Evaluation of ministry is an issue that many congregations avoid. Many congregations avoid evaluation of ministers and ministry because congregants are afraid that in “criticizing” their leaders they are being “unChristian.” Another problem of evaluation of ministry is that the actual criteria for evaluation are elusive — many committees who must evaluate candidates for ministry (in the ordination process or in the call/appointment process) “know it when they see it” but struggle to name what they know. Without evaluation, however, expectations and disappointments may never be clarified. Conflicts may erupt that leave persons feeling blind sited and betrayed. Congregations and ministers cannot change course — a death knell to congregations and ministers in a climate of significant social change.
We at CRCDS invite our students to be curious about critique so that they an discover their growing edges. A good evaluation process in Supervised Ministry is necessary so that students experience the value of evaluation. Satisfying evaluations can help students learn to lead congregations in evaluations that enhance rather than detract from ministry. Such evaluations can help all of the participants live more faithfully and meaningfully. Evaluation that is collaborative and leads to small confirmations and adjustments builds confidence in the mission and direction a congregation and a minister have chosen. Evaluation and reevaluation are an ongoing process.
Evaluation as it is understood in Supervised Ministry is a collaborative exercise in which the student, supervisor, site committee, and faculty participate. It is guided by the concrete, measurable learning goals that are usually found in a Learning Covenant. The specific learning goals of the student, however, aim toward lifelong learning and formation: the development of practical wisdom.
This lifelong learning goal involves at least three interrelated ideas that relate to practical endeavors, such as ministry – technical competence, vocation, and practical wisdom. This triad offers some clarification of the more elusive sense that “we know good ministry when we see it.”
Technical competence: Effective ministry involves “technical knowledge” or skills. Such skills contribute toward or express a minister’s understanding of ministry.
They include the following skills:
- To communicate clearly and effectively, both orally and in writing;
- To proclaim the Christian Gospel through preaching and other forms of communication, and to interpret the Scriptures with fidelity to the tradition and sensitivity to the human condition;
- To teach and to design educational programs appropriate to the content to be taught, and the needs and abilities of the learners;
- To observe sensitively and perceptively the lives of individuals and of human society, and to analyze and interpret human events at both the individual and societal levels in the light of biblical faith;
- To engage with diverse ideas and persons to maintain a clear sense of purpose, but to tolerate frustration and ambiguity, and to relate to persons and cultures whose background, experience, and history differ;
- To participate with persons, families, and groups in a healing, restorative, and corrective fashion, and to act responsibly in relation to their needs;
- To understand and to move with skill in the midst of systems, structures, and institutions;
- To deal creatively with conflict and to enable others to do so;
- To be an agent of change at individual and institutional levels;
- To exhibit a style of leadership which will set loose the creative abilities of others and develop their ministries within the body,
- To lead a congregation or body of persons in the discovery of commitment to those goals and objectives which will define its mission;
- To work in a collaborative fashion with others, both those within the profession and those outside it.
Evaluation is an ongoing process — in class, in supervision, in site committees. Twice a year, however, the student, the supervisor, the site committee, and the faculty require formal, written evaluations. Copies of the evaluation forms with specific guidelines are included in the Appendix of this manual. Evaluations are guided by the learning covenant and also offer an opportunity to revise the learning covenant, as appropriate. Evaluations also reflect upon the triad of technical competence, vocational development, and practical wisdom described above.