All too often in ministry we are A-OK with mediocrity. In the core of our being as Christians in Iowa, we are hardwired to be nice to others, and being nice often means affirming whatever effort is offered rather than risking hurt feelings or offense with honest feedback and critique. We are well practiced at being nice, and usually polite, and we are often not very practiced in delivering helpful criticism and feedback. This is the shadow side of always trying to being nice. It is an art form to deliver a thoughtful, helpful, and useful item of critical feedback wrapped in respect and love for the receiver. It requires practice. It also requires thoughtful, faithful, love and grace for the one being critiqued. It is harder work to offer helpful critique and requires more effort and care in the relationship. I would argue that this is where God invites us to go.
What is lost when we are nice in a conflict-avoidant way, is the opportunity to grow and hone skills and pursue excellence. Add to this our fear of pride and boasting and we have the perfect combination to keep us from really excellent work and achievement in ministry. This is a sin, a falling short of God’s call for our lives. I would argue that doing the work of God’s church, being the hands and feet that are boldly following Jesus, demands of us to pursue excellence!
This is where I shameless refer you back to my ENews article from last week to help you and your congregation determine buy sildenafil 100mg what would be excellent ministry in your context. Big questions need to be asked. Lofty goals need to be set. Practices and programs need to be designed to pursue those goals. And then, to complete the circle and move the ministry forward, the performance of every activity and everyone involved in the ministry needs to be thoughtfully, faithfully, lovingly, and helpfully critiqued so that it may be fine-tuned, realigned, celebrated, and/or redirected. Evaluation and feedback is critical in the cycle of pursuing excellence.
In a couple of months, my colleagues and I in the Conference office will begin to receive the annual round of phone calls and emails requesting “the form” for leaders of churches to use in order to evaluate their pastor’s performance. These calls come in right on schedule, connected to the annual review of the budget and finances of churches. I am sorry to disappoint you. There is no form. Forms are not thoughtful, faithful, loving and grace-filled. People are. Jonna, Rich, and I would love to talk with your governing board about how to engage in the fruitful work of ongoing evaluation and feedback that does help ministries be more excellent. And I commend to you the book, “Completing the Circle,” by Rev. David McMahill for your own reading and planning of a great feedback program that can lead to excellence in ministry.
We have a great story to share and wonderful work to do, the best story and most wonderful work! Let’s boldy follow Jesus together in excellence!
–Brigit Stevens, Associate Conference Minister
Iowa Conference United Church of Christ