Should Your Church Staff Have 360 Degree Reviews?


We’ve talked about the value of church staff reviews many times here at Vanderbloemen. There are several approaches to staff reviews. 360 degree reviews are performance evaluations that include a full circle of feedback about a church staff member. The evaluation gathers feedback from their supervisor, direct reports, and peers. In a church setting, a church staff’s direct reports may be key volunteers.

Personally, I am only a moderate fan of 360 degree reviews and think they need to be introduced to an organization after careful consideration. To be effective, they must have an intentional, clear reason that can be articulated to the staff prior to being introduced. However, I do believe that using a 360 degree review process occasionally, every 2 or 3 years, can be a good developmental tool for your church staff. 

The reason I suggest not doing 360 reviews every year is that doing these types of reviews too often can create a culture of secrecy. For example, team members may think, “I won’t talk directly to my colleagues, I’ll just wait and write my feedback on the annual 360 degree review.”  We all want open dialogue on a daily basis among our team members and we don’t want to introduce a process that will hijack honest conversations. Effective leaders will consistently work to foster a sense of honesty and openness on staff.

However, having a formal process in place like a 360 degree review for staff to use to gather feedback that will enhance their growth and development in their role can be very useful. 

What I do like about 360 reviews is that because the feedback is coming to the staff person anonymously, which usually means the feedback will be more candid and honest. Of course, hearing candid feedback about yourself that comes to you anonymously is not always easy to receive or digest. Coaching will need to be done in advance to help staff know how to absorb the feedback they receive from a 360 review.

If you choose to use a 360 review process occasionally with your church staff team, its success is directly related to the introduction of the review process to your staff. 

In addition, I would not suggest you replace your normal annual review process that happens between the supervisor and the direct report with a 360 review. Instead, use the 360 review as an additional tool. 

Considerations about introducing a 360 review process to your staff team:

1. Clarity

Be clear about why you are introducing the process. Perhaps you use language like the following, “We hope that this 360 process will generate information in which each of you will find clarity, feedback, and encouragement that will help you continue to grow and develop in your staff role.”  Also, ensure the participants that the information will remain anonymous.

2. Education

Teach your church staff appropriate ways to give and receive feedback on the 360 report. All feedback should be done with the hope that it will be helpful to the person. In a spirit of kindness and grace, encourage your staff to be very honest with their responses when evaluating their teammates.

They should be encouraged to use the appropriate tone when writing any comments on the 360 review form.  A staff person who is at the receiving end of the feedback should look for patterns in the feedback. Are multiple people indicating that I need to improve in the same area? If so, that is productive feedback for a person to use as they strive to enhance their contribution to the team.

3. Build

Create your own simple and straightforward 360 degree review process. Limit the number of questions on the form to 10 or 12.  You may want to create a likert scale questionnaire with additional spaces for written feedback.  For example, “On a scale of 1 – 5, with 5 being the most positive, please score the person you are evaluating in each of the following categories.”    

The questions should be shaped around general staff performance requirements and cultural norms for your staff team. If you can create a web based survey, that will make the sending and receiving of the data much easier.

Feedback is always good, but just be sure that prior to introducing any performance management system, you are clear as to why you are introducing the tool and how you expect the tool to be used for staff growth and development. 

What kind of staff review process does your church staff use?