Correcting the Performance

Correcting mistakes and coaching individuals to improve will naturally follow the measuring and evaluating. This is also a part of controlling. When a worker’s performance is not measuring up to the agreed standards, he needs to be corrected and given the opportunity to meet the standards. If he cannot, then he should be removed. Correcting may involve changing the plans, changing the organization, or changing some part of the guiding function.

Christian leaders are quick to remove a person that steals or has a moral problem, but have been too slow to remove people who were ineffective. The practice seems to be to “keep your nose clean” and you will be left alone, even if you don’t accomplish very much. The major purpose of correcting is not to fire, but to improve; but firing is sometimes necessary. The improvement that can come is for the individual and for the organization.

Reasons correction is necessary

1. The worker may not understand the job, and the correction may need to be in the form of clear communication.

2. The worker may have encountered problems and does not know what to do because he was unprepared to deal with them. He needs to be shown what to do in this situation by the supervisor.

3. The job situation may change, even by outside forces that the worker has no control over, and correction is necessary.

4. When the worker is not trained to do the job he is asked to do, and cannot do it, correction is required.

5. The worker may have personal problems that interfere with his ability to do the job.

6. The worker may not have enough motivation to do the job.

7. The worker may be unwilling to do the job.

Right way to correct

1. Correct in private. Always give praise in public, but correct in private.

2. Correct quickly. If correction is too slow in coming, not only is harm done to the organization, but the worker may have forgotten the incident.

3. Be accurate in the analysis of reasons for correction. It can do a lot of harm when a leader begins to make corrections and discovers that he has the wrong set of facts, or has drawn the wrong conclusions.

4. Correct in a positive teaching manner. Correction is sometimes called discipline, and discipline is teaching.

5. Don’t lose emotional control. If the leader loses control of his emotions when correcting a subordinate, he will also lose his effectiveness.

6. Mix correction with praise. In almost every case, a leader can find something good to say about a subordinate. Mix the good in with the correction. Jesus even did this in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation.

7. Be fair and impartial in correction. Fairness is very important when dealing with individuals in a group. This needs to be consistently applied.

8. Appeal to the self-interest of the worker. Make sure the worker understands what the correction will mean to him, and not just to the organization. His self-interest may be keeping his job.

9. Use a progressive discipline procedure:
a) First, use a friendly informal talk by asking, “How are things going?”
b) Second, begin more serious and formal talk, perhaps with a warning and a deadline for change. Here you say, “This is how things are going, and how they need to change.”
c) Third, review proposed changes at deadline time and either give praise, additional suggestions, terminate, or give another deadline.

If proper standards are agreed to before the worker starts to work, and the performance of the worker is measured against these standards, then correction is relatively easy. Correction is necessary if one is going to build a good team of workers in a church. This area needs to be improved in the practices of most Christian leaders.

Measuring Performance

In order to determine how well a church is doing, the church must find a way to measure its performance.

This part of control is referred to as evaluation. Evaluation is a process of comparing what is with what ought to be, in order to determine reasons for success or failure, and how to improve. Through evaluation, the reasons for failure or success are determined. Evaluation is something we all do every day. When a person says, “I like X better than Y,” he is evaluating. When a person says, “He is the best teacher I’ve ever had,” he is evaluating. When a person says, “I thought he would be the one promoted,” he is evaluating. The simplest concept in evaluation is comparison.

This part of control actually has four steps:

1. Gathering data about the present performance

Good records and reports are mandatory for this to be meaningful. The reports may be regular reports or special reports for this occasion. Interviews and questionnaires may also be used to gather data. Observation can be used to gather data. As one gathers data it is wise to remember that people don’t do what we expect, but what we inspect.

2. Comparing data with standards

A comparison of the data gathered on performance to the standards will reveal the strengths and weaknesses. This is when the standards established earlier become so important. If the standards are not available, the data gathered may not mean very much. Some comparison is necessary.

3. Analysis of the findings

Now the object is to not only find the differences, but determine the whys. There are reasons for failing to reach the standards and reasons for exceeding the standards. These reasons need to be discovered and reacted to. Sometimes they provide justification for missing standards.

4. Commendations and recommendations

Recommendations for improvement should now be possible, and this will prepare the way for the final step of control, and that is to correct the performance to conform to the standard. An outsider may be effective in this process, as he will be more objective, ask more questions, and may provide better answers.

How often to measure the performance needs to be established. The “when” might be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annually. Southern Association reevaluates colleges every ten years. An emergency situation would cause the measuring to be done more frequently. The importance or danger of a performance would call for more frequent evaluation. How the performance will be measured needs to be planned and understood.

Evaluation of individuals

Evaluation happens as the leader measures the actual work being done by the standards that were established. Here it is important to emphasize results and not activity. Some can be very busy, but not be producing the desired results. Regular reports are one of the most important instruments to use in measuring progress. Weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual reports all have their place. Without a good set of records and reports it will be difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate the performance of individuals.

The periodic performance evaluation is one of the most important and valuable devices available to evaluate the work of an individual. When properly designed and executed, it becomes the vehicle through which the supervisor and the worker will increase their productivity. These meetings might be used to review the duties as outlined in the job description and see how the actual performance is measuring up to the outline of responsibility.

Standard forms are available for employee evaluations from supply firms. One such form, called a trait-oriented performance appraisal form, has a number of traits, abilities, and characteristics that are considered important for success in business. Each of these has about 5 points to rate the performance of the individual as outstanding, good, fair, or unsatisfactory. The types of things selected for evaluating include: accuracy, alertness, creativity, friendliness, personality, personal appearance, physical fitness, attendance, housekeeping, dependability, drive, job knowledge, quality of work, willingness, cooperativeness, sensitivity to others, resourcefulness, decisiveness, enthusiasm, confidence, initiative, aggressiveness, stability, courtesy, and an overall evaluation. These forms have a place, but they do have certain limitations.

