Pastor's Pastor

Evaluation-whose opinion counts?

Who should you trust to evaluate you?

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

How am I doing?" Everywhere he went Ed Koch would question his constituents. As a politician the former mayor of New York City wanted instant feedback from the people who mattered most the ones who would vote for him.

Pastors also need feedback from the people who matter most the ones who vote with their attendance, financial support, and ministering activities. However, there are few jobs in which it is harder to measure progress or to get accurate feedback than pastoral ministry. Furthermore, one of the least reliable methods of seeking realistic input is to ask some parishioners, "How am I doing?" Depending upon whose input you seek, the answers will vary. You are seldom as great as your strongest supporters will affirm and you are seldom as bad as your loudest detractors will decry.

If we surround ourselves only with those who affirm our ministry, we may not get accurate evaluation. Likewise, if naysayers are the only voices we hear, it is easy to become discouraged or to conclude that we are ineffective. So whose opinions count?

What is God's opinion?

Pastors must first seek to place their lives and ministry in harmony with God's will and to maintain a keen sense of His approval! Determine that you will follow His lead. Henrietta Mears says, "To be successful in God's work is to fall in line with His will and to do it His way. All that is pleasing to Him will be a success."

What do your leaders say?

After making sure of your compliance with God's will, seek the counsel of your administrators. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a young pastor was, "If you wonder how to proceed in any situation, call your president." This doesn't mean that administrators are perfect or always have the best solutions. But it does mean that if you seek and follow their counsel, they can and will support you. Try never to place your supervisors in the position of hearing about difficult matters that you have failed to discuss with them.

Are local leaders with you?

Trusting the elected leadership of the congregation is essential for pastoral effectiveness just as trust for the pastor by laity leadership is essential for effective church growth. More of ten than not, elders and church officers are selected because the congregation values their leadership and trusts their judgment. Wise pastors will recognize that their pastoral tenure will eventually conclude while their members will live with decisions far into the future.

Consult with your leaders and then motivate them to act upon the decisions they have made. Some of the most delicate issues are best resolved when local church leaders have participated in decision-making and then are expected to implement the course of action that they have designed.

Members vote regularly

A pastor must have vision and set the pace. Your church will seldom exceed your expectations for what they can accomplish, so set a higher standard for soul-winning, financial goals, attendance and spirituality. Encourage your members to reach beyond what they think they can do. Measurable progress will follow as you raise their vision of what can be accomplished.

Spouses have loving wisdom

Don't ignore the input of your partner in marriage and ministry. Some times in the stress of too-busy schedules and too-long days, a spouse's evaluation can sound like criticism and might be discarded as nagging. Take time to listen to the messages your family members give. They love you and want to see your ministry succeed. Initiate opportunities to spend a quiet evening with your partner reflecting on the course of your ministry. You will receive profound insights that will benefit you immensely.

Find a friend

A trusted pastoral colleague knows the burdens you carry and shares the same kinds of challenges you face. A friend often sees your point of view but is able to maintain a "one-step-away" objectivity that places the most difficult matters in a different perspective.

Whom to ignore

While every member deserves a voice, remember that some individuals thrive on recreational griping. Chronic complainers believe they have failed to do their duty until they find fault. Nothing you do will please them, and accommodations you make to their complaints will seldom earn their sup port. Such sideline umpires are typically uninvolved in church programs or evangelistic endeavors. Carefully evaluate your own attitudes but recognize that a murmuring multitude has always dogged the steps of spiritual leaders. Focus on finding God's will and building your leaders' support and then move forward in confidence.

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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