In addition to requiring student leaders to read and blog, another way I train and equip students for leadership and in particular, for creating a culture of welcome is by conducting frequent evaluations of each week’s youth ministry programs.
Frequent evaluations give student leaders the opportunity to slow down and reflect. Doing so teaches teens to notice God. Evaluations also keep teens from becoming complacent in their roles. They challenge teens to think about how they can be better servants and leaders, something that, in turn, fuels growth. What’s more, frequent evaluations keep teens humble. They help teens to approach their roles as student leaders with a posture of learning that says “How can we do this better?” rather than settle for that’s “good enough” or the way we’ve always done it. In that way, evaluations actually invite teens to dream and to try new things – even if they fail.
Despite the benefit of frequent evaluations, evaluations can definitely be tricky. You want people to authentically express their feelings and give honest feedback. At the same time, you don’t want anyone to leave feeling beat up, or like the thing they poured their heart and soul into didn’t matter.
To that end, it’s important to establish a culture ripe for evaluations from day one. To do this, create and reiterate a few ground rules each time you evaluate. My team’s ground rules include:
Share honestly and openly.
Respect those in the room as well as though outside the room who worked hard on this event or gathering.
Remember, evaluations are not just about what YOU did and didn’t like. As we evaluate, keep in mind that you represent everyone else in our youth ministry as well.
There’s a difference between complaining and giving healthy feedback. Make sure what you say is for the good of the group.
In addition to reiterating and holding your team accountable to your ground rules, ask good questions that set a healthy tone for evaluations. For example, here are the three questions I use to evaluate every single gathering we have (including both our regular Sunday and Wednesday gatherings as well as special events):
What did we do well as a leadership team?
What are some concrete things we need to improve upon as a leadership team?
Where did you see and encounter God through this event?
Notice I don’t ask student leaders what they liked or disliked about an event. Instead, my focus is on what they – as a team – did well and need to improve upon. This helps keep the conversation from getting super negative about any one person or thing. It also keeps it from becoming a weekly evaluation of your teaching. Instead, such questions allow the team to hold one another accountable – in particular for it’s role in establishing a culture of welcome. Asking teens to name concrete things they can do as leadership team to improve upon your gatherings also gives them a true sense of ownership of your ministry. It reminds them that your success and failures are both dependent on them.
One final way of creating a culture ripe for evaluations is to evaluate every time you gather together. Doing so allows evaluations to happen when an event or gathering is still fresh. As a result, you can constantly fix and improve things throughout the year. In fact, by asking the same evaluation questions each time you meet, you’ll teach student leaders to pay more careful attention at your gatherings. Sometimes, this will enable them to notice and fix things on the spot, before they become a problem, rather than waiting until after you evaluate and identify them as such.
Far from being a drain on teens, frequent evaluations are an important way to equip, inspire, and challenge teens to more effectively live out their role as student leaders.
Other posts in this series: