Read in 9 mins Leader Resources » Ministry Basics » All Other Ministry Basics Print / Download Article Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Evaluate to Elevate: How Seeking Feedback Changes Your Ministry Published: June 19, 2023 Use this guide to create an evaluation strategy that positions your ministry for health and growth based on feedback. “What gets celebrated gets repeated.” You may have heard that saying before. I’d add this: “What gets evaluated gets better.” Evaluation is the key to leading a healthy ministry poised for growth. While it’s often human nature to avoid feedback because we fear discovering something negative, wise leaders embrace opportunities to evaluate their ministry and seek ways to improve. We use many avenues to gather feedback—from surveys to casual conversation to complaint boxes. But to be truly effective evaluators, we must do three things: Challenge any mindset that limits our openness to feedback. Seek different types of feedback from different aspects of the ministry. Adopt a mindset that ongoing evaluation is part of the fabric of a healthy ministry. Read on, and you’ll find the starting point to create a culture of evaluation in your ministry. These questions and evaluation areas are a basis and not an end in themselves. You’ll tweak, add, adjust, and replace according to the unique needs of your ministry. Let’s dive in! Challenge Your Mindset Before you and your team begin to evaluate, do a bit of self-reflection.That means setting aside preconceived assumptions about, well, a lot. Turn your thinking upside down to get the most out of your evaluation efforts. Start by challenging yourself—and your team—in these three areas. Challenge 1: Hands Off! Ensure nothing will be off limits when it comes to feedback. And remember: Evaluation isn’t something we only do when things aren’t going well or when we realize something’s broken. Evaluation is ongoing, constant, and comprehensive. Take time to examine what you know isn’t working—but also be willing to examine the best things you have going. Many ideas we now view as old and antiquated were once new and good and the best of the best. Change happens faster than ever, and your new and good ideas may become old and stale in no time. This isn’t a knock against you or anyone; it’s simply a reality we must face. So don’t cheat yourself out of proper evaluation by protecting the way things are. Challenge 2: Good News/Bad News Rather than assuming “no news is good news,” assume no news is not good news. I’m not advocating a pessimistic outlook on your ministry. I’m saying that when we fall into thinking no news is good news, we tend to leave things unexamined and therefore unimproved. But when we assume no news isn’t always good news, we constantly seek out feedback and press for answers as to how we can improve. Challenge 3: Culture Check Commit to establishing a bi-weekly or monthly evaluation process so gathering some kind of feedback becomes a natural part of your ministry flow. When you weave in feedback as part of your regular culture, it’s far more effective than a once-, twice-, or whenever-it-comes-to-mind “event.” Challenges accepted? Great. It’s time to evaluate the key areas of your ministry: regular services, kids, parents, the whole family, and guests. Regular Services Ask these questions on Sundays. Invite several people (volunteers, parents, other leaders) to give you feedback. 1. What went well (or not so well) with the check-in process? This information ensures you have a pulse on whether families wait too long upon arrival, whether volunteers interact in a positive way with families, and whether parents or kids experience frustration. 2. How did guests and regularly attending families experience (or not experience) excellence? Establish a definition of what constitutes an excellent experience for families. This baseline will let you know when their experience falls short or exceeds expectations. 3. What logistical issues came up during large group, small group, or class time? Keep abreast of how volunteers manage time, transitions, flow, lessons, supplies, and other aspects of your regular programming. You’ll discover whether you’re constantly short on supplies or if you need to change aspects of the programming flow. 4. What issues did volunteers and teachers experience? Feedback from your team will help you discover whether activities work with kids, if there’s enough time for conversation and relationship building, if teachers struggle with the curriculum, and so on. Also, ask for feedback on the real impact of programming—what is (or isn’t) connecting with kids? What are teachers and volunteers hearing from parents? 5. What happened during checkout? Monitoring checkout tells you whether it feels organized or unsafe, if parents are frustrated over wait times, or if there are ways you can streamline the process. 6. What, if anything, took place that needs to be addressed immediately? Maybe a sibling checked out a child and when the parent arrived, no one knew where the child was. Maybe a teacher dealt with a parent situation in the wrong way and you need to address it. This is an important question to ask each week. Ask these questions on Mondays or Tuesdays. Use the information you gathered from the previous questions, and involve your ministry leaders. 1. What were our misses? Discuss what didn’t go according to plan. If you can do something about a miss, make an action plan right then and there to correct it. 2. What was neutral? Recognizing what was neither a miss nor a hit helps you know to keep an eye on an area to ensure it doesn’t slide into “miss” territory. 3. What were our hits? Celebrate every week the many things that went well. This helps you identify your ministry strengths. Kids To get useful feedback on what your ministry does for kids, involve them! Don’t simply rely on what you or other adults assume. This step may seem like common sense, but it took us a couple of years to figure out the importance of going straight to the kids. 1. Describe your favorite part of our program. Kids’ responses will tell you what your ministry is doing well and what’s impacting kids. The more kids are engaged, the more they’ll retain. 2. What part is boring or do you wish we could get rid of? While it’s important for kids to realize it’s okay to be bored sometimes and that the world doesn’t revolve around them, it won’t hurt to gain some self-awareness in your ministry around something kids don’t like. 3. What do you wish we did more of? Maybe you have something special or out of the norm you do every so often. This information will tell you which experiences are working and which to consider integrating on a more regular basis. 4. When do you feel most connected to God during our service? Maybe it’s during worship, in small groups, during prayer time—or not at all. Pinpoint when and where kids feel God’s presence the strongest so you can push them to really dig in during those times. 