In 2000, and after only a few months without a Senior Pastor, Woodinville Alliance Church made a “coup” in the pastor-hiring category. In 2004, Mary Jammerman began as Executive Pastor at Woodinville … in October of that year, Senior Pastor Morris Dirks announced that he would resign.
To start at the beginning, in June 2000, and after only a few months without a Senior Pastor, Woodinville Alliance Church made a “coup” in the pastor-hiring category. Morris Dirks was well respected across the Pacific Northwest District and known throughout the United States and Canada. Dirks was at Salem, Oregon’s 3,000 member Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, and had been seeking God’s call to a smaller, growing church. He found it in western Washington, where he could pursue his passion for preaching, leadership development and spiritual direction. Pastor Morris and Woodinville Alliance, with the approval of the CMA District Superintendent, quickly came to the mutual conclusion that God was orchestrating Morris’ call to Woodinville. The church at Woodinville responded with great enthusiasm.
Fast forward three and one half years to 2004. Following the resignation of a senior associate pastor, it was decided that the key position to fill was that of Executive Pastor. This position was yet untried by Woodinville Alliance Church. This was a juncture in history where an unmet need intersected with a heart’s desire. Mary Jammerman had been serving on the Governing Board and, due to her experience in the HR field, has been assisting with church human resource issues. Pastor Dirks recognized Mary’s potential to serve on staff in this capacity; Mary had been praying for the opportunity to go into fulltime ministry. In January 2004, Mary began a new chapter as Executive Pastor at Woodinville Alliance Church.
In October of that year, Senior Pastor Morris Dirks announced that he would resign and he left in January 2005.
About Woodinville and the Senior Pastor Transition
Mary serves Woodinville Alliance Church of Woodinville, Washington, a church that works diligently to live out its mission statement. There is a strong call on the church and the individual to follow Christ. In the introduction to the New Members booklet, a quote is given from Senator Edward Hale, former Chaplain of the United States Senate:
“I am only one, but I am one; I can’t do everything, but I can do something. What I can do I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I shall do.”
This case study will seek to present Mary Jammerman in the midst of her ministry.
In the cover story for Church Executive Magazine, Rez Gopez Sindac writes, “with a clear sense of purpose and a knack for building relationships, Executive Pastor Mary Jammerman willingly takes the new challenges and opportunities that come with leading a 21st century church.” While Mary thought that she was getting a level 5 challenge in becoming an XP, it soon became a level 10 challenge. Mary’s preference is to have a close working relationship with the person to whom she reports. In her business career, she was often mentored by her supervisor—which helped her develop professionally. While that looked like the scenario at Woodinville, it was not to be.
In preparing for the article for Church Executive magazine, Mary said “I think the challenge is that there has to be a high level of trust and a very strong working relationship between the Executive Pastor and the Senior Pastor. Another challenge for the Executive Pastor is being willing to work behind the Senior Pastor and not need credit for what takes place in the church. I think it’s a challenge to not expect the limelight but to really take a strong support role. I have been very fortunate that my Senior Pastor absolutely has believed in me, mentored me and valued my input. I have never felt like I couldn’t speak into a situation. I did not expect him to always do what I say, but he gave me opportunities to speak into situations and decisions.” However, this relationship would change.
Mary was hired as the XP in January 2004. In October of that year, Senior Pastor Morris Dirks announced that he would resign and he left in January 2005. The Pacific Northwest District of the Christian & Missionary Alliance publicized the announcement: “Morris Dirks has resigned as pastor of Woodinville Alliance Church, in Woodinville, Washington effective January 9, 2005. He has enrolled in a full time doctoral program at George Fox University.” Dirks was a respected pastor in the church and Peacemaker Ministries had published his materials. Peacemaker Ministries is a national organization designed to assist churches in resolving conflict biblically.
