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"Tell your boss what you think of him, and the truth shall set you free." Unfortunately, there is just a little too much truth to this! Very few of us enjoy being evaluated, but deep down, we all want to know how we're doing, and the team will never perform to its maximum output without consistent and effective evaluation.

There are several advantages to performance evaluations:

1. Increased communication.
2. Increased productivity.
3. Enhancement of teamwork.
4. Reduction of unforeseen problems.
5. Reduction of tension caused by misunderstandings about expectations.
6. Provides a valuable tool for personal and professional growth.

The primary purpose of a performance review is personal and professional development.

The wrong way to do a performance evaluation is to meet at the end of the church year with nothing in writing with which to interact - that is, no goals, plans or objectives set a year ago - and attempt a totally subjective evaluation. You are asking for trouble if you do it this way.

The right way to conduct an effective performance review is to invest 80 percent of your effort into crafting an annual personal ministry performance plan with each staff member. If the word "performance" has some negative baggage to it in your context and culture, here's another suggestion.

My friend, Wayne Schmidt, pastors Kentwood Community Church in Michigan, and he developed this creative name - A Ministry Action Plan - A MAP. What a great picture for each staff member. A map provides clear direction to a pre-determined destination over a specific period of time. Thanks, Wayne!!!

The MAP is a mutually designed and agreed upon "covenant" between the senior or executive pastor and the staff member for a one-year period of time. This MAP contains measurable goals and objectives listed out in short bullet-type sentences. Stay away from the lengthy paragraphs most commonly found in traditional job descriptions. Each MAP should be no more than 2-3 pages long. One page may work fine. Detail is not the goal.

Explaining how the job will be done is not the purpose for this tool. Typically, the staff pastor/ministry director writes the first draft, and the senior leader reviews and "tweaks" it. Then, they both go over it together for more adjustments. When all the MAPS are complete, the whole team reviews all of them and offers input (not approval). Then the covenant becomes complete.

The problems with typical job descriptions:

a. They are obsolete.
b. They are not specific.
c. They are not measurable.
d. They are too long and wordy.
e. They are too detailed or too general.
f. They open the door to an "it's not my job" attitude.
g. They are ignored by everyone.

The advantages of Ministry Action Plans:

a. They provide a platform for shared ownership of responsibility. (More than one person gives input.)
b. They are updated at least annually.
c. They are personalized to each individual.
d. They are easily measurable.
e. They include both job performance and attitude/team contributions.
f. They enhance communication because the whole team has a copy of each other's ministry plan.
g. They cut out the fat and get to the point.

If you have designed a good MAP and communicated consistently about its contents over the course of the year, the evaluation is a relatively pain-free process. (My dentist tells me the same thing!) The actual evaluation process, in contrast to the MAP writing process, should consume about 20 percent of your time and energy. Again, the goal is not to catch the staff member doing something wrong, but to use the evaluation as a growth tool. In other words, use areas of strength and weakness and success and failure as a guide to the staff member's personal development plan. (If there are attitude or raw ability issues, that is another deal entirely - a topic for another edition of "The Pastor's Coach"!)

Helpful guidelines to an effective and productive evaluation:

1. Clarify the purpose of the evaluation.

a. Look forward - a tool for personal and professional development.
b. Look back - a guideline for compensation and rewards.
c. The present - a means to improve communication, organization and morale.

Fred Pryor, founding publisher of "The Pryor Report" and business consultant says: "There are five questions we all want answered about our work."

Here are the "Big Five":

  • What's expected?
  • How am I doing?
  • Where am I headed?
  • How can I improve?
  • What's my reward?

2. Never, never, never surprise a staff member with an evaluation "out of the blue."

3. Conduct the review as a multi-dimensional process to reduce tension and increase effectiveness.

Conduct the review more as an exchange of information, not as a report card. Allow the staff member to give evaluative remarks about you as the leader. Give them permission to say, without penalty, what frustrates them. After you get some experience under your belt with a straightforward evaluation, you may wish to experiment with 180- and 360-degree evaluations. This is where, for example, the staff participates in evaluating each other, and even lay leaders get involved. Do not start here. Do not attempt this until you have two years of successful standard evaluations as a track record.

4. Stick to the essentials; don't nit pick personal issues and petty things.

5. Insist on honesty and objectivity - in both directions.

As for the leader/supervisor, praise them if they are performing well, but don't tell them they're doing OK if they are not.

6. Use a consistent and measurable form of evaluation.

There is a good degree of art form and judgment call on the part of the leader/supervisor, so the more objective and quantifiable your process is, the better.

It's better not to have more than seven and less than three possible "ratings" for each individual area of responsibility - five is ideal.

Avoid numbers only because they aren't specific enough, and avoid words like "average." "Average" is the best of the worst and the worst of the best. Options like "Acceptable" or "Meets Required Ministry Standards" are far better. The key that makes it all work is a clearly written and clearly understood ministry performance plan.


___Exceptional ___Very Good ___Good ___Acceptable ___Unacceptable

7. Listen more than you talk.

The staff member is much more anxious than you are. They don't need a lecture. Give them confidence that this process is in their best interest.

8. Be generous with praise and keep the evaluation upbeat.

9. Give tangible evidence of the value of the process.

Put tremendous effort into personalizing their strengths and areas of needed improvement. Design a fresh growth plan immediately. And above all, follow-up!

If you read the last edition of "The Pastor's Coach," you'll remember that the staff member evaluations are divided equally into two categories: (1) their performance within the parameters of their primary responsibilities, and (2) their overall team contribution.

My hope and desire for you is a more fruitful team that really enjoys ministry together.

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter "The Pastor's Coach" available at

Author Biography

Dan Reiland
Web site: 12 Stone Church
Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

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