Pastors' Forum


Staff Evaluation and Coaching

As a pastor, I regularly observe the performance of my staff members and leaders. I don’t want to be a perfectionist or a micro-manager, but I want to see everyone given to excellence, thoroughness, and attention to detail. How do I instill these values in my leaders? How can I give them feedback (which sometimes involves correction) without making them feel that I’m always “riding them?” They do alright much of the time, but I get frustrated when they just don’t seem to “get it” and miss obvious things that should be done. How do I coach, give feedback, and help our church staff embrace a sense of excellence in all that we do?


Pastor Jeff Jones – Kalamazoo, MI
Here’s a tool we use to help give some clear and measurable expectations for our staff members in terms of their responsibilities. We do these annually.

Download the Performance Review Template (PDF)

Pastor Jerry Piker – Laurie, MO
I have found a great source to handle such things. Although it is a secular book, it has helped me to get our leadership team on track, talking to each other, and holding each other accountable.

The book is by Patrick Lencioni and is called, “Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” We took a year to implement these things and it has paid off for us. One quote from the book is this, “I can say confidently that teamwork is almost always lacking within organizations that fail, and often present within those that succeed.” This covers five dysfunctions normally found in teams and how to overcome them. The dysfunctions are: (1) Absence of Trust, (2) Fear of Conflict, (3) Lack of Commitment, (4) Avoidance of Accountability, and (5) Inattention to Results.

Overcoming these things has helped our leaders to deal with things before I ever have to. Many of the bookstores, Barnes and Noble, etc., carry these books.

Pastor Phil Edwards – Ennice, NC
I find the reason my staff is not performing in excellence is lack of direction from me. I think we need to meet more often to coach, teach, train and mentor our staff. The few times I’ve had to give extra direction, it is received with respect because I have met and built a relationship with my staff. I have an all-volunteer staff and they perform at a high level of excellence because they have taken ownership of their position because of adequate direction.

Pastor Jerry Weinzierl – Sterling Heights, MI
Having clear job descriptions can be the most important element in avoiding conflicting expectations. You can’t hold someone accountable for something you assume an employee understands. Job descriptions and a Policy/Procedure Manual will go a long way to avoid misunderstanding. I have a VERY hands-off management style when it comes to my employees. This is made more manageable when you ‘hire’ right in the first place.

Regarding ‘correction’, one of the best books I’ve read is ‘The One Minute Manager’ by Ken Blanchard. A very important part of any necessary correction is to have provided ongoing encouragement for any job well done. When my son was very young and showed me his report card with a grade that had dropped, I immediately pointed out my disappointment with that grade. With tears in his eyes he replied, “Dad, you didn’t even notice my good grades!” He was right! Many times, because we expect good performance as a condition of employment, we don’t readily hand out compliments or kudos. Big mistake! Summed up: Communicate Expectations, Recognize Accomplishments/Good Performance, Discuss Mistakes Quickly AND Briefly, then I’ll add….make sure any meeting ends with the employee/volunteer knowing that you believe in them—something positive! “You never encourage a positive future by picturing a negative past.” Who said that? No idea…but it sounded good! :o)

Pastor John Lowe – Warsaw, IN
There is no substitute for the staff seeing the pastor giving 100% to the ministry, having a great attitude, working hard, etc… To expect top performance—and then the minister is late, makes no effort in preparation of the message or care of the people and facility—will only result in the duplication of the low performance in the staff.

The pastor has to have a system in which he benefits, such as a day timer, Franklin Covey, or an iPad (or some means to keep track of his priorities including time with his family).

One has no authority to correct someone unless their life is in order as well.

Teaching on follow-through, getting it done now, and a system of prioritizing are required, but the minister sets the pace in excellence. Action is louder than words and life-style promotes authority or loses it.

If you are doing it, have a system in place and then be a leader and dismiss the person. People are the answer or the problem.

Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO
Almost every problem in the church is a staff problem, from the senior pastor down to once-a-month volunteers. Almost every problem can be fixed by self-motivated and well trained people. My job as pastor/leader is to provide training and correction to my staff. It is my responsibility to cast a clear and compelling vision for the church. I must be a living example of what is expected by all staff and volunteers. The lead pastor must be leading the way. The lead pastor must possess a high level of competency for the job, a workmanlike diligence to the task and a compelling modesty.

