Appraisals are to be Enjoyed!

I am looking forward to Monday evening 15 April, when for the twentieth year running I shall undergo my annual appraisal as senior minister of Central Baptist Church! Yes, it will no doubt be a challenging and searching experience, but it – God willing! – also be a good experience. As I have written in a document entitled ‘Preparing for appraisal at Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford’: “Annual appraisal is intended to be a positive and encouraging process. It gives those appraising you an opportunity to express appreciation for your ministry over the past year. If there is criticism, then it is always constructive criticism with the well-being of the individual as well as the well-being of the organisation in mind”.

A helpful theological basis for appraisal is provided by a pamphlet produced by the United Methodist Church of America:

Evaluation is natural to the human experience. Evaluation is one of God’s ways of bringing the history of the past into dialogue with the hope for the future. Without confession of sin there is no reconciliation; without the counting of blessings there is no thanksgiving; without the acknowledgement of accomplishments there is no celebration; without awareness of potential there is no hope; without hope there is no desire for growth; without desire for growth the past will dwarf the future. We are called into new growth and new ministries by taking a realistic and hopeful look at what we have been and what we can still become. Surrounded by God’s grace and the crowd of witnesses in the faith, we can look at our past unafraid and from its insights eagerly face the future with new possibilities.

My appraisal will be conducted by three people: David Spurling and Ian Gruneberg will be there representing the deacons, and Derek Fraser, a Baptist minister who is currently lead chaplain at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, will act as the external facilitator. It is important that David and Ian are present, because they have first-hand experience of my ministry – on the other hand, it is good that Derek is present, because he has first-hand experience of what it is to be a minister.

In preparation for this event I have written a ten page self-appraisal document (4000 words) in which I have reviewed the past year of ministry (1 April 2012 – 31 March 2013). I have circulated this in good time to the three people concerned, so they have a chance to absorb my perceptions and feelings.

This self-appraisal document falls into ten uneven sections:

  1. A statement of job purpose where I summarise my role as senior minister

  2. A brief statement of the objectives for the past year agreed at last year’s appraisal

  3. A review of the past year’s ministry. This is the longest section. What, with God’s help, did I achieve? What has encouraged me? What has frustrated me?

  4. A review of the past year’s wider ministry. This includes my chairmanship of Ministry Today and of the College of Baptist Ministers. I also list here what I have written – including my weekly blogs!

  5. A review of last year’s training and development, where amongst other things I list courses I have attended. Ideally I should be growing as a disciple of Jesus, as also developing as a leader in God’s church

  6. Key objectives for the coming year – this too is quite a lengthy section, where I try to be quite specific about what I believe God would have me do

  7. Next year’s development: this is a brief section on how I hope to continue to grow and develop

Although it takes time, I find the preparation of the document a useful discipline – not least because of the clarity it gives for the future. As for the appraisal itself, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to express the concerns on my heart, knowing that it is a ‘safe’ place, where things will be kept confidential. I appreciate too the wisdom that is shared, the encouragement and the affirmation that are given. Yes, by the time the evening is over, I will be exhausted – but I know that I will be a better minister as a result. Sadly, for some ministers, appraisals can be traumatic and unhappy affairs; but thankfully my appraisers have always been kind and as a result of suich experiences I have found that appraisals are to be enjoyed!

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