Aaron Summers

Numbers and Noses? Is there another way?

In Church, Leadership on October 5, 2017 at 8:53 am

Evaluations.

We all must do them and have them done to us.  In church life, this tends to be tricky…and messy.  We have borrowed so many terms from the business world that we are fuzzy on the real issues before us.  We use terms such as personnel, finance, human resources, etc.  It is no wonder we have easily shifted into a cultural version of evaluative measures.

Every year, churches come to this point and feel they must do an evaluation on those who receive a salary.  I certainly understand and accept accountability.  We SHOULD be holding one another accountable.  However, the criteria of the accountability are shifting toward cultural norms more than spiritual ones.

  • One pastor I know put so much emphasis on numbers that if their ministry area did not double in attendance in 6 months they were going to be let go. While many of us shriek and shirk back from such audacious criteria, most of us are not far from it.
  • Consider EVERY state convention’s reporting system…numbers and stats. The questions “How many?” and “How much?” are asked more than anything else.
  • Consider every time you run into a ministry friend. “How many are you running?”, is a common question.
  • Some states award those who baptize more than anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know these things are important.  However, we put too much emphasis on them.  When it comes to evaluating the staff in your church, what do you ask?  I have served 5 churches.  In each of them, this was an arduous process for all involved!  I have been asked about goals and vision.  I have been evaluated on preaching style, length, and topic.  I have been evaluated on communication and leadership.  On one occasion, the question was posed to the evaluating group “What is there about the pastor you don’t like?”  That was an interesting discussion!

Consider this:

  • When I was ordained, the biblical qualifications were considered.
  • Every church I have interviewed with has used the biblical qualifications as one point of the review.
  • I have never been asked about the biblical qualifications during an evaluation.

Why?  Once we have a person on staff we shift into management roles.  We look at job descriptions.  We search human resource materials for options.   We talk about vision, mission, and purpose.  We set numerical goals.  We chastise if we don’t reach them and challenge them to do more if they do.

Is there another way?  I believe there is.  Don Cousins, the author of Experiencing Leadershift, suggests 4 questions as we evaluate.  I will share my thoughts with each.

  1. Is <staff member> faithful?

Just as it was discussed in the interview process.  I believe those in ministry positions ought to be examined for their faithfulness to the biblical qualifications. (See 1 Tim 3, Titus 1:7 and Acts 20:28)  If the search team saw it as important, why don’t we later?  Is the staff member faithful to what God has called them to be?  These qualities cover character, family, spouse, scripture, and morality.  If there is a fidelity problem then address it.  If there is not a fidelity issue then move forward.

  1. Is <staff member> fruitful?

Paul wrote to Galatia expressing that the follower of Jesus will have certain qualities naturally expressed.  These include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  In your evaluation of the staff member in question, do they have these characteristics?  Do they show love?  Do they have patience?  Are they kind and gentle?  Each of us has strengths and weaknesses in this list.  Take the time to share with them how you have seen the strengths.  Help them to see how to support the weaker areas.  These 9 items build character in us as we follow Christ.

  1. Is <staff member> fulfilled?

Here is the moment the staff member can share their heart with you.  It is my prayer that every staff member would have the peace of mind and feeling of safety to openly share if they are fulfilled in ministry here.  I confess, over the years I have not always felt those moments to be a safe space.  I strongly suggest that as we bring on this next generation of ministry staff we are going to have to give constant feedback in a safe environment.  They demand it.  It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, that is where we are going.  Further, every staff member has the right to be respected enough to be given that safe space.  It is the church’s responsibility to honor those who work hard among you.

  1. Is <staff member> making God famous?

Too many ministers build their own little kingdoms.  It is never more evident than when they leave.  You know what happens?  Their people leave too.  That ministry falls apart.  If a minister is seeking to personal honor, trouble soon follows.  In this moment of evaluation, you can provide feedback as to what you have witnessed. (Please do not act on hearsay.)  A minister of God seeks to reflect God’s glory rather than their own.  Help them to see how they are doing this.  Support them through the difficult times of adjustment if this isn’t happening.

Conclusion

Annual reviews do not have to be dreaded.  They can be fulfilling and encouraging.  This year, take a different approach.  If your staff member is found to be faithful, fruitful, fulfilled, and making God famous then what more would you want?  God will work out everything else.  I would suggest to you that you will prefer this method over what you might be doing now.

 

 

Is Your Church At-Risk?

In Leadership on September 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Nominating Committees everywhere are starting to work hard to fill church positions.  I have worked on both the local and state level in trying to uncover and discover and recover people to serve on various boards, agencies, team, committees, and teaching slots.  I have seen the good and bad side of filling positions.  Often, we cherry pick the best people for certain positions and scramble to just fill the page.

Tragic.

Somewhere in the deep recesses, we know there should be more involved but who has the time?  In most cases in church, there are 2 positions for every committee plus trustees, clerks, moderators, and more.  Whatever your policies are, here are a few reminders as you go about the work of ministry.

