How and Why to Do Performance Reviews with Your Church Staff

I know, I know…performance reviews have sort of a bad rap.

Most people don’t love giving or receiving anything close to negative feedback.

Here’s the thing: If you’re not regularly and systematically evaluating the job performance of your staff, you are doing them and your church a major disservice!

Here’s why:

  1. Without feedback—positive and negative, it’s pretty much impossible to grow. Without encouragement from my youth pastor and my dad, I wouldn’t have entered ministry. Without negative feedback from people, I would have attempted to become a worship pastor…which would have been disastrous for everyone.
  2. Regular feedback creates an open and teachable staff culture. I’m talking about up and down the chain of command. It’s a beautiful thing when a high feedback culture exists hand-in-hand with a humble and teachable culture.
  3. Every once in a while we have employees that aren’t performing at the level required and likely never will. Without a paper trail of documented conversations around the issues, it is both ethically and practically difficult to let that person go. Regular performance evaluations assist with this obstacle.

Ok, so maybe you’re starting to buy-in or maybe you already do, but you struggle with the “how.”

Here are a few suggestions on how to implement a solid performance evaluation system.

Job Descriptions

First, start with clear job descriptions for all your employees.

And if you’re offended because you’re a church.

Fine.

Call it a ministry description.

There.

Problem solved.

Anyway, in your ministry description there are three areas that need to be crystal clear:

  1. Performance and behavior expectations
  2. Organizational values
  3. Performance goals

These are all important because they are exactly what you will be evaluating. In order to fairly and consistently evaluate there must be clarity around what you are requiring.

A ministry description should be as detailed as necessary to provide clarity.

We go as far as to assign time percentages to each area of work.

For example, my own ministry description says something like 40% of my time is to be allocated to leading the student ministry department, 30% of my time is to be allocated to preaching…you get the idea.

If you’re wondering about the values—I’m talking about your organizational culture.

It’s important that this is very clear and that each employee understands that they are to model the values.

If you’re curious, here are our values:

Hospitality: Making those on the outside feel like they are part of the inside.
Relationships: Making connections that help people move toward Christ.
Integrity: Doing what we say and saying what we do.
Clarity: Value simple structures and clear communication.
Generosity: Sacrificially investing in the well-being of others.

If you don’t have clarity around your values, I highly suggest scheduling an off-site for your key leaders and defining your organizational values.

Regular One-On-Ones

A key component to performance evaluations is regular one-on-one meetings between employees and supervisors.

In my opinion, these should be an hour long meeting every week or at least every other week.

The purpose of these meetings should be building relationships, problem solving, development and feedback—both positive and negative.

I believe that “Here’s something great that you did” and “Here’s an opportunity for growth” conversations should happen NOT in an annual review but every week.

Also, included in this one-on-one meeting, the supervisor should ask, “What can I do better?”

Open conversations about performance should be a regular thing.

If it happens all the time, it becomes normal and regular feedback is much clearer and easier to receive than negative feedback from that one time a few months ago.

If you’re a supervisor and you’re feeling nervous about this, let me put your mind at ease.

If your employee knows you are for them, you can say just about anything to them.

The key is that you MUST be truly and clearly for them and their development.

When you are clear about this, it is much easier to come alongside and say something like, “Let me show you something that I think is holding you back from your potential.”

Rather than, “Here’s something you are doing wrong and you better fix it or else.”

If you are a supervisor, first and foremost, be for your people and the rest will fall into place.

Semi-Annual Performance Reviews

Maybe it’s your practice to conduct annual reviews.

This is fine, but I think semi-annual reviews are better because, again, more regular feedback is better.

So, how do you conduct a great review?

First, use the expectations, values and goals in the job description as a template for the review.

For example, in our review system, I receive a rating for each of our 5 organizational values, the expectations of my role and the goals that have been assigned to me.

That’s basically it.

If you want to provide additional clarity, you can also do something like Start, Stop and Continue.

In other words, stop doing this, start doing this and continue doing this.

It can be a good system for providing clear feedback.

Another important component of a good review is that there are NO SURPRISES.

There can be nothing new on a review.

That just isn’t cool!

The employee deserves to know if there are concerns or issues before they receive a review that will live in their permanent record.

Wrap Up

If you haven’t been conducting performance evaluations, I hope you’re convinced.

I believe they are an important component of a healthy evaluation system.

Of course, it is very possible that your system is fantastic and way better than mine.

Perhaps you have some helpful information to share.

We’d love to hear your ideas or any questions you have in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

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