There’s a lot of evaluation that goes into youth ministry. Students will tell you how you are doing on a ready and regular basis. They’ll evaluate you on everything from teaching to the quality of your driving (“You ran a red light!” “It was yellow!” “It was red!”). Parents will give you feedback on how many devos you should have, what type of service projects you should be involved in, how much of your budget should subsidize activities, and many other aspects of your ministry. Elders will surely cover many of those topics, but also have input for you on your teaching, how your budget is being spent, and (hopefully) how they see you progressing in your spiritual walk.
All of these are important, of course. Each of these groups has valid concerns that should be considered and weighed. A good minister will thoughtfully allow the more constructive parts of these evaluations to help shape and mold ones self. However, I think there is one evaluation that may be the most vital to your personal growth and well being as a minister: self evaluation.
Every year I hand write a self evaluation. I make three lists, and I’d like to share the questions those lists come from with you.
What do I love about my ministry?
When I do my personal evaluation, I find starting with what I love about my ministry leads to a tremendous list. When I decided to become a youth minister, it was for a handful of reasons. Really good reasons, but not a great number of them. “I like working with teenagers. I love God. I want people to know Jesus.” Since becoming a youth minister, I’ve found hundreds of other things I enjoy about my work. I get to help entire families navigate a transitional point in their lives. I have the opportunity to encourage relationships between generations of believers. I’m able to spend a tremendous amount of time in the study of God’s word. And yes, I get to eat pizza, play video games, and go to camp more often than people in many other professions.
What things am I dissatisfied with about my ministry?
If I’m being completely honest, this is a dangerous question. It’s dangerous because it requires you to take ownership of your dissatisfaction. This is not “what don’t I like about the congregation I work with” or “what would I change about my youth group”. This is your ministry.
My greatest dissatisfaction has always been the recruitment of volunteers. I am notoriously bad at asking adults who aren’t me to be involved in activities that are designed for the youth (lock-ins, retreats, and the like). Of course, we have many activities that are naturally designed for interactions between generations, but I don’t have to go out of my way to get adults involved in those activities.
Not everything that goes into this list is a personal failing, however. I have a teen who has dropped off the map for the last year. I can text him and usually get a response, but despite personal and deliberate invitations to everything the youth group does, invitations to lunch, and reminders that he’s missed when he isn’t around. I haven’t seen him in person in over five months, and that leaves me very dissatisfied.
What items on the second list can I alone change, and why are some of them the same as last year?
A few items on the second list might be changeable with a little cooperation from some others. You probably don’t get to set the size of your budget without input from others, but you can make a case for an increase if it’s justifiably needed.
Some items can’t be changed by you at all. You can’t make a teen be more or less involved than they are going to be. You can continue to reach out to them, but you can’t change the circumstances that are keeping them away.
And here’s where it gets really hard. Sometimes you are the only one who can claim ownership of a problem. If this is your ministry and something you are dissatisfied with is caused by you, why not make a change that will fix that problem? Some of these you things may be on that second list for a long time. You may not become good at recruiting volunteers for quite a while, but if the majority of your second list is you stuff it’s fixable. Ask yourself how valuable the things on the first list are. Are they worth changing the things you can control?