The Best Article I’ve Seen Lately on Evaluating Pastors

Ever seen this?  A disgruntled parishioner wants to serve on the church’s Personnel Committee to have a voice about his/her dissatisfaction with the pastor.  “The pastor must go” because:

  • She just had a baby and she spends too much time with that child.
  • She just got married and isn’t available every night like she used to be.
  • She’s a woman.
  • He goes to all his daughter’s softball games.
  • He didn’t want my wife on the Board of Deacons.
  • He brings his dog to work.
  • We pay him too much money.

I have literally heard all of these comments and my personal favorite – which was about me – was exclaimed by a man who had begged to be added to the Personnel Committee:  “It’s time for her to go. No discussion.  I move we fire her! All in favor?”

Whoa, cowboy. (A horrified Personnel Committee member reported this to me after the meeting.)

Consultant Susan Beaumont’s expertise is in large church ministry and yet there are helpful nuggets about evaluating all kinds of pastors here: Five Pitfalls to Avoid When Evaluating a Senior Pastor.

  1. The governing board should evaluate the minister. Don’t ask for volunteers to serve on a Personnel Committee because you’ll get the lady who doesn’t like the pastor’s hair. Note: The governing board should also evaluate themselves for effectiveness.
  2. Evaluate pastors on what their job descriptions say.  If  Pastor A is charged with doing all visits to home bound members, don’t judge Pastor B for not doing visits to home bound members. Note: Susan Beaumont says that no human can do more than 12 essential functions in a job.  If you’ve chosen 50 essential functions for your pastor, somebody will be frustrated.
  3. Stop with the “Some People are Saying . . . “ – Who are these people and are their concerns random? Read what Susan says about this for mature responses.
  4. Forget Congregational Surveys. Most parishioners have only a cursory idea what the pastor does.  Sometimes we don’t believe that pastors are working unless we see them in the pulpit, in the hospital, in the meeting, in the community activity.
  5. Nobody needs to hear every last comment.  Some feedback is random:  It’s distracting when she doesn’t wear black shoes.  Some rock star pastors wear navy blue.  Or pink.  Some feedback is just hurtful: That was the worst Christmas Eve sermon I’ve ever heard. The point of evaluations is to increase success and effectiveness.

Congregations regularly ask for help when evaluating their pastor.  What tools have you and/or your congregation found helpful?  Here are my two favorite pro tips:

  1. Read Jill Hudson’s When Better Isn’t Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21st Century Church.
  2. Professional human resources professionals are not necessarily the best people to evaluate pastoral leaders.  HR folks might be great at what they do.  They might even be Church People.  But they usually don’t know church culture and the spiritual nuances of Reign of God Work.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an HR person evaluate a pastor by saying something like, “That’s not how it’s done at Bank of America.”  (Do we want to run a church like Bank of America?)

Mostly, be transparent, fair and kind. Many of us don’t get paid enough to have dozens/hundreds of people judge not only our work, but also our children, our wardrobe, our hair, our homes, our cars, our calendars, our vacations, etc.  Praying for pastors is always a good idea, and while you’re at it, also be generous to your church’s educators, musicians, support staff, and maintenance people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.