The title of this article may lead some to believe that a few unlucky folks from St. Philip’s were chosen as tributes for the Hunger Games. Actually, the purpose is just the opposite; the subtitle for Survival School — yep, that’s what they officially call it — is “Essential Skills for Successful Non-Profit Leadership.”

Many members of St. Philip’s have taken management courses that have been aimed at people who have worked in the business world or government. Some who subsequently take on leadership roles in non-profit organizations, especially churches, suffer a degree of culture shock until they get the hang of working in an organization that is comprised primarily of volunteers.

Survival School is a week-long experiential program that offers hands-on workshops on pastoral issues facing leaders today, offered as a program of the Arizona Ecumenical Council. The Survival School instructional staff has been offering this week-long intensive workshop for over 30 years. Proven principles of leadership, management, supervision, and community development form the basis for the instruction, which is tailored to the needs of those who work in church ministry, whether professionally or as volunteer lay leaders. A wide variety of instructional methods make the learning experience both interesting and dynamic.

Survival school grounds PSThe Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers non-profit organizations a serene gathering place for meetings, conferences, and special events.  Located on 25 acres in the lush desert valley at the base of Camelback Mountain, the Center has both indoor and outdoor spaces designed to inspire the mind and soothe the spirit.

Many parishioners and staff from St. Philip’s have attended Survival School. It all started in 2008, when the Rev. Greg Foraker took the course and spoke very highly of it to the Program Staff and Rector John Kitagawa. In the summer of 2009, the Program Staff all attended Survival School, held at Christ the King Episcopal Church. In the next few years, Survival School leaders brought specific portions of the curriculum to Ministry Development Workshops at St. Philip’s, for Vestry, Commissioners, and other ministry leaders. St. Philip’s has even hosted two week-long Survival School courses. An estimated 40-50 St. Philip’s members and staff have attended the training.

survival school Katie McCallister & triangle PS-1

Katie McCallister demonstrates the art of creating a square out of confusingly cut cardboard triangles. (This may look like a kindergarten exercise, but its purpose is to teach cooperation.)

The attendees this year were Bob Kamilli, Ellen Duax, and an honorary St. Philippian, the freshly minted (June 2014) Rev. Katie McCallister, Assistant Rector at St. Alban’s. She interned at St. Philip’s while she was an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, before heading off to seminary. Leaders for this Survival School week were the Rev. Greg Foraker, Tricia Hoyt, Norbert Zwickl, and Patricia Bennier.

The photos  would seem to imply that Survival School is all fun and games. It may be enjoyable, but it is comprehensive and sometimes even intense. The course covers the following topics: developing a “theology and caring of volunteers” rooted in the biblical imperative of good stewardship; writing volunteer job descriptions; interviewing, placing, supervising and evaluating volunteers; exercising transformational leadership; understanding and using power appropriately; building an effective team environment; understanding the minister’s role as manager; knowing the essential leadership skills of good management; managing stress; developing a healthy spirituality of ministry;  handling conflicts wisely and avoiding burnout.

Katie McCallister summarizes a position description created by a breakout group. From left to right: Position descriptions for a youth leader, receptionist, and board member.

Katie McCallister summarizes a position description created by a breakout group. From left to right: Position descriptions for a youth leader, receptionist, and board member.


Ellen Duax loved Survival School. She says that she learned concepts that have practical and “real-world” information that she can apply immediately. For instance, conflict is a basic aspect of the human condition, but it can lead to personal growth and positive outcomes.

For further information, click here, or talk to Greg, Bob or Ellen.

—Bob Kamilli

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