Evaluation of organizations

An organizational evaluation is a part of the long-range planning procedure. It is called an internal audit. It needs to be performed every 5–10 years and maybe more often when major changes are being considered. Organizational evaluation especially might consider using an outside consultant to assist. He will be more objective and less defensive. If a consultant is used, he should prepare a report with commendations and recommendations. The types of areas to evaluate and some possible questions to ask are given below:

1. Evaluation of management
a. Are there goals?
b. Are the goals being met?
c. Is a reporting system in place and being used?
d. Do reports reflect objectives?
e. Do reports show consistent growth?
f. Is the communication system adequate?

2. Evaluation of personnel
a. Is there adequate staff?
b. Is there too much staff?
c. Do all staff members fit?
d. Is there an organizational chart?
e. Does each staff member have a job description?
f. Are job descriptions reviewed every year?
g. Is the enlistment procedure adequate?
h. Is the training adequate?
i. Do staff have goals, and are they being met?

3. Evaluation of program
a. Are physical facilities and equipment adequate?
b. Are physical facilities and equipment excessive?
c. Are the units in the program the right size?
d. Do all programs have clear objectives and goals?
e. Do objectives of each program relate to church’s objectives?
f. Are goals being met?
g. Are goals and objectives understood by workers?
h. Is the program needed?
i. Should the program be altered? How?

4. Evaluation of teaching
a. Is the curriculum adequate?
b. Is the Bible being used in teaching?
c. Is there class participation?
d. Are there a variety of methods being used in teaching?
e. Are AVA materials available and being used?

5. Evaluation of finances
The finance audit should use a Certified Public Accountant and the standard audit procedure.

Establishing Performance Standards

The establishing of a performance standard is a critical part of the procedure. A standard is that which is established as a model, a criterion, or a rule of measurement. It is the answer to what is a good: Sunday school teacher, Sunday school room, worship service, youth program, etc. A unit of measurement that gauges the performance must be established; and then the quality of this unit generated by the person whose performance is being measured must be observed. The leader and the followers need to come to an agreement regarding the quality of work that is to be accomplished. Many times neither a leader nor his followers know what quality or even quantity of work is expected. Unless performance standards are clearly defined, with measurable terminology, people have no way of knowing what is expected of them. The evaluator must also know exactly what he is looking for if the evaluation process is to culminate in a competent report.

Standards are available for some programs to help with the process of evaluation and control.

1. The Southern Association of Colleges and Universities accredit Liberty University. This accrediting association, as well as all others, has established a set of minimum standards for an accredited college.

2. The Southern Baptist Convention has standards established for Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible Schools, and if a church operates their program in such a way that the standards are achieved, the church can receive a certificate of recognition.

3. Lowell Brown has written an excellent book called Sunday School Standards, that sets standards for a Sunday school to use in evaluation and control.

4. In most states, if a church wants to establish a day care center, they will need to get a booklet of minimum standards for a non-profit day care center from the child welfare department of the state government.

The establishment of a unit of measurement is one of the most difficult parts of this task. We use inches and feet to measure distance, candlelight power to measure light, decibels to measure sound, pints and quarts to measure liquids, and other units to measure other things. A unit of measurement of performance must be established for a task. This can be a very difficult task for some service-type jobs. However, if it is not done, then how can a worker know what he is to do? How can a worker know if he is “good” at his job or not if performance standards have not been established?

Although the task will not be easy, a number of things could be considered for measuring the effectiveness of a church or church staff position:

1. The pastor might be evaluated on the basis of attendance, budget, buildings, and baptisms.
2. A youth pastor might be evaluated on the basis of attendance, baptisms, volunteers for full-time Christian service, and number attending Bible colleges.
3. A Minister of Education might be evaluated on the basis of attendance, involvement of membership, and organization efficiency.
4. A day school principal might be evaluated on the basis of the achievement test scores, or the number of graduates going on to college.

Standards for a church could be developed based on purpose, organization, leader-ship, facilities and equipment, growth, finances, planning, reports, and other factors.
Some sample standards are suggested below:
1. An annual increase in attendance of 15%.
2. An annual increase in receipts of 20%.
3. A ratio of baptisms to church membership of 1 to 10.
4. Adding three times more church members than church members lost for all reasons.
5. An average gift of $20 each Sunday for every Sunday School attendee.
6. A budget distribution of 10% for missions and 30% each for staff, programming, and building.
7. No emergency financial appeals.
8. A Sunday School enrollment age distribution that has the same percentages as the age distribution of the area.
9. A fellowship group for every 25 adult members.
10. Seventy percent of adult members having a ministry position.
11. Sixty percent of Sunday School workers completing a training course in the past year.
12. Average of one pastor for every 125 people in attendance on Sunday morning.

Writing standards

Many recommend that the worker prepare the first draft of performance standards. The standard must be built upon the job description. Each of the major responsibilities assigned on the job description should be listed. State the conditions that will exist when these responsibilities have been met. Some newer job descriptions are actually including this type of quantitative qualifying data in them. This should answer such questions as what, how, when, and how many. This actually becomes the standards for the position. The supervisor will then go over these performance standards with the worker.

A type of management by objective approach is sometimes used with management or professional level or workers. Here the worker writes goals for a specific time period, and plans strategies to accomplish these goals, and then has this reviewed by his supervisor. These goals then become the standard used to evaluate his performance. One pastor is using a goal sheet for this purpose called a SCRAM sheet. The letters in the word SCRAM stand for Specific, Challenging, Realistic, Attainable, and Measurable. The title of this sheet is very suggestive, you either meet your goals, or out you go––scram. This is too negative, but the evaluation based on goals used as a standard is a good concept.

Criteria for standards

Five sources of criteria for standards are available:
1. A normative standard can be set which will be based on what ought to be and is somewhat theoretical. This is an ideal standard.
2. A standard could be developed from the historical records of the organization, which would base the standard on what has been done in the past and be an average.
3. The competition could be used; base the standard on what others are doing. The Yearbook of American Churches, denominational reports, or a survey of local churches could be used for this.
4. Critical areas for success could be determined and the standards could be based on the accomplishment of these critical areas. These critical areas are necessary to survive. An income of a certain amount (break-even point) may be a critical area.
5. Currently attainable standards would be based on very efficient operating conditions. They will be very difficult, but not impossible to accomplish. This is probably more than the past historical, and maybe more than the competition, and certainly more than the critical areas for success, but less than the ideal.

