LOOK AT YOUR SCHOOL’S NEEDS
BY HAROLD J. WESTING
As I was paying my bill in a restaurant in Prescott, Arizona, I looked around for an evaluation form so I could let the owner and operator know that the food was not satisfactory, the facility was dirty, and the service was even worse. Somehow, they didn’t seem to care whether I was satisfied or not. The next morning as I checked out of the motel, again I looked around on the counter for an evaluation form to let them know about the very inadequate room; but again I found no form by which I could let them know courteously about my feelings.
It seemed rather strange that the next night in a very nice restaurant and in a spacious motel there were forms in obvious places for me to use as an evaluation to let them know my response to their services. Could it be there was any correlation between an adequate restaurant and motel, and their requested evaluation forms? Greasy spoon restaurants and cheap motels perhaps don’t do well because they’re really not there to meet people’s needs.
I can’t help but feel that there is a strong correlation between a Sunday School, which is not willing to evaluate its effectiveness, and greasy spoon restaurants and poor motels. Since the Sunday School
superintendent is primarily responsible for the effectiveness of a Sunday School, he will want to make certain that all the efforts of the Sunday School ministry will genuinely be touching people’s lives in an
effective way. There is very little possibility that it will be so unless there is continual feedback from the people who are served.
The superintendent must lead the school in its spiritual progress. He will guide the program to make his Sunday School a genuinely Biblical one. As he mobilizes the team to accomplish the work, he will make certain that it is the right team. His decisions in all these matters will be based on his knowledge of the conditions that presently exist. The more he knows about what is actually going on in the school, the more capable he will be to provide the proper administration for the school’s success.
Somehow he must know who these students are, what’s going on in their lives. He must know what kind of facility there is throughout the school and how effective that facility is. He must be totally aware of how the staff members minister and whether or not they are effective. This of course will help him to know what kind of staff is needed.
How can he determine all this unless he has been continuously in the process of evaluating all of the facets of the school?
If the school is a large one, he will need other people to help him in getting that task accomplished. But the general superintendent will be the one primarily responsible to see that it is done. If the school is departmentalized, the department superintendents will have the responsibility of evaluating their particular departments and their classes. The general superintendent will be in constant communication
with the rest of the school to see that all of the data needed for adequate supervision is cared for.
Establish the Value of Evaluation
As you start out in the process of evaluating, you must be aware that many people will not want to be evaluated. The pain will be too great. Most of us would rather be ruined by praise than be helped by
criticism. The rationale, which follows, will be of help to you in convincing your staff of the need to be evaluated. Keep in mind that evaluation is best accomplished when the evaluator ultimately evaluates
1. Workers are being evaluated anyway.
One of the best ways to motivate your staff to become involved in a formal evaluation is to remind them that every Sunday they are, in fact, being evaluated. Everyone who walks through the door, or those who this week failed to walk through the door, are in a sense registering their evaluation. They do so by their attendance, their giving, and their participation. The problem with this is that the workers are not able to establish the criteria or to get a clear feedback from the evaluation. How much better if they become a factor in helping to establish the criteria by which the evaluation is given and then find some meaningful way to receive the data given in the evaluation process itself
2. God’s Word upholds evaluations.
There are more than 60 passages of Scripture which relate directly to the process of evaluation, 24 of these are in Proverbs alone. The Christian is to evaluate the Word of God, he is to evaluate himself, and he is to evaluate the world. There are both exhortations to do so and examples of how it ought to be accomplished. The Christian leader ought to be evaluated in relation to his qualities, his performance, his behavior. The church is admonished to constantly look at itself to see if it is functioning according to God’s plan.
Think of I Corinthians 11:28, where a man is to examine himself before he engages in that most critical process of observing the Lord’s Supper. Romans 2:21 admonishes us to teach ourselves before we can
teach another. First Thessalonians 5:21 suggests that we ought to examine everything carefully. It is so important if we are going to please God in our ministry in the Sunday School to constantly check
ourselves against the Word of God to see if we are staying within the narrow path of God’s directives.
