After 6 and ½ years, 190,000 miles and a million memories, it was finally time for me to trade in my Malibu for something new. Following months of searching and comparing online, I headed to the dealer with the utmost confidence I had found the perfect match for me; a vehicle that is going to last me the next 10 years (hopefully!). I signed some papers, wrote a check and headed home in my new ride. Immediately, I became bombarded with surveys from the dealership asking about my experience with the salesperson, my thoughts on the car, etc.
If you have any experience planning events, this should all sound familiar. Countless time spent researching and planning leads up to simply hours that everything happens. And then you write a check and go home. Soon after, you send out a survey to hear what the guests thought. As with any experience, feedback is necessary to see what went well and what could be improved.
Did you know there is actually something missing from your survey? Yes, you have new ideas for next time and everyone loved the speaker. The logistics are fine. But how do you measure someone’s spiritual growth? After all, wasn’t that the goal of your event?
Retreats, camps and whatever other events your church holds may not get the acknowledgement they deserve. Too many pass it off as a weekend of fun, instead of a life-altering experience. But the standard evaluation simply takes the guest experience immediately after returning home, while ignoring the personal growth that reveals itself later. Signs may include, but are not limited to: stronger leadership skills, growth in faith, improved attitude, closer friendships, and increased activity in the church.
The way to follow up after a youth retreat/summer camp is by sending out a survey to parents in which they assess behavioral differences in their camper(s). Remember, this won’t immediately take effect, so wait a few weeks or months before sending it. Here are some questions you could ask:
- Has your student shown a greater interest in attending church?
- Has your student shown a greater interest in participating in church activities such as youth group?
- Has there been any significant changes in attitude?
- Does your student read the Bible more often?
- Has your student been more helpful around the house?
- Has your student asked more questions or started conversations about God/faith?
- Has your student offer to lead others in prayer?
After collecting these results, the most important thing is to do something with this information. Use it to present to your church members the importance of camp, especially if there is a debate on funding/continued use. Use it along with camper testimonies to promote the next event to prospective attendees. You should also use it to increase the experience, just like you would with suggestions on food, lodging and activities. For example, if after your last event not many showed an interest in reading the Bible more, then designate reading times and passages to make them more comfortable and let them know that this is a source for their questions. You can also give them specific passages to read based on different situations so that they know what to look for when they go home. Another example is if very few show an interest in praying out loud. Make it a priority to have group prayer times that encourage guests to pray with and over one another.
As for my new car, I wouldn’t say it has had too much effect on me, except maybe the slightly smug attitude of being able to remote start it while enjoying the comfort of the indoors. But off-site ministry has shown time and again to change people’s lives. Stick some numbers to it and show your church just how powerful these events can be. After all, numbers like this don’t lie.