Have you ever looked in a mirror in horror as you realized how you really looked? My perspective of what others see when they look at me is often skewed because it is impossible to see myself. In the same way many of us would be horrified if we really looked at our ministries from the perspective of those whom we serve. It’s easy to feel good about things and avoid the mirror, but we risk missing unseen problems.
How do we put a mirror to ministry? Here are some ideas for getting feedback through evaluation:
- Regularly evaluate. If you have an event, evaluate immediately, both with the team in charge and those who attend. For an ongoing ministry, such as a small group, Bible study, prayer group, etc., do so periodically but don’t wait too long to get feedback.
- State that the primary leader will not see their names. If you are the preacher, the teacher, the small group leader, etc., it is best if there is someone less involved in the success of the group reads and processes the comments because the answers will be more forthright—a better mirror. If you lead a ministry, have your board do it and then summarize and quantify the results for the whole group to process together. Who is involved but would be non-threatening for those answering? I do ask for names in case clarification is needed or so we can better identify the problem source, but I state specifically who will see them. I did not read evaluations of my Bible study myself because I wanted the truth about my teaching. I did, however, look at answers about events because they were less about me.
- Online surveys are great for their ease or for a group that is very large. But when it’s a group that is together, consider using actual paper while the group is a captive audience. Your rate of completion will be much higher, and the group will feel more confident that the results will be anonymous to the leader.
- Give choices or numbers to mark. Provide an even number of choices so the answers lean toward the positive or the negative. Use 1-4 or 1-10 on a continuum, or provide four options to mark, including two negative and two positive statements. Certainly add space for comments, but recognize that many people prefer multiple choice. Use answers like these: Not at all; Somewhat; Much; Very much–2 positives and 2 negatives.
- Create the questions from your goals. If you intend that your small group grows spiritually, ask a question about their assessment of their spiritual growth through the group over a period of time. Ask how well the curriculum aided their spiritual growth. If a goal is developing community, give them a question about how well that happened in the group. If a goal is growth in prayer, provide a question about it.
Above all, ask God to open your heart to the truth provided in the mirror. Sometimes we believe that God led us, and we are wrong because we are flawed and don’t always hear God perfectly. Sometimes God wants us to change things, forcing us to seek him anew. Those of us closest to God can deceive ourselves that God has spoken and bind us to an unsuccessful course of action. A good evaluation may provide a mid-course correction to the direction we are headed. It is the mirror that humbles us when we think we have all the answers, and it sends us to God for guidance.