Pastors can be in a tough spot—on the “losing” end of an evaluation process—whether they’re the evaluator or the employee. Unclear expectations and flawed accountability structures create stresses that can threaten any pastor’s ministry. Fortunately, the church can do better.
I still dread performance management, especially annual evaluation of staff. I’ve built a structure that makes evaluation conversations doable, but they still make me so anxious that I want to run away and hide. Recently, Frederick Buechner collided with Harvard Business Review in my morning brain, and I started to wonder about adding a new question to the evaluation process—Should we alter course?—that could draw me out of my anxiety into a richer and more meaningful evaluation conversation.
Service is notoriously hard to measure. This is true for every type of service: checkout clerks at Walmart, geeks at Best Buy, and nurse-midwives. And it’s doubly true when the desired result is fuzzy, controversial, or unstated, as it often is for clergy, educators, organizers, or musicians working in a church or synagogue.
When the job is helping other people, measurement is difficult. That’s why you’re so often asked to fill out an evaluation after you get service online or by phone. Employers—who tried for years to measure service work with the same stopwatch-and-clipboard methods factory managers used a hundred years ago—have realized it doesn’t matter how much time it takes to serve a customer if the result is that the customer posts negative reviews all over Yelp.
When all the actors understand their responsibilities and respect their boundaries, both the staff and the congregation are more likely to enjoy a healthy staff environment.
There is no one right way to evaluate the performance of a senior minister. However, there are many ways to do it that can harm the relationship between minister and the congregation and impair, rather than enhance, the minister’s performance.
For a long time, clergy have taken credit when attendance rose and felt guilty when it fell. Most people assume that the best measure of a congregation’s spiritual vitality is the headcount at weekly worship. But some congregations have begun to think beyond that metric and focus more broadly about how their ministry transforms lives. As a result, they’re finding new ways to think about worship, vitality and effectiveness.
by Susan Beaumont
“What are you seeing out there that is working?” the pastor asked when we met for lunch. The assumption behind the question was that someone, somewhere had discovered a way forward, one that we might all benefit from knowing.
This era of congregational life calls for innovation and learning. We praise reinvention, yet our congregations aren’t doing much risk taking. We stay in maintenance mode and wait for someone else to discover a magic bullet that we can replicate.
Why aren’t we practicing what we preach? Why aren’t congregations everywhere taking more risks, experimenting and learning new pathways forward?