How NOT to Evaluate a Church or Pastor

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

 how not to evaluate a church or pastor

I am not going to reveal my source for this suggested evaluation of a pastor or church, but I feel sorry for the pastor and the church that adopts such a view. Based on this evaluation, most pastors in the world are failures, and most pastors in church history were failures as well. Even Jesus Christ did not meet the standards below (as far as we know). I have several problems with evaluations like the one presented below: 1) They are blatantly unbiblical. 2) They come from a CEO mentality. 3) They are arbitrary. 4) Such evaluations encourage pastors and churches to hide the glory of God. Pastors and churches cannot be blamed for failing in these standards unless they can be praised when they are “successful.” God alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Jesus alone builds His church (Matt. 16:18). He does not need any of us to do it; not even the so-called “best” pastors or churches or denominations on earth. If you want to know how NOT to evaluate a church or pastor, simply follow these steps:

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:

The pastor might be evaluated on the basis of attendance, budget, buildings, and baptisms.

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 surrounding community.
  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.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.


  1. Alan Davis says

    Thank you for the info. I do not think you should withhold the name of the organization that put this out. They were bold enough to put this out so it would do everyone a favor to know of who or which organizations support this pragmatic, worldly, and unscriptural view. Though some of this will certainly happen when God blesses a church it is not always nor even normally the case. Let us know who put it out and who is using it and uncover the works of darkness so to speak.

  2. Steven Ball says

    I would agree that we shouldn’t focus on numbers. But depending on the context of the cited evaluation, they may not be focusing on the numbers. It would be nice to know the source so we could better understand their intent.

    For example, a godly church should be evangelistic (Mt 28:19-20). The Word tells us that the field is ready for harvest (Lk 10:2). So, it is reasonable to expect numeric growth when a church actively engages lost people.

    Maybe the intent of #1-4 is to help a church evaluate their evangelistic endeavors. If a church is not seeing any response to the method they are using to reach lost people then maybe it is time to switch methods.

    Of course this will not always hold up, and the focus should be on reaching lost people not achieving numerical goals. I also think it is worth pointing out that a lot of people hide behind “it is not about numbers” to avoid discussing (evaluating) why their church is dead or declining. That is not right, either.

  3. Randall Cofield says


    I Ti. 1:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober–minded, self–controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
    3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
    4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
    5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
    6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
    7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

    Interesting how we tend to develop our own criteria while ignoring that of Scripture.

  4. dean says

    There are hundreds of things wrong with this evaluation. Its not Biblical as Randall has pointed out being the most obvious. However, its also not practical. 6 and 12 are virtually impossible from my experience to make jive. If you have a pastor for every 125 members in attendance, plus support staff plus ministers not classified as pastors you will be approaching the 60% threshold in personnel and would be doing well to keep it at 50%. That is unless you pay your pastor and staff poorly. Look at their numbers and say a church runs 250 in SS each who give 20 dollars as is their stated goal. That adds up to $260.000. 30% of that would be $78,000 to divide between two ministers and you have no custodian, you have no secretaries, accompanists, etc…


    • William Thornton says

      When called (and not too busy)….

      The 30% figure for salaries is probably lower than almost all churches. The church I attend is around 55% with large budget and many staff. The church I pastored last was around 60% with two FT staff.

      My suggestion here: Since almost all SBC pastors will be pastoring a plateaued or declining church for most of all of their career, they might find metrics that work for them. I recommend, with Randall, the Bible.

  5. Jess Alford says

    One cannot be more right than Randall Cofield. In this age, I’m not surprised by what any church or organization comes up with. All this is nothing more than fulfillment of scripture.

    Man has become much too intelligent to use an outdated book like the Bible. Humm, I wonder what Jesus meant when he said, Not everyone that says Lord, Lord, is going to enter in.

  6. Greg Harvey says

    I don’t think there is extrinsically anything wrong with these “memes” as a systems viewpoint on church growth. I recognize the 25 number. And what it essentially means is if you consistently exceed 25 in a single group, some of the members of the group won’t be ministered to as effectively as others just due to pure group dynamics as the group grows in size.

    That leads to the suggestion that the group be limited in size and a new group formed–supporting more growth–when it reaches some specific metric (in this case “25”).

    You can take or leave the church growth consultants. My dad has done that in the past and it fascinated me (I’m a systems engineer and probably by strongest natural talent is what one might call “analysis” or perhaps “systemitizing”.)

    Let me give you a couple of examples:

    1. If you know the average number of attendees per car, then you can predict your maximum Sunday attendance by counting the number of parking spaces and comparing it to the total of the number of SS seats and worship center seats that are active at the same time. Let’s imagine you have worship by itself, it seats 500 people, and you have 100 parking spaces. Unless you can count on five people per car, your worship attendance is not likely to exceed the average of 1.5 attendee per car that most churches have (historical data…don’t know current…and on the Left Coast that number was closer to one per car when we were out there.)

    2. I’ve heard the 125 members per staff member stated as low as 100. But the concept is pretty straightforward: how many people do you have a meaningful interaction with on a weekly basis? Surely there is some limit and trying to pastor more than that means either leveraging some other model–say a very active deacon body that meets once a month or once a quarter with their assigned families–or increasing staff members.

