In an ideal world, all the tasks in your organization would flow naturally and easily. Everyone would instinctively know what is expected, understand how to be effective leaders and turn items with a deadline in on time. If you have been in ministry for any length of time, however, you know it's not that simple. People have different opinions and perceptions, and they don't know what others want unless those expectations are communicated clearly.
This is why it's important to give regular feedback to leaders in your church. No leader is exempt. The pastor and other paid staff need evaluations, just as they would get at any other job. Volunteer leaders also need feedback and support so that the work can remain a joy to them. Here are some tips for giving feedback graciously.
Set a Clear Chain of Supervision
The first thing you need to do is make sure leaders know where to go when they have questions or require help, especially if they are in charge of making decisions. By setting a clear line of supervision, you build accountability into the process. This facilitates a natural path for giving regular feedback.
This is where a church council or a similar governing body can be helpful. Paid staff can submit requests or get feedback from a group of people invested in the church's success. The pastor can also supervise lay leaders or other staff, which helps him or her stay aware of changes that need to be made.
Schedule Regular Check-In Sessions
Feedback doesn't just happen automatically. You must be intentional about giving it in a timely manner. Calling leaders out in front of others comes across as disrespectful, so make sure that your meetings are private and confidential. Use the time to listen to any frustrations they may be experiencing and to give advice on how to handle situations within the groups they're leading. Showing concern can make them more open to receiving constructive feedback.
While paid staff may have formal evaluations every year, an annual session is not enough. You still need to check in every month or quarter to share updates. It doesn't make sense to allow a known issue to continue just because it's not time to complete an evaluation. Regular check-ins give everyone a chance to change course when necessary.
Have Leaders Track Their Own Growth
Another way to use check-in sessions is to help leaders set goals for themselves and their groups. While the specific goals they set will vary widely, there are some general milestones they may want to consider:
- Project expansion
- New group members
- Fundraising totals
Once they have their goals outlined, encourage them to take initiative to follow through and track their own progress. It may take a few sessions to get them in the habit, but once they do, they are likely to arrive at each check-in session excited to tell you what is happening. This level of motivation makes it easier to give gracious feedback.
Record Each Person's Progress
Finally, make sure that you take notes during each session, and share what you've written with them after the fact. Having a record of what was said and decided helps leaders remain consistent because you’ve given them a written statement of your discussion to alleviate any confusion that may occur. It also helps them see their growth more clearly over time. Keeping good records may seem like nothing more than extra paperwork at first, but there will come a time when you will be glad you did.
Just like any other organization, your church needs operational accountability. Giving leaders gracious feedback is a vital skill to learn to foster transparency and healthy growth.