3. The law of reversion of types demands evaluation.
When left to itself everything will eventually turn into a lesser form. This well-known law of the universe suggests that not only do the physical elements of this world degenerate, but the same is true for groups and organizations–and even the church. Pages of church history give evidence that churches through the centuries have continued to decay. You do not have to look very far until you realize that the same
happens to Sunday Schools. We must constantly be checking ourselves to see if we are functioning and ministering as we ought. If we are not, we too may be in the process of degenerating or turning into a lesser
form than what we originally intended.
4. Good management requires regular evaluation.
Every progressive business is constantly testing itself to see if its products can somehow be improved. This is essential for a business to remain competitive. The business of Sunday School is no different. Sunday School has limited resources-resource of finances, personnel, and energy. We have only so many strokes to make; we certainly want to make sure that those strokes count the very most. Unless we are evaluating the strokes we are making, how will we know they are counting for the most?
Does the activity in the classroom produce the most spiritual development in the lives of the students? Does our outreach and evangelism win the most people? Is there a possibility that we could be doing things better? It is true that the Spirit of God will make us productive, but Scripture seems to emphasize that the Spirit of God blesses us as we give our best. Periodic evaluations will guide us in that process.
Every management decision should be based on having adequate input, which comes through evaluation. How could we possibly make a decision about starting another class, until we have properly analyzed
the students, the department, the curriculum, and all the other elements, which pertain to that decision?
Prepare a Basis for Evaluation
You ought to be convinced at this point that there is a need for evaluation in your Sunday School. So let’s proceed to find out how most effectively we can do that evaluation.
1. Make your statement of purpose.
No one should do any kind of evaluation in any setting unless he has a statement of purpose. In other words, what exactly should we be trying to accomplish? What is your purpose in having a Sunday School?
Are you in existence primarily for the purpose of evangelism? Are you there just for the purpose of nurture–to educate and train? Or are you trying to accomplish both? If so, how do you see that being accomplished? These are the kinds of questions, which must be asked before you can evaluate yourself and determine how effective you are.
Of course, the people themselves ought to play a real role in establishing that purpose. By so doing, you will broaden the base of ownership. I would strongly recommend that this be done very slowly and carefully, and that the people be much exercised by prayer in preparation for making that statement. The future effectiveness of their school will greatly depend upon this. Keep in mind that people perform in proportion to the clarity of their goal and the ownership of those goals. (You may want to check Chapter Four on the establishing of a standard for further clarification of this process.)
2. Build your own profile.
Now that you have established your purpose, how you would like to be, it is really important to determine how you are right now. This is essential to know before you can plan how you are going to reach the ideal standard you have set.
This will necessitate a great deal of observation and information gathering. This is generally known as building a profile.
You will want to find out exactly who your staff members are and how they are operating. You will want to know what is happening in the lives of your students, as a result of their involvement in the learning process in your Sunday School. You will want to know the administrative process: how effective it is, and who is involved.
If that profile is to be complete, you also need to know the community in which your school is located: who is there? how many people? what are their ages? what are their involvement’s in other churches? what are the changing trends in your community, and what potential is there for growth? Those factors are important if you really are concerned about seeing your Sunday School have a continually effective outreach program.
3. Determine your need
No doubt there will be some discrepancy between what your statement of purpose is and your actual performance. This of course points you to the third step in the procedure: determine your need. Are
your students being affected by their involvement in your Sunday School? Are people being added to your roll through your outreach ministry? Do your students feel a part of your school and church? Are their spiritual needs being met? Are your students too crowded in your facilities? Do your teachers genuinely understand the learning process, so they are able to be effective teachers? Are they covering the entire
Word of God in the teaching process?
These plus many more needs no doubt will be uncovered as you go to evaluate your school. It is only as you determine your needs that you can give adequate supervision as an administrator.
4. Set your goals.
Now that you have discovered what your needs are it becomes much easier to establish your goals and develop your strategy. (The setting of goals is more clearly defined in Chapter Four.)
It is really important that you first see goals before developing strategy, or else you might close your mind and possibly your school to some creative alternatives to solving problems. For instance, if you see that your teachers need training, it is so easy to suggest that you have a teacher-training program taught by a teacher on a week-night at your church facility. This is a strategy not a goat Your goal should be stated something like, “Our teachers should know the discipling process, be able to adequately lead their students to maturity in Jesus Christ.” They must understand that process. It is our goal that they be trained adequately so that they can function as genuine disciplers.