Through the process of trial and error, I have found that when in doubt, don’t hire. It is better to have a need than to have the wrong person. It is better to change staff than to beat a dead horse. If I have to continually ride staff to perform clearly expected duties, then they are not the correct person for the position. Always hire the best people you can find. Excellent people will perform with excellence. Great staff is a reflection of a great leader. Having the right people on the team cannot be overstated.

Success is mostly dependent upon building a culture of self-disciplined people who have disciplined thoughts and who take disciplined actions. A culture of disciple does not require a strong-handed disciplinarian. A disciplined environment creates freedom to perform. People will excel where there are clearly defined expectations. Make sure there is a vision worthy of excellent performance. Cast the vision often. People very quickly will settle into the mundane if not reminded often of the greater cause. Love for the cause, commitment to the cause and passion for the cause will raise the level of performance by the staff.

One great fault of mine is failure to reward great efforts and results. Too often, I only criticize mistakes. This has been a great error. Publicly praise your staff. Be their greatest cheerleader. Genuinely seek and listen to their opinions on important issues. Make sure to implement their great ideas and to give them credit publicly. Make your church into the best place in the community to work by creating a positive and fun environment. Our staff is an extension of our family.

Pastor Al Jennings – Fort Wayne, IN
Here are some thoughts that come to mind in regard to instilling the values you want to see in your leaders:

1. Lead by example. Let them see (in you) the values you want to see in them. Spend time with your key leaders and let them observe your lifestyle. Have a conversation with them; let them ask questions. Share insights with them.

2. Give them assignments. For example, give them a book to read. John Maxwell has excellent leadership books (and there are others). Assign them responsibilities and follow-up to see how they did. Give them feedback. Inspect what you expect.

Here is a mentorship plan:

  1. I do-you watch. We talk.
  2. I do-you assist. We talk.
  3. You do-I assist. We talk.
  4. You do-I watch. We talk.

Pastor Terry Scheel – Fenton, MO
I would suggest that when you put someone in charge of an area, have written guidelines for that area. Let them know up front that you will be supervising them and informing them when they are operating within the guidelines and when they are not. Perhaps you could have regular individual evaluation meetings with all your staff to address positives and negatives, that way a negative can be addressed without the staff member thinking you are riding them or picking on them. You may even want to use written evaluations, as it is sometimes easier to address negatives in writing as opposed to verbally. I will say, it is important to lovingly correct a problem as soon as possible. Never assume a problem will correct itself; it won’t. The longer you let a problem go unchecked, the worse things will become.

As far as shaping good behavior and attention to detail, I would suggest positive reinforcement. Compliment your staff regularly when they are doing what you want them to do. This technique is worth its weight in gold.

Finally, remember Jesus had a staff that was not excellent at the beginning. However, Jesus worked with them in love and at times corrected them. In the end, He was able to use some of them to write books of the New Testament. I would suggest making a study of how Jesus dealt with His staff.

Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA
Here are a couple of things that help in preparing for a staff meeting and working with your leaders.

Get fired up about the vision God has given you for the church. You have a vision from God. So you must communicate that vision as powerfully as it was communicated to you. Your leaders need to catch your passion. I think of myself as a “vision salesman.”

Get prepared to move the vision forward in your staff meeting. Make sure that each person knows in advance what will be expected of them. Prepare materials to help your leaders succeed. Many people need checklists and steps laid out for them.

Set them up to succeed. This takes a lot of time, but is well worth it.

Celebrate victories and successes publicly and congratulate your leaders when goals are met or when good things happen. Be quick to give the credit to others.

Avoid correcting leaders publicly unless absolutely necessary. Leaders who talk out of turn in the meetings are called the next day and corrected privately. If they continue to be disruptive or unhelpful in a meeting, only then are they corrected in front of others.

Work with people who work! There are plenty of people who want the title but won’t do the work. Meet with the workers!  Give your best to those who give their best. Make it clear that you give the praise and your time to the doers.

Make sure that you have at least one “fun time” with your leaders every year. Schedule at least one meeting away from church where you just meet as friends and have fun together. Focus on honoring them for their work and building teamwork and relationships. Keep church business to a minimum.

