The Reverend Paul A. Elliott, ThD
President and CEO
“Competent pastoral leaders are able to adjust their attitudes, adapt their beliefs and commit to the greater good.”
But when vestry members take risks to be honest about their roles, tasks and relations, the vestry moves forward and members learn from each other.
Over time as pastoral leaders are open, caring, forgiving and accept responsibility for their success and failures, their ministry thrives, and their church becomes healthier.
With some sense of frustration, I often wondered how the process of an annual mutual ministry review (MMR) could be less risky, more user-friendly and effective, and an efficient use of time.
In 2004 I completed a Doctor of Theology in Pastoral Counseling degree from Emory University. My dissertation topic was “An Integrated Theory of Pastoral Consultancy: The Interplay of Relations, Expertise, and Identity.”
In 2005 I realized my theoretical and clinical training in pastoral consultancy could be adapted to create a new process to do a mutual ministry review.
In 2006 I began partnering with my friend Dr. Clem Earle to design, create and trial a new model and method to do a MMR. We identify 12 key areas, and 175 survey questions core to a comprehensive MMR.
The key to our approach is data gathering that can be done at home and on-line. Over several years we field-tested the MMR with parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.
In April 2015 I retired from parish ministry, and in June 2015 started the Atlanta Institute for Pastoral Leadership.
“When it comes to leading and managing people and organisations, faith is good…but evidence helps you get it done!”
My involvement with the Atlanta Institute and development of the MMR framework was born from a few moments of frustration. I was in my buddy Paul’s parish office working on a system problem.
He was firing a few questions at me that I was fielding but I really wanted to concentrate on the problem at hand. Then came a “tipping point” question.
I can’t remember what it was but I was a bit testy by then and snapped back ‘Don’t they teach you how to do that in seminary?”
Well, the answer was no and my disbelief that some fundamental people management issue was not explicitly taught and my growing curiosity launched a discussion about all the stuff they don’t teach at seminary that the fledgling priest has to learn fast as he or she enters their world of work.
Our many late night talks led on to consideration of leadership groups in the church and how under-prepared teams can be as people rotate on and rotate off vestry.
The issue of performance review and knowing how well you are doing as a leadership team and how well your team or organization is doing is something I’ve been involved with in all my years working in both private sector business and public sector education.
Putting my background together with Paul’s we began building a framework that would allow teams to talk about their perceptions, aspirations and difficulties with regard to achievement, performance and leading in an open and transparent manner.
Often, people are reluctant and sometimes highly avoidant of offering their true opinions while sitting around a table. Individuals and groups are even more wary of admitting they don’t know stuff and this is a real inhibitor to healthy leadership, maintenance and growth.
When you get a group of people together, interpersonal dynamics and people politics is always in play and this can easily block the ability of a team to know where they really are in terms of operation and development.
If you don’t know where you are then your decision-making is based on myth or the opinion of the strongest few in the group.
It then becomes difficult to plot a future pathway with any degree of accuracy or reliability. So after many trials we arrived at our MMR diagnostic tool.
The MMR framework allows groups to offer their views openly and anonymously so the whole team can get a detailed overview of what the current leadership climate really is.
It clarifies the links between ‘roles – tasks – relationships‘ that underpin effective adaptive leading.
It has proven to be very good at highlighting commonly held but inaccurate beliefs. It is also excellent at sorting out what you thought you knew but actually don’t.
This then makes it easier to find areas for celebration (still amazes me that so many teams are reluctant to celebrate what is going well!) and to identify which areas need action.
The system in its current form is highly efficient and cost-effective. Most groups get the best benefit by doing the survey and reviewing the results just before going away on retreat as part of their annual process.
Some groups also do a mid-year survey as well just to check they are on track. However you decide to use the MMR, I know you will find it very helpful in guiding your team to more effective ministry.”