Guidelines for standards

Standards should reflect the objectives and priorities of the organization. The standards should be attainable, but challenging. The currently attainable is probably the best source. The standards should allow for a margin of error. It is better to set an acceptable high and low mark, and anything in-between is okay. A system of unnecessarily tight controls will strangle the flow of new ideas essential for the continued growth of the organization and will lead to its death.

The standards that are established should be consistent from year to year. The standard should contain a unit of measure where it is clear when it is met. The standards should emphasize the work in progress and measure it rather than waiting until a task is finished and evaluating the past history. Using standards this way causes correction to be too late. Standards should measure results and not just activity. The church has a lot of activity, but we need results.

Standards should reflect what others are doing (average of competition), but also be individualized for the person and program. Don’t control the trivia. Controls might be established for long-distance phone calls, but please not for use of paper clips.

Introduction to Controls

This fifth task of the leader is just as important as the other four. The leader must plan, organize, guide, and staff, but without controls being established and adhered to, the whole project may not be effective.  People don’t do what we expect, but what we inspect.


Controlling is seeing that everything is carried out according to the plans, or insuring that the results conform to the plan. Planning and control are very closely related. Some have even called these the Siamese twins of management. Control also involves comparing what is with what ought to be. It involves seeing that the performance is meeting the established standards. Control requires the building-in of accountability.

Controls are sometimes called feedback, evaluation, measurement, or follow-through. Examples of controls would include deadlines, written reports, and budgets. Controls can be few or many, but every worker and every project should have some type of built-in control. Evaluation is the process of getting answers to the question of how we are doing. It measures the degree of success or failure in the achievement of ministry objectives. Evaluation includes gathering of objective data and interpretation of that data to develop conclusions that will ultimately result in change.

Control in the Bible

The Bible has a number of examples of controls being used.

1. Scripture itself is referred to as a control for the man of God (2 Timothy 3:16–17). “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2. Moses exercised control over the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 39:43). “Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the LORD had commanded. So Moses blessed them.”

3. Paul exercised control over churches he started by checking up on their progress (Acts 15:36). “Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.'”

4. A Christian should examine himself before participating in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28). “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”

Control a problem

Christian leaders seem to have more trouble with the task of controlling than with any of the other tasks of leadership. In most Christian organizations, there is no such thing as quality control. It seems that Christian leaders assume that since lay volunteers are doing the work, that not many demands should be made. “Some work, or even inferior work, is better than none” seems to be the rationalization. Most Christian leaders dare not to have a high expectation level of performance. It almost seems that it is thought to be un-Christian to hold a person accountable.

Types of controls

Two basic types of control or feedback can be used:

1. Continuous feedback – on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

This type is very important to track the progress on the plans. Often times this will be used with control by exception. Here one looks for shortfalls, variances in performance, and failure to carry out plans. This feedback should direct the attention of the leader to critical areas that need attention before the undesirable results have piled up and the matter becomes crucial. A monthly budget report that shows the variance is the most widely used example of this type of control technique. Regular reports of program organizations like Sunday School, AWANA, and others also serve in this capacity. Some pastors even require a monthly report from each staff person that would serve this function. Some mission boards require missionaries to submit a monthly report that falls into this category.

2. Periodic feedback

This usually takes the form of performance appraisals or evaluations. Special reports can also fit into this category. These do not come on a regular basis, or at least not on a frequently occurring regular basis.

Control tools

1. Businesses commonly use five control tools:
a. Management by exception – used where only significant deviations
between the planned and actual performance are considered.
b. Break-even analysis – used to look at profit and loss. It considers fixed and variable costs and decides the very minimum required to perform an operation.
c. Ratio analysis – used where financial ratios are examined and compared with industry averages or competition. The ratios used most often are:
1) Liquidity ratio
2) Leverage ratio
3) Activity ratio
4) Profitability ratio
(A church can also use: baptism ratio, per member gift ratio, etc.)
d. Trend analysis
e. The budget – also a control tool

2. The number of things to be controlled should be limited. Too many controls are usually worse than no controls. If there are too many, there is a tendency to ignore them all. Also, beware of controlling the trivial, but establish controls on major matters. Controls may usurp time that should be spent in other areas of the organization. Controls can be a problem also if they are too detailed.

3. The proper use of control involves three stages:
a. Establishing a performance standard
b. Measuring the performance by the standard
c. Correcting the performance to conform to the standard.

Retaining Volunteer Workers

The work of staffing volunteer workers in a church could be made much easier if there did not exist such a turnover of workers. The average period of volunteer service is between 3 and 4 years. This means an annual turnover of from one-fourth to one-third of the workers. This adds so much on the church leadership when they must constantly be finding replacement workers. If the church could do a better job of retaining workers, it would reduce the work load of staffing very significantly.

The effectiveness of volunteer workers could also be increased if they could be retained for longer periods of service. It is very advisable to try and determine what can be done to keep volunteers working for longer periods. The following suggestions have proven effective. The failure to do these things is also the reasons why volunteers quit.

Provide the training that is needed to do the task.

Very few volunteers receive adequate pre-service training and some receive little in-service training. Untrained workers do experience difficulty and discouragement and they quit. Undoubtedly among the causes of this rapid turnover in personnel are, first, a lack of training and a consequence sense of difficulty and discouragement, and second, the failure of the church to provide assistance through supervisory guidance.

Make the duties and responsibilities clear.

Job descriptions are essential to a proper functioning organization. Many have been asked to teach, and they teach; then when asked later why they are not visiting, they rightly reply they didn’t know it was expected. When they are later told they should be attending workers meetings, they quit because the job involves more than they expected. Be sure they understand who they report to and who to go to with questions and problems.

Provide the tools that workers need.

“Tools” would include proper space, equipment, and supplies. The church should budget adequate funds to be able to reimburse volunteers for any reasonable expenses incurred in carrying out their ministry. Workers who have to make-do and do-without can easily get discouraged and decide no one cares; then they quit.

Meet the basic needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy is important at this point. Some workers are trying to meet the need for love, acceptance, and belonging. Some workers have achieved that level of need satisfaction and are trying for self-esteem or self-actualization. Understanding and using these basic needs is important in motivation and retention of volunteer workers.

