“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to never stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein
In the last few weeks I’ve shared some thoughts on evaluation – I genuinely value evaluation. It helps us know what we need to work on, where we can improve, and what we are doing well. If we don’t evaluate – how can we know what’s going on? But evaluation on it’s own is fairly useless – it’s the implementation of the changes made through evaluation that brings the real benefit.
Last week we implemented a new roster system to help us track visitors better and follow-up with regular attendees who miss consecutive weeks. It seemed like a good system, until I had a small group leader come talk to me about it. The new rosters took a larger portion of their time on class to complete, thereby shortening the amount of time they had in the lesson.
Let me be 100% transparent – I have never run a large group/small group format. I inherited the one we currently have functioning. When I first got to Bethel I asked a team of Children’s Ministry workers what needed to change and what needed to stay. There were a lot of things on both lists, but one of the things that they said needed to stay was Small groups. So with me being new and small groups functioning well, I did not make any changes to the small group. We have a great group of teachers leading the groups and they were functioning well – so I didn’t give them a whole lot of thought. It was a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it moment.” Now we have made some changes in curriculum and format, but overall they have remained unchanged in the last year. So the small group leader coming to me about the roster system was helpful – I hadn’t anticipated the problem and it got me to thinking: Why do we have small groups? and How do we fix the problem?
The first question was a paradigm shift for me – a paradigm is a model, theory, assumption, or frame of reference for how we see things. Not having had a small group system, outside of midweek and Sunday School, my paradigm for ministry was Large Group. I saw everything through the lens of how large group went – I kept small groups, but made subtle changes that did affect small groups. Since I’ve been at Bethel we have lengthened large group by ten minutes…not a huge change, but for small group it was a huge problem – especially when I added the new rosters.
So back to the question – why do we do small groups? Here’s what I came up with: We do small groups because it takes the lesson from large group to a deeper level. It also allows the small group leaders to build relationship with kids that cannot be developed in large group. In essence the small group leaders and assistants are pastoring their kids in a way I can’t. EUREKA!!! The ‘Why?’ was hugely important – it shifted my paradigm. My lens for small groups was expanded – because of evaluation.
Question two was “How do we fix the problem?” Well, we could either drop the roster system or we could find another way to compensate for the time. So that’s what we did – we took ten minutes off of the large group time. That’s what shifting a paradigm does – it lets us get our focus right. I needed to get out of my “Large group” paradigm and into a shared model. I’ve got that now…and it was a great Sunday this last week. We did what we needed to do in large group and the report I got back from small groups was that they had the time they needed. Evaluation and Implementation were key in making that happen…
So, what can you evaluate in what you are doing that will move you forward? What’s your eureka!?
“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”. -Thomas A. Edison