By Norm Proulx
I must have been nine or ten years old when I noticed that my dad’s hand was never really still on the steering wheel. Even if we were driving down a straight stretch of road, he would be moving the wheel a little left, a little right for no reason that I could see. I asked him why he did this strange thing and he explained something all drivers know: that inside and outside the car, unseen forces are always at work applying pressure that will take the car off course. Dad gave me examples like the wind, tires, potholes, and suspension. Because these forces can push your car off course, you as driver have to watch with your eyes and feel with your hands and then make small course corrections. It’s the only way to drive safely and get where you need to go.
This need for course corrections applies to a lot more than cars, doesn’t it? As a church leader you are well aware that forces inside and outside your ministry are exerting unseen pressure to take you and your church or organization off-course. What are you doing about it?
If you are like most mature Christians I know, you thirst for Holy Spirit feedback to provide honest and true guidance in your life. You are serious and intentional about Spiritual disciplines. You study and pray and fast (among others) because disciplines are a proven and God-ordained way to keep your heart on course. Amen? Presuming we all have that firm foundation in place, can I modify my original question?
Knowing that pressure is always being applied to you and your ministry to take you off-course, what else are you doing about it? To lead effectively and make appropriate course corrections you have to get other feedback also. You can’t drive your car with eyes closed and hands off the wheel, and you can’t lead your ministry without getting feedback from people involved with and touched by the ministry.
As a leader, what systems and practices do you have in place to get feedback on your leadership? Pastors, it’s nice that you stand by the back door so people can tell you on the way to lunch how much they enjoyed your teaching. But we all know that form of feedback is socially conditioned to be positive and superficial. What are you doing about your need for real feedback, deep feedback that contains all the positive and the negative information you need to correct your course?
Here are some tools that our Vitality and Multiplication team believes in. We use these practices in our ministries and we believe you will be blessed and better able to stay on-course and true to your mission and calling if you use these tools also.
Annual Review: This is a common tool in workplaces – because it works so well. Sadly, only about 15% of church leaders will insist that the board or PAC they report to formally evaluate their leadership performance on annual basis. Regular reviews will help you get out of the cycle of crisis management and build a culture of open and honest feedback. If you wait for a crisis to correct your course, it’s like not steering until the car jumps the curb. That’s not something you or the other people in the car will enjoy!
Congregational Input: There are many good ways to gather input from the people in your ministry. Here are three of our favourites. Feedback forms: give an anonymous, quarterly feedback form to committed members that focuses on one or two main areas. Focus group: convene a diverse group of 8-12 people and ask open-ended questions about the direction of the ministry. Town Hall meeting: gather the whole congregation and start a dialogue on what they love and what they’d love to change.
Outsider Input: William Temple famously said “The church is the only organization that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it”. We plan events and outreaches for the unchurched and de-churched. Do we ever gather their input? How can we measure our effectiveness if we don’t? Consider a guest survey for first-time visitors. Or recruit a non-attendee in the community to come as a “secret worshipper” and then fill out an evaluation form on what they experience as a visitor.
Vitality Process: For the deepest and most thorough feedback, you should engage in a vitality process. Coach Louis and the Vitality and Multiplication team have tools to help you. Discovery Weekends and the NCD Survey are able to give deep and meaningful feedback to you and your church. You will learn how to build on the foundational strengths of your ministry and you will discover areas that are in need of course corrections. We all know we need feedback to steer well. We all know we need feedback to lead well on behalf of Jesus. The question is: what are you doing about it?
To discuss any of these tools, please contact Coach Louis or a member of the V&M team. We are here to help!