Episode 10: Evaluating Church Leadership

Churches often wait to evaluate their leadership until something goes wrong. But proactive church leadership evaluation is actually a key ingredient for a healthy church!

Join us for episode 10 as we discuss how to – and how not to – evaluate your church leadership.

This episode’s special guests

This episode, we have the honor of welcoming two fantastic guests to the show:

Dwayne Huff joins us from Frontline Bible Church in Byron Center, MI, where he serves as chairman of the board. His background is in youth ministry, and he’s served in various ministry roles for over 30 years. Dwayne sees his role as chairman to be primarily about supporting the pastor and helping him be the best he can be.

Pastor John Spooner has served in ministry for over 47 years, and is currently the interim pastor at Berean Bible Church in Shoreline, WA.

Huge thanks to these men for sharing their insight with us today!

Today’s topic

As we think about what a thriving church is, it’s essential to understand what a healthy pastor and a healthy board look like.

How do you know if your pastor and board are healthy or not? Through good evaluation and assessment. This episode’s topic is evaluating church leadership, and we’ll be discussing how to successfully evaluate your pastor and board leadership.

Why is evaluation helpful?

The most important reason to do evaluations is because they are biblical. The beginning of 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” Evaluation is a mandate from the Bible.

There are two basic questions you’re asking at the start of an evaluation:

Why are we doing what we’re doing?
Why is what we’re doing so important?

If you come up with good answers to these questions, you’ve laid the foundation you need for a great evaluation.

What happens when an organization doesn’t evaluate itself?

Evaluation is about seeing if you’re on target. Without evaluation, how do you know where you’re at with achieving your goals?

This is especially true for the pastor. Although he is often evaluated privately by members of the congregation, he doesn’t regularly get to hear how he’s really doing. When the pastor isn’t part of these evaluations, it’s much harder for him to gauge how well he is meeting the church’s expectations. Evaluations are meant to help church leaders succeed!

Often, boards are afraid to evaluate because they don’t feel equipped to give input regarding the spiritual state of the church or the pastor’s unique work. They feel like they don’t have the right to challenge a man of God.

But without evaluation, issues pile up until they have to come out, and then when they do come out, no one sees it coming and it isn’t handled in the best way.

The importance of self-evaluation

One of the adages of leadership is to not subject others to something you wouldn’t subject yourself to. Unfortunately, boards often fail to evaluate themselves, but it’s essential for them to do this if they’re going to be evaluating the pastor.

Is there a willingness and ability to self-evaluate as they also evaluate the pastor? In order to do this, board members need to know what it looks like to do their job well. Make sure your church board has a clear picture of what board service should look like.

How does a church board avoid catching the pastor off-guard with negative feedback?

A common problem that churches fall into is going way too long without giving the pastor any feedback, only to then overload him with criticisms.

How can you avoid catching your pastor off guard with negative feedback?

First and foremost, you need to develop a relational connection beyond once-a-month board meetings or once-a-year evaluations. Having this relationship with the pastor also allows board members and congregants to view his role and his performance as more than just Sunday mornings. There is so much going on in the life of a pastor beyond his Sunday responsibilities, and your pastoral evaluations will be much better if you know him well.

The pastor also has a responsibility to empower the board members to challenge him and walk alongside him. He helps them to understand they’re in this together, and that God has called them all to the mission of the church. The pastor and the board should have a symbiotic relationship of coming alongside each other.

Do church board members understand their role?

Part of evaluation is to clarify what the expectations are. But does the board collectively know what their role is? Do they have a strong direction? Or do most boards just feel like they’re managing church business and finances without a good understanding of the fullness of their role? There is a lack of understanding today among board members about what their role includes.

What does a good pastoral evaluation look like?

Begin by asking board members and other church staff about their thoughts on the pastor’s work and their relationship with him. Encourage transparency.

Don’t put too much weight on feedback you get regarding things people don’t know much about. For example, if someone doesn’t know about the pastor’s life during the week, don’t count their feedback about that subject too heavily.

Church evaluation should be different from that of a more corporate setting. The board might be tempted to give an evaluation that is primarily outcome-based or task-oriented, rather than spiritual. But the pastor is a spiritual leader who needs to be held accountable and helped with good feedback. Church boards have to be empowered and guided to know how to evaluate their pastor.

Questions to ask in a pastoral evaluation

Here are a few questions that Dwayne and Pastor John recommend to ask in a pastoral evaluation:

How are you doing personally?
Do you have what you need from the board/staff?
What resources are you lacking?
How is your personal time?
Are you taking care of your spouse and children?

Make sure you are providing an opportunity for the pastor to say, “I really need this resource,” or, “I’m really struggling right now.” You should want to know what they need to carry out their ministry.

Advice for pastoral evaluations

Make a clearly defined job description for the pastor, so you can evaluate him based on his actual responsibilities. To do this, you need to identify your core values as a church. Without a clear idea of the values you’re trying to foster in your church, you can’t really evaluate how well your pastor is doing.

Not sure how to define your church’s core values? Ask the group this question: “By what standard do we measure our success in the church?”

Book & resource recommendations

We asked our guests for their best resources for evaluating church leadership. Here are the books they said were most helpful to them in this process:

It by Craig Groeschel

High Impact Church Boards by T.J. Addington

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley

At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

Grace Gospel Fellowship has a board assessment rubric that gives church board members the ability to evaluate their performance. For access to our evaluation tool, email Bryan at bryan@ggfusa.org!

Final thoughts

Don’t wait until you have the perfect mechanism for evaluations, just start doing them! Get the conversation rolling, even if you feel like you don’t quite know what you’re doing yet.

Act, don’t react. Don’t wait until something happens and you need to evaluate. Be proactive.

Establish clear expectations for the pastor’s role. Your pastor wants to be pleasing to the church, so don’t make it impossible for him by evaluating him by expectations that are all over the map.

Thanks again to Dwayne and Pastor John for joining us!

In this episode:

0:00 – Introduction
1:00 – This episode’s special guests
2:00 – Today’s topic: evaluating church leadership
5:40 – Why is evaluation helpful?
7:43 – What happens when an organization doesn’t evaluate itself?
11:00 – The importance of self-evaluation
12:50 – How does a board avoid catching the pastor off-guard with negative feedback?
19:08 – Do boards understand their role?
22:20 – What does a good pastoral evaluation look like?
27:45 – Questions to ask in a pastoral evaluation
30:30 – Advice for pastoral evaluations
35:00 – Tools and resources for evaluations
39:00 – Final thoughts


Resources Mentioned:

It by Craig Groeschel

High Impact Church Boards by T.J. Addington

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley

At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

Grace Gospel Fellowship’s Board Evaluation Tool 

More Resources

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