I can do real damage with something as simple as a screwdriver. Just a couple of weeks ago, I managed to get a screw jammed halfway into the wall, and it took my friend several minutes and a fair amount of elbow grease to get it out. (Just so we’re clear, I have successfully used a screwdriver on many projects!) Annual or semi-annual evaluation reports from your sent ones can be helpful tools, but, like my screwdriver, they can be ineffective or even damaging if they’re misused.
Reporting Done Wrong
A report instead of a relationship. If a page or two of written answers submitted once or twice a year is a church’s only, or even primary, direct contact with a sent/supported global worker, the relationship is doomed to fail. A written summary never tells the whole story. Some workers may tend to “oversell” themselves; others may play down what they have done. An annual report is most helpful when it complements Zoom/phone calls, frequent emails, and, especially, personal visits.
Busywork. Global workers often complain about having to fill out different questionnaires for multiple churches as well as for their supervisor and perhaps others to whom they are accountable. If your worker already completes a similar form in another reporting relationship, accept a copy rather than requiring them to complete your form. Follow up if you want additional info.
Hidden expectations. Many global workers assume that the church will use their annual report to critique and evaluate their work based on some hidden agenda. In essence, they see this as a “gotcha” game where their responses may be deemed unsatisfactory based on unidentified and/or unrealistic measurements.
A report instead of an evaluation. Churches often call these annual reports “evaluations” when little or no real evaluation happens. If they receive no personal response, workers often wonder if anyone even reads what they write. Churches may think they are conducting an evaluation when in reality they are really only receiving a report that often provides inadequate information.
Churches may think they are conducting an evaluation when in reality they are really only receiving a report
Reporting Done Well
A safe environment. Workers will be more transparent if they know their report is confidential—distributed only to the missions pastor/coordinator, missions leadership team, personnel team, and perhaps the lead pastor. It’s important to clarify, though, that in situations involving serious moral issues or in which there is danger to one or more persons, information may need to be shared in confidence with others outside that circle.
Goal #1 should be celebration. The most important purpose of a written report is to get an overview of what God is doing as a result of a global worker and church partner collaborating in strategic ministry. Cross-cultural work is tough. Workers are sometimes tempted to believe that they or their ministry are undervalued. Visible results may be sparse at times, and significant advances may not always translate into impressive statistics. Workers need their church leaders to invest effort into understanding why what they are doing is important, to celebrate their work publicly with the congregation, and to find appropriate ways to acknowledge excellence in service.
Finding gaps. A church that maintains regular, personal contact with their sent ones should be well aware of both their ministry and their personal/family flourishing. If they are taking steps to maintain this level of awareness, then the annual/semi-annual report will confirm what the church already knows and will also fill in important information that may have slipped through the cracks.
Partnership course corrections. Annual reports should give an overview of both the sent one’s ministry and the church’s partnership involvement. This kind of two-way evaluation should lead a missions leadership team to ask themselves, “What has the impact been of our involvement with this sent one, and how could we be a better partner in the coming year?” Global workers should be invited to evaluate where their church “held the ropes” well and where they could have done better.
Looking forward more than back. A report is a good tool for making sure a church understands and affirms the priorities their worker will pursue in the next year. Plans can change quickly in ministry, and the church needs to stay abreast of what will be central in their worker’s schedule during the next six to twelve months. The goals and plans the worker lists should inform the church’s future prayer and support efforts for that partner.
Global workers should be invited to evaluate where their church “held the ropes” well and where they could have done better.
Suggestions for Productive Evaluation
See for yourself. It’s very hard to assess what you have never seen. If you are serious about having a voice in your worker’s ministry priorities and exercising accountability in your relationship with them, then you need to regularly make field visits to observe, listen, and interact. Judgments from afar are seldom sufficiently informed.
It’s very hard to assess what you have never seen.
Base your critique on previously articulated goals developed by the worker and their supervisor(s). Benchmarks for evaluation should be developed on site by those best equipped to understand the situation and design appropriate goals. Unless you have misgivings related to clarity of purpose or the strategic importance of these goals, or you see a mismatch between the worker and the assignment, your church should accept these goals. If you have questions about the goals, discuss your concerns at the outset instead of waiting until the worker submits a report at the end of the timeframe in which they hope to achieve them.
Discuss it together. After your personnel team has prayerfully read through the report, you will want to schedule a virtual or in-person conversation, especially for your sent workers. People are often reticent to be fully transparent in writing. In the case of couples, consider who completed the report, and intentionally make time to hear from the other spouse. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be candid. Don’t make your global worker guess what you are thinking.
Springboard for Action
A field report and subsequent evaluation are never an end–they are a beginning. At times some painful action steps may be necessary based on this as-objective-as-possible evaluation. More often, the annual process should result in vision-stretching goals that will require more from both worker and church in order to produce greater fruitfulness in the coming year.
Ready to go?
A field report and subsequent evaluation are never an end–they are a beginning.
For a further discussion of annual reporting, see Catalyst Service’s Postings on “Wise Accountability.”
Ellen Livingood launched and directs Catalyst Services to help churches, mission agencies, and networks to more fully engage believers’ God-given gifts and passion for global outreach. From a base in suburban Philadelphia, Catalyst serves churches and ministries across North America and, increasingly, around the world via resources, coaching, and connecting.