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Performance Planning Has a Role in Ministry

Posted: 8/28/19 at 4:50pm. Column by Craig Harwood.

In my most recent post I introduced revisiting guiding principles to ensure foundational and unifying direction in your ministry. Over my next few posts I will describe the basics of laying out a performance plan and conducting performance reviews for pastors and staff.

The idea of conducting performance reviews in a church requires first that the reasons for doing it are aligned with the guiding principles of the church, edifying to the community, and supportive of the individuals involved. There are good reasons to implement performance reviews, but there are also risks if they’re not done well or if they’re done with less than honorable motives.

There are good reasons to implement performance reviews, but there are also risks if they’re not done well or if they’re done with less than honorable motives.

Reasons to implement performance planning include:

  • It promotes agreement/alignment among leadership toward direction and actions
  • The performance planning process clarifies the work and resources needed to fulfill a goal
  • The research completed in planning expands horizons to see possibilities that you might not have considered otherwise
  • Doors open and close along the way, but having a direction documented allows you to assess the journey along the way and track your faithfulness
  • It promotes accountability among a community of believers
  • It enables abandonment to the call, because you have identified tangible deliverables and prayed over outcomes to declare and work toward

Risks if performance reviews are not done well or for the right reasons include:

  • Destruction of trust
  • Disengagement from those who feel they have been unfairly evaluated
  • The process can spawn an Us vs. Them environment between staff and lay leadership

In any ministry performance or goal planning it’s important to remember that we plan and do the work while God is responsible for results. Our accountability is in the faithfulness to the call and serving as a workman who need not be ashamed. In our quiet time, the Lord instructs us and guides us into action by his word and the work of the Spirit in us. Our responsiveness to that direction reveals our faithfulness and seeds the bearing of fruit in our ministries.

As you consider initiating a performance review process, first think about the initial steps in a plan:

  1. Ensure you are anchored in the ministry’s mission and guiding principles. How is the Lord guiding your thinking? Write it down. It takes courage to document the work the Lord is leading you into and to commit to be held accountable to it.
  2. Articulate your thinking with others to sharpen your thinking and allow the Spirit to confirm direction.
  3. Benchmark your ideas with other ministries that have taken on this direction and been blessed. Best practice research will expand actionable possibilities and continue to sharpen your focus.
  4. Gather leadership to anchor direction and divide the work into objectives or goals that will support the direction. Be inclusive of all ministries to create a holistic and unified plan and assign individual responsibilities based on roles.
  5. Lay your God-inspired plans before the Lord, step out into the work, and seek his direction to ensure you remain being guided in his path of righteousness (Psalm 23:3) and routinely review and discuss how the Lord is leading in the work you and your team are engaged in.

We can plan, document, and be held accountable for a mission, the follow through actions, and how we conduct ourselves in the work (behaviors). The disciples were held accountable to the Acts 1:8 command to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel. Joshua was instructed and held accountable to go and take the land. The early church was accountable to specific direction in the local church communities and in missionary endeavors. What accountability is the Lord leading you into?


Craig Harwood has over 30 years of experience in corporate human resources and pastoring churches. He can be contacted at craig.t.harwood@gmail.com.