Monday, February 16, 2015

Pastor's Toolbox: Why and how we do church staff reviews.

Unless you lead a staff or are on staff at a church, I would't think this blog would interest you very much. However, if you do either of the above, this may well be a helpful resource to you. It's been almost 20 years that I've been in vocational ministry with a church. During that time, I've never had, or conducted, a formal annual review. Until this year, that is.

Why is that? Well, the 4 churches I've served have been quite diverse. They've been in 4 different cities, on 2 different continents, and have ranged in staff size from 4 to around 30. The size of the churches has ranged from 100 to around 1500 people. One common denominator  between  all 4 churches has been a commitment to what I'd call it  an organic family culture. The Bible describes the church as a family, not a corporation. This culture is severely tested as a church grows in size and complexity but I've found it worth fighting for. Although every church has to do it's due diligence when it comes to financial administration, I'm convinced that God wants a Biblical culture of family to take precedence over a pragmatic corporate culture. The Bible essentially describes leaders in the church as qualified Moms and Dads who are raising spiritual children.

The problem is though, that within an organic family culture, other Biblical cultures like stewardship tend to suffer.  Stewardship has to do with increased accountability, progress and reward. These are Jesus ideas. In a purely organic family atmosphere we can tend to be too easily satisfied; maybe even a little self-congratulatory!

It's with this in mind that I began to think of a way to do an annual review for our staff to ensure a culture of stewardship within a culture of family.  Even if we are doing well, which I think we are, we should never stop growing and learning. The Apostle Paul said to Timothy, "Let everyone see your progress." That is the why of a review.

You may call me pedantic, but for me, the how is as important as the why. So we tried to adapt a review from a few we found to fit our culture, rather than adopt one review.

We begin the review by praying, thanking God for the person being reviewed and asking for His presence in the process. Each staff member has 3 reviewers in the room; one peer, one leader, and one follower. It avoids the 'boss/employee' scenario. It is more of a family of Gospel partners.
They all have 3 questions to  answer for the person being reviewed.
1.What did the person do during the past year that was great?
2.What did they do that could go from good to great?
3. What needs real improvement?
After this, the person being reviewed has 6 simple questions to answer. (They are given in advance.)
1. What did you most enjoy about your job this past year?
2. What did you least enjoy?
3. What would you like to do more of this year?
4. What would you like to do less of?
5. What did you learn abut yourself?
6. What did you learn about the church?

Finally, everyone else leaves the room, and I am alone with the person trying to clarify any common themes for their  encouragement and improvement.  I would then add my perspective, and  also speak to the person about their annual raise. Every staff member I have spoken to has said they found it extremely helpful.
What value did it have?
1. It helps people to articulate their feelings in a prepared manner.
2. It gives people clarity on how others experience them.
3. It shows common themes for encouragement and improvement
4. It highlights any relational tensions that need to be resolved.

One last thing. I took my own medicine. I didn't only conduct the reviews. I also submitted to the review process myself, except that my reviewers included the whole elder team comprising 8 men.
It was long and hard, but on the whole clarifying and encouraging.
I will lead better because of it.
And we will serve and lead our congregation better because of it.
We only have a staff of 11 people. You don't have to be a massive church to have a review process, and you can include non-staff people as reviewers. I'm sure we will make some adjustments as we go, but I've already started to see fruit from the process.
I'd encourage you to consider doing it too.

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