5. What do we do that helps you grow as a Christian during the week and tell others about Jesus? It’s important for you to know whether your take-home resources, lessons, and activities extend beyond Sunday into kids’ everyday lives. Kids have no problem being completely honest. If nothing lasts outside the four walls of your church, they’ll tell you. And that’s your opportunity to ask, “What would help?” Parents A great way to have this conversation with parents is over a meal. Once or twice per month, a leader or key volunteer invites a couple of families out to lunch following church. Most of the time, it’s newer families because they have a fresh perspective. During the lunch, we’ll ask these questions. 1. What resources do you wish we provided that we don’t? Knowing what parents are actually looking for is the first step in giving them the right help. As with kids, don’t assume what parents need; go straight to the source. 2. In your role as parents, explain whether you feel supported by the church. We don’t want to be a spiritual outsourcing company for parents; we want to be close partners, to come alongside parents as they do the legwork of discipleship with their kids. This lets us know if we’re accomplishing that. 3. Based on our communication to you and the resources we offer you, do you feel it’s possible to be an effective Christian parent? Sometimes, we inadvertently set the bar so high for parents that they feel defeated before they even begin. We never do this on purpose, so it’s important to ask parents how they feel about the expectations your ministry places on them. 4. Is there anything we don’t do that you wish we did? Maybe parents would like a night off once per month and would love it if your ministry provided child care. Maybe they wish for more opportunities do things with other families in the church. When you hear multiple parents and caregivers say similar things, take action. The Whole Family Parents’ previous responses will inform your answers to the following questions, but these two discussion questions are designed to be discussed internally within your ministry leadership. 1. What services and experiences do we provide for the whole family to participate in together? It’s great for your ministry to be age-graded, but it’s also important to bring families together. Perhaps kids and parents could participate in the worship segment of the service once per month. There are loads of opportunities; the important thing is to create space for families to experience God together. 2. What experiences do we have outside church for the whole family? This is more of a relational question that explores how you connect families in your ministry. It could be through small groups focused around preschool or preteen parents. Maybe it could be family fun nights at different locations in your community. It could be connecting families you think might hit it off and facilitating a meal. Again, there are almost limitless possibilities; the important thing is that you’re creating space for families to connect. Guests It’s vital to have a clear process to integrate new families into your church and to continually tweak that process to improve it. Much of what we’ve talked about so far makes the proverbial “back door” of your church much smaller. This evaluation area is focused on making your front door much larger. Ask guests these questions on Sunday. 1. How can we make the registration process simpler? You might not need as much information as you’re currently asking for. With email and texting, is it really necessary to collect families’ addresses from the get-go? Maybe; maybe not. Do you have parents fill out a registration sheet and then manually enter it into your check-in system? Maybe you could have them enter it straight into the system electronically. The simpler you can make registration, the better the experience will be for new parents. 2. How can we make check-in faster? You could have a designated check-in line just for guests. Or, simply allow guests a front-of-the-line pass. Whatever your strategy, strive to make guest families feel like VIPs. 3. How can we use registration and check-in time to connect meaningfully with families? Make sure you have your friendliest and most hospitable volunteers walk with guests through the entire registration process. This is a great opportunity to get to know families and make them feel welcome, so use it. 4. How can we make registration and check-in more personal? You probably give families a welcome gift; figure out a way to make it meaningful and personal. Using feedback from your guests from the previous questions, ask these questions with your team. 1. How effectively do you connect with parents after Sundays? An honest assessment of how well you’re making this key connection will only strengthen your current efforts. Send parents a text on Monday thanking them for visiting. Forward your weekly parent email with a personal note. Ask your senior pastor to write a short message and mail it. Text parents on Saturday, inviting them back the next day. The point is, ensure your contact with parents isn’t just on Sundays and that it’s personal. 2. How effectively do you connect with kids following Sunday? What’s working with kids? What do they comment on later? What do they shrug off? Send a “thanks for coming” note. Mail a small gift. As long as what you do is personal, kids will love it. 3. How do you add value to families even if they decide to attend somewhere else? Most of us agree that our ultimate goal is for families to be part of the “big C” Church. So even if a family ultimately attends somewhere else, it doesn’t mean you can’t still offer value to them. And if a family decides not to attend any church at all, it’s even more important to stay in contact. Have a really great parenting resource you email every week? Add them to the list. Systematically work through a family prayer list? Keep them on it. Send something special for birthdays? Include your past guests. Final Tips This may seem like a lot to take in—and it is. But by taking one small evaluation bite at a time, and you can do it. Don’t attempt to implement all this at once. Pray and ask God and others where to begin and then take it one area at a time. At our church, it’s been a three-year process—and we’re still working on integrating some of this evaluation in a more consistent, systematic manner. After all, ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. And finally, remember that evaluation isn’t something to do alone. Include lots of other people. Lean on your most trusted leaders. Have conversations with kids. Enter into the worlds of your parents. Talk with other pastors. Because what gets evaluated gets better. Brandon Horst loves helping kids’ ministry leaders think differently by sharing fresh ideas and new principles. He currently serves as the family pastor at Centerpointe Church in Fairfax, Virginia. Want more articles for children’s ministry leaders? Check these out. And for even more ideas and daily posts of inspiration, follow us on Facebook! © Group Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. No unauthorized use or duplication permitted. Get our FREE enewsletter! 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