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.

The invisible factor is the one element that MUST be evaluated. As I shared in my last post, we discovered that about 60% of first time families came once and never came back. This is the massive chunk of the iceberg hiding under the surface that deserves attention, otherwise it will sink us. We can tweak the services and environments for the segment of kids who already love what we do, but it won’t change much for the masses who come once and never again.

To dig into this area, we’re about to send a survey to parents who checked in their kids only one time in the past 6 months. Their visit is still fresh enough that they’re likely to remember why they didn’t want to come back. We’ll send a simple survey and look for trends and similarities. We’ll follow up with phone calls some so we can dig even deeper.

As we’re looking at making tweaks and modifications in the coming months, this feedback will prove invaluable. Another way to get realtime feedback is to survey first time families every week. Our south campus team actually sends an email every weekend with a survey to first time visitors. Not many respond, but the feedback they do get is really helpful.

The second way to measure what you can’t see is pretty simple, but not very obvious to many people. What are others doing that you aren’t? When was the last time you visited another church you respect or have heard a lot about and observed what they are doing? You’re likely to find that there are many small changes you can make this weekend that have a huge impact. Remember these three points:

  • There’s no need to reinvent the wheel
  • We’re not competing against each other
  • What worked yesterday is stale today

It could be that the very thing or things that will turn things around for your ministry are right under your nose. Widen your evaluation spotlight and take a good hard look at the things you can’t see.

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Kenny Conley
Kenny Conley is the primary author of Childrens Ministry Online and the NextGen Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX. In addition to creating the Illuminate Conference, a high quality kidmin conference designed specifically for volunteers, Kenny is a published author and speaker.

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