One of the PAONL’s Core Values is the “strategic mobilization of resources” around our mission and mandate.  It is no secret that our greatest resource as a Fellowship is our leaders.  In addition to the pastoral training ground of Tyndale and well beyond the credentialing and ordination processes, our Movement has a vision and a plan for identifying and developing great leaders now and for the future.  One of the pathways for this development is the leadership structure of the Department of Ministry Development and Strategic Initiatives (MDSI).

It is no secret that our greatest resource as a Fellowship is our leaders.

I was first introduced to the world of MDSI Lead Teams my first year in Corner Brook as a youth/children pastor.  The (then) Children’s Ministries Director, Kent Sceviour, immediately and intentionally took time to help prepare me for ministry in Corner Brook and to offer friendship and counsel whenever needed.  Later that year, Kent invited me to be a part of the Children’s Ministries Lead Team.  Fairly new to children’s ministries (having only been a pastor for four years), I was hesitant to accept the new responsibility.   Kent assured me that the role was as much about learning and development as it was about planning and doing.  I was not disappointed.  My years on the PCM Lead Team allowed me to be immersed in a culture of excellence in children’s ministry and to learn and lead alongside some of the province’s finest, especially at the MDSI Leadership Summits every January.

Fast forward to January 2019.  This year as Formission Director, I had the unique opportunity to sit in on the MDSI Summit in more of an observational, supportive role.  Behind the scenes and in planning for the Summit, the first thing I noticed was the value-driven intentionality with which the Summit was crafted.  Everything from the team gifts, to the food, to the team-building social evening, and especially the content in the sessions, was designed to communicate to our leaders that they are valued and that our Movement considers them a worthy investment.

For the second year, John Caplin from John F. Caplin Coaching and Consulting, shared insights from decades of expert leadership and the Birkman assessment tool to contribute to the teams’ Mutual Health.  For those unfamiliar with the tool, the mission of Birkman International is, “understanding people and helping them create better relationships, better careers, and better lives.[1]”  The tool is about assessing personality, rather than character; usual behaviours, not competencies.  If the distinction is still muddy, consider this quote by Lewis

“If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature… all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous..”[2] – C.S. Lewis

In his characteristically wise and witty way, Lewis is here highlighting the crucial distinction between personality and character.  One is inherited, while the other is developed.  Personality encompasses all of “God’s gifts to us through nature,” and also those things that are less gift-like.  It is no secret that we all have different starting points for character-building, and that there are both virtues and vices that seem to come more naturally to us than to others.

Translate that to the world of teamwork and especially ministry, and you have a starting point for healthy relationship.  Once we understand the personalities of those on our teams, we are less likely to ascribe (what we perceive to be) inflammatory behaviours to their character.  The Birkman insights also help a team to identify their optimal way of operating and also where their team proficiencies and deficiencies might lie.

At this particular Summit, I was filling in as chair for the Family Ministries Team (an amazing group of leaders, by the way!).  To give you an example of the benefit of the Birkman, I’ll share a snapshot from our experience:

There is one Birkman component termed, “Thought,” which measures the comfort and ease with which we make decisions in areas that are familiar to us.  My thought score of 6 in “usual behaviour” and “need” indicated that my tendency as team leader would be to want to make simple decisions quickly and without much discussion.  Most of my team, however, were on the opposite end of the spectrum with thought “usual behaviour” and “need” scores in the 50s-90s.  Their preference would be to give every decision some weight of consideration.  Without an awareness of our differences, I could easily and without malice push them to their stress behaviours.  Similarly, their insistence on drawing out discussion could leave me frustrated and actually push me to make even more snap decisions.

After discussing our Birkmans, when I would notice myself rushing ahead or pushing through the agenda, I now had the awareness to slow down and discuss beyond my preference for deliberation.  The team, likewise, was aware of my need for action and decisiveness.  I won’t lie.  It made for some excellent comic moments when a team member would say something like, “Jeremy, your ‘thought’ score is showing J.”

In conclusion, there are two definite take-aways from the weekend.  First, we can all benefit from tools like the Birkman that help us to understand the distinction between personality and character, usual behaviour and competency.  There is no need for any of us to ever throw up our hands and say, “well, I guess that is just the way I am!”  (Or worse, “that’s just the way they are!”).  An awareness of our own personality “gifts” can give us incentive to seek the help of the Holy Spirit in developing the kind of fruit that curb our worst tendencies and leverage our best.  Similarly, this kind of intentional attention to Mutual Health can help us to better practice patience and forgiveness with others when our personalities diverge; whether team members, pastors, family members, or neighbours.

An awareness of our own personality “gifts” can give us incentive to seek the help of the Holy Spirit in developing the kind of fruit that curb our worst tendencies and leverage our best.

Secondly, it is evident and hopeful that our Movement is committed to the development of new and existing leaders.  I’m sure that many readers right now are directly benefitting from the professional development of their own next generation, young adult, men’s, women’s, family ministry, and prime time leaders.  Even those not in direct Provincial leadership are influencing and being influenced through collaboration with those who are.

Thanks to all those who serve in this capacity and especially to MDSI Director Dean Brenton and his amazing team for a job well done!

References

[1] https://birkman.com/about-birkman/our-story-growth/

[2]Lewis, C.S.  Mere Christianity.   “Nice People or New Men.”  http://studynhttp://samizdat.qc.ca/vc/pdfs/MereChristianity_CSL.pdfovels.com/Page/Story?bookId=552&pageNo=35 .  Web

About Jeremy Nippard

Jeremy Nippard is the Director of Formission with the PAONL. He has been in full time ministry for 11 years and lives in Paradise, NL with his wife Cheryl and kids Christyn (9) and Carter (7). He is passionate about discipleship and loves to see leaders and churches becoming healthy and missionally engaged.