Tyler V. asked, “What do you take into consideration when evaluating your youth ministry as a whole? Any resources you that you use or recommend? How often should a youth ministry evaluate itself?”

Glad you asked. typically I’d answer a series of questions in the order they are asked, but I don’t think that’s the best way to approach this.

You should take only one thing into consideration: what is important? Of course, the truth is important, and so is wisdom. Therefore you want to make sure your ministry is biblical (which we tend to sum up the bible with the five purposes, but you can slice up the bible how ever you want as long as it’s accurate.) and you want to make sure your ministry is reasonable.

Going further, evaluation is as simple as comparing what is REALLY happening to what you would LIKE to be happening, the real vs. the ideal. This assumes you have an ideal (or vision, or mission, or strategy or insert some other John-Maxwellian leadership jargon.).

If you don’t have a clear vision and goals, then start with that. One of the many reasons why ideas are so much better than reality is that you can’t make sense of reality without ideas. So get an idea of what your ministry ought to look like.

Further still, here are two ways I have evaluated in the past, for ease of communication, I’ll call these (1) Quarterly Planning, and (2) Quarterly Measuring. First the easy part: I broke the year into three quarters: summer, school start to Christmas, January to school end. I’m not good at remembering the names of the months, and I don’t want to call these time periods trimesters because that reminds me of pregnancy. So, I have three quarters in the year where I do quarterly planning. (when I led the team, I called them ministry seasons.)

Quarterly planning is focused on the present and the future and takes the following into consideration:

PEOPLE: you, staff, key volunteers, volunteers, key students, students, parents/families (you’ll notice I left moron students off the list, since they are morons, you know where they stand and don’t need to evaluate them). If you make a list of all these people, and consider them by name: it’s really easy to get a sense of how they are doing. Try it, think of three people in your ministry and ask, how are they doing? you’ll hear something, trust me.
PURPOSES: For our ministry, we describe biblical with the five purpose words. Without going into specifics, I’ll take some time to consider each purpose and how it’s being expressed in the ministry. This part is really subjective because it’s really general, that’s ok. A few ideas may come to mind.
PROGRAMS: Write down each program, and grade it. You can grade it by what I already mentioned: is it doing what it’s supposed to be doing. In our context, we would say this: is it fulfilling the specific purpose and reaching the specific target that it was designed for?
PRIORITIES: Now some planning begins to happen, and I would consider, based on what happened the last quarter (ministry season or trimester), what are the goals or new priorities that need to be set. Priorities are situational and seasonal, but they should influence nearly everything that’s happening. Everyone in leadership should be aware of the priorities of the season.
PROJECTS: projects are a complex collection of tasks that aren’t routine or repetitive. That is the worlds most useless yet interesting definition. No one needs to be told what a project is, but it’s kind of fun to have a definition. Anyhow, at the turning of one quarter (season or trimester) into another, identify the projects that strengthen your people, balance the purposes, enhance your programs and achieve your priorities.

FYI 20-something youth worker: it’s ok to plan some things. It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor be hasty and miss the way. Don’t give me this garbage that it’s not your personality. Stop being so weak and start caring enough about the ministry entrusted to you by God.

[Tyler, that’s not to you…but to the guy who doesn’t have an intentional bone in his body]

I typically put all of this in a single sheet of paper, and look at it every two weeks…now, I can’t put every student’s name on there…but I can put the volunteer leaders and the student leaders. Looking at everyone’s name every two weeks is a good reminder to pray for them.

For Quarterly Measuring, I do two things: objective and subjective. The objective is simply numbers… attendance, visitors, spiritual commitments, small groups, leaders, etc. These aren’t really helpful by themselves, you need a history…

Subjective evaluation is where I look at the attitude, performance, and fit of each staff person/key volunteer. Attitude measures their servanthood and humility and joy. Performance is their ministry skills and effectiveness. Fit is the chemistry with the rest of the team. Let me tell you, then someone’s not a FIT, it is a total and complete drag.

hope this helps.