Prior to posting their position, Woodinville’s leadership felt strongly that they needed to enter into a serious evaluation of who they were and where they were going before they could begin to define a profile for the next Senior Pastor. An ad hoc committee of pastoral staff and Elders were tasked with creating a vision statement that would focus the church toward the next ten years. At the same time, the governance structure was evaluated and the Elders began the unwieldy chore of review with intent to streamline and more clearly define the roles of the leadership. The objective was to create a leadership structure that would both strongly support and provide accountability for a new Senior Pastor.
To add yet another layer of concern during this transition time, there was apprehension, by some, that Mary was now placed in a position of responsibility without the direct supervision of a Senior Pastor. This was an awkward place for Mary to be. She has a highly responsible and highly visible role in a church without the benefit of a mentor to show her the ropes. “It’s where I am,” she says. “The corporate world was a much easier place to live. In some respects it was!” Mary is an XP without the buffer or collaboration or sponsorship of a Senior Pastor, and it makes the job much more challenging. The role of the XP is to work with the Senior Pastor. When that person is missing, it throws a lot more responsibility your way. “In my business life, I have not been like eagles or geese, flying the point. I am successful, comfortable and adequate working as the second person behind the one in power. Flying point is not my best place.”
About the challenging transition, Rez Sindac-Gopez asked Mary: “What is the impact of this transition period on your role as Executive Pastor? How do you handle the added pressure and expectations?” Mary responded: “Well, I am finding that while my job description is basically the same, I am being stretched in the role of liaison between staff and leadership, as well as general oversight on a day-to-day basis for church management. Our elders are our governance authority and they are committed to leading with strength through this transition as we seek God’s guidance for a new Senior Pastor. When the added pressure and expectation begin to overwhelm me, I look to God for strength and for His wisdom in each situation. I know that I am inadequate in my own strength, but I believe His word is true when He tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NAS).
Rez continued with a question: “Describe your working relationship with your Senior Pastor.” Mary replied: “We are in a transition phase at the present time. Our Senior Pastor resigned to pursue a doctoral program and God’s leading in his life to serve in another capacity. Prior to his resignation my working relationship with him was one of mutual respect and an understanding of one another’s roles. He is the shepherd of the congregation. With the pastoral staff he is responsible for providing church vision, ministry planning and development, spiritual guidance, counsel, mentoring, and overall staff leadership. We often collaborated on issues involving staff, ministry opportunities, budget decisions and general operations. I am blessed to have worked with a Senior Pastor who believes strongly in the role of women in ministry. I trust that God will bring us a new Senior Pastor who has the same level of confidence in me and with whom I can work as successfully.”
Career in Business
To understand Mary as an XP, it is helpful to gain perspective on her career in business. She was a Senior Human Relations Generalist in an engineering firm. As a part of a management team, they collaboratively made decisions about all things related to staffing. “How do we staff well, train well, compensate, and integrate with other departments.” Mary focused on performance management, working on the best management plan for the employees. She would often ask the question, “Who are the people that we put into places of responsibility?”
In her group she helped the “infrastructure happen—it was with the technical people, contracting, risk management, graphics, document processing, facilities, office services. We had about 200 employees in our group and about 800 people in the region.” The infrastructure supported the engineers, who were the “bread and butter” people of the firm.
A regional business manager led the area, and five regional technical managers reported directly to him. Mary provided the HR piece to complete the regional business management team. Altogether, she spent fourteen years with the engineering firm, with ten years in HR. She felt that her gifts and abilities fit the role and that she acquired the skill set required for the position. She enjoyed the issues of employee relations and performance management—even though it could often be “sticky stuff.” On performance issues, she would work with the supervisor of the employee, document the employee’s performance, have conversations with the employee and document those conversations. Then, she would set out clear expectations, give a timeline, hopefully engage the employee and move the employee along the continuum of performance to where they need to be.
When asked “why HR?” Mary said that it “brings out in me the ability to talk to people in a calm manner, with a calm presence. I enjoy being able to talk and engage without being critical or harsh. I enjoy helping people make improvements that will make them successful. It is very rewarding when someone turns around, is successful and is a satisfied employee.”
