[Tweet “Assessment should be more Fitbit than report card”]
There was a moment of silence as these words hovered over a room full of youth ministry leaders and experts. Thinking about assessment isn’t always easy, but it is necessary. Knowing that nearly 60% of young people who grow up in Christian churches walk away from their faith, leaders need effective metrics to evaluate the spiritual health of their ministry.
We began building a list of best practices, tools, and processes to help leaders move away from speculative measurements or annual reporting of numbers. While this is important data for things like budgeting, we’re aiming to help leaders define and measure spiritual health and growth indicators for their distinct tribes. There is no one size fits all, but any assessment tool used should be:
- Easy to use
Since this is a generation of digital natives, they have grown up giving instant feedback–it’s like breathing to them. Their natural proclivities to self-select, snap, post, share, and like gives us instantaneous feedback so we can hone our messages quicker and better.
2. Real time
We live in a technology-rich age with a catalogue of third party digital tools that can help alleviate speculation and leverage real time data and tracking. Using a digital tool–which can be anything from Twitter to Group Chat to a church app or a shared YouVersion reading plan–you can easily discover what students learned, their personal takeaway, ask/answer a question, start a conversation, and find out what they want to learn more about.
Building micro assessments into your programming allows you to constantly tweak, update, and upgrade how you deliver, and most importantly how your audience is (or isn’t) engaging with your content. Regularly examining these “snapshots” will provide you with informed analysis about their level of engagement and movement toward growth.
4. Provide immediate actionable insight
As you gauge whether or not what you’re doing is actually working, measurements will shift from weekend attendance numbers to how many are serving in other areas of the church or going on a missions trip. While the metric will be as different and unique as your ministry, as long as there IS something being measured, you’ll know whether your outputs are supporting your outcomes.
5. Integrated with life
Every church will have a different idea of what spiritual health looks like in their congregation. However, as faith grows, the manifestation of it should touch every area of life with milestone markers along the way. Some churches may focus on volunteerism and service outside of weekly attendance as a spiritual growth and health indicator while others will be more missions-centric with a desire to see students go on a missions trip.
Moving beyond memorization and regurgitation to providing actual training ground to participate and live out what they are learning as students grow and mature. How you measure these will be unique to you, but generally youth leaders should strive to move students through the core components of:
- Biblical knowledge
- Biblical competency
- Biblical influence
- Biblical faith formation
“Doing ministry without an assessment is like raising a child without a plan. You just feed it and hope it grows. Without an assessment, there is no true way to pinpoint the problems, cultivate areas that need development, or be intentional with discipleship. Assessment takes the guesswork out of ministry so that you can know exactly where and how to develop your ministry in the best way possible.”
– Terry Parkman NextGen Pastor River Valley Church
The main goal of assessment is to provide real-time, actionable insight for leaders to make sharper decisions about the efficacy of their ministry. That can’t be done once or twice a year…not at the rate our world is changing. Integrating micro assessments gives you snapshots at any given time about the state of your ministry and documents the faith journey of the students in your sphere of care.