In all his years as an engineer, Dan Thomas never saw an Excel spreadsheet inject life into a group like the one leaders are using at Daystar Church in Greensboro, N.C.
Daystar developed a leader assessment tool—yes, it’s in Excel of all places—and it’s driving serious leadership development at the church and netting great results at all levels of the organization.
“We’ve heard so many leaders say they never had a tool before to help them understand how they’re really doing in ministry,” Dan says. “This tool is empowering all of our leaders to evaluate themselves on a few of the most important things so that we all pull in the same direction.
“It’s an alternative to just encouraging people with no specific objectives to work toward.”
Beyond “Tony the Tiger”
As Daystar grew by 20% every year for the past several years, Dan says the church was at risk of falling into a “Tony the Tiger” mentality of leadership development— simply telling leaders, “You’re grrrrreat! Now, keep doing what you’re doing”—but with no consistent, objective way to measure how the leader and the ministry was really doing, and identifying where they needed to improve.
Leaders are empowered to “be the experts” in their area and are given great autonomy to develop their ministry areas. However, as the church continues to grow and ministries become more complex and require different skill sets, there needs to be an ongoing way to identify leaders who are excelling vs. those who may struggle.
“We want to build leaders who are self-led and self-fed, with everyone maximizing their calling and impact,” Dan says. “But you get to the point that you see some are performing better than others. And a team or ministry may grow to the point that leaders who are successful today may not have the capacity or understanding to be successful with what they have tomorrow – the key is not to lose these crucial leaders but help them continue to thrive at the level where they can be successful.”
Three Areas of Focus
So Dan did what any good engineer of 25 years would want to do. He got in a room with other leaders and a whiteboard—and had Excel at the ready to record what those leaders determined were the most vital things to keep an eye on for the staff members they supervise.
They wanted to narrow down to the things that would help the church staff evaluate themselves regularly and keep them on track. And they wanted to hone in on the areas that every leader in the church could assess themselves on—regardless of ministry area or level of leadership.
They came up with three big areas for leaders to assess with a traffic light format of a green-yellow-red evaluation scale for each question under three areas: Personal Development, Leader Development and Ministry Development.
“Those were the things we wanted all staff to be developing in, regardless if they led small group ministry, worship ministry or children’s ministry,” Dan says.
The Big Questions
The group then brainstormed questions to ask under each area to help a staff member evaluate how they’re doing—questions such as:
- What are you doing to continually fuel your passion? (Personal development)
- Is my pool of potential leaders full and growing? (Leader development)
- Does your ministry provide opportunities for people to express their faith in inspiring fashion? (Ministry development)
With each question comes a potential response that indicates whether a leader is in the green, yellow or red on that particular point.
For instance, for the passion question above, leaders could respond one of three ways:
- I have a variety of ways to explore and fuel my passion. (green)
- I struggle sometimes to fuel my passion. (yellow)
- I do not know what my passions really are. (red)
There are 37 questions on the version for full-time paid staff, and those questions are helping guide leaders to create specific objectives to improve deficiencies and have meaningful development conversations with supervisors, Dan says.
Daystar supervisors and staff members like the tool so much, versions were developed with fewer questions for downstream levels of leadership—18 questions for “Coordinators” who are supervised by paid staff, and nine questions for “Coaches” who are led by Coordinators.
“The worst thing you can do in a performance review or leadership conversation is surprise someone,” Dan says. This tool helps insure that we have clear expectations for leaders—that they helped define—and provides a common language for everyone to use.”
Making It Your Own
Dan says Daystar will openly and freely share any of its resources with other churches.* But one of the most enlightening and helpful stages of developing the evaluation tool was deciding what areas to focus on in the assessment as it relates to their culture, and what questions would prompt leaders to consider their own development.
“Used out of context, this may feel to another church leadership team that it’s ‘not us,’ “ Dan says. “The process of getting to the end product was so important—for us to seriously consider the culture we’re trying to create, to crystallize the expectations we have for our leaders.
“At the end of the day, it’s an Excel spreadsheet, so it can be changed so that it reflects whatever you want. You have to make it fit who you are.”
The bottom line for Dan and other senior leaders at Daystar is they have a working tool that is not meant to put a “grade” on a leader’s performance—but to make those leaders ultra-successful and keep them in the game long-term, because they are being led well and cared for with well-vetted growth and development objectives.
“In the corporate world, people are often pushed until they reach their ‘ceiling’—then they are just replaced,” Dan says. “That’s obviously not what we want in ministry.
“For us, this is all about maximizing our leaders and their leadership—getting the best out of them and helping them develop into what God wants them to be.”