Let’s be honest. Pastors are in the people business and at some level in our hearts we need and want to be liked and loved. When it comes to receiving feedback from our congregations there is still a part of us that wants to hear, “Nice sermon, Pastor.”
While comments like these stroke pastors’ egos and they do have their place, pastors need feedback that will help them become better pastors. So when it is time for the annual pastoral evaluation SPR Committee’s need to be focused on helping the congregation interpret comments such as “need better sermons” or “pastor needs to lead the church.” SPR Committees need to ask questions such as “What do you mean?” or “Tell me more.”
We need to move beyond whether or not people like the pastor. Whether or not someone “likes” the pastor’s sermons or his/her mannerisms is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the pastor is leading the church towards its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. When an individual church member gives feedback to SPRC during a pastoral evaluation it is also a time for the member to evaluate the effectiveness of his or her own discipleship. In other words when feedback is solicited let’s remember that it is not just about the pastor, but about how we ALL are doing with the mission of the Church. I have created a Clergy/Church Covenant located on our web site at www.alaskaumc.org which can assist congregations in evaluating not just the pastor, but the ministry of the entire church.
This is a call for SPRC chairpersons to lead their committees to help their congregations discover ways to give feedback that will truly help their pastor become a better pastor. Remember that pastors come with various depths of ego strength. There are seasons that need to be noticed. It will help to be aware of times when your pastor may be more open to receiving feedback. You may not want to conduct a full evaluation during dark winter months or times of loss when your pastor is fragile and vulnerable. Most in your church will not be able to notice such times. This is to say that the pastor needs SPRC to be a safe, trusting, and confidential environment to hear constructive feedback. The pastor also needs to be willing to ask for and receive such feedback. Again, it is about the mission of the church that needs to be the primary focus.
SPR Committees are the eyes and ears of the church. They should be listening to the congregation throughout the year. They should be interpreting the feedback with their pastor in ways that will truly improve ministry. Not everything SPRC hears should be shared with the pastor. Some feedback will need further exploration. Some will require discerning the right time to share feedback with the pastor. Identifying an SPRC member with whom the pastor feels a connection and safety is strongly suggested as a liason.
SPRC’s role in interpreting feedback is a learned skill and an important part of creating a healthy church system.