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Mutual Ministry Valuation

Posted: May 12, 2014 by Rob Voyle

Creating Cultures of Excellence

Within the Episcopal church we have gone from performance reviews to a process called Mutual Ministry Review (MMR), sometimes to good effect and at other times they are conducted much like a performance appraisal and the outcomes worthless and in some cases downright diabolical.

I have treated one pastor for PTSD following a botched process and in other cases made thousands of dollars cleaning up the mess after botched MMRs so perhaps it's against my financial interest to be writing the following.

Personally I prefer the title Mutual Ministry Valuation (MMV) to move from the idea of reviewing to discovering and growing what is valuable and use a secondary title of Creating Cultures of Excellence to put even the valuing process into a wider context.

So here are some steps to creating an MMV process.

1a. Get Mutual

MMV or MMR is not a substitute for conflict mediation. The first word is "Mutual," we can't do an MMV when there is no mutuality.

In fact I strongly advise people to not engage in any kind of review in the midst of conflict. What is needed is reconciliation work prior to the review. When a review is conducted in the midst of conflict, the process will simply be used as an additional weapon in the conflict. I am not a fan of arming people who are in the midst of hostilities.

1b. Create a Learning Community

While some systems may not be in conflict they may be adversarial and punitive. (This is actually very prevalent in American society and sadly in most of our churches.) Bad behavior and bad performance must be uncovered and punished. This is an incredibly impoverished learning theory that rarely creates the desired outcome. If you are in such a system then stop now, there is no mutuality, and you will use the following or any other process as another club for the one group to beat up on the other.

People need to be free to fail if they are to have the freedom to learn and succeed. Creating cultures of curiosity and learning rather than judgment and punishment is essential in creating cultures of excellence.

1c. Create Mutual Expectations

One of the repeated failures of most review processes is a failure to begin with mutually agreed to expectations. People are reviewed on activities that they never agreed to, or the parameters are so vague they are impossible to review. One of the big outcomes of a MMV is to establish the goals for the coming year which in turn become the parameters for conducting any review.

2. Define Ministry.

Take a moment and define ministry. What is ministry? I ask this question at a lot of my training programs. It is rare to get a workable definition. Too often the process fails because people misunderstand the essence of ministry.

Here is my working definition of ministry:
Ministry is joining with God in what God is already doing.

3. Discover What God is Doing

The first review or valuing is about discovering and valuing what God is doing not what people are doing. One of the questions I love to ask people, especially in conflicted situations, is "What in God's name is going on here?" Most of the time I get all the nonsense that is not happening in God's name, which actually is none of my business. My business is to discover what in God's name is going on.

The science of creating great questions is more involved than this article, but in general:

Ask for stories not digital yes/no questions. For example ask:
• Where were you most aware of God's presence this past week?
   rather than:
• Were you aware of God's presence this past week?

Ask about what you want more of rather than the cause of what you want less of. For example:
• Tell me about a time when you have collaborated
   rather than:
• Tell me about the conflict you are having.

4. Discover How We Can Join God to Do More

You and I will spend the rest of our lives in the future. The purpose of the process is to create a preferred future so we need to ask questions about the future not about why we failed in the past. So we would ask:
• Where do we join with God?
• How could we do more of that?
   rather than:
• Why didn't we join with God?

5. Set/Re-Set Goals for the Area Under Consideration

Cultures of excellence require continual rather than annual review. Each area of activity needs clear goals that clearly describe the desired outcomes. Note: not all goals are measurable, but they can be described. For example: creating worship that enables an experience of transcendence.

Goals must also be set within the overall vision and purpose of the organization.
For example: We want to double the size of the Sunday school is typically unhelpful.

On the other hand a more effective dream and goal statement is: We have a dream that every child in our congregation will know they are loved by Jesus and so we have a goal to engage at least 50% of our children in our Falling in Love with Jesus Sunday School program.

6. Plan Strategies to Achieve the Goal/s

Giving people a goal without establish a plan and giving them the resources to achieve it is worthless. In addition to a plan people need access to the resources to achieve the goal. If the goal was not achieved we need to ask:
• What else do we/you need to achieve the goal?
   rather than:
• Why didn't you achieve the goal?

The latter question only fosters a culture of excuses and blame, we need to focus on goal accomplishment not on goal failure.

For a non-measurable goal such as transcendent worship, we need to explore the times people have experienced transcendence, such as moments of silence, and intentionally plan moments of silence into the service.

Practical Summary

Imagine you were to create a personal culture of excellence in preaching.

As you prepare the sermon consider:
• What do I want this sermon to achieve?

After the sermon ask yourself and/or a learning community the following questions:
• What did I value about preaching the sermon?
• What was the outcome?
• What would I do differently next time to increase the value of the sermon?
• Is there anything else I need to achieve the desired outcome?
   (Training, extra time in preparation, practice etc.)

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On August 28, 2015 Larry Glover-Wetherington responded to Rob Voyle:

I'm under the impression that doing the MMR on a quarterly basis would be even more valuable than an annual basis, that is within a church without conflict. When people only talk once a year, I wonder about the quality of communication or strategic mission planning.


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Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

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