Three things I think are true about a leader in full time ministry.

  1.  We are called and love what we do.
  2. We want to get better at what we do.
  3. We need coaching in order to improve.

One major problem that prevents church leaders from improving is that we reward faithfulness rather than results. That’s a big mistake – if you want your church to realize its full potential in reaching people for Jesus. It’s good to celebrate faithfulness but important to reward only results. I’ve been teaching this for years and it’s not a popular principle. But, with time to truly consider the idea, I’ve yet to meet a church leader who disagrees.

I’m focusing this article on paid ministry staff – so let’s set the context: love and care for your whole team, but reward results.

No one likes being evaluated, unless it’s by someone who cares about them, has their best interest at heart and has the skill to help them get better. The “old school” annual performance review is like a train looking for a wall to crash into.  The boss is the powerful locomotive engine pulling the employee (the caboose) speedily down the tracks. The employee can’t see where they are going, has no say, and is surprised by every turn in the ride. No one likes that.

At 12Stone® Church we call our process “Coaching Conversations.”  I will admit the process is not perfect, but we have the right idea, and we continually work on improving it.  The “review” is a conversation designed for discovery, and based solely on personal and professional development. The big idea is to coach someone to be better, not different, so they are personally and professionally more successful and experience greater meaning in their life and work. That’s a lofty goal I know – but it’s worth the effort to attempt such an endeavor.

It’s true that we don’t always like the time, effort and energy required to do all this, but everyone likes the results of a Coaching Conversation done well. So we are committed to it. We have been deeply engaged in the process for over ten years.

The Coaching Conversation does have a formal element. It comes at the end of our fiscal year, every May, it’s in writing, and it is filed electronically. The reason for this formality is that without the discipline of writing, it’s just too easy, under busy schedules, to “fake it” and do a less than helpful job.  However, even though this formal element exists, it’s based on a warm and personal coaching relationship that takes place all year. (I’m currently working on some ideas to keep the review process even more fresh and current, without adding a sense of “more work.”)

Let’s go back to coaching in order to improve. In order for this to actually happen, it’s necessary to base the coaching on clearly set objectives and goals. You need an agreement / covenant in writing or the process is random and has no real way to gain traction.

Clarity and simplicity are essential to this process.

We call our agreement / covenant a MAP. (Ministry Action Plan) We develop three MAPs a year, (June – August, September – January, February – May), based on the rhythms of ministry during our church year. Each MAP should be no longer than two pages, and can be on one.

There are three components to each person’s MAP.

1.     Core Responsibilities

The key question is: Are you doing the right things? This simple and concise bullet list of responsibilities takes the place of a typical bulky job description.

2.    New Territory Goals

The key question is: Does it advance the organization? (Is your church a better church?) I recommend that you list no more than about 3 items here for each MAP. So, in other words, don’t list everything each person does or is responsible for. You have covered that in the Core Responsibilities. List only a few breakthrough initiatives that really help move the ball down the field.

3.    Leadership Development Focus

The key question is: Can you practice it? (Are you a better leader?)

This is the specific thing each person focuses on for personal and or professional development. I recommend that you have no more than one or two things listed here.

When you do a great job developing a MAP for each person, or something like it, you are ready to have a “coaching conversation” that is helpful to someone’s personal growth.

If you would like to check out some sample MAPs and our Coaching Conversation forms, go to my blog, www.danreiland.com and click on resources.

The purpose and value of a MAP

  •  Enhance your communication.
  • Clarify your responsibilities.
  • Increase your accountability.
  • Strengthen your strategic implementation.
  • Increase alignment to team vision, culture and philosophy.
  • Increase progress and productivity.
  • Increase personal growth as a spiritual leader (This is the most important piece.)

A MAP is not:

  •  Designed for containment or control.
  • A substitute for leadership and intuition.
  • A structure you serve, it’s a tool to serve you.
  • An unchangeable document, but it must be well thought through.
  • To be merely human and mechanical or mundane and safe, but must in some way carry the voice of the Holy Spirit and the sense of God’s power.

Practical tips for a good Coaching Conversation

1.   Prepare well

Use the time wisely. Don’t just wing it. Ask yourself what you need to do in order to make a meaningful contribution into each person’s life. Take the time you need to think and pray through the process, keeping the personal development of each person as an individual in mind.

2.  Be clear on the purpose of the Coaching Conversation

As I’ve stated, this is all about growth and development. There are times of critique and even correction on occasion, but that’s rare because you’ve stayed current with those things all year. The most common reason to return to a problem area is if it has become a pattern.

3.  Never surprise a staff member in this process

This is kind of a no-brainer, but just in case. . . Your staff should know about this process, the preparation and their specific appointment time in advance. Be sure you have explained the purpose and process to the whole team weeks ahead of time.

4.   Stay focused but give room for “meaningful tangents”

Leave room for the Holy Spirit to move. Yes, this is a prepared and organized conversation, but some of the best stuff comes from a moment of freedom and discovery that makes the experience truly meaningful!

5.   Insist on honesty

If you are anything like us, you are busy. Time is a premium. So taking this much time for in-depth conversations is meaningful. One of the best ways to get maximum results is to be fully honest and go for the last 10%. Don’t hold back. Get everything out and on the table that is helpful and productive, including you as the supervisor being receptive to how you might lead better as well.

6.    Listen more than you talk

This is a conversation, so it’s a two way street. Both of you should talk and listen. But I would encourage you as the “boss” to listen at least 51% of the time for a coaching conversation. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn!

7.     Follow-up

This is an ongoing process. The goal is not to “get it done and file it.”  Keep a hard copy handy for about three months, or as long as appropriate. Talk about any key things learned, points for development and clarity of expectations in either direction.

Are annual reviews as much fun as an ice cream sundae on a hot afternoon? No. They are a lot of work. But the results are absolutely fantastic, and there are no calories involved!