Leaders who are challenging and dynamic can bring out the best in you. Leaders who are competitive, argumentative, and jealous need to be corrected and/or re-assigned. They’re probably bothering other people even more than you. Create the atmosphere that you want to work in. You can’t go get another job. So make this one fun!

Another pastor once showed me that people who can’t make much income in the world, can’t do much done for the church either. Pay attention. Some people seem to be great at church but can’t keep a job. These people are wonderful on Sundays, but completely ineffective in church leadership. The old axiom “give the job to someone who is busy” applies well in church. Good soils produce. Shallow soils don’t. Pay attention to this.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
How do we keep our team from feeling as if their feet are being held to the fire when that is exactly what we’re doing? It’s our job to stretch our team beyond their potential. It’s our duty to invest in them beyond their current value. As leaders, our job isn’t to make them “feel better” – it’s to cause them to “be better.”

Obviously, communication is vital. Clear understanding of the culture we’re working to create is a must. Rewarding successes is probably more important than acknowledging failures. We’ve heard it before: “That which gets rewarded gets repeated.” However, when shortcomings occur, we can’t pretend they’re acceptable – especially when they’re not. That’s why I believe it’s crucial to protect the chemistry of our teams. Great chemistry allows us to accomplish great things while overcoming the little things that potentially stop teams with weak chemistry.

I define chemistry as “being outrageously committed to each other. Genuinely loving each other through respect and value by encouraging strengths and covering weaknesses.” It is through this commitment and loyalty that “we” can achieve greatness “together.”

Let me share a couple of facts about Chemistry:

Great chemistry takes work.
It doesn’t “just happen.” We must strategize and pursue great chemistry. We, as the leader, must communicate the extravagant value of great chemistry and share with our team how committed we are to producing it.

Great chemistry doesn’t make the leader better. It makes “everyone better.”
When we achieve great chemistry on our team, it’s no longer just the leader who is expecting excellence. Everyone’s expectations are raised and the entire team realizes the impact of low vs. high performance.

Most importantly, Kingdom success depends upon great chemistry.
Thinking that we’ll accomplish Kingdom success without great chemistry is a deception that many slip into. Philippians 2:2 in The Message says, “Do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.” To accomplish this command we must possess great chemistry.

Here are some of the components of great chemistry to get you thinking.

1.Great chemistry requires maturity.
Immaturity is a chemistry killer. Two types of maturity need to be strategically developed by us, the leaders, in the lives of our followers. We need to teach them both relational maturity and emotional maturity. Relational maturity is evidenced by the ability to “put others first.” Emotional maturity is evidenced by our ability “to be trusted.” Without these two types of maturity being constantly sought after, we can’t produce the chemistry required to produce the results that ministry demands.

2. Great Chemistry requires shared purpose rather than personal agendas.
If we can convince our team to dream the same dream, share the same vision, and own it as individuals, we can raise the bar considerably. Suddenly, our team recognizes our pursuit as a team effort, rather than an individual attack. Blame, excuses, and complaining can go out the window. No one is any longer asking, “What’s in it for ME?” It grows bigger than “me.” Our thoughts become more solution-oriented and we begin to consider the team’s success above our own.

3. Great Chemistry thrives on a sense of positive expectation.
We understand the principle. “Seek and ye shall find.” Matthew 7 teaches us that we’re going to find exactly what we’re looking for. If our team is looking for negatives, they’re going to find them. If we educate them to look for the best, the best is exactly what they’re going to find. Training them to expect the greatest for and from your teammates develops great chemistry and shares information regarding all that is expected from them, as well.

4. Great Chemistry finds fuel in fun!
Learning to enjoy each other takes time, effort, a willing heart, and great discipline. As the leader, you’ll need to create environments that you know will cause others the greatest joy. When your team sees you working to allow their dreams to come true, they’ll be more likely to work hard to see your dreams realized.

5. Great Chemistry requires individual alignment with God.
We know, as leaders, that people who aren’t right with God have a real difficult time staying right with people. It can take a lot of heat off of a pastor when the staff recognizes that it’s not only the pastor who has high expectations; God does, too. Stay right with God, and you’ll stay right with your leader!

Once great chemistry begins to develop, the team will truly desire greatness for others. The atmosphere changes – no more “secret threats” experienced due to significance issues. No more worrying about offending a staff by acknowledging low performance. Great chemistry removes these hurdles and many more and produces many more opportunities to celebrate victories together!

