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I remember the first time a personnel committee of my church evaluated my ministry and me. I was young, in my early 20s, and I had never had anyone evaluate me to that point. I didn't like being evaluated then, and it still makes me uncomfortable at times—though I know it's necessary. Here are some mistakes I've seen churches make regularly in this process of evaluating pastors:
- Not evaluating the pastors at all: Even if they are the spiritual leaders, nothing should prohibit the church from evaluating their work and helping them grow. That's good stewardship of persons.
- Evaluating without established expectations on a written job description: With no written job description, you are asking a pastor to live up to everyone's expectations. No one can live up to that standard.
- Evaluating them only when the church is struggling: If that's the only time pastoral evaluation takes place, it's possible the motive is wrong—perhaps to help push the pastor out the door. Regular evaluations help avoid this problem.
- Evaluating on only the basis of growth and giving: These are not at all invalid criteria to use in evaluating pastors, but they should be only one part of the process. Stalled growth does not necessarily mean poor leadership, and increased growth is not always indicative of good leadership.
- Including uninvolved church members in the evaluation process: I've seen churches create personnel committees of business leaders who know how to evaluate personnel but who seldom, if ever, attend church. Unfaithful members should not carry this responsibility.
- Emphasizing only the negative: You can wear out a good pastor by continually dealing with negatives while failing to point out the numbers of people who continue to love and follow him.
- Pointing out concerns but offering no helpful corrective steps: Evaluations should be godly and redemptive—offering hope and help for a pastor who needs both. When evaluators have no plan to help overcome the negatives, they're essentially saying, "We're not very interested in helping you."
- Evaluating on the basis of hours in the office: Frankly, some of the best pastors I know aren't in their office much; they're outside the church walls doing outreach.
- Failing to ask about the pastors' spiritual walk: We assume all is in order here and then quickly address other organizational issues. We miss an opportunity to minister to the shepherds when we don't talk about their spiritual practices.
- Failing to check out available resources for evaluation: Some churches spend too much time trying to figure out how to evaluate a pastor. Do a search for "ways to evaluate pastors," and you will find resources. They may not always be inexpensive, but they will often help you save time.
What would you add?
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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