Should churches evaluate pastors and ministries?

Businesses do it annually.  Some may even do it more often.  But is it appropriate for a church to evaluate its current ministries and staff? After all, the church is not a business.  What would the evaluation criteria be?  Members?  Attendance?  Money?  None of these seem biblical.  If a church was primarily interested in these things it could just become a social club and have more success.

Perhaps the evaluation could be done based upon how happy the members are?  This does not seem quite right either.  A church is designed to help its people grow in Christian maturity.  This growth could happen during times of pain and unhappiness.  If churches were most interested in keeping their people happy, it would be easier to let them remain as they are without challenging them to grow.  It would probably even be beneficial for churches to praise their people for where they are.  Everyone likes to be praised.

Perhaps we could evaluate based upon how much people are “growing”?  This one seems tricky.  How do we know someone is growing?  What if the ministries are good, but the people are just hard-hearted?  The Old Testament prophets came across this situation.  They proclaimed God’s word exactly how he wanted, but the people often did not listen.  Can we blame the ministries and pastors if the people are not responding?

So, should a church evaluate?  If so, how?  What criteria would you use to evaluate the ministries of the church?  What criteria would you use to evaluate the pastor (or pastors)?

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10 Responses to Should churches evaluate pastors and ministries?

  1. Don says:

    When the members of the church evaluate the leaders of the church, then the power of that particular church has been placed in the wrong hands. According to the Scriptures, the only form of church government that is sanctioned is elders. Under that type of government, it is the other elders that moniter each individual elder and hold them accountable. Individuals within the congregation can bring an accusation against an elder to the other elders, but that accusation can only be considered if brought by two or more witnesses. The elders are to be the most spiritually mature men in that local congregation that have the gift of teaching as well as the other qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3. When you give the power of evaluating the churches ministries and leaders to any others, by default you will be giving that power to those who are not as mature and will likely base their evaluations on the wrong criteria. If they are being led by the most spiritually mature men in that congregation, they must submit themselves to their authority and trust that they are indeed doing the will of God as they believe they are being led.

  2. Tim Farley says:

    Don:

    Thanks for the comment. I think you bring up a valid point when you state that evaluation must take place through the elders of the church. That is supposed to be part of the role of leadership. However, we end up with the same question, only now we have less people involved in the mix. We still have to ask, “What criteria do church leaders use to evaluate one another and the ministries of the church?” I do not think we can simply look at attendance and/or finances. We can look at biblical qualifications to determine if a person is of sufficient character to be in a leadership role, but even a high-character person could be a poor leader. Plus, this does not help us determine if we should replace Sunday school with something else (since it has nothing to do with a person’s character).

    So what are the questions we (as church leaders) need to ask and/or what are the criteria we need to look at?

  3. layrenewal says:

    Hi Tim.

    Good questions. You keep coming back to some of the core issues LRM has been discussing for over 50 years. When do we get to sit down for a cup of coffee? 🙂

    [Preface – This has nothing to do with accountability. Accountability among the leadership – which I think is a variant way of saying what Don is correctly saying – is not what I think you are bringing up for discussion.]

    I don’t believe the church should “evaluate” the leadership BUT the leadership can and should evaluate the ministries of the church – principally, the effectiveness of spiritual growth and evangelism. (Hey – The Great Commission!)

    What expectations do the leaders have for Bible reading, prayer, spiritual disciplines, etc.? How do they measure whether or not the people over whom they have been given spiritual authority are growing / practicing those things? Ditto for outreach. Personally, I think there MUST be a way of concretely measuring these things. This should be done on a corporate basis. (It should also be done on a personal basis but that’s a different issue.)

    We offer churches a tool we created. (At no point on the survey does it ask people to “critique” the pastor and / or leaders.) It asks the leadership to set expectations. Then, it provides an anonymous way of asking people to say how they are doing in these areas.

    Anyway – I’m sounding like I’m making a commercial.

    No – it is not about “happiness.”
    YES! There may be hard-heartedness. (That darn sin thing.)
    YES! Evaluation is important.
    YES! Leaders need to hold one another accountable.
    YES! People need to grow (sanctification).

  4. Tim Farley says:

    Layrenewal:

    I would be happy to sit down for coffee with you next time you are in my area (Santa Maria, CA).

    I agree that the church should not evaluate the leaders, but leaders should have ways of evaluating the ministries of the church, which is, in effect, an evaluation of leadership. I looked at your website to get a better understanding of the survey you described. Is it the “Spiritual Growth Survey” that you are describing? I like the idea of an on-going evaluation rather than just looking at one point in time.

    People do need to grow. I agree with that statement. Why did you decide that looking at the practice of the spiritual disciplines was the way to evaluate?

  5. layrenewal says:

    I’m supposed to be somewhere between Bakersfield and LA this fall. Not sure when / if it will come together, but you never know about side trips!

    Yes, the Spiritual Growth Survey is what we now use. We look at disciplines (and outreach) as key to the Mission of the Church as defined in Matthew 28:19-20. Are believers “going” and are people “growing?”

    The questions are very basic with “yes” or “no” responses. It’s very non-threatening for the individual but I’ve been told by those who took it in subsequent years that it can be very convicting as well. (They don’t like checking “no” again…)

    (In the brief survey report, we then further divide them as: Spiritual Basics, Spiritual Disciplines, Relationship Building, Stewardship, Evangelism, Discipleship and Community Involvement. There are also 5 other questions the church can specifically customize.)

