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.

Sifting through attendance data though showed us what next steps needed to be taken. Over the summer we were able to hire some consultants who could really evaluate our elementary environments and make suggestions. We’ve gotten some incredible feedback and have established some practical steps to improve the areas where we’re failing. Next, we’ll be soliciting feedback from our parents, both those who attend regularly as well as those who only attend our program one time.

Three months later, I’ve very excited about the progress we’ve made and where we’re headed.

However, I’ve learned that evaluation is the elusive value. Many claim to value evaluation, yet precious few of us actually evaluate on any kind of consistent basis. Some of us avoid it because we know things aren’t right and it feels easier to avoid the inevitable. Others of us are so overwhelmed with limited resources, the very idea of evaluation seems ridiculous. Regardless, I think there’s always room for evaluation and opportunities for improvement, no matter how small.

This week I’m going to write some posts on evaluation and what I’ve learned evaluating the kids ministry here at Gateway. More importantly, I’m gong to talk about how to create a culture and system for evaluation within your ministry.