In the October 12 blog post, I wrote “The purpose of a job evaluation is not to find problems and create tension. Rather, the purpose is to help the individual do the best job possible.” This must be always in the forefront during the pastoral evaluation. The goal is not to “catch” the pastor, not to cover over real problems, not to find fault or excessively praise. It is to enhance the ministry the pastor does so that the congregation will be stronger.
The overall evaluation is best done by a small, official group who represent the whole congregation. It can be a group already in place, such as the Board of Deacons. The congregation can also choose to elect a special committee to do the pastoral review. However they are chose, this group has the responsibility for working through the process with the pastor.
Using the job description as a base, the pastor and committee discuss the pastor’s activity. He/she can be asked to prepare a report on the work that has been done, including an evaluation showing how the activity fulfilled the requirements of the job description. The report can include recommendations for changing the job description as well.
Each member of the committee should also go through a similar process, writing an evaluation based on their perspective. It is very important here that the individual committee members provide their own personal evaluation. It is not helpful for committee members to report on what “they” said. Second and third hand reports channeled through the committee do not help the process because there is no way to determine the validity of such comments. As well, committee members need to refrain from commenting on things they may not be fully able to evaluate.
For example, the committee member may only have had one visit from the pastor–but that does not mean the pastor isn’t visiting others. The committee can state they have been visited once and during the discussion can ask the pastor how much visitation he/she has done. As mentioned, the committee member also cannot say that “they” say “they” are not being visited enough.
The committee can and should get input from the congregation. The best way to do this is through a questionnaire or interview process where people are given the opportunity to share their own personal thoughts and feelings. It is important that the instructions explain that the committee is looking for only the responses of the individual.
If the committee opts to use a questionnaire, make sure the questions are clear, have an answering system that is easy to understand and score and will give results that can be easily shared. When using a questionnaire in a small congregation, have pencils available and encourage the congregation to fill it out right then–questionnaires taken home rarely get filled out and even more rarely get returned.
When all the reports and questionnaires have been submitted, read and correlated by the committee, the committee and pastor can meet together. They seek to affirm the positive discoveries, make plans to develop the weak areas that show up and make recommendations to change the job description as necessary to further enable ministry.
One further issue that needs to be carefully considered is who gets to know what about the final report. Some parts of the report need to be open to everyone. For example, if the congregation is asked to fill out a questionnaire, they have a right to see the results of the questionnaire. Depending on the instructions to the pastor, they may have a right to see the report the pastor prepares for the committee. Reports by individual committee members should probably be shared only with the committee.
The final report should be available to the whole congregation, unless there are things in it which are of a confidential nature. The pastor may request that certain parts remain confidential–for example, he/she may reveal plans to retire within a year or so but not want that released to the whole congregation until a later date.
All involved need to remember that the goal of the process is the same as the goal of the ministry review–to produce better and more effective ministry. Rather than fear the process and the report, all involved should see it as an opportunity to enhance the overall ministry of the congregation.
May the peace of God be with you.