    I’d add that most businesses see labor costs at or above 50%. Expecting a church–which is relationship centric–to have a lower labor profile seems a bit unrealistic to me…

    I’ve shared the story of doing a Lotus 1-2-3-based version of the Super Spiral Model for Jim Fitch for spring break from SWBTS in 1986. His department was dependent on the BSSB’s mini to do the printouts for churches they were serving and they were months behind schedule. So he explained the model to me and what he wanted it to look like and I threw it together in about 40 hours of work and then caught them up on all of their outstanding churches in another 10 hours or so (at $11 per hour…which was good money for this then struggling seminary student…though a couple of weeks later I started working with a software company that did software for churches and eventually that work became my primary career.)

    The Super Spiral model basically has categories of metrics that are tracked over time and an inherent growth path is predicted based on meeting those metrics–similar to the list earlier–it had you deal with things like number of class rooms, number of people trained, contacts, and so forth.

    Another resource–one that mentions the spiral growth model–is this online pdf book called “154 Steps to Revitalize Your Sunday School” by Elmer Towns. In Chapter 10 entitled “Practical Steps to Grow the Sunday School Class” the author does a great job of mixing spiritual work advice with “practical”, numbers-oriented thinking. I think–at a VERY QUICK GLANCE–it looks like a pretty good book that gets you thinking about the holistic picture of what makes Sunday School (or other small group-oriented growth platform) work.

    I’ll cue Dan Barnes for a deeper, more contemporary comment on the subject. Or maybe even Ed Stetzer?

  7. Bruce H. says

    When a business has competition it results in a budget and a budget must increase each year so our competition does not overtake us. The church does have competition but we do not approach it with worldly tactics. Methods that produce results become our focus til the numbers taper off and we look for newer and more relevant methods to meet our budget. How-to books are written, seminars are presented and fancy hand-outs are produced to keep the motivation going. The church becomes focused on the budget when our focus must always be on God. A church that does not lift up Jesus will eventually have to depend on Moon Walks, the Super Bowl, fish fries and car washes to meet their goals.

  8. Christiane says

    “He will say to them,

    “This is a place for comfort.
    This is a place of rest for those who are tired.
    This is a place for them to rest.”

    (from Isaiah 28:12)

  9. says

    For what its worth, my office frequently gets calls (usually when a church is getting ready to call a new pastor and set a salary package for him) asking questions, and usually expecting something like the grid above in response.

    And I have to admit to Jared….we give them one.

    We don’t do it because we are trying to define “successful church” as if every context is the same (in fact, the growth trends are not something we include. We usually only provide a general guide as to healthy budget breakdowns). But folks are generally looking for a place to start, so we give them the guide, and then tell them to make it work for them, not the other way around.

    Systems and structures are amoral. We have churches who have 30% of their budget going to salaries, and others who top 65% in this category. Its not an irrelevant question. HOWEVER, it is also not the ONLY question, nor is it the most important question.

    This is one of the big mistakes we made during the GCR discussions, with so many asking of a given SBC entity “how much of the budget is going to pay salaries?” Aside from being a broad-brushed and surface level question of organizational culture, the question itself assumes that “salaries” in the church are to be defined the same as “salaries” in the business world–specifically, defined as “liability.” Yet I’ve repeatedly told churches “Don’t pay your pastor peanuts so you can ‘give more to missions.’ Your pastor is a vital part of your mission!”

    I say all of that to say this: Asking only about the size of the “pie slices” is about as adolescent an approach to church budgeting as can be attempted. Instead, and with a keen eye on every line item of expense (including salaries and benefits) ask “is the church/entity/organization doing what its supposed to be doing? Are we fulfilling our mission by the way we are structured, and is there a way we could do it more effectively?” The answer to that question will inevitably involve budget and attendance records, but ultimately will be more far reaching.

  10. John says

    I’m curious–how many pastors are actually evaluated yearly by their churches? Every August, the members of my church are given an evaluation form. A month later, I have to meet with the “Pastor-Church Relations Committee” (Deacon Chairman, Asst. Deacon Chairman, 1 other person), to go over the results. Prior to coming to this church I have never seen such a thing. How common is this?

    • Steven Ball says

      Sounds crazy to me, John. Not that I am against honest feedback, I appreciate good feedback, but what you describe sounds like an excuse for the Deacons to stay in control. Are the Deacons also evaluated in a similar manner?

      Of course, my comments are biased as I do not really understand the circumstances and they may be doing it in true humility with the aim of promoting a healthy and lasting relationship between the pastor and church.

      Personally, each year I talk with the church, on a Sunday Night, about the progress (and lack thereof) I see in the church. It helps us take an honest look at how we are doing.

    • Frank L. says

      Most pastors are evaluated weekly on Sunday afternoon by the Restaurant Ad Hoc Committee on Preaching

      • Tarheel says

        Yea, with choices between fried, blackened, peppered, or grilled pastor(s) as the main course.

        Of course some choose to share in a little of everything.


    • Tarheel says

      I know of several churches where this is the policy.

      Its a mixed bag from what I understand. Some of the responses are helpful – some are not.

      I have a friend who received a comment one time that read “Pastor is always sitting with his family at church events and fellowships and he should be milling around with members.” This was the only comment he got of this mature…all others addressing his relationship to the church family were positive and affirming…in other words it was clear that his people feel loved and embraced by him.

      His response to this “concern” (don’t you just know it was labeled as that.) LOL

      1. My wife and family are church members
      2. My family is my first priority and my primary relationship after Christ.
      3. My family makes sacrifices all the time so I can (as I should and want to) spend almost every evening as well as sometimes on Saturday and of course every Sunday doing pastoral duties, meetings, counseling sessions and otherwise milling other church members.
      4. Respectfully, they can just get over that.

      The committee was very approving of his answers.

      I told him after he told me that “your stock just went up in my book.”

      I thought he had great answers.