    It’s really amazing to see how leaders can become so hungry to see growth when they have actual hard data in front of them. Perhaps it is something especially particular to the North American mindset, but I seen apathetic leaders become incredibly passionate. They want to see people growing in their faith. And, these very same leaders can also be challenged personally to BE leaders who DO rather than sit.

    There are simplified ways churches can do this themselves. LRM offers an additional benefit of statistical “norms” (10,000+ responses averaged out) to use as comparison plus an outsider’s perspective.

    I would encourage you to try to find a way to have some sort of “check” for your team.

  6. Don says:

    Hey Tim,

    I guess when you asked “should a church evaluate?” I was thinking on the lines of the church body. As I stated earlier, I believe that is a no. But I do believe that the elders of the church are to evaluate, and that they should do so on an ongoing basis.

    In addition to evaluating one another to hold each other accountable, I believe that they need to evaluate the ministries as well. Do the ministries accomplish the objectives that we have been given through the Scriptures, goals such as winning the lost, teaching the saved, ministering to the needs of the church and the community, and maturing the believers as evidenced through the practice of the spiritual disciplines such as personal bible study, prayer, stewardship, and the use of their spiritual gifts.

    Tools such as those offered by Layrenewal I think are great and should be utilized under certain situations. But primarily, I believe that nothing quite replaces the involvement of the leaders in the life of their congregation. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5 that the elders are to be the shepherds of God’s flock. And a good shepherd is one who knows his sheep by name, pretty impressive when you look at a flock of sheep. Only by close day to day contact with the sheep under his care can a shepherd ever come to the point of being able to do that. When we are among our people on a continual basis, we can get to know them so well that we will know if they are growing or not. And just as a good shepherd knows from his experience how to treat an ailing sheep, we too will know what we need to do to help one of the flock we have been entrusted with when they are ailing spiritually.

    My kids raise goats for fair projects. Through their 4-H club, they have been taught how to take care of goats, how to tell if they are growing properly, and how to recognize sicknesses and treat them when they become sick. They are with these goats daily and know them by name and they even know their particular idiosyncrasies. When one of these goats becomes sick, they know immediately and they evaluate the situation and decide on a plan to address the problem. It could be as simple as a shot of medicine to something as radical as a change of diet and quarantine for that particular animal. The goal is to have a healthy growing animal just as the goal is to have a healthy growing church.

    Of course, all of this assumes a plurality of leaders who have been properly mentored and trained themselves so that this responsibility is spread out rather than dumped on one person. And as they meet on a regular basis, they should discuss any problems they have taken note of among those that they are responsible for and take any necessary actions to address those problems. And if they begin to see a trend among the flock, they may need to evaluate their ministries to see if they are effective in reaching their goals, such as Sunday School, or would something different be in order.

  7. Tim Farley says:

    It seems that a common theme is that we should evaluate things like the spiritual disciplines as indicators of growth among believers in the church. That seems reasonable because we should expect believers to grow.

    However, how do we measure outreach / evangelism? Do we measure it based upon how many unbelievers are being converted? Or do we simply measure this by determining if our people individually and collectively are being evangelistic?

    I ask because I am convinced that we cannot change a person. Only God can work in an unbeliever’s heart to draw him/her to himself. I believe that it is possible for a church to proclaim the gospel faithfully and see little or no results because the hearts of the people (unbelievers) are hardened towards God. If we evaluate based upon new converts, we would say we are failing even though we are being faithful.

    How do we account for hard-heartedness when we evaluate our outreach / evangelism ministries? Are we evaluating faithfulness in the proclamation or the results of the proclamation (conversions)?

  8. I think church leadership MUST evaluate themselves. Having been given a commission to tend to God’s people, there is a high calling and standard.

    In terms of evaluation, I believe that there are two major areas that need to be evaluated.

    1. Direction – Is the specific statement of direction for the local body aligned with the mission of the church universal?

    2. Investment – Is the church leadership investing its resources (time, energy, money, etc) in ways that are aligned with the mission of the church universal as well as the specific calling God has on the local body?

    3. Effectiveness – Are the stated goals of the church being met? Is progress being made? Are the church (the people) being led into deeper relationship with God, into acts of service, into personal devotion and growth?

  9. layrenewal says:

    I had an interesting discussion with a leader about service for service’s sake or service for the Gospel.

    We should be willing to give a cup of water to a thirsty person. This is service to serve.

    But, service for the Gospel, is done so that we can step through whatever doors God opens through service to share the Truth. I can still share that same cup of water while offering an ear (and a heart) to love that person as Jesus would. As they are having that drink, I can take an opportunity to share something about the Living Water. (Sounds a lot like what Jesus would have done…)

    Tim, I think you are right that we need to remember that only God can change a heart. As leaders, we can evaluate whether or not the people in the church are engaged in giving out water and Water. If they are giving out Water faithfully, then we are being successful. The rest is God’s.

  10. layrenewal says:

    Good things to highlight Bryan.

    I use the word “filter” when I am talking with leaders. If something the church is doing or wants to do doesn’t fit through that filter of mission (or vision) of the Church and church, then don’t do it (or stop doing it). It’s a good visual for them to think of the funnel or sifting approach.

    It’s amazing how many things can distract us from the basics!

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