By Craig Carr
Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Rocky Mountain Conference initiated a process with congregational leaders in cooperation with their pastors to gather feedback and communicate ministry plans for 2015. This yearly procedure has already produced many wonderful results, such as clarity of mission and objectives, as well as improving communication between pastors, church leaders, and conference leadership.
The objectives of the planning and evaluation process include prayer, healthy dialogue, and clarity of purpose. Not only is it important that the pastors and church leaders evaluate how things are going, but the intentionality of this dialogue has helped produce clarity regarding who is responsible for what.
The mission and purpose of a congregation resides in both the pastor’s role and the board’s role in accomplishing agreed-upon goals. Of supreme importance to this entire process is the time spent in prayer in which pastors, church leaders, and conference leaders are praying for the Spirit’s guidance. The evaluation process helps all involved to understand the question, “Where have we been?” while the planning process helps identify, “Where do we go from here?”
Evaluation: A Process of Review and Affirmation
Initiated by the Ministerial Department, church board members (either through the board chair or head elder) are sent a packet of evaluation forms to be completed by each board member. For simplicity and comparability, questions are answered on a 1 (disagree) – 5 (agree) scale and the forms are returned to the ministerial department to be tallied.
The following is a breakdown of the 31 evaluation questions:
The first ten are designed as a self-evaluation tool for individual board members and their perceptions of their congregations. Questions are related to the individual’s church involvement and the overall direction of their church.
The next nine questions regard the effectiveness of the involvement and support of the Rocky Mountain Conference. This feedback is helpful to conference leaders on specific ways in which the churches may be better served.
The final 11 questions serve as an evaluation of the pastor. Leaders rate their perceptions of their pastor’s ministry effectiveness, from prayer and preaching to leadership and training.
The evaluation form allows for general comments to be written that also proved insightful.
The evaluation process would be incomplete without the voice of the pastor. Each pastor completes a set of self- evaluation questions that include the same 11 questions their board members complete. The average of the board member’s responses and the pastor’s self-assessment are com- pared and discussed with the pastor. These comparisons have been helpful to identify areas in which the pastor’s self-perception may differ from that of the leaders.
“I really appreciate the evaluation process implemented by RMC,” comments Pastor Blake Jones of the Twin Peaks (Louisville) and Vista Fellowship (Longmont) churches. “While knowing how the pastor and congregation truly feel may be uncomfortable, it does help facilitate a healthier relationship between churches, pastors and the conference.”
Ed Barnett, RMC president, says that he is sold on the idea of evaluations. “Evaluations are great tools to get feed- back on how the local church, pastor or conference are doing. As we discussed evaluations with the pastors, nearly all came away encouraged. And if there were areas that showed that they needed growth, we were able to help them with additional assignments. I feel that it has raised the bar for our congregations, ministers, and the conference itself.”
Commenting further, Barnett says that having annual evaluations will further strengthen ministry and mission. “Turning in evaluations every year not only looks at what is happening in the immediate period, but even five years out. I believe that due to that process this year we have had more requests for evangelism budgets as churches have begun to take their mission perhaps more seriously.”
Planning: A Time to Unite in Mission and Purpose
The Ministerial Department sends planning documents to each pastor who then facilitates discussion and agreement with local church leaders on plans for the up-coming calendar year. Plans include the local church’s top ministry priorities, activities and events planned for spiritual nurture, leadership training, as well as outreach and evangelistic efforts.
While most churches already make plans each year, the added challenge of creating a five-year strategy helps pastors and church leaders see a longer view of the impact of the yearly activities, providing a lengthier trajectory and greater sense of purpose. With ministry plans comes the need for resources, so it is at this point that pastors make their church’s financial requests known for evangelism for the coming year.
The plans submitted by each pastor are reviewed by conference administration and direct the conversation at the pastor’s annual review with the ministerial director and member(s) of administration. This meeting with the pastor takes place toward the end of the year, reflecting on the current year using the feedback provided and discussing together the plans for the coming year which were created by the pastor and local church leaders.
On a personal note, I have found this process to be very affirming of the many things our pastors are doing well in pastoral leadership. It has also been helpful to review the honest feedback from leaders to help identify specific areas that need improvement.
With goals of providing healthy dialogue between pastors, church leaders and conference leadership, this yearly process has already proven to be a useful tool. It is our hope that clear and consistent communication, clearly defined goals and strategies, and healthy accountability at all levels can produce a united effort in ministry, “according to the effective working by which every part does its share, caus(ing) growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)
–Craig Carr is RMC ministerial director.