The “Cycle of Conversations” is intended to be a framework for innovation and adaptation rather than a blueprint for process. The cycle attempts to move the evaluative method away from corporate models of performance appraisal, in favor of a process of collaborative inquiry that is tied to an agreed-upon mission.

This new framework does not preclude the use of surveys, questionnaires, and interviews as methods for gathering information and feedback. It does, however, regard the evaluation as a shared quest for learning and improvement, and seeks to minimize the possibilities of the evaluation becoming punitive.

The timeline for the cycle is flexible, but reflects one significant bias. It intentionally separates in time, though not in principle, clergy evaluation from the congregation’s budget process. This distinction permits the conversation about learning, expectations, and the clergy’s role and responsibility to the mission to remain free of implications for clergy compensation.

The conversation is intended to take place between the pastor and the committee responsible for personnel review and support. Engagement of the questions should be balanced and mutual, with committee members and clergy leader sharing together. Each conversation should be scheduled for about two hours in duration.

Cycle of Conversations

  1. When: May–June

    Focus: Building relationships

    Exploration: Sharing of the congregation’s story and clergy leader’s spiritual journey


    • When have we been most acutely aware of God’s presence in our story/journey?
    • What can we learn from our story that helps shape our congregation’s mission for today? What has the clergy leader learned from her spiritual journey that informs her role in relationship to this congregation’s mission?
    • What hopes inspire and what fears threaten our vision?
    • What is our understanding of our “call” as clergy/congregation in this specific setting?

    Record: Informal notes

  2. When: September–October

    Focus: Mutually clarifying expectations for the upcoming year

    Exploration: Establishing mutually agreed-upon goals


    • What will advance our mission?
    • For what will the minister or rabbi be held accountable, and for what will the congregation be held accountable?
    • Do we need to learn new skills (such as training for the congregation, or continuing education for the clergy leader) in order to advance our mission?
    • What resources will we need?

    Record: Statement of mutually agreed-upon goals, expectations, and resources needed to advance the mission. This is preliminary to forming a proposed budget. A statement of what one hopes to learn in the coming year is also part of this record.

  3. When: January-February

    Focus: Self-assessment and assessment of work over the last 12 months

    Exploration: An examination of accomplishments as well as areas for growth and improvement


    • What do the congregation and the clergy leader need to do differently to improve the advancement of the mission? What have we learned?
    • Based on our experience of the past year, what changes should we consider?
    • How will we acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments?
    • Do we agree that we are doing the right things, or does our mission need to be revised? Are there additional resources that we will require in the future?

    Record: Notes on three or four mutually agreed-upon areas for improvement or change, and lessons learned.