The Turnaround pastor’s most effective professional development tool.
More important than biblical languages. More important that seminary education. More important than professional certification.
The only “tool” that surpasses the value of other people is the call to ministry and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Consider the following three scenarios.
Scenario 1 – developing assertive leadership
A young Asian seminary student is working as a Youth intern at a West coast megachurch. In his six month evaluation he receives feedback that he’s not assertive enough when dealing with Jr. High kids on field trips. Over lunch he discusses this with his peers in the Youth Department. He evaluates their input and calculates the degree to which his cultural background contributes to the dilemma. He enlists the help of his peers who guide him in developing an effective strategy to be more assertive with the kids.
Scenario 2 – improving homiletics
The senior pastor of a mid-sized Midwestern church receives criticism of his preaching during an annual review. He’s told that since he started his doctoral studies his preaching has become dry, pedantic and disconnected from “where the people really live.” He consults with a two trusted Board members who help him develop preaching guidelines and agree to provide weekly input into the Sunday sermons.
Scenario 3 – enhancing staff relationships
Fair warning: if you’re intrigued by the idea that Turnaround pastors can be identified by a few unique personality components, you’ll want to reference our previous post on this subject. If not, it’s probably best to save yourself from this House of Pain!
For our study of the unique characteristics of Turnaround pastors we settled on the Birkman Method as our measurement tool of choice. We find it ideally suited to our research objective: to identify the behaviors, needs and social skills that distinguish Turnaround pastors from Status Quo pastors.
The Birkman Method is a positive psychology assessment tool that identifies our research subjects’ needs and interests, how they relate to their congregants, and indicates the environment that gives each Turnaround pastor the greatest satisfaction.
On top of that, the Birkman shows how our test subjects experience stress, identifies the causes of friction between them and their staffs, governing boards and church members.
With this kind of information, all pastors can learn how to be more effective in ministry, how to develop stronger staff and board relationships, and how to lead a congregation into significant qualitative and quantitative growth. Used wisely, this information also helps church boards increase retention in the pastoral staff, with positive results for all concerned.
In our research we have focused on two personality domains in our test subjects, both Turnaround pastors and Status Quo pastors: usual behaviors and needs.
Unsuccessful people focus their thinking on survival, average people focus their thinking on maintenance, and successful people focus their thinking on progress.
There’s never enough, is there?
Pick a commodity you need to do your job (or shall we sugar coat it as “perform your ministry”?). No matter what it is – other than God’s grace, the Word’s sufficiency or the Spirit’s power – chances are that you’d agree that there’s not enough.
That’s certainly true of our personal resources.
- Pastors never have enough time to do all that needs doing.
- Pastors never have enough talent to do all things well.
- Who would say they’re always driven by vision and passion?
- All of us have longed for more energy and endurance!
- None of us has enough foresight to see very far ahead.
- We never have enough wisdom to fully understand what’s happening now.
It’s also true of ministry resources.
- It seems like we never have enough volunteers.
- Who among us has an adequate pool of talented leaders?
- Congregations always want for passion for the mission!
- Have you ever said, “We’ve got more than we need in the budget”?
And I’d add one last item we often overlook: sometimes we don’t have sufficient reason for accepting a task, fulfilling a request or submitting to a demand.
It’s never been any different
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pungent observation of the rich can be said of Turnaround pastors.
They are different from their ministry colleagues.
But the differences are deeper, more fundamental than the results of their ministry.
These differences don’t lie in what Turnaround pastors do to bring renewed vigor, refreshed vision and bracing growth to a church. Focusing on results or behaviors leads to the mistaken idea that Status Quo pastors simply need to copy the Turnaround pastor’s techniques to breathe life into a plateaued or stagnant church.
So what distinguishes Turnaround pastors from Status Quo pastors? How and why are they different?
My research partners, Dr. Gordon Penfold and Dr. Gary Westra, and I have conducted psychometric tests, evaluated self-reported data and conducted interviews with Turnaround pastors and Status Quo pastors in North America to answer these questions.
Our research has a two-fold purpose: to confirm the discoveries of other researchers and to produce tools that will help Status Quo pastors achieve greater ministry results.
If it was okay for the apostle Paul to worry, where does he get off telling us we can’t?
Paul suffered anxiety
Paul was a worrywart at times.
He felt a great obligation to bear the Gospel to the Gentile world (Romans 1:14). Even with the Holy Spirit’s enablement, his service at times felt like a UFC match (Colossians 2:1).
There were good moments, for sure. At times Paul was proud of his work (Romans 11:13). He was pleased by the Gospel’s progress (Romans 15:17).
But he seems to have been constantly concerned for the welfare of the churches he planted (e.g., Acts 15:36). Anxiety was a “daily pressure” that weighed him down, affected his mood and even sidetracked some of his mission opportunities.
And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28).
What are we to make of the fact that his anxiety for the churches is the capstone of Paul’s litany of misery? While defending his ministry to the knuckleheads in Corinth he detailed some of the ordeals he endured in behalf of the Gospel.
Is the multisite church movement good, bad or something in between?
This question is being pressed upon pastors and small churches with increasing frequency and greater urgency than ever before.
It’s hard to miss all the cheerleading in the press, on the bookshelves and at popular conferences.
But there’s not much comfort for small church pastors who feel the monster bearing down on them. A lot of the rah rah lacks careful theological analysis that challenges the unquestioned assumptions underlying the multi-site movement. (Check this catalog of articles for and against the movement)
So, the pastor who’s been approached by a mega-franchise executive team with an offer of takeover, or who catches wind that a big box franchise is opening down the street has no where to turn for an adequate, careful and irenic response.
It’s been five years since I’ve had a church to call home. Three interim churches, a couple of moves and now I’m adrift. It’s time to start looking for a church where I can be one of the folks.
What should I look for?
I think I’ll look for the things Jesus looks for and work from there.
Jesus told us, in his own words, seven qualities he seeks in his churches.