Pastor Unique: Becoming A Turnaround Leader

We know the frustration of attending conferences, participating in webinars, and reading the latest "how to" books only to end up with nothing: no results, no growth, and nothing but a stack of notebooks, a few receipts, and a discouraged pastor.

It's predictable! Why? Because the search for the "secret sauce" overlooks your church’s most significant growth resource – you! Pastor Unique shows how to succeed in ministry by being who you are. No need to mimic the rock stars. No need to be someone you're not. Just learn to be more skillful in using what God has already given you to work with.

Read the Introduction to Pastor Unique


Pastors across America are leaving in droves.

Some quit when they realize they lack the temperament, skills and gifts for fruitful pastoral ministry. Others leave due to moral failure. Then there are those who move every three or four years in search of a “perfect” church, never finding what they seek.

We are convinced that most pastors leave because they have run out of ideas. In spite of heroic effort and great personal sacrifice, churches remain stuck in the death spiral. These pastors did all they knew to do, but nothing worked. They’re worn out. They can't sustain the burden of serving God the best they know how without results.

Chances are you’re reading this because you’re a pastor who has tried everything to lead your church off that plateau, but you’re stumped. Nothing has worked.

But you haven’t quit. Not yet. You’re still looking for answers.

... Keep reading reading the introduction to Pastor Unique for free (click here).

When I read Pastor Unique, I was greatly encouraged!

My own studies had demonstrated that the pastor's personality and attitudes influenced whether his church grew, plateaued, or declined.

So much of the data pointed to the extreme rarity of Turnaround Pastors, only 17 percent in my area.  Over the last 50 years, less than one in five pastors in my association have been able to grow their church numerically under their tenure.

As a Director of Missions I was despairing as to how to increase that number.  When I read that 50 percent of the pastors going through the Turnaround Pastor Boot Camps had been able to either stop the declines or begin to grow again, I was greatly encouraged!  I realized that some of these “best practices” can be taught to non-turnaround pastors!

This realization has given me the emotional support to re-double my own efforts at helping pastors move from a plateaued or even a declining situation to a growing one once again!  I am happy to report that we now have 31 percent of our churches that have kept up with or even beat their population growth measured over the last five years! 

• Dr. Kelton F Hinton
Director of Missions
Johnston Baptist Association
Selma, North Carolina

Pastor Unique is more than just another book on leadership and church revitalization.  Pastor Unique breaks new ground in the area of church revitalization and pastoral leadership development. 

In my fifteen years of coaching, working with churches, and leading change I have never seen someone take the time to show in a statistically valid, quantitative study of what personality characteristics are vital for a pastor to lead revitalization.

Their research is statistically relevant, accessible to pastors, denominational officials, and lay leaders.  In addition to describing the personality attributes they also share a variety of ways to coach pastors who lack some or all of the characteristics that make for a successful church turnaround.

Dr. Peter Cammarano
Consultant / Coaching for Grace

Each year thousands of books are written, published, and distributed. Few, of course, are really significant works. Pastor Unique is, in my view, a significant book.

Gary L. McIntosh, D.Min., Ph.D.

Talbot Seminary

Helping pastors understand themselves and their role is crucial and fundamental. So is training them in the tactics and strategies of change. Furthermore, they must learn how their personalities help or hinder leading change. The process described Pastor Unique is targeted more precisely than any other I know to provide this training.

Paul. D. Borden, Ph.D.

Director, Church Health Initiative

Christianity is in the midst of a profound cultural transition, one in which many congregations are undergoing crisis. As a professor of theology and a part-time pastor of just such a congregation, I welcome the insights and tools that this text provides. It is precisely what the contemporary church requires to help meet the challenge of the day. Any pastor, and certainly any pastor of a congregation in decline, will find valuable resources here to help focus and improve his or her leadership. The book deserves our praise, and its authors our thanks.

Lyle Dabney, Dr. theol.

Associate Professor of Theology
Marquette University
Pastor, Bethany-Calvary United Methodist Church

This book is a “must read” and will be a valuable resource for the next decade. Having served as a pastor and a seminary professor for over 40 years I am excited to recommend Pastor Unique to pastors and those training to become pastors. The authors are seasoned veterans with a variety of ministry experience and speak from both the heart and the head and base their wisdom upon the word of God. This book is filled with empirical research and personal reflection that provide insight for pastoral leadership and awareness of personality development. There are many good books on pastoral leadership. This is a great book.

Fred Chay D.Min., P.hD.

Professor of Theology

Dean of Doctor of Ministry Studies

Grace School of Theology

If denominational officials would use this book and the tools it provides all the mystery of who can and can’t bring new life to a stuck church would be eliminated. A must read for any pastor thinking about turnaround.

Bill Easum
Founder & President,
The Effective Church Group

Donald McGavran Award Winner

Pastor Unique addresses the need for gifted and skilled Pastors to turnaround plateaued and declining churches. With 80-90% of churches in America in a plateaued or declining state, all Christian leaders need to read and heed this book. I highly recommend this book to denominational leaders and pastors who are seeking to help churches change their trajectory and move upward into missional effectiveness.

