How is the effectiveness of a program determined?
How do we evaluate?
What should be assessed?
Is God calling us to move in a new direction?
On September 9, 2020, “Cardinal Gerald Lacroix asked parishes in the Archdiocese of Quebec to ‘pause’ their catechetical programs to give them the time they need to think about what comes next. The last few months, he said, have given the Quebec church an ‘unhoped-for opportunity’ to ‘begin anew.’” Perhaps we too can use this time to create meaningful change instead of temporary solutions to get us through this crisis.
Time should be set aside every year and after every large project to evaluate from several different perspectives. This is a cyclical process. In other words, once there is a mission for the parish or diocesan office, everything should be examined regularly in light of the mission for a continuous improvement process. As Cardinal Lacroix suggested, this is a time to “pause” and reflect, but it is an ongoing process that should be a regular part of our work. What is essential? Are there new catechetical methods that can be employed to increase effectiveness? To what degree do our current strategies and activities move us closer to our mission? What must be eliminated in order to grow other mission-driven initiatives? Is this the work to which we are being called still? In these strange times, particularly, we must be ready to reevaluate and make new plans often. What was going well a month ago may now be impossible. Instead of acting as if everything is in limbo, take the time to evaluate, plan, and reprioritize. Embrace flexibility and creativity. Prayerfully listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Steps to Follow in a Cyclical Process
- Mission: How did this project or program relate to the mission? Was it essential? Even if a project was done very well and considered “successful,” it may not be necessary.
- Purpose: Was there a clearly defined purpose for the event or program? How well was the purpose achieved? Invite feedback from the participants and the volunteers or staff. Provide a variety of ways for participants to give you feedback. Even if a participant chooses not to give feedback, the fact that you asked for his or her opinion is important.
- Growth: Unless the project was designed to raise money, this is hard to evaluate. A well-attended event may not necessarily be successful if it does not result in spiritual growth. Invite some participants, volunteers, and staff to reflect on their own personal growth as disciples. Would they participate again? Did they learn new knowledge or grow in faith? Do they have new insights about being disciples? Do they feel like their gifts and talents were used effectively and valued? Do they feel like they made meaningful contributions? (See “Making Disciples.”)
- Resources: How well were available resources used? Were you good stewards of the resources you had available? Consider financial, space, time, and personnel resources.
- Participants: Who is missing? Are you reaching the same people over and over? What needs to change so that more people are welcomed and take part?
- Communication: Evaluate communication between staff members, with volunteers, to the parish, and with the participants. Interview some of these groups to solicit feedback and plan for improvement.
- Write a summary of the assessment and goals for the next year or project. Be sure to consult these notes when planning the next event. Note what went well and what should be improved or done in a different way.
 Philippe Vaillancourt, “Quebec Cardinal Proposes a ‘Break’ from Catechesis for Children, Adults,” Crux (September 18, 2020).