Supervision of people is one of the most important tasks for every leader, especially for Christian leaders. We are concerned, not simply with the task they are commissioned to do; we are also concerned with their personal development and spiritual formation. Why? Work performance and spiritual formation are inseparable.
So a spirituality of supervision is not simply coordination of their work with the larger whole. And it is different than mentoring (i.e. pouring into another to resource their growth). Supervision is all about stewarding—bringing out their best contribution in the context of your particular mission.
Supervision involves a unique exercise of power (i.e. “the capacity to influence”) as I help my supervisee reach my goals. For this reason, it must be learned and is more an art than a science. The most effective supervision is carried out in a coaching mode—equipping and releasing others to do the goals we have agreed upon, and holding them firmly but gently accountable. We easily fall into extremes in the exercise of that power, either wielding it too aggressively or shrinking back from using it thoughtfully, honestly, and prayerfully.
Spiritual supervision requires a lot of work. But if we don’t invest the time into our people’s personal and professional development, a decline in their effectiveness and our ministries is likely inevitable. Too many church workers have stalemated in their personal, professional, and spiritual lives due to a lack of careful supervision.
So what might it look like to supervise a key pastoral/ministry person on your team? (The expectations would be adjusted, of course, for a part-time, administrative, operational, or volunteer staff, but the principles remain the same). The following is one model to consider:
- Prayer. Each week bring this person before God, listening to him for your time together. Remain profoundly aware of the privilege and responsibility of extending your influence through supervising this person.
- Reflect. What does this person need for their transformation in Christ? What do they need for their professional development to grow with the church for the future? How might you better resource them? Are there any obvious or hidden barriers that are blocking their growth of which they are yet unaware?
- Written Report. Ask for a written report in advance. The following 5 P’s are used by Peter Rodhin, the supervisor of our pastoral staff at New Life:
- Personal Spiritual Formation: How or what is God speaking to you? What plans do you have to nurture your formation and development? (It is sometimes a challenge for people to articulate what God is saying to them. Be intentional, nonetheless, on how they are personally relating to GOD. What is the most important thing He is saying to them?)
- Priorities for the Week: What are your Quadrant 2 items to execute next week? These are the important but not urgent choices we make for long-term impact. (See Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
- Puzzles: What questions are you holding?
- People: Who are the leaders you’re investing in?
- Praise: What success and movement needs to be celebrated?
- Atmosphere: Create and protect an unhurried space. No phones or interruptions. Be face-to-face and eye-to-eye with them.
- Prayer: Begin with 1-2 minutes of silence and stillness, surrendering your wills to God’s will, opening up to the love of God, and inviting the Holy Spirit to guide and fill you both.
- Personal Development: Because their personal/family life are indispensable foundations for their work, ask questions like: “How are your rhythms and time with Jesus?” “How is your marriage or singleness going?” Ask what they are learning, reading, and their next steps for growth– either personally or professionally. What vulnerabilities or emotional triggers are manifesting themselves at work– especially under stress?
- Performance/Execution: Remaining current on their goals and priorities is just one simple way to ensure expectations are clear, spoken, and conscious. These need to be agreed upon. What is God’s measure of success for them and their ministry? Your role is to help them execute on those priorities within the larger plans of the ministry/organization. What is going well? What areas not going well? What roadblocks are they encountering? Do they need a longer planning/prayer time away by themselves or with their team? Who else might be able to help them move their work forward? Are they directly and promptly addressing “elephants in the room”? Are there any ways in which I might help?
- Prayer. I want to make sure I have space to pray for them and their ministry, listening to God for any additional insights from our time together.
- List action items. Make notes of follow-up items and key points that emerged from the meeting. (Peter Rohdin actually e-mails a summary of his agreed-upon action items! Sending a separate personal email to affirm them and thank them for the time is priceless.) Take time to ponder: Are there other ways I can serve them that I may have missed during our time together? What further development might I need to improve my supervision of them?
How often do you meet and for how long? That will depend on the person’s level of maturity and experience. I like to recommend 1-2 hours for that unhurried space at least once a month. (With T staff we recommend at least twice a month.) The principle is simple: the less often you meet, the longer the meeting
In the end, it is important to discern your limits and what God is asking you to do. And remember, those you oversee are not simply a means to get the work of God done. They actually are the work to which God has called you.