by Virgil A. Olson
There has been little or no evaluation counseling with missionaries. Counseling has been designed primarily to deal with problems. When the foreign secretary comes to the field he may ask to see those who are having problems.
There has been little or no evaluation counseling with missionaries. Counseling has been designed primarily to deal with problems. When the foreign secretary comes to the field he may ask to see those who are having problems. Those who are making it satisfactorily—from all outward appearances—usually receive a hearty handshake, a pat on the back, with the passing benediction, "God bless you. You’re doing a good work. We’re all praying for you!" Then the secretary flies away.
My major thesis is as follows: Accountability is a basic rationale for evaluation. This thesis, Evaluation = Accountability, is part of the warp and woof of the biblical story describing the relationship between God and man. The term most commonly used in Scripture to express this accountability is covenant. With covenant there is the accepting of agreement, the responsibility to keep and fulfill the agreement– or to be accountable.
Many will say, "I have no argument with this thesis. I am accountable to God. But what bothers me is when mission organizations and administrators act like God, testing what sort of work each missionary has done. I am accountable unto God and no mission hierarchy can stand between me and my God-given responsibilities."
Mission administrators need to guard against a we-they polarization attitude when it comes to management programs in missions , including evaluation procedures. We are in this evaluation business together, administrators and, missionaries. On the basis of this mutuality of a need for evaluation, let me list a few principles that express the fundamental aspects of a philosophy of evaluation of missionaries.
THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF EVALUATION IS STEWARDSHIP
Stewardship is based upon the fact that a responsibility has been given or assigned, and that accountability is required to see that the responsibility has been fulfilled.
This stewardship responsibility is illustrated in the parable of the man who went on a journey and who entrusted his property to his servants. When the master returned there was an accounting of stewardship. Each servant bad to give an account of what he had done with his talents.
It is comparatively easy to paint the larger picture of stewardship for missions, throw out the challenge: Go into all the world, witness, work for the night is coming. The narrow focus specifies tasks, the ten, five, one. This specificity requires that stewardship be taken seriously and good stewardship, which is ordered management, is only effective when there is accountability, where there is evaluation.
We have instituted a management/ stewardship program for our entire mission. Each missionary is required to define carefully his objectives, show how these objectives are believable, attainable and measurable.
This accountability is not just to God. It is accountability to God’s people, the church, to God’s world. To refuse to be accountable to the household of faith is to do violence to a basic premise of mission theology. It is the church which sets apart, sends, supports the missionary. To the church and its mission the servant of God is held accountable for his stewardship.
THE SECOND PRINCIPLE OF EVALUATION IS EXCELLENCE
Unfortunately, the concept of excellence has nearly disappeared in many Christian circles. Consequently, much of the work of the church suffers from mundane mediocrity and muddled management. High values are placed on commitment, spiritual tone, enthusiasm.
It is difficult to instill excellence among missionaries when many of the administration programs seem so indifferent to excellence. If we are to be faithful servants, we cannot be satisfied with an appearance of a number of good things, but which lack the substance of excellence. To be good missionaries and administrators without pressing for a high standard of excellence in performance makes much of the Christian mission seem shallow. Evaluation will reveal to us whether we are "pressing toward the mark," or just pressing in all directions.
Implicit in all of these assertions is that some standard of excellence must be agreed upon by the administration and the missionary community. Evaluation can only be related to some objective standard.
Evaluation, when administered on the basis of realistic, clearly defined objectives, can sharpen the respect for excellency in missionary work, whether in the home office or on the foreign field.
THE THIRD PRINCIPLE OF EVALUATION IS REFLECTION
Reflection gives the person an opportunity to see himself where he is weak, where he is failing, as well as where he is making points of progress, achieving objectives.
This reflection may not be comfortable. All of us have some form of protective self-image. We do not want to be exposed.
But this reflection is very important, for it helps us to improve our service as a missionary and an administrator. It may indicate that some tasks cannot be done by the individual missionary. He may be assigned to the wrong place of responsibility. Expectations may be too high for some people. On the other hand, some people may not be living up to their capabilities. Reflection can reveal where improvements can be made through study programs, reading, correspondence courses, refresher language programs, etc.
From my experience in visiting a variety of missionaries all over the world, not only associated with our own mission but with missionaries serving in many different kinds of mission situations, I am convinced that there is a real need to develop a profile evaluation which could help missionaries understand their stewardship in missionary service. Furthermore, this reflective process could help save some missionaries, so that they would not become discouraged and drop out from missionary service. On the other hand, it might be the tool to point out that some missionaries really are not equipped to be cross-cultural communicators.
THE FOURTH PRINCIPLE OF EVALUATION IS COMMUNITY
There is great value in the use of a self-evaluation instrument, but evaluation becomes even more meaningful when the community becomes involved in this process. It is important that the members of the body of Christ minister to the missionary by providing honest and helpful evaluations.
Certainly there are risks involved. The missionary’s self-image may be destroyed. He may feel that he is not wanted and decides to return to the homeland. To the insecure missionary it may mean that he never realized that he was so much appreciated and wanted so much. The reaction to evaluations will be many. For the most part, however, this participatory community process should lead to a lifestyle of reciprocal attitudes of sharing and caring. The missionary realizes with greater depth that he is there not only to serve a community, but he is also to be served by that community.
I realize that there are cross-cultural communication problems which may make it difficult for the national church brethren to participate in a meaningful evaluation. However, what may appear to be cultural problems may not be as serious as pointed out by some missionaries, many of whom may not want to be exposed in an evaluation by national brethren. In most areas mission groups are still learning how to use the tools of evaluation in cross-cultural situations. The evaluation process needs to be continually evaluated so that good guidelines for church/mission evaluation processes may be established.
THE FIFTH PRINCIPLE OF EVALUATION IS COUNSELLING
A good instrument of evaluation is of itself a good counselling device. Most evaluation instruments designed for the use of missionaries are primarily for this purpose. The missionary can see how he has measured up to his objectives, what he has accomplished in terms of his missionary work, how he has fared in language acquisition, how much he has accomplished in self-improvement programs, etc. The entire purpose of evaluation/ counselling is for the improvement of the total health of the missionary, to clarify objectives of service and the developing of ways and means of becoming a better missionary.
Evaluation is most helpful when a responsible person, usually the chairman of the missionary community or a representative from the home office, can sit down and go over the results of the evaluation with the missionary.
Something more than problem reflex counselling is needed with our missionaries. With a good evaluation procedure established, each missionary should be exposed to some type of annual counselling experience. Many potential problems can be discerned and dealt with, preventing major crises later on.
In recent years there has been a welcome study of spiritual gifts. The emphasis on gifts has become so important that the dictum expressed by Jesus seems to have changed: "By your gifts you shall be known." Jesus said, as you know, "By your fruit you shall be known." I think that it is important that the fruit of missions be inspected, be evaluated, whether it be the ministry of the missionary on the field or the administrator at the home base. I believe there is much good fruit in the mission program today. The aim is to have better fruit. Evaluation can help bring this about!
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