Have you heard of rapid iteration, Pastor?
It’s what business guys call making adjustments in their business quickly to keep up with the pace of change. They try something, see how it works, tweak, and try again. It’s continuous improvement.
It’s not a concept that most of us with flocks to care for and sermons to write buy into. Business moves at the speed of business. And church, well, moves at the speed of church.
But it might be worth your thinking about.
What if it was easy to evaluate your church and make small improvements based on your simple evaluation?
It is. It’s quick, easy, and helpful. It’s a simple church evaluation.
A simple evaluation is easy to do.
A quick and easy evaluation is a list of questions about the important areas of church life. The questions are designed to benchmark key indicators, measure results, highlight strengths, and shine a light on weaknesses.
You should be able to work through the questions with a little help from staff or key leaders.
It’s an informal process, designed to be that way so no one gets worried. Threatened. Or defensive.
It’s not the comprehensive process a church goes through with a consultant. There are situations when a thorough consultation is exactly what the church needs. When a church is in crisis. When it’s on the downside of aging.
But the rapid iteration mindset allows you to evaluate and improve without calling in the big guns, and getting everyone’s panties in a wad. It’s a more authentic, repeatable experience.
Church evaluation can be dangerous.
I’ve seen church evaluation backfire.
1. If it’s too complex.
It may be hard to make sense of what the assessment says. So much data. So many areas to improve. How do you know what will give you the biggest result for your effort? It’s not easy to discern what is most important. Feels hard.
In one evaluation we did, we got mired in understanding the demographics of our community and our church, and we never really got traction on improving things.
2. If it dredges up negativity.
You start asking everyone what’s wrong with your church, and people are going to run with that.
Before you know it, you’re seeing people leave. You’re having difficult conversations, with questions you can’t quickly resolve. Instead of working on improvement.
3. If it’s just depressing.
We already know that our church could get better in just about everything. Thank you for that long list of ways we suck.
It’s no wonder pastors wait as long as possible before they hire a consultant.
Who needs a list of everything wrong with your church?
You could sit down and make a long list of everything you’d like to see improved at your church, right, Pastor? You may have a few blind spots, but your wife could point those out.
Spending time and money to get others to write that list for you sometimes has more downside than upside.
Here’s an easier way.
A simple evaluation asks key questions.
The questions I propose will take a couple of hours to answer. And they will give you perspective on the progress and roadblocks in your church.
The questions break into key areas:
- Count the number of guests, decisions for Christ, baptisms, giving, volunteers, leaders, discipled, small groups, and weekend attendance.
- Ask qualitative questions about your weekend services, small groups, other ongoing programs, and your annual events.
- Ask questions to measure kingdom impact about salvations, baptisms, evangelism, community transformation and church planting.
- Ask questions about what is going well, meeting your goals, where you need help, and where you can help others.
- Ask questions of your board and your staff.
You can get the lists of questions in Evaluating your Church to Make it Better or in the posts found here: I Need Help to Evaluate my Church.
Choose one simple thing you want to improve.
How do you know from the evaluation what is most important or most valuable? Here’s three ways.
1. Pray about it.
Of course. We know that God loves to give wisdom. When we seek it.
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
James tells us what to do when we don’t know what to do:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6
You may know exactly what to do with the results of your simple evaluation after you’ve prayed about it. But here are a few more thoughts.
2. Use a Decision Making Grid to tell where you’ll get the most awesome for your effort.
Put each idea you listed in your Simple Evaluation into one of these four boxes.
- Easy to Do/Big Impact
- Easy to Do/Little Impact
- Hard to Do/Big Impact
- Hard to Do/Little Impact
Cross out everything in the Hard to Do/Little Impact box. It’s not worth the trouble. Put off Easy to Do/Little Impact until later. Maybe forever.
Now prioritize the Big Impact improvements. The Easy to Do tasks can be completed one every three weeks. The Hard to Do improvements are more involved and usually take several months to implement.
One little improvement every three weeks. One big improvement every three months.
But still, which ones first? How do you know what to start with?
3. Where are your resources?
Are there staff or volunteers who talk with you about an idea every time you see them? Could others take the lead in making it happen? Then, start there.
Is there money for this project already in the budget? Then do it.
What’s exciting to you? Do that. Your excitement about the improvement will inspire others’ excitement which ignites momentum.
Continual improvements bring growth.
What business knows, maybe better than church, is that life means movement. Forward.
I know. We’re all busy. Challenged. Have plenty on our plates already. But when you don’t have the energy or the ideas to make progress in your church, you’re allowing complacency. Leading to stagnation. Eventually you’re out of business.
When big ideas, and major overhauls seem too much to handle, lay down your malaise, and pick up rapid iteration. Just try something small to make your church a little bit better.
What can one small improvement lead to? A better service, better follow up, a better experience for a visitor, or a better serving role for a member. Something is better. And better is better, isn’t it?
What if the one small improvement doesn’t work? No worries. Ask the people affected by it if they have an idea how to make it better. Then, try that.
We’ve discovered that it’s easier for people to buy in to improvements if we’re always just trying it. Rick Warren says, “Don’t make changes, do experiments.” “Just experimenting” takes away people’s fear that the improvement won’t be an improvement for them. Because, if it doesn’t work, we can go back to the old way.
What if the one small improvement does actually make one small improvement in your church? Do a little happy dance, and start working on your next small improvement.
Simple evaluation. Rapid iteration. Small improvements. It’s a putt on the golf course. A lob on the tennis court. A sweet swish on the basketball court. Nothing big or noisy. Just getting the ball where it needs to be.
Take it to the Next Level with the Church Evaluation Master Class
You may wonder if it’s really necessary to evaluate your church.
Trust me, everyone else is evaluating your church every weekend. Do you want to see what they’re thinking so you can fix it?
This church evaluation master class will teach you a system to measure and assess your church.
So you’ll know how to lead your church to evaluate and grow.
Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. He mentors pastors who want to lead healthy, growing churches with resources at www.pastormentor.com.
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.
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