Get to the Next Level Using This Evaluation Process

Evaluating your student ministry can be hard for most youth pastors or workers because it causes you to take an honest look at yourself and the ministry that you’re running.  Evaluations can be very intimidating; they are not necessarily a pleasant experience, but a necessary one if you hope to improve. Try this process…  

How It’s Done.

Proverbs 14:15 says “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.”

We need to evaluate what we are doing to see what we are doing right and point out what we need to change.  Honest evaluation does and should cause us to do a number of things:

1) Reaffirm our Purpose

We need to have a clear target or goal of where we want our youth ministry to be. This must be the beginning point for the evaluation of our youth ministries.

2) Take an Evaluation of the Ministry.

When looking at our ministry and specific programs we need to ask three questions: What are we doing right? (Our strengths) What are we doing wrong? (Our weaknesses) What can we do better? (Improvements)  There are also three important ‘rulers” that can be used when evaluating our ministries and specific aspects to it.

  1. Finances – This is probably the least reliable measure of ministry effectiveness, but knowing what you are able to work with can help. You need to look at each element of your ministry and see what the costs of it are.  This allows you to see the cost of a specific events or program.
  2. Attendance – While numbers should never be the #1 factor in evaluating a youth ministry, in youth ministry students vote with their feet. If they do not like a program they will not come to it.  However, this is only a slightly higher indicator than finances.  When you evaluate a youth ministry based on attendance you are generally measuring wants not needs.  In some churches the practice and priority may be to build programs and not necessarily disciples.  If you evaluate a program strictly on the basis of numbers, you may have a youth ministry that has a lot of people but not many disciples.
  3. Goal Achievement – What are your goals? It is important to establish goals that you have for the ministry and throughout the year sit down as a leadership team and go over the goals to see if you are meeting them.  We need to ask these questions:  What are we accomplishing in our youth ministry? Are we moving in the direction of our purpose?


It is also important to remember that the students in your youth ministry have different commitments to Christ.  Ask yourself: Which of the programs/events/activities minister to the students at their levels of commitment? Which students are at different levels of commitment?

There are different ways to evaluate a youth program.  There are lots of resources that are available to help in this area. There is one simple way to evaluate when trying to achieve the goals you have set out: define your goals, and then set specific objectives to help meet the goals.  These goals should follow the S.M.A.R.T. principle.

Specific: Goals should be distinct and specific, if they aren’t it may be hard to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve them. Ask yourself: What exactly do I want to achieve? The more specific your description of your goal, the bigger the chance you’ll be able to accomplish them.

Measurable: Define certain criteria for measuring progress toward the achievement of each goal that you set so that they can be measured and you are able to keep track of your progress. Determine well-defined standards for measuring progress toward the completion of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the pleasure of achieving your goals.

Attainable: Goals must achievable. The best goals require you to stretch a bit to achieve them but they are not impossible to achieve. When you identify the goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You begin to develop the attitudes, abilities, and talents to reach them. You can begin to see opportunities that you may have formerly overlooked that will bring yourself closer to achieving your goals.

Dateable: Goals must have a clearly defined time frame including a starting date and a target date. If you don’t have a time limit then there is no urgency to start taking action towards achieving your goals.   A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency, when you secure it within a timeframe you’ve set yourself in motion to begin working on the goal.

Timely: Every goal needs a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on and something for you and your team to work toward. Make sure to keep the timeline realistic and flexible.

The Bottom Line

Evaluation is not always (or seldom) easy. It can lead to frustration, especially when the answers are not always clear! But it is a valuable exercise. As we move forward in our ministries we need to ask the tough questions and hunt for the right answers that will lead to success and effectiveness.

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Matt is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has over 20 years of student ministry experience all over the country. He has 3 kids. His 2 girls are in their teen years so he has lots of opportunity to put his student ministry years to good use at home everyday. He's completing a Masters in Adolescent and Family Counseling.