Questions about

Prism 360

a Tool for Ministry


What is Prism 360?
What developmental assumptions were made in the creation of Prism?

How is Prism used?
Who can use the process?
Isn’t Prism primarily for problem employees or individuals?
Prism is frequently referred to as a 360-feedback process. What does 360 mean?
Who has access to the feedback?
How does the Prism process work?
Is certification required to administer and interpret Prism?
What does Prism cost?
Does the fee include the fee for the certified facilitator’s interpretation?
How does one purchase Prism or obtain additional information regarding Prism?



What is Prism 360?

A process that provides a person constructive, confidential feedback regarding his or her leadership, management, interpersonal, and ministry skills. The feedback comes from individuals at different levels and positions within and outside a congregation or organization. As a result, participants are able to “see themselves” from multiple perspectives.

What developmental assumptions were made in the creation of Prism?

• Ongoing feedback is a critical aspect for individuals committed to ongoing growth and development.
• People don’t give or receive enough helpful, constructive feedback.
• Few people are trained to give constructive feedback. Virtually no one has received instruction regarding how to hear and receive feedback effectively.
• Useful feedback is good feedback. As a result, there is no such thing as good feedback and bad feedback—only helpful, useful feedback and feedback that is not helpful. Unhelpful feedback is usually intentionally hurtful and unsubstantiated. It is intended to put an individual down. Prism feedback is helpful feedback.
• There is no way one person can be all-knowing regarding the impact his or her behavior has on other people.
• “I don’t need anymore feedback. I have a good handle on myself” is an impossibility. Unless one has the gift of immaculate perception (and we have yet to find someone that does), feedback is essential to have an accurate perception of one’s self.
• Things change, especially as one takes on new assignments and challenges. As a result, new skills and perspectives are continually required.

How is Prism used?

First and foremost, Prism is an assessment for development instrument. In other words, the information that is gathered from Prism is used strictly as a tool for the growth and development of the individuals who participate in the process. Not too surprisingly, few people get enough honest, accurate, helpful feedback. Unfortunately this is especially true within the religious community.

Typically, individuals sort their feedback into four categories.

  • Good news/expected
  • Good news/surprise
  • Bad news/expected
  • Bad news/surprise

From this data, they create a personalized development plan that builds on their strengths and finds ways to minimize or eliminated their weaknesses.

Typically, participants have a tendency to focus primarily on the bad news/surprise feedback they receive. Prism facilitators work very hard to help participants understand that the feedback they receive regarding their strengths is as important if not more important than their weaknesses. Individuals correct their weaknesses using their strengths. When they are not clear what their strengths are, it is very difficult to bring about change in weaknesses.

Prism feedback in and of itself does not change a person. For many it is the starting point. It is an unfreezing experience. It enables a person to focus his or her development strategies.

Who can use the process?

Prism is intended for individuals who spend a significant portion of their lives working in some aspect of ministry—in a full-time capacity or a volunteer capacity.

For example, pastors, assistant and associate pastors, ministers and directors of Christian education, ministers and directors of music, ministers and directors of youth, ministers of church administration and church administrators, minister of missions and mission directors, missionaries, ministers and directors of children’s ministry, ministers and directors of single adults, ministers and directors of senior adults, office managers, chaplains, teachers, camp directors, and denominational professionals.
This list describes just a few of the many, many potential job titles or responsibilities of individuals that would find Prism useful.

Prism does not distinguish between ordained and non-ordained, persons that are seminary trained or not, college degreed or not, whether one carries the title of pastor or minister or if the position is full-time or part-time. The key criterion is that individuals spend a significant portion of their time working in some aspect of ministry.

Frequently, Prism is very appropriate for active laypersons such as elders, deacons, board members, trustees, and committee chairs. It is a very effective tool for using in deacon and elder retreats.

Frequently an entire staff uses Prism in a team building/staff development experience. This is especially successful when the staff is willing to be open, honest, non-defensive, and eager to grow and learn.

Isn’t Prism primarily for problem employees or individuals?

While many individuals having difficulty in their current positions do find Prism feedback useful, it is in no way intended just for problem individuals. Three-sixty feedback (360) is one of the few ways individuals can be assured of balanced, objective feedback. Regular feedback reduces the possibility of personal blind spots— those unknown personal behaviors that may have negative impact on individuals or organizations.

Frequently, when there is no feedback, individuals become aware of problems and blind spots skills only after it is too late to correct them.

Research has suggested that one should have feedback like that provided by Prism approximately every 18 months. The higher one moves in an organization, the more important feedback becomes. This is because as one moves up in an organizational ladder, the more information gets filtered. This seems to be even truer in ministry situations.

Prism is frequently referred to as a 360-feedback process. What does 360 mean?

Originally, 360’s were used in traditional, hierarchical business environments where participants had a well-defined superior, peers, and direct reports. The 360 process provided feedback from each of these groups--from all directions within the organization--thus the name 360º feedback. 360 now means feedback from multiple perspectives or directions.

Who has access to the feedback?

