Evaluating your children’s ministry is one of the most important responsibilities you have as a KidMin leader (see also here & here). There are many different ways to evaluate, but one of the most effective (and fun!) is to invite an Incognito Inspector to your children’s ministry.
What is an Incognito Inspector? It’s something akin to the “secret shopper” idea. It’s someone you bring in to interact with your children’s ministry in “real time” and offer constructive and honest feedback on the elements of your children’s ministry that you ask them to inspect. You will want to find someone that:
- your children’s ministry team will not recognize
- is willing to be bold in carrying out the assignment
- knows something about what a children’s ministry should function like (another KidMin person or a parent)
Here’s how to do it:
1. Invite someone you know to be the Incognito Inspector. It should be someone with kids willing to actually interact with your ministry as a family. My sister was the perfect fit to be my Incognito Inspector. She has 5 kids aged 2 to 10 (so they were put into multiple classes). Her oldest is a high-functioning autistic boy, and 3 of them are adopted (1 from China & 2 from Uganda). She’s been around the church her whole life, and she’s willing to create challenging circumstances for my volunteers (more on that later).
2. Walk through the Incognito Inspector process ahead of time. This might include (but certainly isn’t limited to) having the Incognito Inspector:
- attend a typical service, completing the visitor process and placing the kids in the classroom (in other words, participating in the typical process as a visitor)
- provide feedback (verbal feedback or a rating system – whatever works best for you) on typical interactions from the experience (were the volunteers friendly & helpful, did the volunteers know answers to questions, was it easy to find classrooms, was the check-in process understandable & easy? etc.)
- create some “challenging” situations for the volunteers (for example, try to pick up a child without the check-in tag to see how the volunteers handle it, ask volunteers difficult questions to see how they respond, or other challenges which create situations you would like to get feedback from).
3. Carry out the evaluation, remembering to:
- never abuse the participation of the children;
- never put the volunteers in an embarrassing or compromised situation;
- never risk the safety of anyone.
4. Debrief with the Incognito Inspector about their experience…get feedback about what you specifically talked about evaluating and also about other observations and thoughts they can contribute. And be sure to show them your gratitude with a free lunch, gift card, or some other form of thanks.
5. Share your findings in a fun and instructional way with your team (single out those who did well for public praise; speak generally or privately about negatives that need to be improved upon).
I would encourage you to use the Incognito Inspector method of evaluating your children’s ministry. You might be amazed at what you find out!