Blog/CYM Blog Keep What’s Good…Throw Away The Rest by Amanda Koppes I love to be in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake, and constantly dream up new delicious treats and creative dishes to “test” on my family. Thankfully, they usually turn out pretty good (and at worst, edible) but I never seem to be satisfied. My wonderful husband is always quick to praise my creations. He tells me that the meal is “delicious” or “yummy, and I know he means it. However, in my head, I am always dissecting the meal – sometimes to the point that I no longer enjoy the fruits of my labor. So it makes sense that I would constantly evaluate my ministry – for better or worse. See, evaluation is good, important even. However, constant critique can be self-destructive, depressing, and even lead to burnout. So how do you take an honest look at your ministry, fix what needs fixing, and still celebrate the good? I think it starts with remembering that there is good to celebrate! Evaluating does not mean tearing apart I’m blessed with a wonderful, energetic, talkative, and honest Core Team. We briefly evaluate the Life Night after we finish cleaning up each Sunday. However, it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, these weekly gatherings would spiral into a pity party about numbers being down, or a step-by-step critique of the Proclaim, or pinpointing every little thing that had not gone perfectly. On our worst night, we had a gossip session about the teens (not our finest hour). And as you can imagine, we didn’t exactly leave the room feeling energized or encouraged in our ministry. Often, we left feeling like we had just gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. Not exactly a recipe for success. So what has changed to make what once was an emotional slugfest transform into a life-giving and vital piece of what we do every week? Perspective At some point, we realized that we were operating from a skewed perspective. We were mistaking “evaluating our work” for “dissecting our work”. We lost sight of what we were there for – to celebrate the teens we are blessed to serve, figure out how to love them better, and lead them to Christ. Instead of starting the weekly meeting with a “complaint session”, we started the meeting sharing our victories of the night. We remembered that there IS good to celebrate. We still spent time discussing “areas for improvement” because there is ALWAYS room for improvement. But, in the end, this small perspective shift changed everything. Now we have praise parties, not pity parties! Don’t lose sight of the big picture As an obsessive evaluator, I run and rerun things in my mind to improve and reach more teens with the love of Jesus. The danger in this is that I can forget there are other people out there with (gasp!) thoughts, ideas, perspective, and even helpful hints and tips! WHAT??? Sometimes, I lose sight of the fact that I am not an island unto myself; that I am part of a team. Give your Core Team a chance annually to evaluate the strengths and weakness of the ministry and you as a youth minister (yep – you have room for improvement too!). It’s an essential tool to maintain a healthy ministry program. I am an extreme extrovert, so my preferred method is to take Core Members out for coffee or lunch. I ask them how they are, what they do and do not enjoy about the ministry, and if they feel called to continue serving the youth. We discuss what they see as strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth or new programming followed by a time of prayer together. Life Teen also has some great resources that they have developed to help you collect feedback from your Core Team and about your parish as a whole. Share this Life Teen Core Evaluation with your Core Members as a starting point for annual evaluation. From Feedback to Steps Forward Now comes the hard part – evaluating the evaluations and making real changes. Time to get to work – because all the great, heartfelt and honest feedback in the world means nothing if it doesn’t create positive changes. Making changes does not mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It means looking at everything you have learned and taking it to the only One who can make the path clear. It means prayerfully considering where you are being called to lead the ministry, and asking for courage to lead it there. Small changes can make a big difference to the teens. But don’t forget to look deeper. A small change may be letting go of your favorite, but under-attended programs, or adding a Bible Study or Worship night to reach a different segment of teens in your parish. Harder yet, it may mean asking a well-meaning but unreliable or misguided Core Member to take a step back from the ministry. And it should always help you to stop and take time to discern whether God is calling you to continue the ministry or if He is calling you somewhere new. Evaluation is not easy, but then neither is discipleship. While we may want to shove bamboo under our fingernails more than we want to risk finding out what people think, it is a vital part of building a strong, Christ-lead youth ministry program at your parish. So stop avoiding tasting the meal and grab your salt – it’s time to season your dish to perfection! So stop avoiding tasting the meal and grab your salt – it’s time to season your dish to perfection!