As we move into the second part of the year our ministry team will begin our evaluation process. It is important to look back in order to look forward and create goals and objectives for the coming year. Our first step: The SWOT Evaluation meeting. SWOT is an acronym that stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

It’s imperative that all of our key leaders are in the room for this crucial first step meeting in the evaluation process. This might not be just staff. In the past, I have invited invested volunteers. The goal is to take an honest and realistic look at the ministry in order to best evaluate our strengths and identify our weakness while also looking for new opportunities and/or possible threats.

Nothing is off limits here. We want to get all ideas, thoughts, and suggestions on the board. (Any board will do – foam board with notecards and pushpins, or dry erase board with a designated scribe and marker).

We start with the STRENGTHS! It’s easier to get to the nitty-gritty and hard stuff when we take a minute to recognize where we’re winning. It also helps us see where potential opportunities or threats might exist. For example:

  • STRENGTH – small group focus of curriculum, relationship building activities
  • WEAKNESS – volunteer recruitment/retainment
  • OPPORTUNITY – parent partner plan (parents serving)
  • THREAT – over populated classrooms creating tight spaces

It all goes on the board. Different leaders and staff with different perspectives throw out ideas and insight that spur on new or diverse ideas. The board will quickly fill up under each of the major categories. This should be a fun, energetic, informative and collaborative brainstorming process.

The next step is to narrow  it down. Everything listed on the board may be true, but focus requires it be narrowed only be a handful of ideas. Improvement will be made in steps, not leaps. Each participant will choose three things, that if addressed would make the greatest impact in the ministry, and mark them with either a colored dry erase marker or sticker (depending on the medium we are using). Once everyone has had an opportunity to choose their three, we count the votes to discover the collective top 3-5. These become our Big Rocks for the coming year.

What are Big Rocks? Our big rocks are where we narrow our focus.

The idea is from the fable of the “Rocks, Pebbles and Sand,” with the rocks representing the most important parts of what we hope to accomplish, and what we all agree to focus on through our SWOT. We take care of our rocks first, the things that really matter, and these become our priorities. There will be other things that we do during the year that are good, but if they don’t directly impact our Big Rocks they would be considered pebbles and sand. By focusing on our Big Rocks first, we will be careful to not let the pebbles and sand crowd out our time, energy and resources.

Once our Ministry “Big Rocks” have been established, and with them in mind, our team moves on to personal evaluations and ministry goals. These are my absolute favorite! Seriously. In the last couple of years, I’ve created some tools and processes that really do make this part of the process exciting. I’ll unpack these things in the next post.