I preached my first ever sermon at 17. It was pretty safe to say it wasn’t brilliant, but when you are young everyone just encourages you. They come up and say things like “You were great!” “I would hate to do a sermon and I’m 43, it’s a gift that you can do it at 17.” It’s easier to praise someone when they are young. The focus is generally on building their confidence. You’re hardly going to come up to a five year old who just sung at assembly and say “I’m not going to lie it was pretty pitchy there in the middle”. After all no one wants to be the guy that ruined some kids dreams of being the next Bieber with some poor word choices. However as we get older I think we realise that we need to evaluate things.
I still remember after my first sermon I got one card that while being encouraging had a few pieces of feedback. One in particular was “Keep working on the way you speak, not too fast and not in the same tone.”
That one comment had a bigger impact than all the encouragement, I just didn’t know how to take that feedback. I thought, why would someone say something like that. They must think I’m terrible and are trying to make sure I don’t get up there again.
Most of us love getting positive feedback. We get nervous at the mere mention of the words ‘constructive criticism’ or ‘growth areas.’ However I believe that both of these things are an important part of evaluating any presentation, program or event we have been running.
In fact evaluation is a very important tool that we need to learn to use.
As I got older and preached more, I began to realise that evaluation was the tool that would make my gift greater (word this better, maybe use words like “ingredient” “catalyst”).
This is when I realised a key principle we can all apply to our lives.
EVALUATE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE GREAT
There are a couple of major reasons why what we evaluate becomes great
We evaluate what we value.
Think about it. We talk about things we value; footy, music, or in my case youth ministry. Conversely, I also believe that we evaluate what we value, in ways that we often don’t realise. With things that we value, we want them instinctively to be great, if you are writing a book, you don’t just write one draft and then publish it because you care too much about the quality of your book. Because of that you go over it meticulously, you question how to make a chapter more engaging, about whether you have used certain words too much. You are constantly evaluating it, because you value what you are doing.
I value great communication and desire to be an excellent communicator. Because of this I read about it, I love talking about it, and every time I present content I want to someone to tell me how I went, what I could have done better. This was something that I did before I realised that evaluation was so important to making me better., because I just cared so deeply about being the best communicator that I could be and that I instinctively meant I sought evaluation.
We always want to evaluate the things we care about, we do it instinctively. If you care about it, you want to make it great.
Evaluation gives you objective information.
My early sermons were an emotional rollercoaster, I would get down from presenting and have no idea what happened. What worked? What didn’t? Did my points have the effect I wanted? It was such a subjective experience. All I could say was that it felt good, bad, okay.
Feedback became my best friend. I remember watching myself preach on a video recording for the first time. It was cringe worthy, but great for growth. I could see what was working and what wasn’t. For example there were many distracting things I did, I had long hair and I would flick it out of my face over and over and over again. I was able to see where I was losing people and where I wasn’t as clear as I thought I was being. I had objective information
Evaluation is perfect for finding objective information, which, is often much more reliable.From this point we have all we need to improve, if we choose.
Evaluation makes the way forward clearer.
Once I started to get more objective feedback it meant I was able to see the way forward. For instance, ‘you are a great story teller.’ Which helped me realise that was a strength and I needed to take advantage . From a growth perspective I saw that I use to favour one side of the room. By being able to identify and rectify that I was able to connect with the whole room . Evaluation helped me find the way forward.
As I increasingly saw the value of evaluations and feedback, I decided to seek some from a pastor on the Gold Coast I looked up to. He showed me the way forward when he told me. “You need to get the bible involved a little more, and a little earlier. It will help give your points more authority than just Ben said.” I remember getting that and going “Yes!” because I was getting feedback that was going to make me better.
FIND WHAT YOU WANT TO MAKE GREAT AND EVALUATE.
As we have seen evaluation is important in helping us make things great.
Each one of you reading this will have things that you want to make great . It could be something physical, like a piece of furniture, a room in your home, your figure. Alternatively it could be something more emotional, a relationship, a career, a habit or even a character trait.
Find whatever that thing is and evaluate it, both personally and via trusted others. Then make it great!
Evaluation is so important in our pursuit of growth.
It is a reminder of what we value and the effort we want to put into it.
Evaluation helps us find out if what we are doing is working, and if it isn’t how we can change it.
Then the evaluation helps us to continue to make things greater than they were before.
So for each of you, find what it is that you want to be great, and go evaluate it, where it is currently, how you are going with it, and get some others in as well fresh eyes are always helpful.
I hope this has helped you grow and can help you, make things greater than they were before.
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Keep going on your lifelong pursuit of growth, I’m championing you on.