Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Ministry leaders need to do what they do best

Tom Walker

Tom Walker

Ministry effectiveness is not accidental

The name Ministry by Design might conjure up visions of an architectural firm planning worship spaces. In fact, Ministry by Design is helping construct ministries that provide optimum opportunities for job satisfaction. The non-profit firm works with individuals, church staffs, seminaries, denominations and para-church organizations.
Job dissatisfaction and job burn-out are major problems for pastors, staff workers and churches today, says H. Thomas Walker, a retired United Methodist clergyman who operates Ministry by Design, headquartered in Minneapolis. Walker had seen some of the distress firsthand when he served as a district superintendent in the United Methodist Church. Rather than using traditional multiple choice forms in its psychological profiling, Ministry by Design focuses on getting input from participants. Believing that people generally like to do those things that come naturally for them, Walker is firmly convinced that “what you are motivated to do, you are equipped to do.”
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Maeker, former dean of students at Luther Seminary (now on the staff of the ELCA’s Saint Paul Area Synod office), had this to say about Ministry by Design’s program: “We received a grant from the former Lutheran Brotherhood and worked with the Minneapolis Area Synod to evaluate the Ministry by Design program. We set out to determine at what stage of a call or discernment this process would be of the most value.
“Our study included 28 persons, ranging from seminary students to ordained pastors. We found the process to be valuable in determining the type of congregation that would be a good fit for the individual. At Luther Semi-nary we made the process available to seniors who want to use it. Many said that it confirmed what they already had felt about themselves and allowed them to proceed with confidence.”
The Rev. Karen Geisen-dorfer-Lindgren, formerly on the staff of the ELCA’s Minneapolis Area Synod (now a pastor at Lord of Life Church in Ramsey, Minnesota), said, “The Ministry by Design process encouraged my self-reflection and examination in addition to the spoken and written analysis I received. I think it would be hard not to feel affirmed by the Ministry by Design process, since the premise is clear: God made each of us as uniquely gifted, wonderful beings. The goal is to match our gifts with the settings and positions where we will best thrive.”
A South Minneapolis pastor commented, “[Ministry by Design] gave me back the joy of my ordination. It had never been communicated to me that I did not need to be good at everything. I was trying very hard to be good at everything … [Ministry by Design] urged me to go with my strengths.”
Ministry by Design’s process begins with asking participants to recall achievements beginning with childhood. Walker states the pro-cess is based on the premise that “everyone is created with God-given strengths and motivations that change very little throughout one’s lifetime.”
The idea for Ministry by Design originated eight years ago, when Walker attended a Rotary Club meeting where the speaker was from People Management International (PMI), an organization that had developed a system for identifying “motivated abilities” for business and industry.
Walker went through the process and says he discovered some things about himself that he didn’t know before. That led him to organize Ministry by Design, to bring that concept to the religious community. Ministry by Design is licensed to use PMI’s System for Identifying Motivated Abilities (SIMA®), and PMI closely monitors how the system is being used.
Through word-of-mouth referrals, its Web site and small ads, Ministry by Design now serves people throughout the country. Walker gets satisfaction from helping people make changes for a more satisfying ministry. He comments, “How can that person know how to change if he/she doesn’t know what’s wrong?”
“We help people identify what they enjoy and help them develop competencies in what they need to do.” What they need to do often relates to five stages of congregational life: Start-up church, high-growth church, mature church, crisis church and turn-around church. Each of these can require a different combination of abilities on the part of pastors and staff.
When working with pastors and staff people, as well as with congregations, Walker says it’s important that they understand what stage their congregation or prospective congregation is in. In his presentation to congregations, he asks members what they, as a congregation, do best, what is least satisfactory and how they would describe their congregation to a new neighbor.
After analysis of the participants’ “life stories,” Ministry by Design provides a “pattern” describing abilities and motivations. There is also guidance on how to apply the pattern in the workplace as well as in every facet of life.
More information on Ministry by Design is available by calling 612-872-2090, sending e-mail to htw@ministrybydesign. org or checking the Web site: www.ministrybydesign.org.