulling the ripcord on ministry and exiting, but then discovered a leadership tool called the Birkman Method that re-energized his call to ministry.
Longtime member of First Methodist UMC, Houston, Roger W. Birkman, Ph.D. (1919-2014) developed The Birkman Method® and founded Birkman & Associates in 1951. In 2002, after 50 years as President and CEO, Dr. Roger Birkman appointed his eldest daughter, Sharon Birkman Fink, as President and CEO. Sharon currently attends the “other” Chapelwood UMC which is located in West Houston and has had great success using the assessments to build strong and cohesive staff teams.
“I would say that the Birkman Method sheds light on who God created you to be, and how you are to be in relationship with others – almost like Relationships 101,” says Peter, a natural-born teacher and coach. “In a ministry setting it is a tool that aids us in self awareness so that we can better recognize our ideal role in the very diversified body of Christ. For our use in the Texas Conference, it also gives us a common language of leadership and personality and a set of words and ideas we can agree on.”
For example, when Peter arrived at his appointment to Chapelwood, Lake Jackson one of his first actions was to give the test to his new staff so that he could better understand their natural abilities, perspectives and passions. “This has proven to be a phenomenal teambuilding tool that replaces the age-old storming and warming method that is common to new environments and relationships. Can you imagine the benefit in marriages if the bride and groom used Birkman insight to understand the big issues and differences ahead of time?”
Years ago, B.T. Williamson, Assistant to the Bishop, knew Peter was working towards a doctorate in pastoral counseling and psychotherapy and recruited him to be on the Clergy Effectiveness Taskforce. Adds Peter, “As we sought to leverage best practices, B.T. suggested I become a certified Birkman consultant, so I did, and I trained several others, as well. We found it to be a very helpful tool as we worked with newly ordained pastors to find the ideal environment where they would thrive.”
More of a Tool than “Test”
Answering the Birkman questions results in a personality assessment that identifies leadership strengths and preferences. Peter emphasizes, “There is no right answer or one style or set of behaviors for all. In the body of Christ, we need big toes and eyebrows – direct communicators and indirect as well. This assessment reveals what tasks a person gravitates towards and what environment will bring out their best. In other words, a lily pad would not do well in the desert any more than a cactus would thrive in a pond.”
He enjoys helping new pastors and leaders better understand what they are best at and what frustrates them. Shares Peter, “Churches might assume that only ‘bean counters’ should sit on finance committees, but in truth, finance needs all types of styles -- including people who can tell the story, get tasks accomplished, dream new ideas for campaigns and work with numbers. Birkman reminds us that the best team is a mix of all the styles.  No one person is ideal. It takes all the colors, all the gifts of the spirit."
He recommends pastors share their Birkman findings with their District Superintendents who can use that insight in the appointment-making process. “Clergy celebrating a milestone anniversary at the REFRESH Retreat often enjoy 1-1 Birkman-inspired coaching that reminds them to appreciate their own gifts and understand and appreciate what others do, as well,” Peter adds. “It takes me hours to do a reimbursement report, for example, but my assistant can do it in minutes and that is like magic to me!” Peter believes these assessments help individuals stop seeing matters and relationships as win/lose or right/wrong. “This process often creates an “AHA” moment where people are reminded ‘Holy cow, we are on the same team!’”
How the Local Church Benefits
The Center for Congregational Excellence for the Texas Annual Conference is rolling out a pilot program to expand the use of the Birkman assessment tool to the local church as well as churches utilizing the VCI process. The conference is subsidizing the cost, making it an affordable option for churches who would like to help their key leaders be more effective and personally fulfilled in a leadership role suited for them. According to Dr. Jesse Brannan, Director of the Center for Clergy Excellence,
the Birkman is a stand-alone tool in its own right, but is also being added as a component of the Vibrant Church Initiative process this summer. “How often have we found ourselves doing something that does not really get our full attention or involvement? Maybe it’s because we are not wired for that task, function or ability. This tool allows us to find what we have the greatest potential to do so we don’t waste time and effort in finding ourselves in ministry. In terms of VCI-related use, it will be helpful to pastors putting task forces together for the various prescription projects that are recommended by the consultation team.”
Accessing Birkman Consultation for Personal or Congregational Insight
Peter and other Birkman-certified trainers within the conference are available to work with local churches. Testing fees run about $75 each and other briefer and less expensive options are also available among the resources. Contact Peter for more information at