Tom Harris, Executive Director

Interim Pastor Ministries

Employing sound research techniques, Bud Brown, Gordon Penfold and Gary Westra identified key qualities possessed by pastors who succeed in leading declining churches back to health and growth. With its groundbreaking approach, Pastor Unique gives hope to pastors by training and empowering them to become the leaders their churches need to have an impact on future generations.

Jeanne Ryder Ballard, MA, MS., D.Min.

Adjunct Professor

Associate Director, D.Min. Studies

Dallas Theological Seminary

I am grateful to Lavern Brown, Gordon Penfold, and Gary Westra for writing this book and for including The Birkman Method® in their work with pastors. My father, Roger Birkman, was the son of a pastor who descended from five generations of pastors. When he created The Birkman Method he saw it as his own kind of ministry and was passionate about helping people of faith gain a clearer, more accurate understanding of self and others. Perceptions of any leader carry great weight, so this most authentic kind of leadership development recommended in this book can profoundly impact both the pastors individually and the people they lead. Leadership challenges in ministry are just like corporate leadership challenges—only harder. We are proud that Birkman can play a role in the important initiative represented in Pastor Unique.”

Sharon Birkman Fink, CEO

Birkman International, Inc.

 The Birkman Method: Your Personality at Work

All too often we guess at what kind of leader is needed to grow or turnaround a church. Lavern Brown, Gordon Penfold and Gary Westra have done the hard research to identify leadership characteristics that change the direction of a church. Pastor Unique: Becoming a Turnaround Leader is a must read for pastors who find themselves with the challenge of a turnaround church; a denomination which has many churches in decline; or a pastoral search committee looking for the right leader to face a shrinking congregation.

Brent Garrison, Ph.D.

Vice President of Education
CEO Forum

The authors are not afraid to look the church and pastor in the eye and tell them what they need to hear. With a finger their pulse, they use objective criteria to show how to improve the health of the church while strengthening and encouraging the pastor. This book has the potential to change churches–and lives–in an unsurpassed way for the glory of God. I recommend this book to every current or prospective pastor.

Charlie Bing, Ph.D.

GraceLife Ministries

Reading Pastor Unique and attending a Turnaround Pastors Boot Camp should be required reading and a required activity for everyone entering and those already in pastoral ministry. Let’s be honest; most churches are not growing. Pastor Unique tell us why and what to do about it. And, it all relates to pastoral leadership or lack of trained, skilled past/leaders.

John Vawter, D.Min.

Former president, Western Seminary
Phoenix Seminary

I am truly blessed by your book. It challenges me and discourages me; if only I’d read it thirty-five years ago! I find amazing wisdom here in the best practices you prescribe for pastors. Thank you for all the hard work, insight, and collective wisdom in this book. People are going to get saved, and churches are going to grow!

Michael Hodgin

Editor and Author

The authors of Pastor Unique understand the critical need for the development of turn-around pastor leadership, given that over 80% of churches in America are plateaued or declining in attendance. They bring their ministry experience and passion for healthy churches and effective leadership to bear on this epidemic. Their research of successful turn-around pastors has led them to identify the key behaviors and practices that non turn-around pastors can develop through assessment, training and mentoring. If you are a pastor facing the daunting task of leading a church that is plateaued and declining, Pastor Unique is a must read.

Stan Rieb

Executive Director
Rocky Mountain Church Network

Pastor Unique is loaded with helpful research, and the authors have done a remarkable job of turning this research into practical application for pastors of all different personalities. Their goal is becoming the best pastor you can be, based on who you are as God made you. Every pastor who wants to see his congregation grow will benefit from this significant work.

Grant Hawley

Bold Grace Ministries

What Pastor Unique concludes–that any pastor can be the agent for renewing a stagnant or declining church–is a promise that many will not believe. We pastors have been conditioned to believe that turnaround churches happen for a special few, namely dynamic CEOs that have big egos and bigger organizational abilities. But the number-crunching research in this work says differently. In making the case that turnaround-churches happen because of turnaround-pastors, the authors have brought a new model to the table. The pastor, with his or her own personality and gifting, can be mentored to adopt new behaviors that will stimulate the energy needed for change and transformation in the church. It’s not about changing one’s personality; it’s about changing the way we nurture relationships and the goal of an outward-focused Christian community. Churches can change, but only if the pastor changes first. Pastor Unique shows how.

Chip Moody, D.Min.

Vice President and Dean of Students
Doctor of Ministry Program Director

Phoenix Seminary

I love that this book deals effectively with assessment, shepherd leadership, and conflict. The authors do not pick on pastors of churches that are not growing. Obviously, they have “been there, done that” in churches with problems, and they explain, “We will, however, jump in the hole and show you how to climb out.” This is a practical and helpful book!

Mike Morris, D.Min., Ph.D.

President, Great Commission Research Network

Associate Dean of Applied Ministry and Mentorship

Ida M. Bottoms Chair of Missions
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.