by Greg Anderson
This is the last post in a series on church staff performance evaluation.
In previous posts, we discussed how co-discovery, defining essential competencies, writing job descriptions, etc., can benefit staff, leaders, and the local church. In this post, we broaden our perspective to include how performance evaluation benefits the Kingdom of God.
First, let’s address a few misconceptions.
“Performance” may be considered a less than pious term for many in the church world. After all, if we’re saved by grace, should that not carry over into our jobs as staff members? Two immediate responses come to mind. A) Being saved by grace is not a license for irresponsible behavior or perpetual immaturity. B) “Performance” is not a dirty word. One of the definitions of performance is, “The execution or accomplishment of work.”
Done properly, evaluating someone’s ability to accomplish work or identifying barriers that keep someone from accomplishing work can be a great blessing for all parties involved. So what do we mean by the phrase, “Done properly?” Let’s explore.
Proper performance evaluation:
Should be done in the right spirit – Using rigid metrics as a means of demoralizing staff members does not yield positive results. Elders sometimes forget that the “hired help” is also part of the flock. Just because someone’s livelihood comes from funds given by church members does not mean church leaders or members have the right to treat church staff as inferior. Proper performance evaluation is bathed in prayer. It is approached with great humility and in a spirit of encouragement and support. Even if a staff person is struggling with a particular competency, the discussion should revolve more around positive opportunity for improvement; not negative berating of inability. If a staff person cannot grasp the necessary tools and dismissal does become necessary, elders should still treat the individual with dignity and respect.
Does not pass the buck – This is one of the ways that effective performance evaluation helps the Kingdom of God. If we coach and mentor staff and provide resources for them to improve their ability to move forward the mission and vision of their respective churches, then we do not put ourselves in position to perpetuate immaturity, poor decision making, lack of team participation, etc. We also do not put ourselves in unethical waters when providing references should a staff person attempt to secure employment in another church. Sometimes, the temptation to provide a positive reference when one is not merited is made easier to give into when we are not super thrilled with the staff person’s job performance. However, if we have done nothing to course correct, then such behaviors are not only unethical – they potentially do great harm.
Should follow four C’s by being:
- Consistent – At a minimum, evaluations should be facilitated once per year. Ideally, they should be facilitated once every six months.
- Conversational – There should not be any surprises when performance evaluations are facilitated. Staff and elders should be in on-going conversation about what is and is not working and course correct based on congregational feedback, demographic and cultural studies, staff member phases of life, etc.
- Concise – A performance review meeting should last about an hour; even less if a conversational approach is the norm. If you use a form as a means of identifying specific rating criteria, then keep it brief; 2-3 pages at most. Provide space for staff members to give feedback and make sure to talk through it – not just provide a copy of it for them to read.
- Christ like – In Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul offers the following counsel to the Ephesian elders, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” The Greek word for overseers in this verse is “episkopous” and can also be translated as “guardians.” The word “bishop” is derived from this word. The phrase, “be shepherds” can also mean “feed the flock.” So, if we break this verse down to its essence, Paul is saying, “Elders, guard and feed the called out of God, the community He purchased with the blood of his very own Son.” Staff is part of the flock. They have been called to minster to God’s people and reach out to those who are not yet part of God’s family. When they struggle, we help them, just like we would any other member of God’s family.
If a staff person is called to another work one day, how valuable it will be to have a written record that showcases improvement. Actually, he or she will not just showcase improvement, but more importantly the ability to improve, and that is indicative of wisdom and maturity – two highly desirable traits for those who serve within the body of Christ.
Please allow me to offer one final and practical word. If a staff person is related to an elder or member of a governing board, then the governing board member should be recused from evaluation and dialogue related to performance of that staff member. The alternative is a breeding ground for dissension.
Several years ago, John Piper wrote a book entitled, “Brothers, We are Not Professionals.” I so agree with the premise of Piper’s work, but I also think it important to realize that as staff, we are leaders, and as leaders we should be willing to allow iron to sharpen iron. Otherwise, we may become so accustomed to mediocrity – we confuse it with excellence. May we embrace a higher standard by “doing all in the name of the Lord.”
If you would like additional information on implementing performance evaluation for your church staff, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.