Evaluation between Sending and Receiving Partners

August 2023

By Kathy Mort, Director of Curriculum and Training, MissionExcellence

How do you feel when someone mentions evaluation? For many, it raises anxiety from memories of “pop” quizzes when in school or a test where the questions seemed ambiguous.

For others, it generates feelings from a job performance review that was subjective and not based on agreed upon criteria.

On the other hand, there are those who welcome evaluations as they provide feedback for growth and encouragement.

No matter how you feel about evaluations, when done correctly, they are an important component to making mission trips better. Standard 7 of the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission says, “An excellent short-term mission assures evaluation, debriefing, and appropriate follow-though of all participants.” The focus of this article is on-field and post-field evaluation between sending and receiving partners.

For full disclosure, I struggle with the term evaluation in the standard because generally, an evaluation is a way to get feedback and judge something based on the difference between what we said we would do and what actually happened. Assessment, on the other hand, is done to provide constructive feedback that will lead to improvement.

The authors of The Standards considered evaluation as a tool for enhancing future programs. It is a tool for determining what worked and what could be improved, measuring the impact of the trip and helping people process the experience.

No matter what term is used, the purpose of assessment/evaluation in this article is to make mission trips better.

Setting the stage

Evaluations should be intentionally planned when designing the short-term mission and not be an afterthought. Building the evaluation around the purpose of the trip will help reinforce the expectations and desired results for the trip.

Sending and receiving partners may develop the evaluations together, but at a minimum, evaluation questions should be shared before the trip begins so there are no surprises. By agreeing that you will be evaluating the degree to which the goals were met, the information can be used to improve future trips and the evaluation process will be viewed as a positive process.

What might the evaluation look like?

We usually think that evaluations occur at the end of an experience. Ongoing conversations, daily debriefing, check-ins and observations are all rich ways in which to compile information during the trip that will help improve your short-term experience. Keep anecdotal notes because you will forget!

Formats for end of trip evaluations will vary significantly and will be determined by what is a culturally appropriate method. Some people will prefer discussing the questions rather than writing responses. This may take the form of a conversation or a more formal interview.

I find it helpful to capture key phrases and high-level notes. After the conversation I fill in the context. If you can develop a written evaluation, you might consider a survey/questionnaire, rating scale, checklist and/or short answer questions.

What do you ask?

It’s important to ask questions related to the goals of the trip and about things over which the hosts and senders have control.

For example, if asking about the working environment, it is important to remember that the host has no control over weather-related events or transportation strikes. The sender however, does have control over the composition and size of the team and their ability to fulfill the agreed upon goals.

Also, there are many things about which you might ask questions. I recommend that you start with what you value the most and align your questions to those things.

Years ago in the context of the classroom, someone told me, “You inspect what you expect.” That is true in short-term missions as well. Consider your expectations. How are you going to know to what degree they were met?

If you want to get more than surface level responses avoid yes/no questions. For example, you will learn what people believe the purpose of the trip was by asking, “What was the purpose of the trip?”

You could ask, “Was the purpose of the trip clear?” and would probably get a “yes.”  However, that will not confirm that their thoughts about the purpose of the trip are consistent with the leaders’ purpose.

Some people find a framework helpful when deciding areas to address in evaluations. Consider that the DESIRE of evaluation is to make your mission trips better.

Below are some sample questions listed under the acronym DESIRE. Once you add questions that meet your needs you should order them in a natural progression that works for your purposes.

Development (focused on future)

  • How can we become a better partner with you in the future?
  • What haven’t we asked you that you would like to share?
  • What would you change or do differently the next time?
  • Do you foresee hosting a trip in the future?


  • How well were the goals met?
  • To what degree did the team accomplish what was planned?


  • To what extent will the benefits last?


  • What difference did the trip make?
  • Please share how hosting this team impacted your ministry positively and negatively.


  • Was the trip God-centered?
  • In what way(s) did the short-term mission team align with your ministry goals?


  • How well were resources used?
  • Please share ideas for improvement.

Next steps

Evaluations are valuable when the results are used to make improvements. Take time to communicate results with grace to proper participants. Determine what will be done with the results. Finally, use feedback to make your mission trips better.

Finally, I want to share my inspiration for when evaluation becomes hard. I simply think upon Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It’s the Lord Christ you are serving.”