Self-Evaluations and the Future

I must confess, I HATE doing self-evaluations. Evaluating something in particular, such as a ministry event, is good and needs to be done, but self-evaluations are just painful. This is one of the downsides of ministry in the UMC.

Every fall, every UM minister completes a self-evaluation for "effectiveness in ministry." That's followed up with an evaluation by the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and another with the District Superintendent.

I'm down with the goal setting and follow-up on last year's goals, but there's a couple of things I struggle with.

First, how you define "effectiveness in ministry" determines how you'll evaluate yourself. I'm not always sure how to begin that one. For decades, we have tried to find that perfect equation of new members vs. new Christians vs. financial giving that will give us a quotient to determine if we are truly being effective in ministry. It's been about as successful as the BCS has been with determining who should play for the national championship. I think for some appointments, there is a "difficulty of schedule" that has to be factored in because of geographical location, existing practices fo churches, and effective (or ineffective) lay leadership. A mediocre minister who doesn't apply him or herself to their work that is in a suburban or downtown setting with great resources and tremendous leadership will almost always show bigger numbers than a great, hard-working minister in a poor, rural community or in a church frought with conflict. All we can do as pastors is trust that our District Superintendent knows our situation and can relate to where we are.

For those of you who think that numbers don't really matter, all I have to say is "read Acts 2:47b". When the church is doing what it's supposed to, it will grow. According to Natural Church Development, it actually multiplies rather than just adding to its numbers.

My second issue is with self-esteem and self-perception. Remember in school when you'd do a project and the teacher or professor would tell you to grade yourself? I had one high school teacher that would do that regularly with papers we had written and she would average our grade with hers for a final, official grade. I confess that I've never hesitated in that situation. Even when I may not have applied myself or may have turned in something that was thrown together, I immediately gave myself an A+ (some of you are smiling, knowing that you did the same). I watched friends who were either more honest, or just thought less of their own work give themselves B's and C's. Why on earth would you do that?

When it comes to these self-evals, how can we truly engage ourselves in them? To evaluate yourself poorly is to intentionally, in my view, bring down your self-esteem. To give yourself high marks is to avoid reality and not face your own growing edges. Is this really the best way?

This year, I was pretty tough on myself. We've accomplished alot in the last year but it's almost all been below the surface. It's been changes in practice, leadership, and hopefully attitude, but nothing that will show numbers as results. I was critical of the low numbers of professions of faith and the decrease in church membership this year (we cleaned up the rolls) - but the criticism got good results. The SPRC's evaluation took most of those comments and put them on the shoulders of the church as goals for 2009. The CHURCH will strive for better outreach, evangelism, and missions.

All in all, the evals went well. My new superintendent affirmed my work and the work of the church - that's always good to hear when you have a first year DS. Before I left his office, he told me to plan to stick around at least another year. That's good news - hopefully it means that I'll get to see the church grow in faith and in numbers in 2009 and 2010.