“You will discover areas needing improvement or clarification, better ways of dividing ministry tasks, and whether or not you need to improve ways to express appreciation. Many times a minor adjustment can correct a major difficulty.”
Receiving Feedback in Ministry
Are you asking for feedback on your ministry with children or youth and then sorry you did? Or do you just ignore this step altogether?
Every ministry area in the church experiences constant evaluation by those involved in leadership and implementation and by those observing it. This evaluation is usually informal, highly personal, and is often subjective.
Ministry leaders need to be objective and constructive in the way they continually evaluate programs of Christian nurture. Mature leaders take the comments of people seriously and listen carefully to both the positive and negative words. The temptation to ignore or pass off comments from unhappy people because “they did not understand what we were trying to do” needs to be resisted. Making changes to please everyone, however, is also not healthy or effective.
When deciding how to respond when concerns are raised, your ministry team must be guided by your shared understanding of ministry goals and theological foundations—that which provides the structure to what you do each week. And always remembering that relationships are everything.
Whenever we consider making changes based on feedback, the following questions must be asked:
- Will making the change impact the basic structure that will lead to a less effective ministry?
- Will making the change strengthen the ministry?
- Has the unhappiness or criticism been expressed by a number of people or a few?
- What is behind an expression of unhappiness or dissatisfaction?
- Have people had an opportunity to express their opinions in the right places and at the appropriate times?
- How are personal relationships involved and how will they be affected by change?
The day-to-day, informal evaluation and problem solving that occurs throughout the year can keep your programs find-tuned and running smoothly. Relationships are strengthened as people work together to solve problems. Often it is not a case of changing something but of doing a better job of interpretation and education.
Formal Evaluation Process
The end of program year evaluation often has a more formal process and focus. The purpose is to measure what we did during the year in order to see if we have reached our goals. It is important to focus on the good things that have happened and not only on the negative. When you have a ministry that involves many volunteers it is critical to know how well you (as a ministry leader or team) have communicated with and supported your leaders and workers. You will discover areas needing improvement or clarification, better ways of dividing ministry tasks, and whether or not you need to improve ways to express appreciation. Many times a minor adjustment can correct a major difficulty.
Here are some questions to ask in a formal evaluation as a checkpoint for how you are supporting your volunteers:
- Have you felt adequately informed about (Sunday school . . . Mid-week program . . . Vacation Bible School . . . Youth Group) this year?
- At the beginning of the year, you agreed to offer your gifts and time in service to the church. Have you felt supported in, and appreciated for, the service you have given?
- Did you get enough guidance/training for your position? If not, what could be done differently?
- List topics you would like explored at future volunteer training sessions.
- List anything you would like the (ministry team/staff) to discuss when planning for next year.
And then some more questions to get feedback on what volunteers and/or parents see as the value of the program or ministry:
- How do you see (Sunday school . . . Vacation Bible School . . . Midweek Program . . . Youth Group) contributing to the Christian education and nurture of our young people?
- How has (program) been helpful to your participation as part of the church family?
- Is there a family that you’d like to see participate next year and make sure that we add them to our summer communication?
When conducting evaluations, the primary response should not be, “How can we change what we’re doing so these parents/volunteers are happy?” The primary concern should be, “How can we minister to these parents/volunteers and maintain the integrity of the program or ministry?”
Liz Perraud is the Executive Director of GenOn Ministries, a non-denominational Christian organization that works in partnership with local church leaders to build disciples of Jesus Christ through intergenerational relationships.