This Evaluation Stinks!

The program manager was reading the evaluation report when he exclaimed, “This evaluation stinks!” The evidence showed little or no progress for most of the program objectives. There were numerous recommendations for improving the chances for accomplishing the objectives, but the cost would be high. The report was bad news for the manager, and he reacted defensively by lashing out at the evaluation.

A similar program was evaluated in a different setting. The results for achieving objectives were similar, but the evaluator had used a transformative approach. Throughout the exercise the manager had participated in several sessions of reflecting on relevant passages of scripture with the evaluator and other stakeholders. And data had been collected and analyzed on program alignment with the agency mission; the evidence showed good alignment.

Before she shared the report with manager and others, they reflected on 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. They spent time discussing savoring the fragrance when Christ was present, and how people could decide to be triumphant in their situation or to be defiant. People could accept bad news in the eyes of the world as good news in the kingdom. Or not.

The manager read the report and commented first on the results for alignment. “I feel like we are living near a fragrant field of flowers, but our land where we are working has a lot of weeds choking the “crops” we have planted. The achievements are disappointing, but the nearby fragrance is encouraging. We need to prayerfully re-examine our objectives and how we using our resources, rejoicing in the promised triumph that comes when we are faithful.”

The evaluation approach and the reporting style can be a ministry of death or a ministry of life. Work towards an evaluation exercise that offers life going forward, not by obscuring worldly failure, but by facilitating awareness of the fragrance of Christ that transforms attitudes toward worldly failure. Praise God for revealing wisdom in scripture that surpasses worldly wisdom.

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