Lovett Weems reviews Projects that Matter: Successful Planning & Evaluation for Religious Organizations a user-friendly guide by Kathleen Cahalan for religious organizations to use in evaluating projects, goals, activities, and results.
Churches, along with many serving institutions, tend to focus more on “what we do” and “how we do it” than on “what we accomplish.” Church leaders can always claim that what the church is about is “hard to measure.” While that is true, when a church begins any endeavor, from a worship service to a food pantry, there are certainly some results that the church hopes to accomplish.
Unfortunately, churches often are not clear what those goals are and, therefore, have no basis to assess whether the activities are accomplishing their intended results. Even when goals are clear, churches often do not evaluate whether the goals were accomplished. The tendency is to go from one effort to another without the kind of careful assessment that can clarify ministry efforts.
Kathleen Cahalan, a theologian, provides a user-friendly guide to evaluation in religious organizations. Cahalan sees evaluation as an expression of Christian stewardship exercised by those church leaders who care deeply about the effectiveness of the church’s mission. She interprets evaluation as “collaborative inquiry” in which projects, goals, activities, and results are analyzed as a practice of spiritual discernment.
“Christians describe the word discernment,” says Cahalan, “as a faithful inquiry into understanding what God is doing and what we are to do in response to God.” Cahalan gives clear categories and steps to aid such evaluative discernment so needed in all churches.