by Thom Schultz
Whenever I’ve asked church leaders why they don’t encourage more feedback on their ministry work, I’ve heard familiar recurring reasons they don’t:
- If you ask for feedback, all you get are complaints.
- People don’t know what they really need.
- You shouldn’t ask people to evaluate God.
As mere humans, we come up with all kinds of excuses for avoiding things that might lead to change. Change, for most people, is uncomfortable. And, for many in the church today, change seems like a heretical concept.
But there’s nothing heretical about striving for improvement in how we go about ministry; how we go about helping people know, love, and follow Jesus. Inviting feedback is one way we can improve.
Even the corner cafe knows the value of feedback. “How was your dinner?” “How was the service?” The cafe owner knows your perceptions are real. And he knows that your perceptions of the food and service are more important than his own—if he wants to improve and grow.
But we in the church have been reluctant to ask for feedback. Why? The Top 3 Reasons seem to get repeated over and over. But they’re just bogus excuses.
#1. Even if #1 (If you ask for feedback, all you get are complaints) were true, it’s a great reason to actually invite feedback! We learn to improve when we understand where we’re missing the mark. Every specific complaint is far more helpful than 10 meaningless repetitions of “Nice sermon, pastor.”
#2. This one, actually, is often true. But we can’t meet genuine needs until we become better at creating an environment of receptivity for the truth. Even if the cafe owner knows his patrons really need nutritious food, they won’t be back to eat it if the restrooms are dirty or the waitress is surly. Those things are simple to evaluate.
#3. No, you shouldn’t evaluate God. But you aren’t God.
So, how do you invite helpful feedback? First, know your ministry goals. Then ask specific questions related to progress toward those goals.
Throughout the national network of Lifetree Café ministries, we ask two key questions weekly: “Did you experience God today?” and “Did you grow closer to others today?” These outcomes are based on Jesus’ two great commandments. Incidentally, almost everyone fills out the Lifetree comment cards every week. And, most weeks, we see very high affirmative answers, often with extra comments. Reading the comments is a favorite part of our week.
Some other sample questions for you to consider:
– What do you recall from last week’s sermon/lesson?
– How did you put last week’s message to use in your life?
– Did a leader or member greet you by your name today?
Feedback questions may be posed on comment cards, in mailings, online, and in person. You may invite feedback weekly, monthly, or sporadically. Just make the mechanism available and easy for everyone to participate.
Your ministry will be better for it.