Sometimes I wish I was graded for my job as youth minister. I don’t say that because I think I am really good at this ministry, but because I long for some clear cut, black and white indication of how well or poorly the ministry God has entrusted to me is going. Many days I feel like I just have no idea how well I’m doing.
My desire for a “grade” is really dangerous for a number of reasons.
- It is easy to let a single experience or phone call set my grade. If we have a lame Life Night or low numbers, the whole drive home I am bummed and think that Life Teen is in the tank. Or if I get that parent email or call telling me that because of Life Teen their kid has quit drugs, loves church, prays at home, can’t wait until the spring retreat, etc, and then I feel pretty good, like Life Teen at Holy Name is doing good ministry. But these are just anecdotal and often aren’t necessarily good ways to evaluate.
- I think it is really easy to get too excited or too depressed about numbers. Numbers are easy to understand and are quantifiable. Like an A-F system we feel the higher the number, the higher the grade. However, just because 650 young people pack a Life Night, doesn’t necessarily mean the program is bringing teens closer to Christ. And just because only 9 kids show up doesn’t mean someone doesn’t have a profound conversion. Jesus asked Peter and the church to feed his sheep, not count them. Obviously having teens come to Life Night is a good thing, but I still hold to the fact that numbers aren’t always the best and should never be the only evaluation tool.
- I think it is easy for youth ministers and all lay ministers to take our work very personally. This is good because we are personally invested, and after all, this is a calling. At the same time it is dangerous and easy to view our job as the only way in which we follow Christ, and so, we judge our discipleship on how well or poorly we are ministering. Further, I think a good number of youth ministers see the success or failures of their programs as judgments on how well they are liked at a parish.
In reflecting on all these dangers and my continued desire to judge how I am doing, I think it is important to figure out some healthy ways to evaluate youth ministry. First of all, I try not to do it alone. Whether it is involving my Core team in the process, or a group of parents, or my pastor and other staff members, or the lay leadership at my parish, getting others involved in the process is important. Secondly, I always have to remember what is being evaluated. Often all we are evaluating is how popular our programs are! That’s crazy. Here is my quick and easy method for evaluation:
- Set Goals and Objectives. Goals are the “what” we want to have happen. (Bring teens closer to Christ.) Objectives are the “how” we are going to make the “what” happen. (Teens will be able to name three behaviors of discipleship). Objectives are always measurable.
- Plan according to the Objectives. When we plan we often try to think, “What would be coolest.” But we should plan according to what we want to accomplish. I know this sounds obvious, but often we fail to do this.
- Evaluate whether or not the objectives were accomplished. Evaluating if teens “liked” an event doesn’t tell us anything about what we really want to know, “Did it bring them closer to Christ?”
Finally, we as youth ministers must remain in constant prayer and grow in faith and understanding outside of our ministerial role. Daily prayer, regular confession, Christian fellowship outside of our ministry, and a serious devotion to our primary vocation are important to our personal discipleship. Without this, we will be unable to really follow Christ in our role as youth minister. Like a lot of things we do, getting a grade for youth ministry is complicated. However, evaluation is vitally important if we are going to continue to improve in answering Jesus call to us to feed his sheep.
Thanks for reading. Keep it real. God Bless.