80% of all pastors live with the constant frustration, self-doubt and fear that they’ll never lead that stagnant church to become a robust, life giving congregation that blesses the community with the good news about Jesus.
Turnaround Pastors has helped many bewildered pastors lead beleaguered churches through turnaround. Men and women who have labored for decades in quiet desperation have, for the first time in their careers, seen once dead churches come alive.
Bud thrives on teaching, writing, and producing tools that help churches and pastors achieve their God-given potential. His forty years of experience covers a broad spectrum. He has served in small rural congregations, large suburban churches, and rapidly growing megachurches. He has led four churches through revitalization.
“I love watching pastors and churches have that “Aha!” moment. It thrills me to help pastors expand their skills and lead with confidence in the gifts and skills God hardwired into them. The privilege of providing each pastor exactly what he or she needs to thrive is deeply satisfying. Watching them enjoy success they never imagined possible motivates me to try even harder for them.”
Gordon grew up in a dead church. A senior in High School, he vowed to never attend church again. But after believing in Christ a year later, he was exposed a vibrant, life-giving church. He was overcome with the joy of a healthy church. He not only returned to church, he has pastored since 1980. He now coaches and trains pastors in the US and overseas.
“I’ve observed many pastors over the years. I intuitively knew that some would succeed and others would fail but I could not definitively say ‘why.’ I decided to find out what characteristics set effective pastors apart from other those who struggle. That research allows me to help struggling pastors grow to become more effective in ministry so that their churches may likewise become vibrant, life-giving centers like the church I enjoyed as a new believer.”
Gary has a passion for healthy pastors and healthy growing churches. With over 30 years experience in ministry, he now comes alongside pastors and churches in consulting, mentoring, and coaching. He has served in churches from under 100 to over 1000. Twenty five years of his ministry was as a Lead Pastor.
“I loved leading our three-year research project in the dynamics of turnaround leadership. I have committed the rest of my ministry to seeing turnaround in churches in North America that have flat-lined or are declining. I want my coaching and mentoring of pastors, and my leading our team of coaches at Turnaround Pastors, to be a lasting legacy in ministry.”
We will glorify Jesus Christ by equipping pastors and church leaders to lead the turnaround of plateaued and declining churches.
We want to see 10,000 pastors trained by the year 2025.
The purpose of our research was to answer one question: “What accounts for the fact that some pastors are skilled at leading church turnarounds while most are not?”
Rather than follow the case-study method, Turnaround Pastors adopted a more scientifically rigorous approach.
We identified a random group of pastors and asked them to first fill out a Pastoral Leadership Survey. The Survey gathered data about the previous five years of their ministry. We sorted the subjects into two categories. “Turnaround Pastors” were those whose churches had experienced a minimum of 2.5% annual growth per year for five consecutive years. “Nonturnaround Pastors” were those whose churches saw less than the 2.5% per year growth.
We then administered The Birkman Method™ profile to each subject.
A scientifically developed, multi-dimensional assessment, The Birkman MethodTM, provides personality and occupational data to help understand individuals’ unique behavior and work satisfaction across different situations and industries. The Birkman Method™ reaches further into personality than any other assessment, allowing for individuals to truly understand not only who they are, but why.
The Birkman Method is a favorite personality and career assessment of those experienced in the industry because it paints a richer picture of an individual.
Just like how TV screens have varying resolutions – standard definition, high definition, 4K – personality assessments have different levels of detail as well. Birkman is at the far end of the spectrum, giving the highest level of insight into the motivations, perceptions, and behaviors of a person.
Birkman is the premier advanced assessment because it uncovers and interprets more data about behavior, motivations, and personality. Birkman feedback is presented in a way that is user-friendly and easy to segment. If you’re primarily interested in one element of an individual’s personality, you can focus on just that element of their report.
Here are a few ways that Birkman is different:
Additionally, at Turnaround Pastors, we used The Birkman Method because it is a normative instrument. This means we could compare results of pastors with the “norm” – that is the general population norms – and also compare groups to each other. Most popular personality inventories are not normative instruments allowing for these comparisons.
We submitted the list of subjects to a psychometric statistician who examined the data to identify statistically significant differences between the two categories of pastors.
The analysis indicated that there were 7 scales where the high (turnaround pastors) and low (nonturnaround pastors) groups differed. These were statistically significant differences at p < .05. In principle, this means that the differences between the two groups are results that cannot attributed to chance.
Ground Breaking Research on Church Revitalization Pastors
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.
Rev. Dr. Gary Jule Westra is vice-president of Turnaround Pastor, Inc. and a Certified Birkman Consultant. Gary has served in churches from under 100 to over 1000, for twenty five years in Lead Pastor positions.