It is possible to accomplish that goal in different ways. If you come up with a strategy before the goal, you may find yourself failing because the strategy you have chosen will not necessarily be the most effective way to reach your goal. It may be wiser to have your teachers engage in a correspondence course or be personally discipled by other teachers on the job. Or they might attend an evening school in your
community. I would strongly advise you to make certain that your goals are clearly written out so they can continually serve you as a guide toward a growing effective Sunday School.
5. Develop your strategies.
Now that you have established your goals you are ready to pick out the greatest strategies to help you meet those goals. Once again, it is important that all of those who are engaged in the decision-making process engage in some diligent prayer to seek God’s guidance.
Anyone who makes decisions in relation to strategy must be consistently exposed to various resources. There is no reason whatsoever these days not to have many tools in your toolbox from which to draw. You will find these resources in the booths and workshops at Sunday School conventions, bookstores and Christian education magazines. Of course, there are numerous personalities like Christian Education Directors and other resource persons in your community who can help You determine what are the best strategies to accomplish your goals.
A strategy is a tool, a program, or a means to accomplish an end. And of course a creative leader is not afraid to try many and various means of accomplishing those ends.
Plan to Meet Your School’s Needs
So now you are ready to go to work I doubt very much if you will be successful in getting that work done unless you know who is going to get the job done, when it should be accomplished, and where the site of
this success will occur. So you need a commitment chart.
1. Develop your commitment chart.
Your commitment chart will show who is going to do certain jobs, when and where. Every event must be tied directly to the person, place and thing, which is going to see it to its completion.
I would strongly encourage you not to go through this whole evaluation process unless you are willing and ready to be involved in this accountability stage. I have found that it is not good to take people through an evaluation process and then not help them overcome the problems, which are uncovered in the process. That only tends to frustrate them more. People don’t mind being evaluated if they know that there is some way to improve. Every time you initiate a new event it is important that you carry it through. If you do not, people will lose confidence in you as a leader. You will seem to be someone who knows how to initiate and inaugurate but never complete.
Your agenda for your various staff meetings are taken from this commitment chart. What are we going to do? who is going to do it? when is it supposed to be accomplished? These will be vital questions you will be dealing with at your next staff meeting.
2. Inaugurate your program.
There appears to me to be eight very essential ingredients, which make Sunday School a most meaningful tool in the building of the body of Christ. The following evaluation meeting–an evaluation tool, one of
many–is built on two primary premises. The first is that people themselves must be involved in a participative form of government. Therefore they must take a vital role in the evaluation process. The
second is that if these eight ingredients are being utilized to their greatest effectiveness, you truly should be a successful, growing Sunday School. Follow the instructions carefully. They will help you gain the most from this exercise.
Evaluation and Goal-Setting Program
Each of the five statements listed under the eight characteristics in the Evaluation Form at the end of this chapter helps define what those characteristics look like when they are functioning. They will help you see if there is improvement needed in each of the areas.
1. The meeting should be held in the latter part of the summer or early in the fall.
Meet early enough so there will be sufficient time to implement your findings and decisions during the school year.
2. The entire staff of the Sunday School should be invited
Urge teachers, superintendents, secretaries, and all other administrative staff members such as Christian Education Board members to be present at this important meeting.
3. Prepare the staff to make the evaluation of their school in preparation for setting their goals for the year.
(1) Pass out the evaluation forms to the entire group. Allow time for each person to read the five questions and check the appropriate boxes as they perceive the various needs of the school.
(2) You are ready to mark the tally sheet according to the instructions on the top of the sheet.
4. Set your goals on the basis of what you find in the evaluation.
(1) As you look at your tally sheet you will soon discover all the most critically felt needs of your school. Draw a red circle around every score that is lower than 2.6. Those are the areas that show the greatest need currently. It does not mean that higher scored items don’t need attention as well, but those lower scored items ought to be given immediate attention.
(2) Discuss as a group what ought to be done in each area of need. Write out on a board or on the overhead transparency the various goals your school has set for itself for the year. Later you will want to publish them. Remind the staff constantly of this year’s plan to improve your school by dealing with the various items at your school’s staff meeting. Develop a calendar with specific dates, places and times when you plan to implement each new strategy. If you don’t completely finish the project, make plans to be together again real soon to do so.