Offer the possibility of advancement.

This is a basic need, but I wanted to mention it separately. A table teacher in a Sunday School department may quit because he has stopped growing, but if offered the chance to advance to a department superintendent position he may stay, grow, and increase in effectiveness. People need not only to advance, but also to see hope of advancement.

The supervisor should explore with the volunteer ways to increase responsibility, expand the ministry or seek new opportunities.

Provide rewards for doing the job satisfactorily.

These may be private recognitions or public credit, merit pay, bonuses, trophies, letters of commendation, and many other things. People want to know they are doing well, and are appreciated. Volunteers give freely of themselves, but they are not free. While they do not expect to be paid money for their contribution, they expect, need, and have a right to other forms of compensation.

Make the successful worker feel like a hero. A worker appreciation and recognition day can be a great asset. This might be a banquet on a special night, or incorporate it into a Sunday morning worship service. A successful leader might be spotlighted in the newsletter each week. Praise or criticize, but don’t ignore. To ignore workers is far worse. Don’t wait to give the recognition only when a worker is leaving a position.

Select the right person for the right job.

Some workers are not retained because they are like a square peg in a round hole. When a church staff person enlists a person without spending adequate time in prayer, he may enlist the wrong person. If a person considers a position without enough time spent in prayer, he may accept the wrong position. Regardless of how the person got into the spot, if he is in the wrong spot, he should leave.

Maintain high performance standards.

Provide good supervision.

Some people quit because the program director is poorly prepared, doing a poor job, or is a negative person.

Build a team spirit.

Don’t overload.

Some are asked to do more and more until they burn out and quit everything.  All of these areas are important in staffing a church with volunteer workers. The effective leader will become skilled in discovering, enlisting, developing, and retaining the volunteers needed to staff a church program.


One of the best ways to train a worker is to have someone more experienced come alongside of them and teach them the ins and outs of the job.  This process is called mentoring.


Mentoring is a deliberate pairing of a more skilled or experienced person with a lesser skilled or experienced one with the agreed upon goal of having the lesser skilled person grow and develop specific competencies. Mentoring is an individualized, one-to-one environment for the exchange of experience and wisdom. One moves from equipping to mentoring when the focus shifts from the job-task-organization to the growth and development of the person as a whole. Mentoring occurs when we have transcended the position and focused on achieving the wants or needs of the protégé. A mentor is a guide. Mentors lead others through new terrain because they have been there before and are equipped to lead. Mentors model what they want their followers to do. Their actions weigh as heavy as their words. You are a mentor, and you need a mentor. Mentoring is a relational experience through which one person empowers another person to fulfill God’s design for their lives. A mentor is a tutor, a coach, a door opener, a way shower, a corrector, an encourager, and a guide. A mentor is a person who believes in you and wants to see you win.

Biblical examples of mentoring

1. Moses and Joshua
2. Eli and Samuel
3. Elijah and Elisha
4. Jesus and disciples
5. Barnabas and Saul
6. Barnabas and John Mark
7. Paul and Timothy

History of mentoring

The origin of the term “mentor” dates to the time of Homer when Odysseus left his son Telemachus in the care of a mythical guardian named Mentor. It illustrates a practice common in ancient Greece. Young men were often paired with older men in an attempt to pass on cultural values through emulation and training. The word derives from the image of a loyal, wise, and helpful friend—a teacher, protector, and guide––who uses his experience to show a person how to overcome difficulties and avoid dangers. From the Stone Age on, youngsters learned how to hunt, gather and prepare food, and fight their enemies under the guidance of older members of their family or clan.

In the Middle Ages, craftsmen in guilds made use of facilitated mentoring by taking on an apprentice and teaching him until he attained the status of master.

Mentoring can be seen in various internship programs, like medical interns and articled law students. Many colleges and seminaries are adding internship programs for pastors and staff; some are required, and some are electives. When a person writes a doctoral thesis, he has a mentor.

Since the mid 70s, there has been a renewed interest in mentoring. It is being used in many businesses, and in many educational and social organizations. In formal facilitated mentoring, each participant is oriented to their roles and responsibilities, care is taken to match the mentor and the protégé, and they actually negotiate an agreement. At the end of specified time, the relationship is terminated.

Benefits to the mentor

1. A close personal relationship
2. A sense of significance and accomplishment
3. Developing a renewed interest—personal renewal
4. Increased productivity
5. A sense of self-fulfillment
6. An impact through your life
7. A connection with the next generation
8. A sounding board for new ideas

There is no better way to learn than by teaching. However, a mentor must make the time commitment, expect little reward, and realize that the protégé may equal or exceed him.

Benefits of having a mentor

1. Promotes growth in protégé
2. Provides a model to follow
3. Helps to reach goals
4. Assistance in the organization – speaks up for you
5. Can accelerate the progress of the protégé

Characteristics of a good mentor

1. Character
2. Leadership ability
3. Strong interpersonal skills – talk and listen
4. Can hold confidences
5. Able to confront when necessary
6. Encourager
7. Accessible, and has time available
8. Patient
9. Committed to the success of the protégé

Characteristics of a good protégé

1. Similar life goals to the mentor
2. Character
3. Self-disciplined and self-motivated
4. Positive attitude
5. Not satisfied with the status quo
6. Ability to communicate
7. Willingness to learn – teachable
8. Receptive to criticism
9. Persistent
10. Enjoyable and comfortable to be with

Guidelines for finding the right mentor

1. Clarify your level of expectations.
2. Accept a subordinate, learning position.
3. Immediately put into effect what you are learning.
4. Be disciplined in relating to the mentor – use time wisely.
5. Reward your mentor with your own progress.
6. Don’t threaten to give up.

Guidelines for selecting a person to mentor

Spend 80% of your time on the most promising 20% of the potential leaders.
1. Select people whose philosophy of life is similar to yours.
2. Choose people with potential you genuinely believe in.
3. Determine what they need.
4. Evaluate their progress constantly.
5. Be committed, serious, and available to the people you mentor.

