In our final installment of the “freshness” series, we are examining fresh expectations on the value of ministry evaluation.  When we evaluate ministries not for their longevity (43rd annual), their legacy (the beloved matriarch Dorothy Smith started this ministry), or it is an influential congregant’s personal passion (but not aligned with the church’s vision or gifts), we make different decisions about how to use our resources of time, energy, commitment, money, and facilities.

It is my firm belief that the majority of people engaged in ministry have the best of intentions.  They are doing their best and hoping for the best possible outcome.  They certainly would not be exerting energy and effort only to desire a poor or even less than desirable outcome.  So why are so many of the ministries of our churches missing the mark?  Why are ministries not effective in reaching desired outcomes?  Why are ministries still limping along that were once vibrant but are no longer?

The answer is quite simple!  There is a lack of an effective ministry evaluation process in the majority of churches.  Again, people have the best of intentions. but too often we engage in ministries because “we’ve always done it.” Or the church down the road is doing it.  Or the megachurch where all the young people go is doing it so we should do it, too.  Or because so and so thought it was a good idea. Or my cousin’s church in another state did it and it “worked” for them.

In our book, Mission Possible: A Simple Structure for Missional Effectiveness, co-author Blake Bradford, and I introduced the Accountable Leadership Cycle. In this cycle, there are five phases: Discern, Plan, Implement, Evaluate, and Reflect which are all first grounded in Mission and Vision.  By working through this cycle for each and every ongoing ministry at least once or twice a year and one-off ministries each time, ministry leaders find themselves engaging in much more purposeful, effective, targeted, and impactful ministries which in turn are encouraging and life-giving for those involved in the ministries.

Here are the valuable benefits of evaluating the effectiveness of ministries:

  • There is a clear alignment of how the ministry will help the church live into its mission and vision.
  • There is a clear understanding of what the ministry is trying to accomplish, the desired outcomes, who the ministry is trying to reach, and what an effective and measurable outcome would be.
  • The ministry is planned and implemented with all this criteria in mind for the best possible ministry impact.
  • The ministry is fully evaluated.  Did it reach the people intended?  Did the ministry accomplish what was desired?  Did the ministry have the desired outcomes?  Did the ministry reach the measurable impact?  
  • For the amount of resources invested, is this the best use of God’s assets for the outcome delivered? Should the ministry be repeated again?  Why or why not?  If so, what modifications would need to be made for greater impact and effectiveness?

Once a church begins to practice the Accountable Leadership Cycle, it will become second nature over time.  People will not want to engage in ministry unless they have a clear understanding of its connectedness to the mission and vision, the desired outcomes, who the ministry is for, impact measures, etc. Using this model circumvents volunteer burnout, ministry fatigue, and people sidelining themselves because they don’t want to waste their time on things that don’t have an impact.

If your church is considering the value of a fresh expectation on ministry effectiveness, check out the Accountable Leadership Cycle detailed in Mission Possible 3 or Mission Possible for Small Churches.  When put into practice, this tool can truly be a game-changer for churches!