Yes, You Can Judge Me

1_3-5_Deborah_under_the_palm_tree_adriene_cruzPlease don’t judge me for reading Vanity Fair (and an occasional People Magazine when I get my toes painted.)

Please don’t judge me for being in a sorority in college.  Yes, I wore pink and green.  At the same time.

Please don’t judge me for eating premium ice cream with 16% butterfat.  I inherited both my dad’s love of ice cream and his naturally low cholesterol levels, thank goodness.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, part of life and especially part of being in a healthy spiritual community is being told things we don’t want to hear.  Today I’d like to pitch the notion that we should invite people to judge us.  

Personnel evaluations are good.  Constructive feedback is good.  But both require trust and honest conversation.  Sadly, annual reviews and constructive criticism are rarely done well in the church:

  • Sometimes years go by without annual performance reviews.  My favorite book to get back on board with church reviews is still this one by Jill Hudson.
  • I’ve experienced people with personal, political, and theological issues with the pastor to be the first to sign up to serve on the personnel committee.  My favorite annual review story (reported to me by a friendly officer) was the guy who started the initial review meeting by announcing, “It’s time for Jan to move on.  I’m happy to tell her tomorrow.”  Whoa Jack.
  • We take reviews personally for good reason.  It stings when someone says, “You need to work on your preaching” or “You are not spending enough time getting to know the kids.”  But we forget that our service is not wholly about us.  It’s about whether or not we are serving in such a way that expands the reign of God and the growth of God’s people.

After many years in my previous congregation, I asked three trusted members to tell me the truth about my ministry.  Tell me when I have lost focus.  Tell me when it’s time to go.  Tell me when I’ve been unfair.  We met regularly to review how I was doing.

It meant so much to know that they would always tell me even the things I didn’t want to hear.   I invited them to judge my ministry, my priorities, my attitudes.  It was a rare and blessed partnership that helped immensely.  

Imagine inviting trusted people to judge us for the sake of the kingdom.

Image source of Deborah the Judge.

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4 responses to “Yes, You Can Judge Me

  1. Trust is the big issue, though, as you said. I wrote a very CPE-like review of myself once, and the personnel committee, most who didn’t know me very well or my area of work, told me to add a lot of stuff on to my plate that was pretty full already. It’s hard to listen when people aren’t really listening to you or interested in knowing you, and like to make assumptions. I have not decided whether I will ever be that honest and self-reflective in a church personnel review, especially so early, ever again.

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about healthy and helpful evaluation processes for my own ministry. I’m intrigued by your self-picked committee of 3. Any hints on how you picked those three? Meeting intervals? And the feelings of those who weren’t the three?

    • They were two men and a woman, all younger than I was. They all had a sound vision for the church (i.e. it wasn’t about them) and we met for dinner about 4 times. It was towards the end of my ministry with that congregation and they helped me see that.

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