Are you in the middle of the fall crazy season? Are you starting to ask yourself why you scheduled all these programs, educational offerings, services, and meetings? Don’t ignore that nagging feeling! It’s actually a good question to ask. I’d like to recommend that you schedule one hour in the coming week to do a quick not-quite-start-of-the-program-year-but-far-enough-into-it-to-have-a-good-sense-of-how-things-are-going review.
And by schedule one hour, I do mean schedule one hour. Put it on your calendar. You are busy then. You have an appointment. You are not available. You are spending an hour to do some vital ministry work, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
I’m assuming you’re the only person at this meeting, but of course if you want to include other key people, you’re welcome to do so. However, it’s also legitimate to take an hour to sit by yourself and think things through, which may give you some direction for a future meeting with a larger group. Too often I think we favor group meetings because they feel productive when sometimes what we need to be productive is to sit and think.
So what’s on your agenda for this hour long meeting with yourself? Here’s what I suggest:
Where to meet: Find a room that’s quiet and will allow you to concentrate. If you get distracted in your office, leave your office. Schedule another room if you need to.
What to bring: A notepad and something to write with. A copy of your fall or year-long schedule. A roster of your youth group and/or church directory. A hard-copy calendar. Leave your cell phone behind. Just as it would be rude to check your messages during any meeting, it is rude to check your messages during this one.
The following is a possible outline for the meeting itself, but feel free to adjust this as you see fit. If you have other suggestions, please add them in the comments. I’d love to hear them.
The Not-Quite-Start-Of-The-Program-Year-But-Far-Enough-Into-It-To-Have-A-Good-Sense-Of-How-Things-Are-Going Review
Check in: Take a couple of minutes to ask yourself how you are feeling, what’s going on with you. Jot down any significant words or images that come to mind.
Opening prayer: Using what you learned during the check-in, say a prayer for yourself and for the work you’re about to do.
Program review: Take a look at the activities calendar and review how things have been going so far. I would recommend taking the following steps:
Just the facts: **Without judgment**, review what happened with each of the events that has already occurred. How many people were required to put on this event? (Be sure to include administrative and janitorial support as well as volunteers.) How many people attended? How much staff and volunteer time did this require, both in the planning and in the execution? How was the event publicized? How much did the event cost? Did you receive any evaluation, whether formal or informal, on the event? And if so, what was it? Don’t belabor any of this. Quickly jot down that information either on your calendar or on a separate sheet of paper.
Look for patterns: Has attendance gone up, gone down, held steady? Have you publicized in the same way for each event, or differently? Is there any correlation with attendance (note that this is not causation!)? Are certain times or days of the week more popular than others? Are events taking more or less time as time goes on? What was the cost per person to put on each event? Which events were most cost-effective? Again, just take a couple of minutes and see if anything pops out at you.
Subjective reaction: Only after this, spend a couple of minutes again going through the list and giving your take on what happened. What do you remember from each event? What was the best thing? The worst? What did you like? What bugged you? Write notes to yourself about this to help keep these straight in your mind.
Lessons learned: Only after all of this, spend some time drawing some conclusions. What did you learn from doing these events? Would you offer these programs again? If you would, what would you do differently? How can it be better? How can you make them run more smoothly, or take less time or effort? Who would you like to include that wasn’t there this time? What can be applied elsewhere? What else did you learn? Again, take notes. You will want to keep track of these so you can use what you learned in the next step.
Program planning: Taking what you’ve just learned in your program review, take a look at your upcoming events and see if there’s any lessons learned that you can start to apply. How might you publicize them differently? Who do you want to include? How can they be run more smoothly? How can they be more cost effective or take less staff or volunteer time? What do you need for that to happen? And when do they need to happen? Jot some notes on your paper or on the calendar – or both. If one of your lessons learned is that a program is not effective and that program is coming up, remember that deciding not to continue to do it is a legitimate option. If something is not effective, there’s no good reason to do it. It’s just a waste of time and resources. If your list is intimidatingly long, go through your list and mark your top 5 changes you’d like to make. Then prioritize your top 5. Bear in mind that even changing one or two things to make a better program will make a better program. You don’t have to do everything at once. What is the one most important/best thing you can do right now? Figure out what that is and how you can do it. Then move on to the next item.
People review and pastoral concerns: Go through your youth roster or parish directory and note what comes up with each name. Has anyone been unexpectedly absent? Are there any family issues or concerns you’ve heard about through the grapevine? Is there anyone you think would particularly like something that’s coming up? Who needs a little extra attention or care? Who could use some thanks or appreciation for their work or participation? Who needs your prayers? What actions do you need to take for the people in your congregation or program? Is there someone else who needs to be notified or who needs to take some action? As always, make notes.
Review next steps: While you’re thinking about it, write down on a clean sheet of paper what needs to happen, who needs to do it, and the dates they need to be done by. Putting this on one sheet of paper will help this not be so overwhelming. Again, taking the next steps that you think are most important at this time will already make things better going forward.
Closing prayer: Spend some time in prayer, remembering those concerns that came up in your people review and any other concerns this whole process raised for you. And feel free not to rush off to the next thing. It’s OK to sit quietly for a while and absorb what you’ve discovered before returning to your office or wherever you need to go next.
Follow up: But when you do return to your work space, do take the time you need to make sure the next steps you discovered are scheduled, delegated, or done. And you might want to take a moment to schedule time for another check-in sometime in the spring.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice what I preach.