Tips for Church Staff Performance Reviews—and How to Fire Well

church staff at table during a performance review

Although “performance review” may seem like a corporate term, it’s simply a way of tracking growth or decay—matters that concern every organization. Here are some quick tips on church performance reviews, as well as the unfortunate task of employee termination.

Why a performance review?

Outside feedback is critical for a reality check. Even the most elite athletes have coaches, trainers, sports psychologists, and nutritionists to push themselves to maximum performance. Everyone has blind spots.

Having a formal, structured means of feedback allows you the opportunity to pause and to assess your own growth and effectiveness, as well as the growth and  effectiveness of those you supervise.

Besides the growth benefit of feedback, performance reviews are also a matter of good stewardship. How can you know who deserves merit raises in pay unless you are able to track an employee’s efficiency and effectiveness?

That is what a consistent performance review system can do for your employees. We recommend your church use a form of sorts for a consistent process. Whatever you do, choose a system that is simple enough to work, not a complicated one that gets neglected.

Qualities of a good review

Unlike the stereotypical image of getting chewed out by the boss, performance reviews should be seen as opportunities to celebrate what the employee has accomplished over the past year, to encourage growth in them because of the potential you see, and to make sure the employee is rewarded for a job well done.

In a performance review, you are focused on the work of the employee, not the employee him- or herself. Instead of a one-way conversation where the boss does all the talking, performance reviews are also a chance to hear the joys and concerns your employee has. Some of the best ideas for improvement and change come from listening to your team.

When you have to let someone go

Even with good hiring procedures, thoughtful training, and a solid performance review system in place, you may, unfortunately, need to terminate a staff member. We hope you never have to deal with a morality issue in termination (such as assault, molestation, insubordination, drug/alcohol abuse, sexual harassment, etc.), but you need to have a clear system in place for dealing with these ethically and decisively.

Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult things you will do as a leader. This is a serious action that will affect both the employee and his or her ministry. When the situation is handled well, everyone will notice. And when it is handled poorly, everyone will know that, too. Here are some questions to work through as you consider whether your employee needs to be terminated:†

1. Does the person need to be terminated?

• Is their ineffectiveness, poor example, or poor leadership actually blocking ministry progress? What actual harm is being done?
• What if the position goes vacant for a while? Would that be worse than the current situation?
• What standards are being used to measure job performance? Are they fair?

2.  Who else believes the person needs to be replaced?
3.  What will be the basis for dismissal? Relational? Moral? Theological? Job performance or fit?
4.  Should a second (or third or more) chance be given?
5.  How does the Holy Spirit seem to be directing the church in this?

***

This article was written by George M. Hillman, Jr. and John Reese and originally appeared in the Feb. 2020 issue of Ministry Team magazine. The content is adapted from Smart Church Finances: A Pastor’s Guide to Budgets, Spreadsheets, and Other Things You Didn’t Learn in Seminary, available now from Lexham Press.

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