How Performance Reviews Improve Church Staff Development

Posted by Aaron Buer on June 3, 2021

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be putting together performance reviews for my staff. 

Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?!  

Joking aside, performance reviews are actually a crucial element of our staff development plan. 

Do you use this tool as you lead your team? 

Even if you only have one other person on staff or a small team of volunteers, I think it’s worth conducting reviews.

Performance Review

Allow me to try and convince you to start (or perhaps return to) conducting regular performance reviews with your staff or volunteer team.  

First, I’ll share a few thoughts on why reviews are worth pursuing.

Then, I’ll provide some advice on how to put together helpful and meaningful reviews for your staff or volunteers.  

Why Conduct Performance Reviews?

A good performance review lets your church staff or volunteers know how they are doing in their role, how to grow, and provides valuable documentation.

Let's take a closer look.

Everyone Deserves to Know How They Are Doing.

I’m a beach volleyball player. I love the sport. 

There’s only one version of the game that I can’t stand. 

“Let’s just play without keeping score.” 


Waste of time.

And it’s not just volleyball. 

Imagine watching an NFL game without a scoreboard. 

No one would devote three hours to that!

Scoreboards are a type of performance review.

Here’s my point: Everyone wants to know how they are doing. 

More than that, everyone deserves to know how they are doing because we all want to be successful. 

Most People Want to Improve.

Many of us have a strong desire to grow and improve in our work. 

An important reason to pursue performance reviews is to provide clear and actionable feedback to your staff, letting them know specifically how they can grow and improve in their work. 

To the vast majority of people on your team, this is a gift! 

People Filter What They Don’t Want to Hear.

Another reason to take up performance reviews is that it’s a written document. 

This is important because when receiving verbal communication, we all tend to filter out what we don’t want to hear. 

Have you ever had a conversation with a volunteer or staff member where you felt that you communicated difficult feedback in a clear manner only to discover that the person heard something entirely different? 

This is exactly what I’m talking about.  

Communicate with clarityA performance review document brings a level of clarity that a verbal conversation cannot. 

Sometimes a written review can be a breakthrough moment for a struggling employee who doesn’t understand what the issues really are. 

And, in the rare case where a staff member needs to be removed from their position, written reviews signed by the employee provide valuable documentation.  

Well-written performance reviews protect you from, “I had no idea that there were problems!” type of conversations. 

How to Conduct a Performance Review

Let’s move on to how to conduct performance reviews for your church staff and volunteers.

One thing to keep in mind is performance reviews are a one-on-one conversation.

There should be no surprises.  

If you give me my review and you have negative feedback for me, a bi-annual review should not be the first time I’m hearing about it. 

That wouldn’t be fair.  

Review what matters most in your church. 

What are your organizational values

The things that make you…you, as a church. 

Part of the performance review should include evaluating how well the person is exhibiting the organization’s values. 

Organizational valuesFor example, one of our organizational values is clarity. 

Does the person demonstrate clear communication? 

This would be a helpful conversation to reinforce your organizational values. 

Review what matters most in the role.

How do you create a performance review document? 

Start with your organizational values and then add the three or four most important tasks that the person’s job requires them to do. 

If you were giving me my review, the three tasks would probably be:

  • Preaching
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Staff Management

There you go. Just give me feedback on those three tasks.  

Make sure the feedback you give is actionable.  

If in my performance review, you tell me that my preaching isn’t good…that’s not actionable! 

However, if you shared that my preaching isn’t applicable to the congregation, that’s actionable. 

For example, “Make sure that each point of your sermon has a clear application” is actionable feedback. 

Positive reinforcement usually creates more movement than negative feedback.  

In other words, find ways to reinforce the behavior and attitudes you want to see rather than harping on the behavior and attitudes you want gone. 

Obviously, both positive and negative feedback is necessary but positive reinforcement is more effective in the long run. 

Wrap Up

If you’re the senior leader or in a position where leadership isn’t interested in providing you with a performance review, find someone who will.    

Every time I hear a story of a church leader making a career-ending mistake or a senior pastor who, it turns out, had a phenomenal preaching gift but character that disqualified him from leadership, I wonder, “Who was keeping this person accountable?”  

We all need accountability. 

We all need regular performance reviews. 

If you don’t have performance reviews, I encourage you to invite an individual or a small group of people you trust and who are honest with you to provide regular feedback on your character, leadership, and performance.  

It’s critically important to our growth as leaders and the health of our churches.

Topics: Advice

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