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Pastoral Reviews

by Reverend Heather Miner

In the past, when a congregation wanted a “review” of me, it meant someone had something to say that they didn’t want to say to me in person.  The first review given to me was energized by a comment box in the back of the church where members could put in their slips of paper anonymously.  I still remember the remark shared about the color of the leg wear I wore at the time—albeit, looking back at it, it was a poor fashion choice.

After six years of serving North Long Beach Christian Church, I got word that it would be good for our “organization” to review their front line leader.  In non-profit work, a review of the Executive Director is part of the Board’s job description.  Being part of Fieldstone Leadership Executive Learning Group, I heard many stories how reviews strengthened the work of the non-profits.  And, I thought, “well, why not?”

As part of our SCNCUCC Coaching Group, I was already in relationship with those who could guide the process.  I called Reverend Sharon Graff who, as a retired church pastor, is being called to “coach” churches.  We agreed that we would use our church’s recently developed Mission and Values statements as the basis for the review.  Sharon guided a brainstorming session around the statements, drawing out categories that allowed her to create a survey.   Our Mission:  NLBCC welcomes you into all that God is and calls you to be” got broken up into different questions, like ”rate pastor’s encouragement of people to become their best selves” and “rate pastor’s practice and teaching of the congregation’s mantra, “Here you are loved.”  She encouraged them to, not only rate me, but to share a story about what I have done in those areas.  We met for three, ninety minute sessions.

In the last session, the Board shared with me what was on their paper/surveys.  And, then, also where they would like my “light to shine brighter.”  Then, Sharon collected all the papers, and gave them to me.

Sharon did a brilliant job.  I loved her “agreements” she sought from the group.  The first being to, after you have spoken, wait until two others have spoken before you speak again.  The second one was about confidentiality—not to be shared with spouse or friend or among each other in public places.  She created a atmosphere of safety for the Board and for me.  She protected both the process and the pastor.

And, I learned how the church leaders “see” me.  How much better is that than guessing what they “might be thinking!”  The things I would rate myself less on did not come up on their surveys.  And, the place where they want my light to shine brighter, well, I heard them and am practicing a new way.

As I look back upon it, here is what worked well.

1.      Using our own Mission and Values to structure the review worked to affirm their identity and mission as church.

2.     Having Sharon lead, not only because she is a good leader, but because she is an outsider.  The Board got to tell someone else about themselves which is affirming for them.  And, she could let the Spirit lead, because her only investment was to help them invest in the process.

3.      The structures she spent time putting in place made a difference.  She was mindful about the process every step of the way and her mindfulness rubbed off on the Board.

For NLBCC, the pastoral review had the effect of bringing me closer to the Board, of allowing them to “see” me, and me to “see” them.  It affirmed our mission and priorities and their role in both.  Finally, it allowed them to give voice to the story that is our church…a story which I hope they will tell outside the Board room’s walls.

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