- Transcript of the episode “Evaluating Yourself – What’s New?” from The Basin and Towel podcast, January 25 2021
Ministry is not all fun and games, uplifting worship, or times of intense prayer. Sometimes pastors and church workers have to do paperwork, too – the annual report to the Presbytery, District, or church body with your congregation’s statistics, for instance. You might be asked to do an annual self-evaluation of your ministry. If you’re a pastor in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, every year you’ll get a request from your district office to fill out a self-evaluation tool (called the SET). It’s a standardized form, and if you fill it out once, you’re set for life, right? Well, not really. That’s kind of like saying, “I changed the oil filter in my car ten years ago; why do I need to do it again?” Well, maybe you don’t – but you really can’t tell unless you take a look at it, right? That’s also true with any self-evaluation tool. There are some responses that you’ll probably never change, but why not take a look at them anyway – not because you have a requirement to meet, but maybe to give you the chance to think about where God has shed his grace in different ways in your ministry since the last time you looked.
I’m in the process of looking at my own Self-Evaluation Tool, or SET, right now, and I’ve discovered that I wanted to tweak the wording on several of my responses, and in some cases redo them completely, especially because they bring up adjustments or changes I’ve had to make in my ministry because of the pandemic we’re all enduring. Here are five of them:
Question 7 is “What do you consider to be your strengths in ministry?” I don’t know about you, but I have had to take the lead in making most of the adjustments in ministry in the past year here at the church I serve. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nghts, and been under considerable stress. But as I think back over the last year I realize that one of my ministry strengths has been curiosity, and a willingness to learn new skills. For me, that’s been in learning to use the technology needed to live stream worship services. But what about you? What has your pastoral response in the last year revealed about ministry strengths you hadn’t thought about before?
Questions 9 and 10 are about “your preferred practices” regarding the use of worship materials produced by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and other sources, and about so-called “alternate forms of worship.” If you’ve had to move from permanent hymnals to disposable handouts, from in-person worship to live-streaming, from including liturgical music in the worship service to limiting the singing to only one or two hymns, this is your opportunity to say so, even if none of this is your preference – and please feel free to say that, too.
Question 20 is about your “preferred practice” regarding the use of common or individual cups for Communion.” At the church I’ve served we’ve used both, on alternating Sundays, for years. However, early last year I determined to use only the individual cups, to distribute them and the wafers by myself without the help of elders or Communion assistance, and to wear medical gloves and a facemask while I’m distributing communion. If you’ve made any modifications to the way you distribute Holy Communion, here’s the place to say so.
Question 27 is about “community or extra-congregational activities in which you have participated.” Whatever has been on your list here in previous years, what could or should be added because of this past year? Did your church have more food drives? Did you personally volunteer at distribution centers? Did you find yourself working more closely with community leaders or groups outside your church to help the people in your community? Here’s the place to tell about that.
Question 35 is about special health or personal needs that “would enter into your consideration of a call.” Since I last filled out the SET a couple years ago, my dad has died and my father-in-law entered an assisted living facility and is now in a hospice program. My wife and I live less an hour from my mom and father-in-law, while my brother and sister live more than 3 hours away, so we’d be hard pressed to move out of the area for a while. What about you? What has changed in your immediate family, or your extended family, that might indicate a change in the way you responded to this question the last time?
There’s one more area that I want to deal with in a separate episode of the Basin and Towel podcast, and that’s the area of Continuing Education. But this is enough for today. Please take a look at the Self-Evaluation Tool, and at least give some thought to the areas I’ve mentioned here. And don’t hesitate to get in touch with me through the Basin and Towel website if you have any questions or comments!