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I was browsing in the "Third Wave Report," which is Calvin College's Center for Social Research report on the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence initiative. One interesting item noted is that when pastors set up regular systems for council to give feedback to the pastor on preaching, this has a positive affect on "pastoral excellence" 

What do pastors think about this practice?


I think it is a good practice, but should not be left only to council meetings.   It is also better to refer to preachers preaching and pastors pastoring, since different aspects of spiritual leadership are involved.  

Accountability is a term that speaks of those employer/employee relationships residual in the world of business. May we break from that model that is too impersonal. Pastors bring spiritual gifts to their ministry and should be encouraged to use them as they have been blessed. These gifts should be determined, encouraged and developed through shared prayer and discussion with those who are sensitive to pastoral ministry. A format that allows for this kind of spiritual development is so desperately needed in our churches and in the lives of our pastors.

Pastors working with other pastors is the ideal place for this kind of encouragement to happen... shepherds sharing with other shepherds the work of tending to thier flocks. Church councils can offer a vital forum so long as attending Elders bring a spiritual identity that is in tune with the pastoral challenges of ministry... so often Elders are Elders because they bring business skills rather than spiritual significance.

While feedback from spiritually sensitive people is very valuable, and while the spirit in which the feedback is given is also much appreciated, preachers should not be averse to receiving feedback from others who are not so "sensitive".   Feedback is a two-way street:  sometimes it helps the preaching due to constructive input, while other times it reveals the receptivity, awareness and context of the listener, which also provides insight into how the message is getting accross.   Understanding the feedback sometimes takes a great deal of prayer, and a little bit of time. 

I recently asked my council to set up an executive committee to do an annual evaluation of myself and eventually of all staff at the church. Feedback has been good and positive. It also has opened up conversation with leadership that has helped us grow in understanding of strenghts and weaknesses of our overal church ministry. Good, solid, Goldy feedback is important. There is a need to put into place guards to the evaluation process that keeps those who just want to complain and nitpick at bay.

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