It’s staff review time at New Vintage Church. To some, the idea of “reviewing” staff sounds a bit corporate. It certainly can be. However, it doesn’t have to be depersonalized and cold. It can be a time of the year staff actually looks forward to. In my next post, I’ll share with you how we do ours at NVC. Before that, however, I’d like to encourage you to do it. Over the years, I’ve found them a vital ministry tool. Here’s why:
It keeps communication flowing. It’s amazing to me how many churches either don’t do reviews at all, or make them a monologue from “employer” to “employee.” No one likes an annual beating or reminder of where they are on the proverbial totem pole. However, most ministers I know welcome the opportunity to hear how you think they’re doing, and have an open dialogue about they’re area of ministry over a few hours. Staff reviews are important if for no other reason than this: you and the staff get to practice speaking to one another constructively about awkward subjects. It’s going to be easier to talk about “job performance” or delicate ministry issues throughout the year when you do it more regularly.
It’s a chance to say “Thank you.” All staff have done some praiseworthy things. They deserve to know what those things are. It only blesses people to hear, “Well done.” Do it as often as you can.
It’s a chance to offer correction or “tweaks” if necessary. Even the greatest ministers I’ve ever worked with have things they can improve on. In a healthy staff culture, it will be understood everyone is trying to get better all the time. It will be considered a part of the job to self-assess and welcome others’ assessment for the common good. Having said this, it’s also a time to make people aware of significant or growing problems.
It’s a built-in chance to deal with staff issues you may have been avoiding. To be clear, staff reviews are not the grease trap for all the things you’ve been wanting to say but haven’t had the courage to. It’s a better time to check-in on things you’ve mentioned already. It’s a great danger to let it all build up, only to unleash it on an unsuspecting minister at a vulnerable time like a staff review. If, for instance, you’ve mentioned consistent lateness to meetings, this is a natural time to bring it up again or thank the minister for making strides. One rule of quality staff reviews: NO SURPRISES. No Pearl Harbors. One reason reviews can be non-anxious for people on staff at NVC is they know there will be no surprises. If they are to be confronted about something, they know it’s coming. I’ve committed to them they will know of anything needing attention in advance of that occasion. As a result, they can come in knowing the landscape already.
It’s a chance to strengthen the relational tissue of your team. Talking plainly to one another about important personal things builds chemistry. It deepens your relationships.
It’s a great chance to get a feel for staff’s “job satisfaction.” I like to ask what I can do to make their ministry thrive, or alleviate suffering where it may exist. I also like to ask how I can be a better partner in ministry to them. I have learned some GREAT things about how staff members perceive me or what they need from me during this time.
Lastly, it’s a chance to reward people. I like to come bearing gifts, when possible. If they are married, I like to do something that will bless the whole family. In lean years, it might only be a gift card. Other years, it might be a pay raise. But, I don’t want anyone on staff walking away with only a “well done” in words. I want to demonstrate that in a way that staff member receives affirmation best.
I highly recommend staff reviews for the reasons cited above. In my next post, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide to how we do it at NVC.
Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book “Jesus, the Powerful Servant.”