Administration,  Church,  Ministry

Towards a Healthy Church – Job Evaluations

In the previous two posts, I have written about descriptions at the team and individual job level. Again, it is important to note that a job description does not need to imply the position is paid. Each position in any organization, including churches, can (and probably should) have a description of duties. Why? Well, the first is so the person(s) can know what the position entails. But the second is so that the person(s) can be evaluated.

I realize that evaluation is not necessarily considered positive. Many people become tense when they hear the word “review” when related to a job. But we review any number of items every day. We review the clothing we wear (Does it look good? Does it fit?), the food we eat (I don’t want to eat there, they have bad service), the programs we listen to or watch (I don’t like that actor/actress; that podcast is boring), the books we read, the people around us, etc. The difference is that when WE evaluate others, we are in control, but when others evaluate us, well, that’s a very different story.

But that is what makes a job evaluation much better than how most evaluations are made. In the preceding paragraph, most everything is subjective. The clothing was purchased because it once looked good and fit, but now styles have changed. The restaurant was once a favorite until some bad experience happened. Etc. I am not suggesting that these ideas are necessarily wrong, but in almost all circumstances, nothing is objective. It is about preferences that often change over time.

An evaluation, on the other hand, should be rather objective. A good evaluation (and the key word is good) will evaluate performance based upon the demands of the job. Those demands are defined in the job description. Thus, without a job description, the demands cannot be measured suitably because the person doing the job has no set instructions, and the person evaluating makes their decisions based upon arbitrary factors like the example of the restaurant in the earlier paragraphs. But evaluations can be “fair” if both sides know what will be evaluated and to a large extent how that evaluation will take place. Let me provide an example from my work with students.

As a professor, when I develop a class, I need to know what the objectives of that class will be. Once the objectives are defined, then I can begin to make decisions on how to achieve those objectives. The decisions are many – what resources are available and can be used (e.g books, internet, etc.), what assignments can help the students fulfill the objectives (e.g papers, exams, etc.), how much must be assigned to achieve the appropriate level of knowledge, comprehension, understanding, or application, and how will the assignments be evaluated (what rubric should be used)?

All of these factors are a baseline for helping a student achieve the objectives for a particular course. If the evaluation component was not included, then most, if not all, students would choose to not complete the work, and therefore the learning would be incomplete – according to the objectives. When this happened to enough students, the school would be unable to prove it is fulfilling its mission and it would be shut down or lose accreditation.

Likewise, in an organization of some kind, the job description acts as an objective and assignment list. It should include the objectives, but should also include some key markers (assignments) as to how the objectives will be filled. Then, the worker and the evaluator will have some idea of what should have been completed and how effective the person was at completing the assigned work. If the work is not completed by enough people then the organization will be shut down due to a lack of production and/or customers seeking quality.

These ideas are certainly true for a business, but they are true for the church as well. Therefore, each church should consider how the evaluation process fits into the scope of the work when developing a description for a particular position. And again, this idea is true whether the position is one which is paid or not.

Now, I realize that most churches (particularly smaller churches) do not have any formal evaluation, in part, because they do not have formal job descriptions. But unlike the examples I provided the last couple of weeks, I will not give a sample evaluation form because the form will be dependent upon the job. Yes, a generic set of principles will be evaluated, but as I mentioned in the educational example above, the measure of a student’s performance is related to the objectives of a certain class. For instance, a math student should not be evaluated on how well s/he reads a math book, whereas a literature student might be.

Therefore, in developing the evaluation process, compare each of the descriptions and find areas of commonality. Those areas can be a part of any evaluation. For the rest of the evaluation, make the items related to the specific job responsibilities, whether generically, or specifically, and perhaps a little of both.

Two final tips for churches which do not have any such documents in place.

First, begin. Simply begin. If you do not begin, you will not complete the work. You can be strategic if you wish and choose an area, a team, or a particular position where you should start, but simply begin.

Second, have the persons involved help you. As I mentioned last week, have the people who are doing the job help to write their job description. Presumably, they know the job, so let them provide the details for how to accomplish the work. But then have them help to develop a set of criteria for evaluating their work. I am not suggesting that the person doing the job should have the final authority on how their job will be evaluated, but have others provide input on their own job will help them to buy-in to the process and promote a sense of self-accountability.

This post ends this part of the documentation process, but we still have a few key documents to go. Before I write on each of those items (Constitution, Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures), I plan to share the basic distinction between these four types of documents. But first, next week, I will post how all of these documents work together to allow the church to function as effectively as possible.

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