This past Christmas our church again served its annual Christmas Dinner, primarily for those who regularly access the local Food Bank. Some aspects of the dinner had to be adjusted in response to current Covid restrictions, and we were able to serve a drive-through take-home dinner. At the following leadership meeting we evaluated the event. It was a great experience as the Elders were not often doing evaluation, and they recognized the benefits. We recorded details that we wanted to make sure next year’s team would benefit from. We realized we needed to prepare more food. We discussed including some evangelism materials in their take-home bag. As we reflected on the event and went through our evaluation form, we identified what needed to improve and came up with some solutions.
Evaluation scares many of us. We are afraid that someone will say something bad about us or what we have worked on. No one likes hearing something negative about themselves, but what if we could realize the benefits and actually look forward to evaluation?
Throughout my experience both leading evaluations and being evaluated, I’ve identified five benefits of the practice of evaluation.
1. Evaluation helps you see what you did well.
Celebrate what went well, what worked, and what accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish. Evaluation should always find a way to point out what went well. Sometimes we need others to help us see the good others see. We are often our worst critics. We often measure ourselves against unreal expectations and can benefit from others showing us that we did well.
2. Evaluation helps you see what you did not do well.
Sometimes we need others to make us aware of what did not go as well as we thought. They may see areas of our life or our endeavors that need improving. So listen to the hard words. The perception of evaluators may be more accurate than our prideful self-evaluation. Evaluation can help remove “blinders” we have to what is truly going on.
Evaluation can point out, or even just remind us, of the areas that need work. And who doesn’t want to get better? You can only get better if you remove or improve that which was standing in the way.
3. Evaluation gives you a picture of true reality.
This is the “you are here” point of evaluation. I was on holidays recently in a city that I did not know. At one point, my wife and I were looking for the local museum because we wanted to see the Lego display they advertised. We were not far away so we decided to walk. We had the address, so we headed in the direction we thought we were supposed to go. After walking further than we thought was right, we checked the address again, and then tried our Google Maps. Again, we walked for awhile and realized we were not finding our way. It was only when we realized we had not started at the point we thought we were at and we were heading in the wrong direction that we finally found our way to the advertised Lego display.
Evaluation can help you figure out where you are at, and then in what direction to go. This can apply to us personally, as we realize we are not coming across as we thought we were. This can help as we evaluate a program we are running and realize we are not accomplishing our stated purpose. We need to know where we are at before we can figure out what direction to go to get to where we want.
4. Evaluation opens up new ideas.
After identifying where you are and where you want to go, evaluation can open up ideas of how to get there. Evaluation should not be just a process of highlighting everything that is wrong, but become a bridge to new ideas. Evaluators may have suggestions on how to change a negative to a positive, or a not so good aspect to a great one. Learn from the evaluation and then build on it with new and better ideas.
5. Evaluation helps you improve.
Evaluation moves you from where you are to where you want to go, at least it can if you are willing to learn from the experience. All of us want to be our best. Our best can only be achieved through ongoing evaluation that helps us know what needs improving. We can then focus on the areas that need work, while maintaining what already worked well.
As a pastor, I have benefited from evaluation of my sermons. I have realized that at times I was not connecting with the audience like I thought. My sermons improved as I included more stories and illustrations to get my points across clearly.
I have benefited from evaluation of programs and ministries we have run. We all make assumptions about how things work. Evaluation has shown me times where my assumptions kept me from seeing how areas of a program or ministry were experienced by those involved.
Evaluation is something many of us rarely do. We may criticize something, or complain about what went wrong. We may offer some critiques. But we rarely take time for evaluation. Think about ways to include this in your work and personal life, and make it important by adding it to your calendar and following through. You will be better for it.
Keep looking up