Tag: Evaluation

What questions do you have?

One of the best things I’ve learned from my friend and mentor Jim Wideman is the art of asking questions. I’ve learned that he is always asking questions and he has an expectation that other people are asking questions of him. The quickest way to disappoint him is to spend an hour with him and not asking anything.
I learned how the art of asking questions can completely transform your conference going experience. This week I’ll be at the Orange conference where over 6000 of the greatest leaders in ministry will be in one place. Sure, I’ll learn a lot by just being there. General sessions, breakouts and conversations along the way will be very informative, but if you think about it this is a very passive way to learn at a conference. A very important discipline is to ask yourself the question, “what do I want to learn this week? What answers or solutions do I need?” Chances are, the answers you’re looking for are everywhere around you, you just have to ask.

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Self-Evaluation: You are not as awesome as you used to be

Right now, repeat this after me:
“There are things that I’m emotionally attached to. I recognize this potential weakness. I need to invite someone to be honest with me about these things and do what they encourage me to do.”

That wasn’t so hard, was it. This happens all the time and we have to recognize that we are going to get in the way of what’s best for your ministry. Need proof? Look at the 60 year old wearing clothes that he/she bough 20 years ago. That person thinks they look great because 20 years ago they WERE great. However, no one has been truly honest with that person saying, “Dude, can I take you shopping?” or someone did but the person doesn’t believe them.

Just know that this IS going to be you someday. It could be you now. Here’s what you need to do:

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Evaluation: Measuring what you can’t see

Effective evaluation can be very hard to do, especially when it’s your own ministry. We’re too bought in and invested that bad news is hard to take or it just takes more emotional effort to go digging for the ugly stuff. This is where it might be helpful to bring in people from the outside to poke around and ask questions that you haven’t thought to ask yet. Sometimes though, I think we get in trouble because we’re only evaluating the things we can see. What you can’t see tells an entirely different story.

This is where leader’s bias comes in. On any particular weekend, hundreds of elementary kids come to our programs and they love it. We get emails and comments in the courtyard about how much the kids love coming to church. We do baptism interviews and these kids talk about why they love coming to church and it’s easy to get a slanted view of performance. We change our tactic and begin asking the kids who already love our program what it is that we could do better to make them love it more. Although this is never a bad idea, we’re missing the point entirely. We’re only evaluating what we can see.

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When is the last time you did a ministry evaluation

This summer I’ve been in ministry evaluation mode!
In May we had a pretty significant leadership team retreat where church leadership put NextGen (even more specifically, Kids) in the cross hairs for focus. This is a really good thing. I committed to spend this summer evaluating every aspect of what we’re doing, where our weaknesses are and how we might turn those around. Here’s one of the biggest learnings I had.

Every year for the past 2-3 years, we have almost 1000 families visit Gateway for the very first time.

That’s amazing! In one of our leadership meetings, we talked about how we can attract more people to our church. I shared these numbers supported by years of check-in data and we quickly realized that we do not have an attraction issue, we have a retention issue. In the past 12 months, only 40% of our first time families came back for a second visit. Ouch! I was able to dive deeper and see that specific rooms have higher retention rates than others. This data tells me that we’re doing some things right in certain environments where we’re failing in others.

My investigation showed that it’s primarily our elementary (especially older elementary) where we’re losing the most visitors. With and average of 60% of our visitors not coming back for a second visit, our elementary percentage was even higher than this. Not good at all.

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Criticism is your friend

We all like a pat on the back, don’t we? When someone has something negative to say, most of us get an uneasy feeling in our gut. Upon hearing criticism, our thoughts immediately go to all the reasons why something is the way it is either because it is the truth or because we aren’t comfortable in the critical position. Out of a innate need for self-preservation, we avoid criticism like the plague. Most of us don’t willingly send out evaluations for personal reflection or invite people into a conversation beginning with, “What do I do that you hate?”

I think it’s really important for us to remember that criticism is our friend. We must not forget, we are biased individuals who are in love with ourselves and the way we do things. Criticism is just about the only honest way we’re going to get better and one of the best ways to utilize the amazing power of criticism is the systematize it. Send out a survey to first time visitors every Monday morning asking for feedback. Send an evaluation to families after events or classes like child dedication or baptism. Have leaders evaluate services/messages each week so your staff and planning team can know how to make improvements. I think its amazing how most of us continue to do the same things year after year without asking the question, “So, how are we doing?”

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Immediate and constant evaluation

My boss just came back from eight weeks of sabbatical. Something I get to look forward to in a little less than 5 more years. Sigh… So, he’s been visiting other churches in Austin during these eight weeks. On one of...

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