I remember my first annual review as a pastor. It was painful: not because the elders thought I was doing a poor job but because it was not based on a clear job description so the comments were random, some felt petty or unfair and simply reflected the personal biases of various board members. I remember thinking, "well that didn't feel good!"
As a firm believer in feedback and reviews I also have strong views on the context in which they are done.
First, they should only be done after a staff member or pastor have been working with a clear set of expectations for at least a year. In our organization, we use Key Result Areas and an Annual Ministry Plan which define the key results expected from the job and the plan laid out by the staff member to achieve those results. This changes the equation from a focus on activity to results, and it is based on agreed upon results and plans so there can be objectivity. Without agreed upon results, any review will simply be a reflection of the biases of a particular board member and not a fair evaluation of the staff member.
Second, it is critical to do a review annually, not when the board or supervisor starts to believe there is a problem. Often, the first review a pastor gets is when there is disagreement between them and the board. The review is then used as the means of addressing long standing problems but unfairly so since there has not been agreed upon outcomes up to that point.
Third, reviews should not have any surprises in them. Good supervisors or boards talk about issues long before they become major issues. There is ongoing dialogue between staff and supervisor or senior pastor and board in healthy ministry situations so that there is never a surprise. Surprises are an indication that such dialogue has not been taking place.
Fourth, reviews should be honest and candid. Don't dodge issues that need to be addressed. If you do, staff don't grow and become all that they can be. Direct and candid feedback is a critical element in growth. When we are not honest - often in the name of grace - we compromise the development and growth of staff. Be direct, honest, candid and invite dialogue to ensure that the issues, if there are any, are understood.
A full paradigm for Key Result Areas, Annual Plans and annual reviews is found in my book "Leading From the Sandbox: How to Develop, Empower and Release High Impact Ministry Teams." It lays out a simple, clear and results oriented process to clarify expectations as well as a healthy process for creating dialogue around work results. Do it right and annual reviews are a key part in creating a healthy environment for staff. Do it wrong and the opposite occurs.