I am not a management expert, although I have read a few books and studied various different styles and systems. However, when I read the following from a fortune 500 CEO, I was immediately reminded of various conversations I’ve had with District Officials regarding men on Candidate status in our synod:
We’re doing our performance reviews now. We’re finishing up our year (and there are) no changes to—no—I’ll say minor changes to our system. I think everybody wants to work in a high-performance culture where we reward people who are doing fantastic work, and we help people who are having a hard time find something else to do. Now, whether our existing performance-management system needs to change to meet the goal of fostering collaboration is something that __________ [head of human resources] would take up.
What CEO would say such a thing? Is this a good management technique or a bad one?
Well, it turns out that it’s Steve Ballmer, departing-in-disgrace-with-a-huge-golden-parachute-after-numerous-high-profile-market-failures head of Microsoft. (Remember when they were the software market?)
And I’ve heard similar sentiments from the mouths of District Officials in various districts. I believe that they are parroting what they hear in COP meetings. This is the mentality of our synod’s leaders. Not, “Let’s see if we can work together to help a guy whose struggling to do better and get his congregation to see how a little love and concern can improve his outlook and his ministry.” But rather “Let’s find the low performers and gently show them the door.” Because how could that go wrong?
At Microsoft it’s called “Stack Ranking” and it has decimated the company. In the LCMS it’s called Candidate status, and it’s one of the most unloving things I’ve ever seen. It hurts pastors and congregations more than District Presidents will admit because the truth is that every pastor is scared to death of ending up on Candidate status. This means he might compromise God’s Word to please his congregation, take no risks, spend his nights pacing and taking antacid, tranquilizers, or something even stronger to sleep, is in need of counseling (and too often receives none), is looking for a better job to come along or perhaps actively seeking one, or perhaps in a worst case scenario, he has long ago lost his faith and is just saying whatever the people want to keep them happy, but no longer believes it himself. And his children? Well, there’s a reason that in the early 20th century the question was “How many of your pastor’s children are pastors?” and now the question is “How many of your pastor’s children still attend any church at all?” We are killing ourselves, and calling it good management. It’s certainly not loving. And it turns out, it’s not good management, either.