Pastor John Brady – McAllen, TX
I struggled with this for years and I think there is a real balance in how you approach your staff.

If you are too hands-on and micro-manage, then they will tend not to think for themselves or let their gifts flourish. If you don’t have enough oversight then most of them “will experience stunted personal or “professional” growth” (will not grow) and you will find your ministry stagnated and unable to push through barriers. The balance is letting them have the space to do things their way with oversight that deals with character or progress issues. I believe this builds a team that allows people to utilize their strengths and work together for common goals. Some of the things that we have learned from other great leaders is that goals need to be lined out at the beginning of the year and there needs to be a system in place to evaluate the progress of those goals. I like my staff coming up with their own goals. I know churches that set the goals for their staff. Personally, that is a little too command-and-control for me. I do have input in my staff’s goals, but I want it to be a collaborative effort. I think it tells you a lot about your staff.

When you look at their goals, it tells you things such as: Do they clearly see the problems and have good problem solving skills?; do they shoot for the moon or is their vision small? All of these things create great teaching moments. When we take the time to work through these things it brings confidence that your ministry is united and headed in the same direction, as a team. We don’t allow our staff to have more than 3 to 4 major goals a year. These goals are things that will increase the ministry to people in a tangible way.

The next thing that is very important is to have quarterly reviews on how they are doing. Truly check-up and give an honest evaluation. The evaluations are huge growth moments. When someone is constantly missing their goals you have to deal honestly and lovingly with the problem. This has uncovered all kinds of issues with our people which must be dealt with both for them and the ministry to grow. We do this through the setting of measurable corrective objectives.

These moments have been hard at times and yet have been some of the healthiest things we have done. People have stepped up and dealt with things that have lingered in their life for years and held them back. Every once in a while we find that someone just doesn’t fit but usually they will know it before we do.

This environment is healthy because it stresses growth, not control. It will cause your people to grow, your ministry to grow, and create a healthy team environment that your church will notice.

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Glendora, CA
Developing staff and leadership is a never-ending process. It’s like the old farmer who said, “The trouble with milking cows is that the cows don’t stay milked.” We will always need to train and motivate leaders.

One thing we have found to be very helpful is a monthly leadership meeting. This meeting consists of our staff, department heads, key leaders, and emerging leaders. We do this the last Sunday of each month. We have lunch brought in for everyone, including the children. At this meeting I teach them leadership. They hear my heart; they catch my vision and values, learn leadership principles, and interact with one another.

Another thing that is very helpful is to publicly recognize a job well done. It’s been said, “What gets rewarded gets done.” Be sure to reward the behavior you wish to see. Do this in public. We honor a volunteer every week and give them a little gift card. Their name is put up on the screen and they are thanked from the pulpit.

As far as correction goes, I believe correction should always take place in private. I believe the Praise/Correction ratio should be about 4/1. For every corrective thing you say to them, at least four positive things should be shared.

We lead by example. As a leader, you must be sure to exemplify the values and the excellence you want to see in them. Remember that what’s obvious to you isn’t always obvious to someone else. Be sure you have communicated exactly what you expect. Putting it in writing is always best. We should have high standards, but don’t confuse excellence with perfection. Things are never going to be perfect.

Dr. Dan Beller – Tulsa, OK
In teaching excellence in ministry to staff and associate pastors it is good to try to prevent violations instead of trying to cure them. As an example, when interviewing for a new position on staff or associate pastor level, all the expectations should be explained and thus avoid many of the corrections later. A new employee should sign a Staff Covenant with the ethical and moral guidelines which are expected of them.

Perhaps the most effective entity for teaching excellence, by example and teaching, is in the weekly Staff Meetings. These kinds of meetings are very necessary in order to keep consensus for excellence which eventually becomes the very atmosphere of the church. Even the members understand the importance of excellence in ministry and that adherence to these principles is expected from the leadership.

The Senior Pastor should be an example of excellence in attitude, ethics, and lifestyle. The pulpit presentations should be excellent and thus set an example for all the staff and members to follow. It is very important to project unconditional love and a positive attitude as some of the main components of excellence. Being Christ-like in relationships and ministry tasks sum up proper goals of excellence.