A few years ago, I decided I wanted to get better at golf.

So I went to the driving range and spent $8 on a large bucket of balls.

I started with the pitching wedge and worked my way up to the driver. A great swing would be followed by a poor shot until I was out of ammo thirty minutes later. I repeated this same process a dozen times until I came to the realization that I wasn’t really getting any better.

Swinging a golf club more and more wasn’t going to help me get better.

I needed someone who knew what they were doing to evaluate my swing and give me practical ways to improve.

Here’s the principle…

Evaluation, not repetition, is the key to improvement.

You can do something over and over again and never get any better. But when you step back to take an honest look at something, you’ve got the opportunity to improve. If I truly want a better golf swing, I need someone to evaluate what I am doing wrong and make specific suggestions.

There are many pastors who want their church to get bigger (and that’s a good thing). But the key to getting bigger might be to step back and figure out how to to get better.

When you focus on getting better, your church just might get bigger.

To get better, you’ve got to step back and take an honest look at all you’re doing. In short, you’ve got to evaluate.

Here are five things you should evaluate on a regular basis.

#1 – Your Church Service

The is the most common event at most churches, but it’s the thing we rarely stop to evaluate.  

We spent so much time and energy on the special stuff, and forget that we’ve got a gathering every Sunday morning. This is probably your biggest opportunity to invite people to church, reach your community and preach the gospel. When people come to your church, they are probably coming to a church service. When people hear the Bible preached at your church,  it’s probably at a church service.

Your church is much more than a church service, but for most people (especially guests), they start with the church service. So it’s crazy to let it go week after week without stopping to take inventory of what’s working and what’s not working well.

A few times a year, ask a few different people to do an honest evaluation of your church service. You can print a few copies of the church service evaluation form in Church Fuel's resource library and make it easy for them.  

Ask a regular attendee, a new attendee, or even someone who doesn’t normally attend your church to fill out the form and provide honest feedback. Debrief with your team and make adjustments.

One last thought here: You’re probably not the best person to evaluate your own church service because you’re already committed to the church, accustomed to what normally happens, and generally a fan.

#2 – Staff Performance

Staff performance is another thing you should evaluate on a regular basis.

It’s great the people on your team love Jesus and love the church, but are they doing a good job? Are they effective in their areas of influence? Are they accomplishing the right goals?

For your church to accomplish the mission, you need good people but you also need them to do a good job.  

It can be weird to talk about job performance in church, but if you just put it on the calendar and make it a regularly scheduled conversation, you’ll take the edge off.

Church Fuel members can find a staff evaluation form in the resource library to go over with their staff. Use it once or twice a year and make it normal to talk about performance.

#3 – Regular Programs and Ministries

Just like your church service is the most frequent ministry opportunity you have, the regular programs and ministries in your church are far more important than your special events when it comes to helping people take next steps.

Your student ministry service on Wednesday night – is it effective at accomplishing its goal? Or is it just a gathering you’ve been doing because you think you need it?

The men’s ministry? Is it really helping men follow Jesus and lead their families or is it a church-sponsored validation of manly hobbies?

Is the women’s ministry furthering the stated mission of the church or is the pet project of a well-intentioned person in the church?

If your church has ten regular programs and ministries, you need to have a set time when you take a look at all of them to talk about if they are working.

This Ministry Evaluation form will help you get honest about effectiveness and create a space to have a conversation about what should change.

#4 – Sermons

Just like you don’t get better at golf by swinging the club more, you don’t get better at preaching by preaching more.  

You get more comfortable.

But you don’t get better.

More of the same thing actually leads to growing stale or getting stuck.

That’s why it’s really important to have fresh eyes evaluate your sermon on a regular basis.  

This can be really tough because asking someone to evaluate a preacher’s sermon is like asking someone to evaluate a mother’s child.

It’s personal.

But if you want to get better as a preacher (and I know you do because there’s so much on the line), invite people to give you helpful feedback.

A seasoned attender, a new face or even an unchurched friend might give you insight into something you’re not noticing and help you be a great steward of your time in the pulpit.

Twice a year, ask five people to use the sermon evaluation form in our Resource Library to provide helpful feedback.

#5 – Special Events

The fifth thing you should evaluate in your church are the special events. Things like…

  • Vacation Bible School
  • Summer Camp
  • The Men’s Retreat
  • Night of Worship
  • The Church Workday
  • Mission Trips

Too many special events might actually hurt your church. Tony Morgan thinks this might be the case.

That’s why you’ve got to take an honest look at each one and decide if they are truly effective.

  • An event might be well-attended and not help you accomplish your mission.
  • An event might be done with excellence and not move the needle.
  • An event might be someone’s “favorite thing” but that doesn’t mean it works.

The time to plan your evaluation meeting is BEFORE the event actually happens. Too many times, the church is on to the next event and never remembers to circle up and talk about effectiveness or improvements. So, put the evaluation and debrief meeting on the calendar during the planning process and act like the event isn’t done until the evaluation meeting is over.

When you decide to take an honest look at your events, programs, ministries, church services and team members, here are two important principles to keep in mind.

Principle #1: The key to effective evaluation is the word effective.

You’re not evaluating a program to see if you like it.

You’re not evaluating a ministry to see if it’s good.

Your goal in evaluation is to take an honest look at effectiveness

Is what you’re currently doing working? And if it’s not working, why not? And what are you going to do about it?

Principle #2: Before you evaluate for effectiveness, you have to define the outcome.

You can’t be honest about effectiveness if you haven’t decided what the outcome looks like.

Is the goal attendance? 

Are you trying to launch a second campus?

Are you trying to invite people to church?

Is your short-term mission getting people into groups? 

For evaluation to work, you have to have a clear and measurable goal. Not just a generic sounding mission like “love God and love people” but a specific, short-term objective.

Your mission may never change, but setting your sights on a 2-4 year goal is helpful for evaluating the wins.

You can’t accomplish the objective if you don’t define the win.

So What's Next?

Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not?

Ultimately, church growth is up to God. Are we being good stewards of what He's given us? Are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?

We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. So we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.

Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Breaking Barriers today.