5 Frameworks for Evaluating at the Start of a New Year

In this season of resolutions and goal setting, you may find yourself jotting down new ideas or feeling like there is room for improvement in certain areas of your ministry—either personally or organizationally. While the dreaming part is fun, an important next step is evaluation. It helps us identify what needs to be improved or even what needs to be eliminated in order to make room for new ideas. This may sound daunting, but there are a few simple frameworks you can use to start the process.

Why? Why? Why?

Connect with your inner child and ask the question “why?” repeatedly to dig deep into the purpose behind your activities. Take a single program, task, or group and ask why it exists. Then ask why that’s important. Then ask why that is important. At this point, you probably have a more honest answer and perspective on the program, task, or group. If you find yourself, like an exasperated parent, responding with “I don’t know!” then that’s telling too.

80/20 Rule

This rule-of-thumb contends that 20% of what you’re doing produces 80% of the results you’re looking for. Your percentages may vary, but do the evaluation for yourself. Determine how much each project, group, or event is directly contributing to achieving your mission. If you find that a large portion of your ministry’s success is produced by a small number of activities, consider cutting or delegating the others.

Zero-Based Budgeting

There may come a point in time where it is better to just start from scratch. It can be hard to push through institutional inertia—”the way we’ve always done it”—but if you can’t answer the “why” question and/or no significant percentage of what you’re doing is producing results of value, it might be worth the debate. If you started from nothing and built out your schedule, what would it look like? If you were starting your church or a ministry within your church from scratch, how would it spend its resources?


In his book of this title, Greg McKeown writes:

The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage.

The previous frameworks deal with the first parts—prioritizing and eliminating—but McKeown’s extra step is to improve what is left. Sure, you now have more resources, mental space, and calendar time for your core priorities, but putting more resources into an inefficient or ineffective system does not automatically make it better. In fact, it may only amplify the problems.

Eisenhower Decision Matrix

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Draw a large square and divide it into four quadrants. Label the two columns “urgent” and “not urgent,” and then label the two rows “important” and “not important.” As you encounter new requests, ideas, or problems, take a minute to evaluate them and write them in the appropriate quadrant. Things in the “urgent and important” quadrant take top priority, while “urgent and not important” may become a ready-made list of tasks to delegate or eliminate. Using this tool along the way will help to preserve the progress you made with the other frameworks.

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