Developing a mentoring program in a local church

1. Remember that mentoring is a relationship, and not a program.
2. Provide opportunities for older men and women to find potential protégés and encourage them to develop the relationship of a mentor.
3. Teach about mentoring.
4. Enlist potential mentors.
5. Train the mentors.
6. Enlist protégés.
7. Train protégés.
8. Name the program (examples: Men’s Challenge, The 2:2 Program [after 2 Timothy 2:2], The Brotherhood of Barnabas, Pathfinders, Man to Man, etc.)

Dealing With Problem Workers

Unfortunately, not even in the church, will every worker be an ideal one.  Problems will occur that will have to be dealt with.  Here are some ideas on how to deal with problem workers.

There are a number of things that can cause good workers to become problem workers. It is good to recognize some of them at the beginning.

The volunteer is not really motivated to do the work in the first place, or has lost motivation over time.

The volunteer does not know what they should do, or how they should be doing it.

The volunteer does not understand or agree with the reason for doing the work, or doing it the way that you believe it should be done.

The volunteer has not been consulted in the nature of the work assigned to him and resents this fact.

There are no incentives for the volunteer to perform to standard and no negative consequences for poor performance.

The volunteer thinks his performance is at an acceptable level.

There are other obstacles or other people preventing the volunteer from performing.

The volunteer has other concerns, which are considered more important than performing his work.

The volunteer is deriving some sense of satisfaction out of the mis-performance.

There are warning signs that something is wrong. Consider the demonstration of any of these behaviors a warning that something is wrong; a combination of several of these needs to be seen as symptomatic of a serious underlying problem.

The quality and quantity of work declines. The worker makes many mistakes.

The worker often comes late to assignments.

The volunteer simply does not show up for work or meetings.

There is a palatable lack of enthusiasm.

Rarely, if ever, does the worker make suggestions or show initiative.

A normally verbal and open volunteer becomes silent.

The worker continues to avoid parts of the job.

Workers blame others for their short comings.

They are less agreeable, or cooperative, and whine or complain regularly.

They avoid interaction with colleagues and make sure they are unavailable for social interaction.

Co-workers and direct supervisors complain about the worker and his performance.

They ignore timeliness and due dates for projects.

Reports reach managers of the worker bad-mouthing the organization and key leaders.

They explode over insignificant instances; reactions are out of proportion to incidents.

They project an attitude of nothing is right.

Find out the real issues

a. Has something changed in their personal life that is forcing a shift of priorities?
b. Are they the victim of misinformation?
c. Are they upset about a specific occurrence and fighting back by reducing productivity?
d. Have they burned out?

Fences or limits of authority of volunteers need to be established and maintained. Some will take on too much authority and cause problems for others. Areas of limits should include authority, responsibility, time, and money. The volunteer may actually be more relieved to be confronted than anything else. Many people know deep down that the job wasn’t right for them, and are as unhappy as you are about their poor performance and, consciously or not, are glad to have you take them off the hook. Sometimes this will be so, though not always.

There are other things that will cause a worker to become a problem, including fear of change, insecurity, desire for power and control, changes in life stages, unqualified, or a lack of motivation.

When there is a problem worker, steps can be taken:

Analyze the problem by asking five questions:
1) Is this isolated behavior?
2) Is it a recurring pattern?
3) Is it my problem or someone else’s?
4) Is the focus of the problem the person, the job, a relationship, or a combination of these?
5) What strategies for solution are available?

Determine a strategy to follow: direct confrontation, third party, or altering the work environment.

Go to the worker. When dealing with a problem worker, it is better to take the initiative and go to the worker. Discuss the job, and check the worker’s expectations and understanding of the job. Ask him how he thinks he is doing?
1) Confront the worker ASAP
2) Separate the person from the wrong action
3) Confront only what the person can change
4) Give the person the benefit of the doubt
5) Be specific
6) Avoid sarcasm
7) Avoid words like always and never
8) Tell the person what you feel about what was done wrong
9) Give the person a game plan to fix the problem
10) Affirm him as a person and a friend

Termination of a volunteer

1. Several things can be done to prevent having to terminate a volunteer:
a. Careful recruitment
b. Clear directions
c. Consistent communication
d. Concern for individuals

2. If termination is necessary, an agenda for a termination meeting is suggested. Before the meeting, if necessary, get approval from the pastor or next level.
a. Review past evaluation sessions. Affirm positive qualities, but also point out the problems.
b. Comment on lack of improvement in problem areas.
c. Allow for response of the volunteer.
d. Finally, request the resignation and terminate the meeting.

3. Other considerations
a. The fact of a termination interview should not come as a surprise.
b. It should occur following a number of performance appraisal interviews that were dealing with the problems.
c. Compassion needs to be shown to the worker.
d. Attempt to redirect his talents into more acceptable areas.
e. A brief meeting is generally better.

Terminating an employee is by far the most difficult of the tough decisions a leader faces. It is also one of the most important decisions he can make. In fact, removing poor performers from an organization is as important as finding good ones. Terminating a poor performance benefits the organization and everyone in it.

If someone isn’t working out in the job he volunteered for, remember: the person isn’t wrong––the job is wrong for the person. There is a place for everyone. Think of somewhere else for that person to serve, either within the youth ministry or in another church related ministry.

Transferring a person from one area of responsibility to another isn’t quite the same as firing outright, and doesn’t have the same psychological effect.

If the bottom line is that this person must go––if everything reasonably possible has been done to help the volunteer succeed, and due to a lack of willingness or ability the situation continues––then brace yourself and proceed. It’s your responsibility. Never lower standards for a volunteer.

Alternatives to termination

a. Re-supervise and make sure the rules are clear
b. Re-assign or transfer to a new position
c. Re-train if the training did not take, perhaps using a different method
d. Re-vitalize and give a short rest period when burnout is evident
e. Refer for counseling
f. Retire, if can no longer do the work

Termination process

a. Official letter of warning
b. Follow-up meeting with a letter of documentation
c. Probation with explicit goals
d. Termination

Termination documentation

a. Records of the deficiencies in the performance, giving specific
observable behavior
b. Written records of the times you spoke about their conduct with indication of the steps they agree to take to correct the performance
and notes on the timeframe for any change in behavior
c. Records of statements by others about the conduct or performance
d. Records of steps in the evaluation process: warnings, performance agreements, formal evaluations, probation, etc.

