Evaluating How an Elder Is Ruling


How do you conduct a job performance review for the elders (particularly the paid staff elders)? In other words, how do you determine if an elder is “ruling well”? 

Before a man is considered for the office of an elder, he must be evaluated in light of the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. But then what? Is that it? Is there anything in Scripture that suggests ongoing evaluation and encouragement for more effective ministry? Yes. 

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). 

To consider an elder worthy of double honor, he must rule well. Paul’s admonition indicates an evaluation process that determines whether he’s doing this or not. Okay . . . But how? How can elders help one another “rule well”? How can a congregation know that its elders are serious about improving as elders? 

Over the years, we’ve tried many ways to do “job performance evaluations,” particularly for our staff elders. And I’m serious when I say many. Our efforts mostly returned empty. Sometimes, the process was so ponderous and frustrating that we just gave up for a while. Its value was overshadowed by what felt more business-like than biblical. However, after sustained effort, we’ve found an evaluation process that is workable—dare I say even good! 

Here’s what we did. 

First, we asked each staff elder to come up with three questions for the rest of the elders to answer. We intended these questions to give each elder the chance to receive input into the areas he was most concerned about. For example… 

  • Where are my blind spots? 
  • How can I improve as a leader? 
  • What areas of ministry have lost traction under my authority? 
  • My wife says I can be aloof. Am I this way with the congregation? 

Second, these questions were sent to every elder several days before we met to discuss them. This gave the brothers ample time to think and pray about their answers. 

Third, the elders met to discuss our answers with one another, and we took notes on this conversation. We currently have 17 elders: six staff, eleven lay. Only the staff elders were evaluated. Knowing this meeting could drag on, we allotted 10 minutes to each staff elder. This may seem too brief, but the prep enabled effective, efficient conversation. 

Fourth, each staff elder received a copy of everyone’s answers. They were then asked to sign the document so we had a clear record of what had been agreed to. 

I walked away encouraged, full of ideas for how I needed to improve. The other staff elders felt similarly. We all walked away built up, but with work to do. The process contributed to a culture of helping one another look more like Christ and enhanced our service to our church. 

Our Administrative Pastor, Dave Kaynor, spear-headed this exercise. It was our best effort at a performance evaluation process, and I’m confident we’ll repeat it next year. 

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan.

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