At Turnaround Pastor Inc., we have done a study of pastors who led their church in a church revitalization turnaround. Using The Birkman Method, we discovered seven statistically significant differences that set these pastors apart. We used The Birkman because it is a normative instrument (versus ipsative) with percentile scores, allowing for comparison among groups and clear statistical measures.
So what did we find?
We have written a book that gives the results in detail, “Pastor Unique: Becoming a Turnaround Leader.” So this article will not offer a comprehensive view, but a representative narrative.
First, pastors who lead in turn around and revitalization are more verbally assertive. While general polls say people want a leader who listens more than anything, low and behold, the turnaround pastor speaks up. You don’t need to wonder what they are thinking in committee meetings!
I recall a conversation with one frustrated church leader. He said, “Whenever we ask our pastor what he thinks, he just asks, ‘What do you think?’” Not so the turnaround pastor. They differentiate themselves and speak up. This leads to greater clarity and direction in leadership.
Next, these pastors thrive on chaos. They like a change of pace and aren’t the kind of people who are more linear and check items off a list. They multitask. With the varied demands of a growing church, this makes sense. In a growing church, hypothetically, you may deal with children’s ministry, assimilation, outreach, small groups, and community analysis. These aren’t done “one at a time,” but simultaneously. Turnaround pastors move multiple balls down the field at once.
Relating to “traditional ministry,” consider pastoral care and music. Turnaround pastors are willing to share in pastoral care, equipping others to share in care-giving. While they are very involved with care-giving, they will allow others to share in the task. Maintenance-oriented pastors like to do all of this themselves. This brings to mind some older Church Growth terminology: shepherd versus rancher. Shepherds take care of all the sheep while ranchers ensure that all the sheep are cared for.
These pastors like music, and probably pay special attention to its role in worship. This does not mean they are musicians – though they may be — but that they like and listen to music. They are auditory learners, integrating music and the sermon for an impactful worship experience.
Finally, we had a surprise in our research. It may sound like these pastors are ready, FIRE, aim types, given that they like freedom and change. But in reality they take more time than average to make complex decisions. They don’t fire too quickly.
Not only do they take time in making decisions, but they seek out the opinions of others. This is critical in leadership and building a consensus. This affirms a spiritual discipline in ministry. We know Jesus got away “to the other side of the lake” for prayer before major decisions. It is critical for pastors to build this discipline into their life.
So, there you have it, a narrative of a church revitalization/turnaround leader. There are several distinct terms The Birkman uses, only a few of which appear here. We define them all in a Turnaround Pastor Bootcamp, making constant application of our research and comparing it specially to the profile of each pastor at the camp. Our Turnaround Bootcamps are intensive trainings, either for four days, or three weekends spread out over time.
Inevitably, pastors ask, “What if one or more of my scores is different than the Birkman turnaround profile.” We define the profile in terms of best practices that can be applied to the life of every pastor.
Pastors, there is hope for you. Start the journey by taking The Birkman Method, learning your strengths and growth areas.