Thursday, May 28, 2009

Honestly Evaluating your ministry

Have you ever watched a video of yourself presenting a message? How about listening to yourself sing? I have, and I don't particularily enjoy either of them. I am critical and can't believe the mistakes I make. Sometimes the truth is painful, but helpful. Every person who follows Jesus has been given gifts and abilities by God. We are also expected to use those things which God has given us to give glory and honor to Him. The parable of the talents makes this clear. I wonder, when was the last time you took time to evaluate your ministry? I don't mean last weeks program or talk, I mean taking a broader view. This is something I do every year in the spring. This has been helpful for me and I want to share with you how you can do this as well.

  • Do it in the spring or when your primary programs are slowing down or ending.
There tend to be natural breaks in ministry, take advantage of these. Sometimes we have a tendancy to get lazy and coast through the slow times, but it is much better if we can take advantage of those times to evaluate and plan. For me that time has always been the spring. In addition the spring give you time to make changes and communicate those changes for the fall. This year is especially significant for us as we are making some pretty big changes and we need time to work out all the details. This is also the time when everything is still fresh in your mind.

  • Go away
Johnny (the Junior High Director) and I went to a bed and breakfast in a small mountain town about two hours away. there were no phone calls, email, or other office staff distracting us from what we were there to do.

  • Have a plan
I have to confess here that I did not have a detailed plan, but I did have a basic idea of what we were going to do. The plan was pretty basic, we were going to evaluate both the Junior and Senior High programs regarding some key areas, go over the calendar through next May, and talk about ways we can do things better. The last thing we were going to do is just hang out and get to know each other a little more. This last item is often more valueable than the task oriented portion of the population gives it credit for.

  • Know what parts of the ministry you are going to evaluate
We did not soley focus on programming, we also talked about what kind of culture we were developing, general characteristics of our groups, and how we can better involve parents. you can narrow it down and focus on one area or take a birds eye view, both are valid and should be done from time to time.
  • Be brutaly honest
It may sound obvious, but being honest in both a positive and negative way can be difficult. People are usually either overly positive or negative by naature. Don't decieve yourself into thinking things are worse than they are or that things are better than they are. Every weakness provides unique and good opportunities just like every strength has the potential to become a weakness. That is part of the SWOP process.
  • Use SWOP or some other method that will help you develop some sort of action plan
We use a SWOP form. You can get this for free at my web site. It allows us to consider what our strengths and weaknesses are and think through the opportunities and potential problems we might have. I am sure there are other methods of doing the same thing, but this works for us. Here is how we do it:
  1. First we will think through the strengths and weaknesses of our ministry either generally or in a specific area. We make a list in those two boxes.
  2. Second we think through the opportunities we have because of the weaknesses. this is a very important step and the place where we get practical. Find a variety of opportunities and pick the best one or two to implement and turnt the weakness into a strength. Example: We do not creat a loving atmosphere at the level we need to. We have an opportunity to involve students and adult leaders in developing a strategy for being both welcoming and loving as a group. We have grown this pat year, but imagine what kind of environment we could create if we were to make this weakness a strength.
  3. Last we think through the potential problems we might have as a result of our strengths. For instance I have a very musically gifted worship leader for the Sr. High. He is young it is likely that he will not be around forever. I could loose him. That is a potential problem. This process helps me to be prepared for loosing him. In the mean time we can be raising up another worship leader to minimize the impact if it is necessary to replace him.
Evaluation is important!! Use whatever method you want, but if you are evaluating at all you will be miles ahead of most people. Take a day, half a day, or maybe a full weekend. Call in your key leaders and go through this process. We used a white board and helped eachother think through this process. In the end we walked away with a good understanding of what we needed to work on and how we needed to do that.

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