Other Updates:

Reflections on Leading a GRIP Team Process

Introducing Discerning Direction Together

5 Reasons to Attend Set in Motion

Dissecting the Dotted Diamond

Resilience in Ministry

The Allure of Structure

The GIANT GRIP Experience

A Few Thoughts and Ponderings

Leslie Cool (pastor, GB coach, denominational resource)

For almost as long as I have been a GRIP-Birkman coach (and I caught this bug pretty early) I have wondered what it would take to get an entire congregation on board- to get everyone excited enough to want to understand how God has made them powerful for the Kingdom. Twenty plus years of watching (and sometimes helping) churches and leadership teams fill ministry slots with warm bodies has left me with a sense of collective guilt that as God’s people we have set ourselves up to be less than God intended.

Recently, I found myself invited to coordinate a Leadership GRIP adventure with over 200 people. That is not a typo. 200 people. I said “yes,” and the fun began. Below are my thoughts and ponderings.

The Path

Our large group GRIP experience began years before May 2022. An early GRIP-Birkman coach training experience with Dr. Tim Roehl introduced our tribe to using the GB assessment as part of our annual pastoral assessment center (PAC) with the assistance of an in-house coach. Once-a-year, the GRIP-Birkman team trained a small group of coaches.

Our assessment team began to see the potential utility of this tool beyond PAC, extending its application to a normal part of church life. Although infrequent and with limited reach, GRIP, especially, began to be used beyond PAC.

As our most recent coach, I expanded the GRIP-Birkman usage at PAC. Instead of the onetime overview at PAC, I added a pre-PAC read-through of the GRIP and Birkman reports with each pastoral candidate (and spouse as appropriate). During the PAC experience, I used group teaching-learning experiences demonstrate the use of the tools beyond the initial assessment. My goal was to return pastoral candidates back to their congregations with an understanding of the power of spiritual gifts and an understanding of team styles.

By this time, GRIP-Birkman was becoming an increasingly more common name among our pastors and church leaders. I began to take our new tools on the road. Candidates (some now pastors) and assessors invited me to provide GRIP and sometimes GRIP-Birkman learning experiences in their churches. We were beginning to touch larger groups of people.

Our May 2022 annual national conference was themed “Overflowing with Hope” and our bishop-elect Randy Sizemore established the following goals for the event: First, to establish a fresh and hopeful look at our future; a hope realized in God, not in the ever-changing circumstances of life. Second, an experience to seed a missional movement of the people of God in our churches. Finally, a teaching-learning experience that pastors and church leaders would in turn repeat in their local congregations and districts.

The Plan

Bishop-elect Sizemore requested a training experience that would supported his goals. Our team chose to make use of two elements of the Leadership GRIP assessment: spiritual gifts and team styles. Participants would be exposed to clear teaching on spiritual gifts, the concept of shifting from “I to We,” and the dynamic of healthy teams in the context of various team styles.

The intention was to provide teaching, hands on experiences and conversations around the designated topics, that would be taken back home, hopefully opening doors to bring GRIP (and GRIP-Birkman) to more churches. This broke down into two, 30-minute teaching sessions that would each be followed by 30 – 40 minutes of floor exercises and guided conversation.

We developed pre-event materials to set the stage; outlining that movements of God have moving parts and when those parts move in harmony with Him and one another, great things happen! We explained that our intention was to facilitate God’s movement by helping participants identify and understand their spiritual gifts and ministry team styles, leading to a deeper and broader understanding of Christ. Indeed, this would be the fruit of our National Conference teaching-learning experience: helping each pastor and delegate identify their unique spiritual gifting and how those gifts work together in team ministry to accomplish the mission of “knowing Christ and making Him known” (our denominational logo) to our neighbors- turning theory into practical tools for everyday life and ministry.

After the conference, pastors would repeat this experience with their local leadership teams. We would support them on this journey. Once back home, our District Field Directors (DFDs), our “pastors to the pastors”, would follow up with participants throughout the rest of the year. The goal would be to continue the conversations, and perhaps help facilitate more GRIP and GRIP-Birkman training experiences.

The Process

We anticipated 200 participants, half pastors and half lay leaders to attend the event. To facilitate post-event conversations upon returning home, we grouped participants in their geographic districts for the experience. Each group consisted of approximately 18 – 24 people.

