Our primary role as leaders is to look forward, to see the future that CAN be, so that we can help people get there. But without looking back and evaluating, we never know if we are making real progress. And even when it feels like we are moving forward and getting better, evaluation helps us put concrete evidence behind our good feelings.
Good evaluation is is always transferable. Bringing our teams and group leaders into the process helps reaffirm the goals we are setting out to achieve, brings in new feedback that we would never get by ourselves, and teaches them how to take their toolbox and evaluate more of what they do and lead.
One of the best evaluation tools I’ve come across is called the “4 Helpful Lists”. An organization called “Intentional Churches” uses this tool as they help churches develop a clear vision and a plan to perpetually increase Kingdom impact (www.intentionalchurches.com). I first learned it from them 3 years ago; and even though they introduced a whole toolbox of evaluation and planning techniques, the 4 helpful lists still seem to make an appearance about once a week on every team in our church. It’s become a way of thinking for us, instead of just a tool.
One question has to be abundantly clear before we step foot into an evaluation meeting. WHAT ARE WE REALLY TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH? Facts and numbers can often tell us any story we want them to, so we need to be ready to dig deeper than just the surface measures.
We may have doubled the number of people in groups, but did we help connect the unconnected? Or did we just re-connect the already-connected people in yet another way?
We may have baptized 50 people, but are they still around 6 months later? Was our goal to baptize them, or was it to help them walk with God for the rest of their lives?
We need to be crystal clear on our real goal so that we can honestly assess our ministries and change things, no matter how good they may seem on the surface.
Now onto the 4 Helpful Lists!
- WHAT IS RIGHT?
Never skip what is right. First of all, we need to affirm our team (and ourselves) and encourage what is working. If it was right, we need to keep doing it! Without calling out what is working, we accidentally let the best things slip because we take them for granted. So figure out what is right, and if you don’t know how it got there… figure that out so you can replicate it moving forward!
- WHAT IS WRONG?
Every event and ministry has mistakes and unexpected flops. This is often the “low-hanging fruit”, the easy fixes that leads to direct action or a quick and healthy cut. Save this list for what is clearly and objectively wrong, though. This is meant to be a “cleaning house” list, giving everyone a chance to make fast and tangible progress by being honest about what was clearly wrong.
- WHAT IS MISSING?
This list isn’t for fast action and quick steps; it’s made for dreaming. What opportunities aren’t we capitalizing on right now? Many times, it’s okay that you aren’t yet! This is a chance to move forward and take ground where you haven’t yet. It helps you keep your eye on perpetual improvement and stay away from stagnation because “that’s how we’ve always done it”.
- WHAT IS CONFUSED?
Clarity is king. Whether it’s roles and job descriptions, a check-in process gone wrong, a programing mistake that lead to a terribly awkward moment, or a fuzzy goal that isn’t definable enough, this is an opportunity for you as a leader to make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page about the big picture as well as the minutia. Make it safe to ask real questions, because clarity is always worth fighting for. This list helps you gain trust as a leader, too, because it validates your team’s questions and shows how dedicated you are to equipping them with a clear vision.
SO… WHAT’S IMPORTANT NOW?
That’s the tool! It’s not flashy. It doesn’t rhyme. It’s not even an acronym. BUT it’s simple, transferable, and highly effective!
Once you fill up these lists, you get to the fun part… figuring out what is important right now, and how you’re going to move forward!
What is right? Leverage it!
What is wrong? Fix it!
What is missing? Add it!
What is confused? Clarify it!
What tools do you use to evaluate your ministries, events, and strategies? What has helped you look back so that you can help your teams, leaders, and volunteers take measurable steps forward?