The feedback belongs to the participant, and no one else. This means a personnel committee cannot see it, a supervisor cannot see it, a senior minister or executive director cannot see it, or a wealthy donor that paid for the Prism process cannot have access to the data. The only other individual that sees the feedback is a trained Prism facilitator that helps interpret the data. (Incidentally, certified, trained facilitators enter into a covenant stating they will keep your feedback absolutely confidential. They are also asked to sign a written covenant [contract] to the same effect.)

The feedback is the exclusive property of the participant because

  1. Prism is an assessment for development process, not an assessment for promotion, compensation or termination process.
  2. It has been determined statistically reliable only as an assessment for development process.
  3. Feedback givers are more likely to be honest and forthcoming if they know their anonymity is protected.
  4. Participants are more able to hear the feedback and remain non-defensive if they know their livelihood and/or esteem are not dependent upon the outcome.

While participants are not required to share their feedback, they are encouraged to share it with those individuals that can help them grow and accomplish their development goals.

How does the Prism process work?

The process is totally internet-based. No paper is involved until the final report is printed. While the process may seem complicated viewed from the outside, to respondents (feedback givers) and the participant receiving the feedback, the process is quite simple and seamless. Several things occur, some sequentially and some simultaneously:

    1. Participants are notified via e-mail the Prism process is beginning. If they have questions they can click on a hot link that takes them to this information page that explains the process and answers most questions.
    2. Participants then click on a link that sends them to the starting page.
      --On the starting page, they are instructed to create three or four rater groups—similar groups of people that experience their work and ministry from different perspectives. The possibilities are endless, but some might include
           • Administrative staff members
           • Colleagues on a board 
           • Committee chairs
           • Committee members
           • Denominational or dioceses professionals
           • Family members
           • Janitorial staff
           • Ministerial colleagues outside the congregation
           • Neighbors
           • Particular parishioners
           • Pastoral oversight committee
           • Peers on staff
           • Personnel committee
           • Pulpit committee
           • Significant deacons or elders
           • Subordinates
    3. They are then asked to register 15 - 20 feedback respondents (the individuals they would like to provide them feedback) and place them in one of the three or four respondent groups they selected. They are also asked to include a superior or mentor if they have one (as a stand alone).
    4. For each feedback respondent they must include his/her name, which of the three rater groups they would like him/her placed in, and his/her e-mail address and telephone number. The phone number is included only if under the slight chance there is a problem or a question. The participants are also instructed to include this information for their superior or mentor.
    5. It is not essential for participants to have three rater groups nor is it essential to have 15 respondents. However, the more respondents, the more complete the feedback picture they are likely to receive. The same is true for rater groups.
    6. Each rater groups requires at least three respondents in order to protect the anonymity of the individuals in the group. A fourth rater group may be used but is not necessary.
    7. When participants have collected and added the necessary information regarding their respondents, it is submitted to the secure Prism website.
    8. The participants then complete the online “self” evaluation Prism questionnaire that includes approximately 112 questions regarding their leadership, managerial, leadership, interpersonal and ministry skills, and perspectives.
    9. Once the 112 questions are answered, participants type in their response to three open ended questions regarding their performance.
    10. They then submit their results to the secure Prism website.
    11. Each of the respondents receives an email notifying them he/she has been selected by the participant to be involved in the Prism process.
    12. It is considered professional courtesy to ask permission from the respondents to include them in the process prior to registering their names. In other words, when respondents receive an e-mail asking them to complete a feedback questionnaire on an individual, this should not be the first time they have heard about the process.
      --They are instructed to complete a short demographic form.
      --They are urged to take no longer than five business days to complete the Prism feedback form.
      --When they have completed the form, they click an onscreen hot link, which sends their feedback to the secure Prism website.
    13. The website monitors the return rate of the completed questionnaires.
    14. Feedback givers slow in completing their feedback forms are periodically sent gentle email reminders until they complete and return their feedback.
    15. When the necessary numbers of feedback forms have been received, they are processed at the website.
    16. The designated Prism facilitator is notified when the results are ready.
    17. The facilitator makes arrangements with the client or clients regarding when and where to receive the feedback.
    18. The facilitator then prints the feedback reports and works with participants in making meaning of their results and designing a comprehensive development plan

Is certification required to administer and interpret Prism?

Yes. Individuals must receive the appropriate training and complete a series of activities before they may function as a certified Prism facilitator.

The certification process involves:

  • Receiving Prism feedback just as every participant does
  • A facilitator training session (this can be a group or individual training event)
  • Practice in giving and receiving 360 feedback
  • Instruction in guiding the development of individual development plans
  • Coaching for the first “live” feedback sessions

Congregations wishing to administer their own program should discuss options prior to placing an order.

What does Prism cost?

For each participant receiving feedback, the cost is $110. This includes respondent “forms,” one-supervisor/mentor respondent “form,” and one “self-report” feedback form. The fee also includes the processing and production of the feedback report for the individual.

Does the fee include the fee for the certified facilitator’s interpretation?

No, facilitators are contracted separately. A list of qualified facilitators may be obtained from The Church Network office at 800.898.8085. A list is also provided at this TCN website.

How does one purchase Prism or obtain additional information regarding Prism.

To purchase Prism or to receive answers to administrative questions call The Church Network office at 972.699.7555 or 800.898.8085 or email