I’m the Director of Discipleship Ministries at Covenant Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. For over a year we’ve been doing an in-depth evaluation of our Christian education efforts. Evaluation should be a regular part of everything we do.
We’ve looked at our community. Who we are reaching. Who we’re not. A large number of African Americans are moving into what we consider our “parish.” How is it possible for us to become a more racially integrated congregation?
We’ve looked at our purpose against the backdrop of the church’s broader purpose. We want “to introduce people to Jesus and help them grow in their relationship to him and to others.” The short version is “Reach and teach to love and serve.” That’s our summary of discipleship.
We’ve looked at our curriculum. Does it do what we want? Are there ways we need to supplement? We’ve checked attendance records. How are we doing relative to the community and to the church ministries? We interviewed teachers and leaders. What do they think they have achieved?
Then we took a further step, one that the church’s Christian Education committee thought was a natural outgrowth of our analysis. We decided to interview young people who spent a substantial part of their growing up years in the congregation. We invited six young adults to join a round table in which they assessed the impact of the congregation’s efforts on their behalf.
When I mentioned to them what we were doing, the response was basically, “What a gutsy thing to do.” But we didn’t think of it that way. In fact, I would favor such a discussion with some who had dropped out of church somewhere along the way.
It is God who changes hearts. But for whatever reason, he has chosen to use us. I believe he is most pleased when we do the best we’re able to do. To put it another way, a teacher hasn’t taught until the student has learned. With the gospel, learning is used by the Spirit to produce change – in our thinking, our desires, and our activities. So it makes sense to see what the product looks like. It also makes sense to assess the perceived impact our efforts have made.
In this case we were affirmed. Certain teachers and leaders stood out. The overall assessment was that they were grounded in our theology and sensitized to the importance of relationships. Mission trips opened their eyes to God’s will for his people everywhere. They were taught to serve. The biggest weakness discussed was the availability of programming for those recently out of high school.
The next step in our process is to talk with a larger cross section of the congregation to brainstorm where we go from here. Out of that, goals and strategy will emerge.