How to Evaluate Leaders: Volunteers, Staff, & Board

Thriving churches maximize the leadership potential of their board, staff, and volunteer teams. If your church isn’t achieving your vision, there is likely a problem with the leadership. The journey to maximizing your leaders begins with implementing systems of evaluation.

Churches are historically terrible at evaluating and assessing leaders. While many might do a yearly review with staff, precious few churches ever evaluate their boards or volunteer teams.

Here’s the thing: you can’t be disappointed in the performance of your volunteers or leadership board if you never evaluate and assess them.

It’s on you.

So today, I want to give you three ways that you can start evaluating or assessing leaders in your church—from front-line volunteers, all the way up to your senior leadership board.

Assessment 1: Feedback

Giving feedback is incredibly basic, but most churches don’t do it well or often enough. I’ve been there. You send a volunteer or staff member off to do their job, and rarely give them feedback on how they’re doing.

Former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, famously said, “Micromanagement is underrated.” While I disagree with the overall statement, there is a nugget of truth here. What we sometimes call “delegation” is often a lack of attention to detail and a failure to follow-through with feedback.

Let me be clear. You should not micromanage. But you should pay attention to the work that your team is doing and give feedback on successes and opportunities for growth.

Redeem the concept of evaluation by making “feedback” the norm.

If the only time a staff person receives feedback is during an annual review, what can he or she do with that? They can’t improve. It’s already over. 

If you never let a volunteer know that they’re doing well or need to do something different, how can they improve? Give feedback regularly.

Assessment 2: Goals Review

Churches love to set goals, but they struggle to achieve them. A failure to achieve goals is not a reflection of the quality of the goals. The problem is with execution. Goals fail for two reasons:

First, because goals don’t cascade down to the lowest levels. 

When you’re forming a church-wide goal, ask this question: How are your front-line volunteers contributing to your bottom-line results? If you can’t answer that question, then you won’t hit your goal. 

Every ministry and volunteer team needs to be contributing clearly to your goal.

Secondly, goals fail because churches don’t track progress or share that progress with the team. 

Imagine playing the Super Bowl, but no one kept the score. That would be pointless. But imagine if the coaches kept the score, but the players couldn’t see the scoreboard. That would be frustrating! 

We do this all the time in church. We set goals, and if we monitor progress at all, we don’t share our progress with the team. 

As a result, team members don’t know if the church is “winning” or “losing” at the church-wide goals. Team members don’t know if their work is making any difference.

So, you should conduct quarterly goals reviews. Meet with team members one-on-one or in huddles (groups of 6-8), to share progress towards the goals. Ask what commitments team members are going to make to help the church hit the target, and how you can help them be successful. 

For volunteers, these meetings can be short and sweet—20 minutes.

For a staff person, more than quarterly is better (monthly or even weekly) and more in-depth—30-45 minutes. 

But every volunteer needs to know what the “score” is and how they can actively move the needle.

Assessment 3: 360 Review

You might a 360 review with a volunteer is crazy, but it’s not. I’ll break down the specifics in a minute. But the majority of your team—including staff, board, and volunteers–should undergo a 360 review every year. 

Let me break this down, because this is a system that’s intended to scale up and down.

First, most of your front-line volunteers do not need a 360 review. I’m talking greeters, folks who make the coffee, children’s check-in folks.

In our Pipeline Process, we call these “Level 1” or “L1” positions. The only people they’re leading are themselves, and if you tried to do a 360 on all of them, that’s all you’d do all year. (So you can take a deep breath now.)

But any volunteer who is Leading Others, we call these “Level 2” or “L2” leaders do need a 360.

A 360 for an L2 leader is barely a 360. It’s a one-page form filled out by the volunteer and by the person who oversees them. It’s a 30-minute conversation about how they’re doing in their position (what we’d call their capacity competencies), but also how their heart is doing (what we’d call their character competencies).

As you go up in a level of leadership, the 360 is more intense (like for a staff person or a board member). However, every leader who leads people is getting a yearly check on their hand-work and their heart-work.

I’m tired of hearing about church leaders who are burning out and failing out of ministry. If your gut reaction is, “Ugh, it’d be so much work to spend 30 minutes per year assessing my leaders…” you’ve grossly misjudged what ministry is all about. Ministry work is people-work. 

More than that—the work of leaders in the church is leadership development. Read Ephesians 4.

If you’re too busy to evaluate the leaders you oversee… you’re probably directly managing too many people and need to implement a Leadership Pipeline system, or your priorities are out-of-whack.

Your church can thrive. You can reach your goals. You can make a deeper and broader gospel impact in your community. But you’ll always be limited by the quality and quantity of the leaders in your church. 

If you want to have better leaders, you’ll have to evaluate them and build them up.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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