So what happens when your church or parish has carried out the plans and engaged in lots of activities? How will you know what has and hasn't worked, what to continue with and what to stop doing?
The easiest way to find answers to these questions is to keep some simple records of the things that you have seen, heard and produced while you have been carrying out your activities.
In some settings this is known as monitoring – collecting information against your plan. You might want to think about the number of people involved, how much they learned from the activities or how much they enjoyed them. You might also want to consider how much things have cost, who else you involved and how much time things took. It is a good idea to collect this as you go and not leave it until afterwards as this is always much harder!
Simplest to record are the number of things produced or activities/sessions/events held and the number of people involved in these. Signing in sheets, attendance lists and diary entries as well as the things you made or produced can provide you with this.
Other forms of information might include where people are from - regular congregation members or newcomers - minutes of meetings and feedback forms including complaints and compliments. Keeping a record of what people said to or what you heard, how people seemed to respond and how things 'felt' can also be really useful as are photographs and visitor book comments. It really doesn't have to be complicated or detailed to help you look back and make judgements on what worked and what didn't.
When you have this information you can start to use it to make decisions about future actions. This is also known as evaluation and can also help you to make improvements and changes. It will become very clear as you look back how important it was to know from the outset what you want to do, who with, how and what you wanted the end result to be. It will also be very useful if you made a record of how things were when you started out so that you can compare the 'before, during and after'.
It is really helpful to be able to demonstrate that people know more or have a different way of looking at things when you have completed your activities. It is very powerful if you can show that something changed for them or if the physical environment has got better. Have you reduced something bad or kept something good going that you can tell others about? Not only can this help with planning for the future but can also help to get others on board or make it easier to get support and backing, either financial or otherwise.
Methods like questionnaires and interviews can really help with this but as with all checking back it will take time to think through and it will need people to be responsible for each bit, so try to factor this in from the start. To make the most of this learning do give enough time to reflect and talk about what all of this tells you – set aside meeting time, write up your findings and share them with as many people as possible so that others can learn from your activities too. By highlighting your positive achievements new people may want to come and join in!