Leader to Leader, Ministry

How to Evaluate Your Pastor and Staff

February 6, 2014 | Posted by Art Scherer

When I was District President, I would frequently get calls from congregational leaders asking for help in evaluating their pastor. Often, but not always, that would be a sign of conflict that demanded conflict resolution rather than help with evaluation. And when evaluation was done, it was often done in retrospect against standards and goals or implied job descriptions that were not discussed or agreed upon at the beginning of the evaluation period. In other words, the evaluators were saying “We think you should have been doing this more effectively!” even though no one clearly told the pastor or staff member what was expected behavior and no mutual goals were set for the worker to achieve. In response, the pastor would sometimes dig in his heels and say, “The only job description I have is the Ordination/Installation promise I made when I came here, and I have been faithful to that. Now you are adding on things we never talked about.” — And the conflict begins.

The key to any effective evaluation is threefold:

  1. An acknowledgement that we are sinners under the cross and redeemed saints by the grace of God. We approach one another in the humble spirit of Christ. We do not lord it over one another, but seek the Spirit’s guidance in prayer and through the Word. We approach our shortcomings with mutual confession and forgiveness.
  2. A Biblical and Confessional understanding of the ministry role or office which is being evaluated. An understanding of that role or office may then result in a broad-based job description that receives substance through …
  3. A missional ability to set both personal and congregational goals. A staff member cannot be evaluated unless there is a mutually clear and realistic understanding of his or her ministry role and what goals that staff member is expected to accomplish within the mission God has given to the church.

Dan Hotchkiss, in his book Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership, (Herndon, VA, Alban Institute, 2009), gives certain principles for effective evaluation.

Effective evaluation of the pastor or other staff members is …

  • Scheduled: Evaluation takes place by the calendar, not in response to problems. In every position I have held, I have always insisted on having an evaluation committee (some call it “mutual ministry” committee) that would meet with me quarterly to talk about how WE were doing in the goals we had set. I usually had to initiate those meetings, because in most cases things were going well. Regular reviews and meetings help to ensure that things keep going well. Do it from the start. Don’t wait for problems.
  • Mutual: Everyone gives and receives feedback. On our staff, we used Personal Performance Plans that tied personal goals to congregational goals. Some good advice on setting personal performance plans and goals may be found on the Mindtools website.
  • Goal-centered: Previously established goals are the basis for evaluation. The biggest problem with evaluations is that congregations often have no goals towards which they are mutually striving, and so, evaluations sometimes measure arbitrary skill sets.
  • Individual: “Am I meeting the expected standard for my job?” “How am I contributing to our goals?”
  • Collective: “What progress have we made towards our goals?” “How do we need to adjust our course?”
  •  Backward looking: “What did I accomplish?” “How well did we do?”
  • Forward looking: “How can I improve?” “What should we do differently next time?”

Evaluation is meant to be an affirming process, not a degrading one. When done on a regular basis, with mutually agreed upon standards and goals, it can be a blessing to all.

Art Scherer
Art Scherer is President Emeritus of the Southeastern District, LCMS, and a consultant in stewardship and capital funding for LCEF. Dr. Scherer is developer of LCEF’s popular Consecrated Stewards series and author of the Living as Children of a Generous God Bible studies.