10 Mistakes Churches Make in Evaluating Pastors

I remember the first time a personnel committee of my church evaluated me and my ministry. I was young (early 20’s), and I had never had anyone evaluate me to that point. I didn’t like being evaluated then, and it still makes me uncomfortable at times – though I know it’s necessary. Here are some mistakes I’ve seen churches make regularly in this process of evaluating pastors:

  1. Not evaluating the pastors at all. Even if they are the spiritual leaders, nothing should prohibit the church from evaluating their work and helping them grow. That’s good stewardship of persons.
  2. Evaluating without established expectations on a written job description. With no written job description, you are asking a pastor to live up to everyone’s expectations. No one can live up to that standard.
  3. Evaluating them only when the church is struggling. If that’s the only time pastoral evaluation takes place, it’s possible the motive is wrong – perhaps to help push the pastor out the door. Regular evaluations help avoid this problem.
  4. Evaluating on only the basis of growth and giving. These are not at all invalid criteria to use in evaluating pastors, but they should be only one part of the process. Stalled growth does not necessarily mean poor leadership, and increased growth is not always indicative of good leadership.
  5. Including uninvolved church members in the evaluation process. I’ve seen churches create personnel committees of business leaders who know how to evaluate personnel, but who seldom if ever attend church. Unfaithful members should not carry this responsibility.
  6. Emphasizing only the negative. You can wear out a good pastor by continually dealing with negatives while failing to point out the numbers of people who continue to love and follow him.   
  7. Pointing out concerns, but offering no helpful corrective steps. Evaluations should be godly and redemptive – offering hope and help for a pastor who needs both. When evaluators have no plan to help overcome the negatives, you essentially say, “We’re not much interested in helping you.”
  8. Evaluating on the basis of hours in the office. Frankly, some of the best pastors I know aren’t in their office much; they’re outside the church walls doing outreach.
  9. Failing to ask about the pastors’ spiritual walk. We assume all is in order here, and then quickly address other organizational issues. We miss an opportunity to minister to the shepherds when we don’t talk about their spiritual practices.
  10. Failing to check out available resources for evaluation. Some churches spend too much time trying to figure out how to evaluate a pastor. Do a search for “ways to evaluate pastors,” and you will find resources. They may not always be inexpensive, but they will often help you save time.

What would you add? 


  • david mcbryar says:

    Only evaluating on the internal issues. You know my heart is Church Replanting/Revitalization and one of the big problems I see churches in need of Revitalization make is they are very inwardly focused. You should not evaluate the pastor on only what he has done to meet your needs (visitation, “getting-fed” sermons [whatever that means]… but evaluate the man as a whole and make sure he is going outside the four walls doing evangelism, discipleship, visitation to shut-ins, etc… and evaluate and to make sure he is leading the congregation to do the same!

  • MarieP says:

    One my pastor has pointed out (in his exposition of Titus, and dealing with qualifications but it holds for evaluation too): the all-too-common failure to use the Scriptures as our explicit guideline.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Marie. I assume you mean when churches FAIL to evaluate pastors according to this guideline?  

  • Mark says:

    Is its intent to help him/her excel as a pastor or to start the process of firing? The intent matters greatly as it guides the drafting of the questions and how the responses should be viewed.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Indeed. I would hope that any intent to start the process of firing comes after ongoing evaluation and attempts to deal with issues. Thanks, Mark.

  • Matt says:

    I would add to #7: Failing to do anything with the evaluation afterwards. Sometimes evaluations are done and issues and concerns arise, but there is no follow up or ongoing accountability until 12 months later when it’s time for the next evaluation.

  • Sean Nemecek says:

    Failing to understand pastoral ministry and simply evaluating on personal preference, unrealistic expectations, or tradition.
    Failing to shape the job description according to the pastor’s unique gifts and calling.
    Failing to understand the realities of pastoral ministry.
    Failing to pray for and encourage your pastor throughout the year.

  • Peter says:

    Two more to consider….
    11. Evaluating only for the sake of determining remuneration. The focus ought to be on encouraging the pastor and the health of the church.

    12. Evaluating to find scapegoat. Do not conduct an evaluation only when things have gone wrong. Make it as a known and agreed regular practice. The objective is not to prove but to improve.

  • Doug Hibbard says:

    Storing up both positive and negative feedback for an annual review. If something was not right in November, how is it made better by waiting until October to talk about it?

    Likewise with positive: encouragement delayed may be too late.

    But too often, “evaluation” is done only connected to the budget making process, even though there is no connection to salary changes.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Good thoughts, Doug. Thanks.

    • dustydcm says:

      Worse still, not formally evaluating until a pre-set time – after four years, say – and bringing out previously unexpressed hopes, disappointments, misunderstandings and criticisms that could have been addressed or at least discussed if they’d been raised sooner…

  • Jay Delano says:

    Brother, Consider it a privilege to be evaluated. if you walk with the Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, then you, as a pastor, are teaching and training the congregation to think biblically. Ax an inclusive ad transparent pastor, you, perhaps, should welcome this evaluation process. In other words, if you are doing your job, so to speak, then the natural result of a life of Faith will result what please HIM. Dr. John Cole

  • johnnybeaver says:

    Where might a personnel team look to find a good guide to evaluate a pastor?

  • David says:

    Evaluating only the Pastor and none of the other staff. Failure to evaluate the entire ministry team – and hold them all in the same balance of goal setting, accountability, and support, means that those evaluating have no clear means of seeing the big picture of ministry team dynamics.

  • Matt Kelly says:

    Evaluating a bi-vocational pastor with the same standards as a full-time pastor.

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