Firing preparation

a. Prayer
b. Documentation – do your homework
c. No surprises – unemotional
d. Inform pastor

Firing timing

a. Don’t rush
b. Don’t renew (annual election)
c. Don’t delay

Firing procedure

a. Private appointment
b. Self-evaluation by worker
c. Confront, if necessary, if worker doesn’t realize problems
d. Affirm positive qualities
e. Allow resignation
f. Redirect talents
g. Follow-up

Exit interviews

When a person leaves a volunteer position for any reason, it would be good if the supervisor could conduct an exit interview. Some open-ended questions that could be asked are as follows:
1. This ministry position has been _______.
2. The major frustrations have been _______.
3. The training I received included _______.
4. The support I received consisted of _______.
5. The following resources were helpful to me: _______
6. The highlights for me were _______.
7. The major accomplishments were _______.

Training Through Supervision

Supervision is more than “snooper-vision.” Supervision is important. Remember, people do what we inspect, not what we expect!

The task of supervision is not one that should be foreign to the Christian enterprise. Supervisor is an English word from the Latin word super, meaning advisor or one who sees. It matches the Greek word in the New Testament, episcopos, which means overseer, and from which comes the modern concept of pastor. This means that supervision is rooted in the concept of pastoring the Christian enterprise. The purpose of evaluation should be directly related to the purpose of the church. Its purpose is redemptive in every way. This means that the evaluation process should contribute primarily to the strengthening of the
person being evaluated and secondarily to the accomplishment of the tasks of the church.

The very word supervision arouses resistance in volunteer church workers, for it puts them on the defensive. Visions arise of an expert watching them at work, seeing faults, and waiting for a chance to criticize. This is unfortunate, for supervision can be one of the most effective tools for improving the leadership of a church. The kind of supervision that churches need is a plan whereby an experienced worker will council with and make suggestions to a less experienced worker as they work together in a program. Almost everyone who takes on a job wants to do it well, and volunteers will stay longer, feel more satisfied, and be of greater help to the organization if they receive constructive feedback from those who supervise them. Regular, relevant feedback to volunteers is important.

Failure to provide such feedback is grossly unfair for two main reasons:
First, some of the feedback will be positive and encouraging. But whether congratulatory or cautionary, all of it will be useful to the volunteer, and he deserves to be treated as an adult in this respect.
Second, where inadequacies in the volunteer’s work are identified and discussed, along with reasonable suggestions on improvement, the volunteer is given a fair chance to correct the problems.

Supervision may be unpleasant, but it is profitable. The Bible says “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness
and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

Business has long ago seen the need for supervision. It has been an accepted part of the world outside of the church for many years. Many of our church members serve either as a supervisor or under a supervisor in their vocation. They realize the potential of such a person and wonder why their church is not using this more. Many churches are seeing the benefits of such a program and are using supervision. Supervisors are in place in any well organized church (see chapter on organization), but many times they are not actually doing the job of supervision. This is especially true in the Sunday School department superintendent position. An increasing number of churches are using a roving supervisor teacher.

The role of the supervisor in the training of leadership is growing as churches and their organizations grow in size. More and more the pastor and his professional staff are being moved further and further away from the place where the work is actually being done. In situations like this, someone is needed to lead between the pastor and staff members who are actually dealing with getting the job done. This person is the supervisor, and he has an important task in the training of the personnel under him.

Supervisor appraising performance

1. When a supervisor begins to evaluate a worker, a number of questions can be asked:
a. Was the job description fulfilled?
b. Were the abilities of the worker utilized?
c. Are there areas for improvement?
d. What are the strengths and weaknesses?
e. Has the worker had a good attitude?
f. What suggestions for improvement can be made?

2. A suggested performance appraisal meeting procedure is simple:
First, review the purpose of the appraisal.
Second, review a list of accomplishments and disappointments prepared by the person being appraised.
Third, review the person’s performance against the job description.
Fourth, review progress made by the person toward any objectives previously set (last appraisal meeting).
Finally, determine two or three areas of improvement to work on.

3. A number of questions could be asked in an appraisal interview:
a. Background investigation
1) How are things going?
2) How could things be better?
3) What problems are you having?
4) Why are those problems happening?
5) How long has the situation been this way?
6) What happened prior to this situation?
b. Creative options
1) What do you think you might do if the situation doesn’t change?
2) What has been your response?
3) What are the pros and cons of that response?
4) Are there other responses you might consider?
5) If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?
6) What would you advise someone else to do in this situation?
c. Implementation
1) Of the possible options, which would be best fit with your situation?
2) What will you need before trying to implement the solution?
3) How will this affect other people in the organization?
4) Is there a best way to communicate this change to others?
5) How will you monitor responses to this attempted solution?
6) Is there anything I can do to help make your plan work?
7) When can we talk about this again?

4. A procedure to use when using observation and evaluating a worker (like a Sunday School teacher) could be as follows:
a. Two weeks notice is given before observation
b. Observe for consecutive weeks where possible
c. Come early and stay late
d. Remain in room after session to talk with workers
e. Use an evaluation form
f. Observer should try to be inconspicuous
g. Meet with workers within 2 weeks of observations

Other tasks of supervisors

A supervisor will engage in program planning sessions, pre-teaching conferences, observation of leaders at work, follow-up conferences, evaluation procedures, practice teaching, demonstration teaching, and planning of individual directed study programs. He should be the best teacher in the church. This is the only one qualified to tell others how to teach, to show them new methods, and to lead them to see what they are doing wrong. He should be able to bring the help that is needed – to the person that needs it, at the time it is needed, and in the way that will help the most.

Most of the work of the supervisor will be positive and helpful. He is to help the teacher in planning, give demonstrations of good teaching techniques, assist in directed study, and give encouragement. However, corrective supervision is also a part of the supervisor’s task. He must point out the things that are being done inadequately. Centuries ago Aristotle pointed out evidence of this need when he said that a man becomes a good flute-player by playing the flute, but he also becomes a bad flute-player by playing the flute. Simply because a person has been doing a job for 20 years is no proof he is doing better. He may have 20 years of experience, or he may have 1 year of experience 20 times. A supervisor is needed to guide the worker in the right way of doing the job to make his experience profitable.

