Congregations, like all organizational systems, need feedback loops. Regular assessment of the congregation's ministry is essential to group self-awareness and growth.
Assessment of the Minister is NOT Assessment of the "Ministry"
The UUA's Ministerial Fellowship Committee and the UU Ministers Association (UUMA) offer assessment tools for ministers to provide feedback for their personal growth. These are not designed for the assessment of congregational ministry.
- For ministers in preliminary fellowship, the Ministerial Fellowship Committee requires a renewal process that includes self-evaluations and evaluations from the congregation's leadership.
- To guide continuing education for ministers in full fellowship, the UUA and UUMA created Fulfilling the Call that guides ministers in expanding and deepening their skills, knowledge and behaviors in service of effective ministry.
- The professional organizations also created an assessment tool for staff teams.
As a complement to assessing the minister in their role, congregations can use the tools below to devise their own assessment process to expand and deepen the laity's understanding and skills in both ministry and governance.
There is no one-size-fits-all assessment, but there are some guiding principles:
- Assessments should be grounded in the grace and relationships as articulated in our covenants
- Assessments should be based on expectations that were mutually agreed upon by those being assessed (i.e. mission, annual goals, a strategic plan, etc.)
- Assessment are a form of communication and conversation
Assessments should not be used as tools of judgement or coercion
- Assessments provide an ongoing conversation about how we are serving our mission
- Assessments provide data that enable congregational leadership to adjust programs and other ministries
Assessments of the ministry of the whole congregation can take many forms:
Goal-based assessment is a simple and pragmatic approach, especially for smaller congregations. In the beginning of the church year, leaders meet (often in a retreat) to think about the current challenges and set one or two SMARTIE goals for the year. These help guide the work of the various committees and ministry teams. In preparation for the annual meet at the year's end, each committee and team does their own assessment on their goals, which they submit for the annual report.
Comprehensive Congregational Self-Assessment
A comprehensive congregational assessment includes topics that typically impact congregational health and vitality. An assessment team (comprised of members of your congregation’s leadership) meet to discuss each topic, either in a retreat setting, or spread out over the course of one or two years.
Many congregations have found that a continuum-based tool provides a roadmap for areas of improvement. It also provides a benchmark for future assessment teams, who can track progress by comparing current and past assessments so you can better see larger trends in congregational health and vitality.
The assessment team determines your congregational capacity for each topic, reviewing the criteria presented on a five-point continuum. Additionally, they cite one or two concrete examples illustrating how the congregation is fairing.
Committee or Team Assessments
Use a Self-Assessment Exercise for Committees and Ministry Teams help your team work toward building trust, mastering conflict, meeting commitments, holding each other mutually accountable, and focusing on shared goals.
Individual Assessment for Lay Leaders
Your congregation can also provide opportunities for individuals to see what they are learning from their role and how might they expand and deepen their ministry by using an Assessment Tools for Lay Ministry
Who Should Be On A "Whole Congregation" Assessment Team
Assessment teams should be comprised of trusted and committed leaders. Large congregations may delegate this task to staff. Mid-size congregations may have a Committee on Shared Ministry take on this role. In small congregations the board may take responsibility or delegate it to an ad hoc committee.