Mary found that many times people are hired based on skill. In her firm, people were often hired because they were great engineers. She found that people management or interpersonal skills are not always seen as important as technical education and experience. However, once those people are in the workforce, specifically your workplace, “If they don’t know how to do the rest of the piece—manage people well, create positive client relationships, sell the services of the firm—the technical expertise becomes secondary. They are a mess. Technical competency is there but some can’t interact with the clients.”
Mary was a vital player as she collaborated with the key managers as they discussed best practices relative to the firm’s greatest asset—their employees. There would be a problem issue and they would talk about it. One person would ask, “What am I going to do about the two employees that don’t get along. They each have value, so how can we sort it out? How can we bring resolution, or do we need to manage the person out of the organization?”
Problem Solving Skills
Mary found that she had problem solving skills. There was a synergy of working with others. She saw that when people have a common goal and are interested in coming up with a great resolution, that there was a high degree of satisfaction. There was satisfaction, even though the resolution may not be easy, such as moving the employee out.
With regard to the unfortunate time when an employee had to leave the firm, important questions and issues came into play. Some of the important questions were: “How do we do this transition and do it well? How do we treat the employee well? How do we keep the firm out of litigation? How do we deal well with their co-workers?” The issues of co-workers was key for Mary. The co-workers had often worked with the difficult employee for years. Yes, there was a performance issue, but there were also relationship and work issues. “We have worked with the person and counted on him/her for the services provided. If he or she leaves the firm, then there will be a hole. In some companies this frustration about who will do the person’s work causes them to move slowly or not all.” This fear of the future and unknown outcomes can create decision paralysis, which further erodes the integrity of the management team.
Training and Mentoring
Mary is deeply indebted to the engineering firm. It helped her acquire valuable skill sets. They provided a great deal of training for her to grow and expand her vistas. A vital piece was the ability to be mentored. “Mentoring is more than fifty percent up to the person who wants to be mentored. Pick out a person who has something to teach you.” Mary was hired by the governmental affairs office and it helped her learn the organization from the top down. The Vice-President of Governmental Affairs reported to the Board Chair.
As she was mentored by the Vice-President of Government Affairs, she gained a new perspective on the firm. “Things that I learned from him about the organization—the ability to ask questions … to learn who the players were … how to network effectively—all invaluable lessons.” Many of us think of mentoring as a wonderful path, without the stress and strain of everyday life. Many see a mentor as an advice giver, who only appears when requested.
However, there is another side of being mentored. There is a harder edge of reality. Mary says, “The Vice-President mentored me and he frustrated me to pieces. He knew everyone of significance in the organization, but had an inconsistent management style. One day we were having a celebration lunch and the next day he would be overly critical because a vendor was coming and there was a dirt mark on the door. I never knew what his mood would be.” Mentoring by someone in the office, specifically your supervisor, can be difficult and challenging. One gets the plus of the “inside scoop” but also the challenge of working with someone who knows you quite well and provides your day-to-day supervision.
While in Washington, DC, she had an “office lead position.” However, she was continually being given new learning challenges and opportunities. Her supervisor sent her on significant assignments and listened to her. On one such occasion, he brought in a consultant to help at a time when turnover was high; they did some work on communication and interpersonal dynamics using tools such as the Johari 8 window exercise. “The employees stabilized and the right people adjusted. Those that were not able to make the adjustment opted to leave and the office became a much healthier place to work. The VP was profoundly affected by what he learned about himself. ”
Following her introduction to the firm in Washington, DC, Mary received a transfer to the Corporate Headquarters in Denver, working with the President and CAO for a few years before transferring (back home) to the Bellevue, Washington, office. At that time she decided to (“finally”) finish her college degree. Interestingly, she asked the firm to pay three-fourths of the tuition. The company agreed. She advises, “Ask for what you want; if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. But if you ask, it might be yes.” Mary would have asked for more, but the institution was a Christian one and she would take religious classes. She didn’t think it ethical to ask the firm to pay for her religious classes. Mary obtained a degree in Organizational Management with a minor in Biblical Studies, which she refers to as the “frosting on the cake!”