Methods for supervisors to use

The supervisor has a number of valuable methods open for him to use in leadership training. A competent supervisor can observe the worker at work and then, in a private conference with the worker, evaluate the task he was performing and use this as one of the best methods to develop others. In addition to this a supervisor could devise with the worker a directed study program to meet his specific needs. This should include a timetable with conference periods set up to discuss the materials read and how they relate to the job at hand. A final method is quite simple––encouragement. If a worker feels he is appreciated, and if he receives an encouraging word now and then, it may make the difference between defeat and victory. All workers like to feel needed and appreciated.

A number of techniques for effective supervision include:
1. Work through people, and not around them.
2. Follow the chain of command.
3. Give authority equal to the responsibility (and trust and freedom).
4. Clarify your expectations.
5. Confront problems, not people.
6. Handle problems promptly.
7. Give recognition for a job well done.
8. Stand up for your workers.
9. Check on it and leave it there.
10. Don’t do the work for subordinates.
11. Let workers participate in decision-making.

In-Service Training

The first thing to do is to decide what needs to be done. The training that is needed to do the job should be decided on. One helpful thing to do is to ask persons who have been doing the job what kind of training they feel is needed. A number of questions need to be asked. What would someone beginning this ministry need to know to do it well? What kinds of skills would be useful in this ministry that persons aren’t likely to have before they are recruited? What experiences, training, or resources have been helpful to you in this ministry? What would you want to say to the person who follows you in this ministry? When a church has decided what is needed, they are ready to discover what training is currently available, and see how well it covers the responses. Then they will be ready to design an in-service training program.

In-service training should begin with an orientation of a new worker. Orientation is helping persons prepare to do a ministry before they actually begin. Many times volunteers, once recruited, are “thrown” into the job without any real knowledge of what is going to happen or what to expect. They find themselves confused, bewildered, and, in fact, lost with their responsibilities! When a volunteer is placed in a position without any orientation, he or she will be playing “catch up,” and will find it extremely hard to be excited and motivated, while struggling to keep one’s head above water! Several methods can be used to do new worker orientation: review the job description, review the resources, review the facilities and equipment, answer questions, and attend a meeting.

Start-up support is needed by new volunteers. When volunteers, having had some initial training, begin actual work for the organization, they enter a period in which much support is needed. Beginnings are hard for all of us. But it is also a fruitful period of training, because there is in the new volunteer, as in the child, greater openness to change at the beginning than after patterns have developed. The start-up period is the time when volunteers’ repertoire of resources, skills, and alternatives is probably least developed. They often, therefore, find decision-making difficult. Volunteers in the start-up period also have a great need to feel recognized and accepted by the people already in the system. This start-up support can be given by a supervisor, trainer, or coworker with a supportive chat with the volunteer after the first day on the job. Another way is to have each new volunteer paired with an experienced worker from the beginning, and the experienced worker discusses the job frequently with the new workers. A third method is to have a short meeting of the new volunteers and let them reflect on their first few days. The supervisor should conduct this meeting.

In-service training programs usually include weekly or monthly workers meetings, workshops, conferences, retreats, conventions, and supervision and evaluation.

A weekly meeting for planning and training

Many Sunday Schools have a Wednesday night teachers and officers meeting every week. Many churches have an inexpensive family supper on Wednesday and special programs for the children while the workers are having their meeting. Most churches with a bus ministry have a Saturday morning bus workers meeting every week. The weekly meeting generally includes some time for training as well as some for planning and other administrative matters. The weekly Sunday School workers meeting in one church has 15 minutes for administrative matters such as planning, promotion, visitation, evaluation, and problem solving, followed by a 25 minute teaching improvement period. The teaching improvement period always gives some helps for the next week’s lesson, but would include more than just a “teaching” of the lesson to the teachers.

A monthly meeting for planning and training

Most church program organizations which have monthly meetings for workers give a major segment of the time to in-service training. Many small Sunday Schools have made the monthly workers meeting a very effective time. The monthly meeting might have about one hour for a workshop and one hour for the curriculum planning for the next month. A workshop teaches specific skills through activity or learning by doing. The workshop time could be used in training in the use of methods, such as drama, music, creative writing, flannel graph, overhead projector, object lessons, story telling, memorization, maps, puppets, and a host of others. The workers could also be taught about the age group characteristics and needs of the group they are working with in a workshop time. Many, many subjects could be profitably treated in these monthly workshops.

Annual training conference

Many churches have an annual workers conference that will last for several nights or a Friday night and all day Saturday. Larger churches usually plan this just for them. Several smaller churches can combine and conduct an effective annual workers conference. Many denominations offer these types of programs for their churches. A conference of this type would usually use outside resource persons, and would divide up into specific sessions for various age groups. Churches often require a minimum of one training experience a year, such as a seminar, workshop, conference, or class.

Weekday club programs, like AWANA and Word of Life, generally sponsor a district training conference each year. This is generally in the fall and is very helpful in starting a new program year.

Other special annual training conferences:
1. A committee training night for members and chairpersons
2. Deacon training retreat
3. Ushers workshop
4. Nursery workers workshop

Conventions and conferences away from the church

Excellent training is available for those able to travel to Sunday School conventions and special training conferences offered by some large churches and other groups. Many states have annual Sunday School conventions. Many denominations sponsor special events like this on a state or regional basis.

The church library

The church library should not be forgotten when leadership training is being considered. An individual reading program, especially with some guidance, can be a highly effective training aid. Adequate materials should be available including books, periodicals, and cassette tapes. However, a strong promotion program must be carried out to get maximum use from a church library. Reviews of materials at workers meetings will greatly encourage their use.

Job training guides

One idea for training that has unbelievable potential is the use of “Job Training Guides.” These were suggested by Cox in a book, Ideas for Training Sunday School Leaders. He suggested making a list of the duties of a position, and then determining the training that would be needed to carry out those duties. This training would then be put in a “Job Training Guide.” These guides would use readings from books and magazines, listening to tapes, and other methods that could be done individually. Some interaction would be necessary, perhaps writing, and then reporting on the exercises. This type training program is used by many groups from Boy Scouts to big businesses. Many times the church enlists a person for a position and he is the only one to be trained at that particular time. A training guide that he could work through individually would be a great asset.