Saved

Is Joe a believer?  You might think this is a no-brainer, but it isn’t.  I have seen good and God-fearing people bring to the table names of those who have yet to decide for Christ but have the vocational skill in the area of need.  Until a person has placed faith in Jesus and received the forgiveness of sin, they are not prepared to make spiritual decisions in the church.  I realize that which paper towel holders are needed in the bathroom, or what color the toilets need to be, seem to be irrelevant to this moment.  I tell you it is relevant!  There will come a time that, even though they can add and read a P&L sheet, spiritual direction will be necessary.  In those moments, we need faith not just facts!

Settled

No matter where your church stands on membership or fellowship or covenants, the person being suggested needs to be settled in their attendance in your church.  Your church needs to decide what the requirements are going to be.  For example, how can someone really advise and guide personnel who attends 25% of the time?  How can someone really give input to practices and policies if they are not around often enough to speak well on these matters?  How can they lead a group when they are in other churches because of family, invites, events, and such?

Supportive

This has to do with their mouth and their money.  You want people in leadership to be vocally supportive of the staff and the church mission and vision.  Naysayers create problems.  Gossips create integrity issues.  Those who refuse to follow Matthew 18 will create hazards and splits.  Those in leadership have a higher accountability and must be held to it.

Only the treasurer/bookkeeper will know how much someone gives.  In our situation, we have set a low limit of $200/month in giving.  If someone is giving more than that they are considered available to serve.  If someone is not meeting that need, but I am aware of low-income status in their home, I will seek to discover if their giving is regular.

We all need to row in the same direction otherwise we go in circles.

Secure

Background checks are difficult for our older generations to grasp.  Having grown up in radically different social times it is often a church hurdle.  However, we MUST be doing these.  The obvious areas are in youth and

Background checks are difficult for our older generations to grasp.  Having grown up in radically different social times it is often a church hurdle.  However, we MUST be doing these.  The obvious areas are in youth and childhood ministries.  However, I would encourage committee members too.  Another option would be that committee members sign an agreement of confidentiality.  While much of what is done in committee life is open for membership to hear, there are those times when sensitive items need to be discussed.  Our church family is not always prepared to hear all that is discussed.

For example, My wife and I discuss a LOT at the dinner table with our kids.  However, when we moved to Texas 3 years ago they were not at an age to handle that information until they HAD to handle it.  They didn’t know about the interviews and discussions of housing and schools.  Our church members are at all levels of maturity.  We must have the mature lead and, at times, do so confidentially.

Spiritual

God has equipped your church with people. Within them lies the spirit of God.  Do you see the fruit of the Spirit revealed in their actions and speech?  Do you sense they are being led by the Spirit or by other causes?  Sometimes, everything can seem right and the pressure is on to finish the task.  However, we must pause and ensure the Spirit’s guidance and gifting.  Someone who is gifted with mercy or helps will have a difficult time serving in an administrative role.  Also, if the finance/stewardship committee is filled with those who are strong in faith run the risk of presenting a budget too large for the congregation.  There needs to be a balance.

I pray for our nominating committees as they seek to serve the Lord and His church.  May you be wise, righteous, and godly in your choices this Fall.

Getting Out of the Rut

In Gospel Living on July 27, 2017 at 8:01 am

​I began college in the pre-med program.  My first semester I was carrying 18 hours filled with biology, chemistry, calculus, and more.  I     loved it.  A aprt of chemistry was the lab.  We would all file in, partner up, and begin the assignment.  Some days we mixed chemcicals.  Some days we heated up stuff.  One day, we almost blew up the lab. 

Yet, one thing was always true.  No matter the assignment, the outcome was already known!  You see we weren’t forging new frontiers.  We were learners.  The professor had given us an assignment that had been done hundreds of times before.  He knew what the outcome was.  For us, it was something new.  For him, it was routine.
Life is not like a freshman chemistry lab.  We often get into routines and ruts.  Our problem is that we expect different results!
The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.”
In 2 Samuel, David has just been crowned King of all Israel. He has been King in Hebron for 7 years.  Now he has come to fulfillment of God’s pronouncement years ago.  He sits on the throne of all Israel.  As is the custom, kings go off to war.  He asked the Lord if he should respond to the Philitine aggression.  God said, “Yes”.  Daivd went and defeated them.
Here’s the tricky part!  It happens again in the same chapter, but this time God directs him differently!!  War was routine.  War was the same.  War had its rules, even in an uncivilized time and place.
Most of us like routine because it brings us comfort.  However, if we are staying in touch with God we can be drawn off of the right path by our own ruts.  Don’t dig in too deep!
Here are 3 things to keep in mind about your path and God’s directives:
1.  Be inquisitive.  Throughout his life, we see a repeated action:  David inquired of the Lord.  Before most decisions, David would askGod what should be done.  Are you?  Are you goin on experience?  What if God wants to go differently?  Are you goin with conventional wisdom?  What if God wants to be unconventional?  Are you basing your tomorrow on yesterday?
2.  Be sensitive.  Everything in David would have said to attack from the front rather than flank around to the side and back.  We must be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we are guided through life.
3.  Be decisive.  God gave David a specific instruction.  When he heard the sound of marching then he was to act.  Too often, we might hear a word from God and understand it, but we are too timid.  We are too fearful.  God has given us a spirit of power not fear; a spirit of strength not timidity.  It does not matter if your friends and family do not understand.  If God has spoken, then act!

In what ways has God directed you in a unique way recently?  Did you follow decisively?

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