Woodinville Alliance is a Christian & Missionary Alliance Church (C&MA) and has 700 in worship each Sunday (a high of 1000+ with former Senior Pastor). Of the eighteen people on the staff, Mary is the first XP.
Woodinville has a mission statement that is similar to other churches: “to help people find and fully follow Jesus Christ.” However, the church further defines its mission statement by asking members and attendees to live out “Six ‘S’ Experiences.” The church believes that “a person who ‘fully follows Jesus Christ’ will consistently practice what we call the Six ‘S’ Experiences.” These experiences are both in print and on their website:
- “Sunday” Experience: Committed to regularly celebrating God’s grace together.
- Small Group Experience: Actively involved in a community of love and accountability.
- Solitude Experience: Intentionally set aside time to meet personally with God.
- Stewardship Experience: Choosing to submit my money, time, and abilities to God.
- Serving Experience: Committed to a place of service in the Body of Christ.
- Seeker Experience: Committed to relationships with people who need Christ.
The church has a unique introduction to their doctrinal statement, which is that of the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church (C&MA):
The U.S Olympic team is made up of many different teams: gymnastics, swimming, boxing, track, volleyball, and on it goes. These athletes look and live diverse and contrasting lives—compare the 13-year-old gymnast with the 30-year-old weightlifter! However, when they walk into the stadium to open and close the Games, they march under one flag. When it comes to Christ’s church there are many different churches and denominations that have different worship styles and doctrinal statements. However, we must always remember that we march under the same flag if we hold to the basic truths given in God’s Word. At Woodinville Alliance we seek to build bridges to other Bible-believing churches and parachurch ministries on the Eastside because we believe that, when Christ returns, we will march into the stadium as one Church!
Woodinville is a church that desires its members to live out the mission statement. Many churches have a new member’s document that is five to ten pages long. In the training program for new members, the church distributes a twenty-five page booklet. The former Senior Pastor, Morris Dirks, begins the booklet by writing: “Our most important membership is in God’s family.” The booklet then calls new members to a high standard. Through a series of “Membership says” statements, new members are challenged to live a committed life:
- “I belong here.”
- “We share the same ministry goals.”
- “I accept responsibility for a group of fellow believers in the family of God.”
- “I am accountable to mature brothers and sisters in Christ for my walk with God.”
- “I accept responsibility for how things are done here.”
- “I want our church to be legal.”
The seven pages of the church’s bylaws allow for a small Elder board of five to nine members.
Rez Sindac-Gopec writes, “So what is it that makes Jammerman the authority figure you love to follow? ‘My identity is in Christ,’ she says. And in this world where many are convinced ‘image is everything,’ Jammerman’s words are as convicting as they are liberating.”
Rez Sindac-Gopez asked Mary, “How did God prepare you for your role as Executive Pastor?” Mary replied: “In addition to my background in the field of human resources management and administration, I have worked in a variety of volunteer and paid positions. I served on our church governing board for several years where my human resource skills were utilized in areas of staff hires and terminations, employee relations, and employment policy. I worked in administrative positions for corporate presidents and received valuable exposure to organizational management. I also had opportunities to lead women’s Bible studies, mentor younger women, speak at women’s retreats and seminars, and provide encouragement and leadership to women of all ages. I finished a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and biblical studies. All of these experiences played a part in preparation for my current role.”
Mary comments on the role of the XP to the Senior Pastor. “The role of the Executive Pastor is absolutely critical. The primary purpose of an Executive Pastor is to serve the Senior Pastor. The Executive Pastor must be able to keep the everyday pressures off of the Senior Pastor’s desk so that he can give the best leadership in a pastoral sense—preaching, teaching, casting vision, leadership development, and ministry strategy. If the Senior Pastor gets caught up in administrative issues, he will be siphoned off from his calling and fail to give the church the spiritual leadership that is needed.”
“People are people no matter where they work. The church faces the same challenges as does the corporate world, but because we are the church we often expect that relationships and challenges will be more easily resolved. In fact, the corporate environment more often provides for a cleaner, less messy way of dealing with people and issues! In the church, we’re a family and that often muddies how we see things, and yet at the same time we are an organization that