Evaluation and Data Collection
Lately I have been thinking about the strategy that the church uses as a means to encourage the spiritual formation of others, specifically children. The following is the sixth article of a series of articles that attempts to understand how we can do this.
Another form of evaluation is the collection of data and concrete ways of showing progress, plateau or decline. If an administrator asks, â€œAre we doing what we should be doing?â€ most of the time the response back would be, â€œI hope so.â€ But how does a church actually know if it is being effective? Eldridge says,
Evaluation is more than gathering data, it is determining worth or merit.Â Assessment is often used synonymously with evaluation. However, assessment is a valueless measurement. The purpose of evaluation is not to measure or acquire facts, but to make decisions. In addition to counting noses or offerings, we need to measure the biblical knowledge and Christian behavior of our congregation. This information should be acquired for the purpose of making decisions on how to increase the impact of educational experiences in the church.
This process begins with collecting accurate data and then using this data in such a way to determine a strategy to reach a goal or an outcome. This process could begin as simple as taking roll in the classroom. This information can determine attendance patterns for the church as a whole or identify an individual student who may need some extra attention or follow-up due to a lack of attendance. Data can also help to identify areas of weakness with the individual ministry and goals can be set to deal with this concern. For example, after gathering the data it may be determined that several of the students only attend every other week. After further investigation it is discovered that these students are from divorced homes where they are with other parents every other weekend. Specific ministry can then be directed toward these children that would address what they missed the weeks they were away. This new ministry direction is different from those that are there every week. But it was not until a leader gathers and studies the data that she may be able to identify the weak areas and then design a new way of reaching these children for Christ. In many churches data are either not collected at all or if they are collected the data are not evaluated to make any kind of pertinent decisions.
 Ibid., 310.