- All board members, including the pastor, are brothers in Christ, and equals before God.
- The board, in most cases, was significantly involved in the hiring of the pastor and the writing of his ministry description.
- The pastor, in many cases, was significantly involved in the choosing of the board members.
- The pastor is expected to be the spiritual caregiver to the members of the board and their families.
- The pastor is expected to be both the spiritual and directional leader of the board and the church. (I ask churches to allow their pastor to dream, to design and to direct.)
- The pastor, usually, is accountable to the board as his “boss.” While no single board member should function as the pastor’s direct supervisor, the board, as a group, is the pastor’s supervisor. (The alternatives are not good: the pastor’s boss is the board chairman; the pastor’s boss is the congregation; the pastor has no human supervisor at all.)
This last point above, the board as the pastor’s boss, brings bucket-loads of challenges in and of itself:
- First off, “groups don’t lead,” or at least, “groups don’t usually lead well.”
- This means that groups (and boards are groups) tend to make poor bosses. For this reason, many of us advocate for a structure where the board has only one employee: the senior or solo pastor. In this polity, the pastor is expected to be the supervisor of all volunteer ministry leaders and/or staff members – or the supervisor of the supervisor of the staff members – and is expected to do it well. As an individual, it’s (theoretically) easier for him to be a good supervisor than it would be for the board to fulfill this role.
- Boards also find it awkward to supervise the pastor because – in most cases – (1) they didn’t receive training to be pastors, (2) they’re not studying books on the pastor’s role on a regular basis like the pastor is, and, (3) they’ve never done the job.
So typically, the board and pastor stumble along in this difficult relationship all year long until the annual performance review,which is often a bad experience for all involved because: (1) the close relationships between the individuals and families involved make truth-telling very difficult, (2) no real supervision has been given all year, (3) there are undisclosed tensions concerning the pastor’s role and the pastor’s performance that have been simmering beneath the surface, (4) both sides are acutely aware of the gaps between the pastor’s and the board member’s knowledge of the pastoral role, as mentioned above, and (5) performance reviews are notoriously subjective and ineffective anyway. In churches they are typically too little or too much or too late or too oppositional.
Let me suggest a simple practice that will help improve both the relationship between the board and pastor at your church and the pastor’s performance.
I’m not talking about the kind of “directive” coaching given by the athletic coach, given at high volume, to the players during a time out. I’m talking about the kind of non-directive coaching that does not require the coach to be an expert on the daily role of the coachee. I’m talking about asking the pastor a few simple coaching questions such as the following:
- How are you doing physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?
- How are you doing with your annual goals (or KRAs – “Key Result Areas”)?
- What did you accomplish this past month that you feel good about?
- How did you use your strengths in your ministry this month?
- Tell us about your answered or (seemingly) unanswered prayers this month.
- What did you fail to accomplish that you are frustrated about?
- How can we help you to get this done successfully?
- What aspects of your ministry (as outlined in your ministry description) are giving you joy?
- What aspects of your ministry (as outlined in your ministry description) are giving you anxiety?
- Do you have any relationships that have “gone south” in the last month?
- How are you doing with your weekly “Sabbath” (or day off) and your monthly retreat day?
Your board’s set of questions would, of course, be tailored to your pastor, his ministry description, his own annual goals, your ministry context, and would need to be agreed on, up front, by pastor and board. The exercise of getting to agreement on the questions could be a great growth experience for your church’s ministry team!
I confess that I’ve never seen a church board do this.
I also confess that I would have loved to have a church do this in any church of which I was the pastor. I would have felt loved, blessed, supported, protected, valued and accountable.
I testify that every staff member I have done this with has let me know that he/she felt loved, blessed, supported, protected, valued and accountable.
Here’s what I’m asking you to do:
If you are a board member, ask your board and pastor to join you in trying this.
If you are a pastor, assertively ask your board to join you in trying this. You can come up with your own list of questions and present a sample form to your board. I can’t imagine a board refusing to do this.
Get back with me at email@example.com or 651-319-1953 and tell me how it’s working. I believe this simple practice could be a great blessing to your church