Leaders teaching their followers

Every good leader will also constantly be developing the people he is leading and preparing them for additional responsibilities. Every good leader is a good teacher, and will use the principles of teaching as he leads to develop those under him. At least five of the principles of teaching relate to leading:

1. Teaching and leading will build a sense of anticipation, significance, and pleasure in others.
2. Teachers and leaders start where the followers are and move with them. It is important not to get too far ahead.
3. Teachers must let the learner experience the lesson for himself before it becomes his own. The leader can most surely count upon the sustained support of the led when they have been through the experience sufficiently like his to have brought them to the same conclusions about what they want and how, in general, they shall try to get it.
4. Teachers and leaders are to guide, but not to provide the answers. They should arouse interest, place followers in a problem-solving situation, and then let them find the solution.
5. Teachers and leaders know that good work will take a lot of time, and should be willing to spend the time necessary to accomplish the task.


Give the volunteers a “mini-sabbatical”—perhaps a month off to “travel” in their community to other sites similar to their own in order to get ideas, or to take a training seminar during the hours in which they would usually be offering service. This kind of renewal has not previously been considered for volunteers, but it is an excellent way to help them continue to give productive, efficient, and innovative service in a job they have held for any period of time.

Survey the workers

Survey the present workers to find out what they think they need, and when they would be available for training. Find out where the workers are. The gap between what they know and what they need to know is the need.


Before a new church worker can start their job and be effective, some training is often needed.  Here are more ideas on how to train your workers.

A Bible institute

The content of what a church needs to teach, especially to lay leaders, goes far beyond what could ever be taught in Sunday School classes. Some churches have received significant assistance in their educational endeavors with a Bible institute. A Bible institute is a credit conferring, diploma granting, Christian educational institution that meets regularly in a local church to study the Bible and subjects directly related to it. The purpose of a Bible institute is to equip laypersons for growth and ministry. It may be considered pre-service or in-service.

It does not require a high school diploma. It does not offer liberal arts classes. It has developed from several sources, including the Bible college movement, the Sunday School teacher training programs, and the college extension programs.

Adults are going to school, as the community college movement gives strong evidence. Over 15 million adults are enrolled in some type of continuing education program. Christian adults will enroll in an evening Bible institute program at their church for quality instruction, if it is offered.

Some Bible institutes are started by one church for the purpose of providing training for its membership. Some are by one church, but an attempt is made at providing a service to other churches in the community. Some institutes are actually formed cooperatively by several churches working together. Some institutes are primarily an extension program of a Christian college. There are also correspondence institutes available like the Liberty program and the one from Moody that are primarily designed for individual study.

Curriculum. Many areas of study can be included in a Bible institute. Bible study is a major part, and courses could be offered on Bible survey, Bible book studies, Bible doctrine, Bible geography, Bible archaeology, and biblical introduction. How-to-serve type courses could be offered in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, children’s church, music, Awana, evangelism, and missions. Other areas of study could include family life, church history, Christian leadership, money management, and even psychology and counseling. Materials to use for curriculum are available from many sources.

Schedule. The amount of time for each course may be dictated by the curriculum if a publisher or other organization is to recognize the work and to provide certificates. Evangelical Training Association requires 12 class periods of 50 minutes each, or a total of 10 hours of class time. The Seminary Extension program requires 16 class periods. A church can, of course, set their own standards and give their own certificates.

Bible institutes may meet from 1–4 nights a week. One night a week seems to be the most popular. Class sessions are usually 40–50 minutes in length. One schedule had two periods of 50 minutes each, with the first period being from 7:00–7:50 P.M. followed by a break, and then a second period from 8:20–9:10 P.M. Another schedule has 3 periods of 40 minutes, each with the first from 7:00–7:40 P.M., the second from 7:45– 8:25 P.M., a break from 8:25–8:45 P.M., and the third from 8:45–9:25 P.M. . The term, or semester, might last from 12–16 weeks, with one in the fall and one in the spring. Some churches are providing the equivalent of a Bible institute during the Wednesday evening service.

Workers. A Bible institute will need a few regular workers.
a. A director – to direct the entire program. The pastor or a minister of education would usually be the director.
b. A registrar – to keep the records. A record, complete with grades, should be maintained on all persons entering the program.
c. A treasurer – the director or registrar could do this. Institutes usually charge participants, and the fees must be collected and recorded.
d. Teachers – most of the professional church staff would serve there, but outsiders, including nearby college and seminary teachers, could be included. Outside teachers should be paid $25–50 per class hour.
e. In some churches they will have a committee or board to work with the staff.

Finances. People who attend a Bible institute have been willing to pay a registration fee or tuition as is customary with other educational programs. The church could also receive some income from the sale of texts and other books in connection with the institute. Expenses to the program will include advertising, teaching supplies, record keeping, and maybe salaries for the faculty. Salaries will be necessary if outsiders are used to teach the courses.

Promotion. Send letters, brochures, and posters to churches and schools in the area. Place posters and brochures in Christian bookstores. Announce the program over the Christian radio stations in the area. Write articles for the religious section of the local newspaper. Sponsor a luncheon for area pastors and directors of Christian education to explain the program and to gain their support. There needs to be a lot of in-church promotion. Many churches will offer scholarship assistance for workers in the church to encourage them to participate.

A director of pre-service training.  This person could be given the following responsibilities:
1. Discover training needs
2. Decide how training can be accomplished
3. Determine where training can take place. Here he must consider the time of other programs.
4. Schedule training events. When are participants available? When are instructors available? Will child care be needed, and when is it available?
5. Select training resources
6. Select training instructors
7. Enlist participants – personal, individual invitation that is preceded by a letter
8. Supervise the training
9. Evaluate the training
10. Keep records

The director can use an assistant to help with room arrangements, visitation of absentees, equipment, and materials. A secretary will be needed to maintain records and make reports.