Wednesday, May 1, 2013
During the early years of my ministry, I didn't want criticism. I was scared of criticism. When someone told me what they didn't like, I felt rejected, mistreated. Twenty-one years after I started preaching, it was brought to my attention that criticism is a given. People thought it. I had the choice of knowing what others think and evaluating whether it is helpful or not helpful or of letting people know that I don't want it. If I choose that, my friend told me, "They won't tell you their criticisms until they are ready to fire (divorce, leave, reject) you."
As I have reflected on that conversation on a Monday afternoon in 1982, I have thought about the absurdity of my original attitude toward criticism. When a person accepts a position of leadership (elder, deacon, preacher, teacher, parent, Christian), he or she is accepting an opportunity of being in front and calling others to a higher plane. My picture is that of a lightning rod. The encyclopedia says that a lightning rod is a "metallic rod (usually copper) that protects a structure from lightning damage by intercepting flashes and guiding their currents into the ground. Because lightning tends to strike the highest object in the vicinity, rods are typically placed at the apex of a structure and along its ridges; they are connected to the ground by low-impedance cables" (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9048229/lightning-rod).
...to be continued...
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Sunday in Bible study we discussed 1 Timothy 2:1, 2: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (NKJV).
I reflected on the emails I receive and the posts on Facebook relating to our officials—many containing insults and criticisms (some true and some false according to Snopes.com and Hoaxbusters.org). I don't see that rehearsing their faults is helping me to have a more quiet and peaceable life.
I have decided this week to do what Paul said for officials: make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks. It may not change our president, the congress, the Supreme Court, or a constable in the county. But it could change me if I reflect every day during my prayer for them that they are ultimately not in control of this country or the universe.
God is involved in the selection of rulers.
"And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding" (Daniel 2:21).
God called Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, "My servant." Our Father has and can use evil people to accomplish His will.
Paul tells me to obey governing authorities and honor them (Romans 13:1-7).
This week I plan to do this. The worst of my government officials are probably much better than the Caesar ruling Paul when he wrote the book of Romans.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Obviously, elders have the oversight of a congregation which includes the preacher and other people on staff as well as the rest of the congregation (Acts 20:28). A supervisor has the responsibility of the effectiveness of those under his or her leadership. However, a position and title of oversight does not carry with it infallibility.
Evaluators need to be evaluated. Christians are to honor and express appreciation to the leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13). As members we are not to accept and believe frivolous, unfounded, derogatory comments about elders (1 Timothy 5:17). But if they continually and rebelliously miss the mark with no indication of correction, they are to be publicly censured (1 Timothy 5:18). If that is true, some discussion before that serious reprimand would be following the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).
Evaluation isn’t a negative word. It includes both corrective and positive observations—all for the good of everyone. When we tell the truth about each other, we are free to improve, continue, adjust, or reply to gain a better understanding and relationship. “Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 1:38) “But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see” (Deuteronomy 3:28). “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2). “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
This principle has tremendous implications. Think of how relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, elders and congregations, teachers and students could be improved by invited, truthful, regular, and mutual evaluation.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
My agreement with a secretary was that there would be no surprises or negative comments during the evaluations. If they needed to do something differently—if I was unhappy with anything about their job performance, I would let them know within forty-eight hours of the event. I would not want a supervisor to save up mistakes that I have made for a year and deliver them to me at an annual review. I was committed to follow that principle.
...to be continued...
Thursday, January 31, 2013
If I really want evaluation, I need to be ready to hear my weaknesses as well as my strengths. That can be painful, but helpful. “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:5, 6, NKJV).
A youth minister was told by an elder that he was doing a good job and was “right on target.” Within two weeks, during an elders’ meeting, he was told that his services were no longer needed. There was no explanation. Ultimate evaluation—firing—with no reason denies the person the opportunity to learn and to understand.
Even during those difficult times, where there is to be stern rebuke or a parting of the ways, it is good to speak truth in love. When the elders are firing the preacher or the preacher is firing the church, it is good to be truthful and kind.
Ephesians 4:29 is good advice: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (ESV).
...to be continued...
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The time to begin effective evaluation is in the beginning of the relationship. I have found it helpful to have this included in the contract-job description. For the last thirty years of my ministry, I had it in two places in the agreement. A general statement of evaluation: “The elders and preacher agree to be able to disagree as well as agree and to deal with each other honestly, openly, responsibly, and with respect. This will include regular evaluation of our relationship, giving both strong points and weak points that need improvement.” page 4, item # 1 of Preacher-Church Agreement A second statement of the desire for evaluation is found in the financial agreements: “A merit raise will be considered each year and discussed as to why it is being given or not given.” page 3, item # 5 of Preacher-Church Agreement I not only wanted monetary reward for my work but I also wanted to know what I was doing well and what needed to be improved.
My experience has been that the clause in the contract does not guarantee evaluation. In one congregation, the elders scheduled an annual evaluation on the anniversary of my work with them every year. In another congregation, I waited two weeks after the designated time and reminded them of our agreement and they did it. I am 100% responsible for communication. Part of the evaluation process is to remind the evaluators if they forget about the evaluation. It could also be interesting to evaluate why one or both parties are reluctant to evaluate.
When part of my job description was to supervise the secretary, the contract read: “The secretary agrees to relate to the staff in a healthy way: to be able to disagree as well as agree and to deal with others honestly, openly, responsibly, and with respect. This will include regular evaluation of our relationship, giving both strong points and weak points that need improvement.”
…to be continued...
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Do you ever want to know, "What do the elders think of my work?" "I wonder if I am in danger of being fired." "Is our preacher happy?" "What do the other elders think of me?" "Am I overbearing?" "Do I communicate that I care about my fellow elders and the church?"
How would it be to have a relationship where all parties are comfortable in the knowledge that others will share what information is helpful, giving compliments when things are going well and sharing concerns when there are irritations or questions? One way to develop this is to have ongoing, effective evaluation.
This does not start with an evaluation. It starts with:
- Helpful rules for discussion. Discussion Guidelines with Commentary .
- Practice. Have you scheduled classes and/or workshops to grow in honest communication? Does your leadership group plan for times to improve communication and exercises to strengthen your ability and habits of "speaking the truth in love"?
Trying to evaluate and communicate on powerful and delicate topics without laying a good foundation is like a high school football team trying to play in the Super Bowl before they have done calisthenics, practiced blocking and tackling, run plays, scheduled scrimmages with themselves and competitors, and seasons of successful football.
...to be continued...