The following post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry
I’m a big believer in evaluation. I’m also a believer in having a clear framework for evaluation. One of the most pointless meetings you could have is an evaluation meeting where there’s no framework or path to follow. You’ve probably been in these meetings before. There are a lot of statements like “that went well” and “we need to do that better next time.” You might adjust some plans or schedules but nothing of consequence is learned or acted upon. I know these meetings are pointless because, unfortunately, I’ve been a part of leading some of them.
I think I’m such a big fan of evaluation now because of those misleadings in the past. Through leadership that God has placed in my life over the years I’ve come to understand more about the evaluation process, how important it is, and how even more important it is that you have a framework to evaluate by.
That’s why I’m writing this article. I’m often asked how someone evaluates their own student ministry. A seemingly simple question can turn complex quickly because of the differing church contexts and ministry values that exist. So, I’ve tried to narrow it down to three areas of evaluation for our purposes here placed in the form of questions:
- Is my student ministry expanding God’s Kingdom? – Healthy student ministries will preach the gospel, give students a chance to respond, and will train students how to share the Gospel themselves. There are some in today’s culture who are becoming afraid of giving an “invitation” or opportunity for students to respond to the Gospel. The complaint here often points to manipulation or how you can tell if it is a real decision or not. To me, these are only concerns if you are unwilling or incapable of creating a follow-up and discipleship process. If you are someone who truly values discipleship then you will be someone who values giving students a chance to respond to the Gospel in a healthy manner.
- Is my student ministry seeing students transformed by the Gospel? – Healthy student ministries will see the lives of students transformed, not just their character formed. While this sounds like a behavioral question and the evidence of it often comes through the progressive sanctification that your students exhibit, at its heart it isn’t about behavior. It’s about the way you approach leading students to live the Christian life. We can’t continue to give students a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” and call it discipleship. It isn’t. More than a list, students need to know Jesus and His word. When they know that, it will begin to transform their lives in a way that guilt tripping them to “live right” would never accomplish.
- Do my students believe they can change their culture? If you are a leader of any kind in student ministry, then you believe that students can shape their culture. You believe this because you believe Jesus can do amazing things with people. So, do your students believe it? Have you told them that because Jesus lives in them that they can accomplish big things for Him? Healthy student ministries create an environment where students believe, and act upon the idea that they can change their culture for God’s glory.
True leaders crave evaluation, and not because it makes them feel awesome all the time. Real, honest evaluation will always reveal errors and show room for improvement. Leaders crave evaluation because it makes them better. Hopefully this short framework will help you as you seek to be a better leader for God’s glory.