Catalyst for Renewal

Date Posted: 11/9/2017

Some leaders are hardwired for leading change; others have to learn to discern the ideal combination of wisdom, skills and accountability. Several leaders from the Texas Annual Conference (TAC) learned this firsthand at a Turnaround Pastor training session in Houston.
Since the two-day boot camp training is based on scientific research using The Birkman Method, TAC Birkman consultant Rev. Peter Cammarano of Chapelwood UMC Lake Jackson was more than intrigued. He attended along with Associate Pastor Josh Lemons, and was joined by Rev. Jeff Dungan, St. Luke’s UMC Bryan, Rev. Alan Van Hooser, Cheatham Memorial UMC, Rev. Kate Walker, Deer Park UMC and her church council chair Brenda Cothran.
After researching how others are applying The Birkman Method in faith-based environments, Peter learned that the Turnaround Pastor organization developed a statistically valid profile of a successful revitalization pastor. “While information does not automatically create transformation,” Peter says, “information is important, when combined with relationships, wisdom and accountability.”
Attendees reviewed their own Birkman results as they learned more about the seven characteristics, out of the 32 that Birkman measures that describe a turnaround pastor. “Now that I am in a turnaround situation at Deer Park UMC,” says Kate, “I found this insight to be helpful to the pastor much like Vibrant Church Initiative is focused on the congregation. I brought our church council chair so that we could have a shared language and process as we staff out teams, and define mission, vision and values.” As the only non-clergy attendee, Brenda found the boot camp opened her eyes to the behind the scenes life of a pastor. “It was good for me to see the reasons why people do what they do, and how these pastors are learning how to hold themselves to a higher standard to help with revitalization,” says Brenda. “Scoring well in those seven personality traits is a tall order.”
According to research, pastors with strengths in these seven areas are wired as turnaround leaders:

  • Verbal assertiveness
  • Comfortable and flexible with shifting priorities
  • Independent thinkers
  • Prefer an environment that encourages initiative
  • Reflective decision makers
  • Musical interest and appreciation
  • Social service (making sure the sheep are cared for but not always personally involved)
Seminar leaders assured attendees that all pastors can be mentored in these best practices.
In a moment of revelation, Rev. Jeff Dungan, St. Luke’s Bryan realized one leadership style does not always fit all. “I tend to lead others the way I want to be lead, offering a great deal of independence. This training helped me realized some people need specific directions and parameters as volunteers or staff members,” Jeff says, “so I will work on discerning what would work best in a variety of situations.”
Through the VCI process, Rev. Alan Van Hooser is already witnessing a turnaround in attendance, giving, and outreach participation at Cheatham Memorial, yet he knows he wants to consider working on his “emotion quotion.” Notes Alan, “This exercise helped me identify my deficits and put together an action plan.” He will continue tuning in to follow up webinars and discussions as he works his plan. “I’m realistic in knowing I can do better,” he adds, “as I am not through learning yet.”