The teaching session was live streamed to groups in rooms across the campus, with one group in the room with the presenter. We found Zoom to be the most economical technology to support the live streaming. Floor exercises and conversations were led by trained facilitators in each room. Printed guides were provided for the facilitators, and handout sheets were available for each participant.

I led the two exercises and conversations via trained facilitators. One interactive exercise took place after each teaching session. The first interactive exercise included a gifts circle (identifying and affirming individual’s gifts) and discussion of team makeup, strengths and weaknesses. We then talked about approaches to effective ministries while compensating for gift gaps. We also did a line up (visual) and discussion for equipping vs. supporting and upfront vs. alongside of gifts. I found it useful to help participants “see” what they are hearing! The second interactive exercise included use of my “team style bus” (see below), a visual experience that helps unpack who we are, our strengths and weaknesses, and considers how to make the most of what we have. The bus visual is eye opening. In this exercise, I have found there is seldom the need to point anything out. The participants almost always see their reality.

The Problems

As one might expect, we did run into a few problems or challenges. Some were created by our team. We own that! A few were simply the result of moving targets and bad timing, common when doing something for the first time. And there were a few issues created by the challenges this large event offered to our GRIP-Birkman team and tools.

We found it helpful to partner with GB early, hoping to minimize problems. Ken and Anna-Dawn (and others) guided us through the process. Sometimes, we made up procedures as we went along. An upcoming GRIP report format update was pushed to ensure we would have our 200 reports in the new format. The new reports were awesome, and the rush cramped our timing. We survived!

GB tech suggested that we place our order using an Excel document rather than type in each person’s information, an idea we embraced as it seemed more streamlined. Operational issues like vacations overlapping deadlines made our registration team fall behind. In our rush to get it all done, our planned weekly order of surveys became a single huge order. No one was ready for that. Manual entry meant we had some skipped names incorrect email addresses, and duplicate orders. Haste does indeed make waste! Our team flooded Anna-Dawn with daily questions, changes, and updates.

Additionally, the weight of 200 surveys at one time seemed to challenge the GB website system and expose potential GB limits. Speed of receiving and processing large orders seemed slower than anticipated by the GB and EC Church teams (though some of this might have been avoided if our team sent weekly orders as planned)—this is an issue I know the GB team is already working on.

As the coach on the order, every report came through my mailbox. Receiving 4 – 7 emails for every survey made my eyes bug out the first morning I opened my mailbox.  Planning to manage the influx of mail is a key strategy. In the end, I was curious, and I did open and skim through every GRIP report.

Personally, now with over 300 individual clients, I now must figure out a better personal filing system for my clients – personal clients vs. denominational vs. other larger entities. I never imagined this many clients. I never imagined one client including over 200 people (my denominational leadership team). To be honest, I originally never imagined this becoming so popular. My first 20-plus order shocked me. But I quickly grasped the import of the GRIP-Birkman tool and purposes.


At the end of the day, this was a win-win for the EC Church. Over 200 pastors and church leaders were exposed to the Leadership GRIP, teaching on spiritual gifts and team styles, and implications of this information. These men and women represent about 125 congregations. As a result of this session, significant conversations began that will surely impact the missional energies of our pastors and churches. We have begun to weave Your Leadership GRIP and its teaching into our culture, which I believe will serve as a gateway to using Birkman as well.

The immediate impact from the conference has been a significant number of conversations about the process and the logistics of arranging similar experiences in churches and districts of churches. I am in active conversations with several churches, two having already ordered GRIP surveys for their leadership teams and scheduling live teaching-learning experiences. Additionally, I have two other leaders who are looking into the logistics of a districtwide promotion and training event.

We are still processing our experience, but the immediate fruit is evident: a recognition that the GRIP IS for everyone as well as the many significant conversations and “Ah-Ha” moments. These more than offset the various “issues” we enjoyed. And we probably provided the GB team an opportunity to see themselves in a new way, maybe even tweaking their processes.

Would I do this again? Absolutely!

Thanks for listening.

Let me know if I can assist you in any way.

Les Cool . . . 717-951-8433 or revlescool@gmail.com

See the full interview with Les Cool on the GB Coaches Cafe YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8xwTV-YR4Y
or listen on your favorite podcast platform: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1885604/share

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