SUNDAY SCHOOL EVALUATION
C. need improvement
I. An adequate school has sufficient staff and groups to provide a good ministry to each individual person enrolled.
1. Our school has a proper ratio of teacher per student for each respective age group. One teacher for preschoolers for five students; for elementary school years, six to eight students; youth, eight to ten
students; adults, 25 to 40 students.
2 Classes are organized by appropriate ages or interests.
3. All of our staff have had an introductory course on teaching.
4. All of our staff have upgraded their teaching abilities by having some ongoing training each year.
5. The staff at our church has been, and are being recruited by means of prayer, invitation, challenge, and training.
II. An adequate school has a predominant emphasis on an evangelistic outreach.
1. The majority of your staff is currently involved In a specialized program of outreach.
2 Your community is constantly made aware of your church and Sunday School by some type of media.
3. Evangelism is constantly talked about by your staff in staff meetings and other public sessions.
4. There is a sufficient variety of programming so that each person will find a happy place to study God’s Word.
5. Your budget allows an equal amount to be spent on outreach as is spent on the nurture of those enrolled.
III. An adequate school is busy making disciples.
1. Each staff member is mature enough himself that he is able to disciple his students.
2. Teachers spend time with their students outside the class discussing the truth taught (or students work with students).
3. Students are given specific instructions how to practice the truths taught from each unit of study.
4. The pastor and the school leaders regularly spend time in prayer, personal enrichment and school planning.
5. It is obvious that people in your school are loved. Your teachers give a great deal of personal attention to each student.
IV. An adequate school places a high priority on a quality educational experience for each student.
1. Your school’s educational experience provides for enrichment in all of the various phases–teaching, evangelism, worship, fellowship, and service.
2. Your staff is developing its weekly teaching and program around one clear goal.
3. It is obvious that each teacher understands the characteristics of the age group he teaches.
4. It is obvious that each teacher understands how best to teach his age group.
5. Your teachers understand discovery learning and use it appropriately.
V. An adequate school works hard to develop and maintain a sense of spiritual excellence.
1. Your whole church is caught up in praying for the school’s outreach and ministry.
2. You are constantly checking your program to see that it is functioning according to Biblical principles.
3. Your leaders are spiritual pacesetters whose motivation and conversation is flavored by spiritual things.
4. It is obvious as you observe all of the staff in operation that they are not just trying to get by but that they are striving for excellence in their respective assignments.
5. A casual observation of everyone involved in the school reveals a sense of enthusiasm toward the pupils and the program.
VI. An adequate school is guided by a pastor who is enthusiastically involved in its ministry.
1. The pastoral staff spends time on a regular basis with the superintendent in planning and prayer sessions in regard to the Sunday School.
2. The pastor takes a visible active part in the school’s teaching program.
3. The pastor is a pacesetter in evangelism, goal setting and organization.
4. The pastor is conversant with Sunday School organization and takes an active part with the leaders in its organization.
5. The pastor is aiding in equipping current and prospective staff for a bigger and better Sunday School.
VII. An adequate school has mobilized an effective team for the work of the ministry.
1. Each worker has been given in writing a clearly defined Job description.
2. Lines of responsibility are set forth clearly so that each worker will be held accountable to follow through with his God-called ministry.
3. Your staff meets together both as a total unit and as individual departments for planning, communication, training and building vision.
4. Each department works together as a team in planning and operating their department.
Your staff is developing and following through on a yearly planning calendar of events and goals for the school.
VIII. An adequate school sets and works goals.
1. Each one of the staff has in writing, and is clearly aware of the specific purpose for his particular mission and how that fits into the greater goal for the school
2. Goals for the school are established by the prayer and thought process of the majority of the team.
3. Your school has discussed and recorded specific progress in relation to each goal they have established.
4. The school staff has not only written out its goals but has developed a planned strategy for the fulfillment of those goals.
5. Your school is willing to come with creative alternatives rather than to allow the seemingly impossible roadblocks to stop them in their pursuit of fulfilling their stated objectives.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY ACCENT B/P PUBLICATIONS, INC., 1980, PAGES 57-72. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.