Take a look at teams and how they improve. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a sports team or a group assignment at your workplace. What you will see is coaches or team leaders drawing their members together to review their past efforts and make plans to adjust in the next cycle, whether it’s the next game or the next day or the next year.
Youth ministry should be no different. That’s why we recommend an annual assessment of every aspect of your regular youth meetings. Experience has taught us that there’s no better time to do your review than the close of your current ministry year, which for many churches comes at the close of a school term as summer approaches. Call it a “Year-End Review” or “Annual Ministry Assessment.” Here are five steps you can take to position your ministry toward excellence in the year ahead:
Youth leaders, assemble!
Assemble your entire ministry team for a few hours of brainstorming. Give plenty of notice for this meeting and do what you can to clear the path for those who need help with babysitters and rushed schedules. Consider providing a meal so your leaders can come straight from work and make the meeting.
Check your ego at the door
Announce up front that your goal is to dissect every element of your weekly meetings, and that no critique or criticism will be taken personally. Regardless of who “owns” a particular segment of your meetings, everyone must check their egos and pride at the door.
Be honest in evaluating your ministry
Ask your leaders to use a simple rating scale (1-5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent) to determine the overall impact of each segment of your weekly meetings in the past year. A sample of areas that you may want to consider include:
- The atmosphere presented in the meeting space (is it inviting, warm, or friendly?).
- The preliminary elements, like announcements, the icebreaker, and the music.
- Teaching time. Since this is when Bible truths are unveiled, hone in on this and seek honest and transparent dialogue. If you’re the primary teacher, this might be awkward. But try to draw out real perceptions from your leadership team.
- Small Group effectiveness.
- Leader commitment.
Work on your weaknesses
Determine the weakest links in your ministry based on the tally of all ratings and identify which ones are most important to the success of your ministry. Look for the items that impact student growth and maturity, including gospel advancement.
Develop a plan to improve
Spend the balance of your time brainstorming ways to improve on the items you identified in step 4. Again, try to draw out ways to elevate the effectiveness and impact of key areas and try not to major on the elements that are of lesser importance. Encourage every leader to contribute ideas. Try to drill down beyond the easy answers to get the best plan possible for improvement in the year ahead.
Obviously, your team should be praying throughout this meeting for wisdom and discernment. In the end, you should come out with a plan for improvement that is based on your team’s best ideas, and you can start the next year working toward even better ministry. Use this plan in your leader meetings as you progress into next year as a guide to keep you on the path to better and more effective ministry.
If you work in a Word of Life student or children’s ministry, you may find our template for the annual review by clicking the link below.
David Livingston has served youth and leaders in the local church for more than 25 years as a volunteer and full-time missionary. His life purpose is to teach and coach others in their journey together as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. He and his wife of 41 years, Earlene, enjoy camping and hiking and being with their nine grandkids. They live in Oak Ridge, Tenn.