Feedback… Noise? or An Invaluable Commodity?

Feedback is something pastors, worship leaders, and church leaders deal with on a regular basis.  It often comes when we don’t ask for it and, quite honestly, wish it would just go away.  But feedback can be a very useful, even vital, tool if we get ourselves in the right frame of mind and learn to take advantage of it.  Let’s look at some ways we can turn feedback from being a thorn in our side, into one of the most effective tools in our toolbox.

For some of us, we learn a lot of lessons when we decide to start running audio.  Things like… how to EQ, basic mixing, and… of course, proper gain and placement of microphones.  One way we learn how to implement and utilize mics is when we encounter feedback.  Feedback quickly alerts us when a mic is in a bad location.  It can help show us how to set our gains.  It can even show us ways to EQ a mic, resulting in a very pleasant sound response.

So, how can feedback regarding our church, in the form of comments, criticisms, or even rumors, be leveraged to help us out in the same way an audio engineer uses audio feedback?  Here are a couple ways I have discovered:

Step 1:  Be Prepared…

Know your church’s vision/direction well.  At times, someone might question a core principle.  Be ready to explain reasons for why you do what you do.

Feedback often comes when we least suspect it.  It’s very important that we never rest on our success, or perceived success.  We need to always be ready.

A great way to always be ready is to ask for feedback from other team members.  Get yourself in a frame of mind and routine where you are using productive feedback that you requested to help shape your leadership decisions.

If you don’t already ask for feedback on a regular basis, you are missing out.  If you are struggling or frustrated with where your ministry currently sits or seems to be headed, this could be a big reason.  A staff that can communicate can go anywhere.

Step 2: Never Be Disrespectful…

Whether someone is a first time guest, or that old lady that always complains about how loud the music is, always receive feedback with a smile.  Showing folks you care about their opinions and respect them enough to listen goes a long way!

It is a major slap in the face if you ask a question or bring up a concern and just get ignored.  We are all guilty of this tendency, but it is poison in the church world.

Step 3: Let Them Know You Were Listening By Asking For Specifics…

I learned this in a class a long time ago.  Quite honestly, it’s awkward sometimes to do this, but it works!  After listening to someone’s feedback, respond back with a clarifying question.

For instance, I had some folks come up to me and tell me that the drums were uncharacteristically loud one Sunday.  They talked for a while, and I tried my best to listen and smile.  When they finished I asked some more specific questions (like “where were you sitting?”, “was it during a specific song?”) to show them I heard their concern and was interested in hearing more detail.  It’s as simple as that.

Step 4: You Don’t Always Need the Perfect Response Right Then…

As a leader, I always feel the need to address an issue immediately, solve a problem that moment, or end an argument as soon as possible.  What I have learned, more often than not, is that the best answer, reply, or solution comes with careful thought, prayer, and consideration.  James 1:19 tells us we should be quick to listen and slow to speak.

So, I recommend waiting a few hours or a whole day to send that response email.  If someone approaches you on Sunday morning with a concern, thank them for their feedback and let them know you will carefully consider it.

Step 5: Learn From It…

Just like with the microphone, feedback tells us a lot.  Sit down with your staff or team and talk it out.  Sometimes it could mean a change you need to make.  Feedback can also show confusion, meaning you need to be crystal clear on your messaging.  This is often the case with rumors.  If you are clear in communicating, many instances of rumors and speculation fall to the wayside.

The key is to learn lessons through feedback!  If you see feedback or criticism as something hurtful or negative, chances are you need to spend some time looking in the mirror.  From a church perspective, it may mean you need to clarify some things like vision, model, mission, and target audience.  As a leader, it may mean you need to really do some soul searching and acknowledge your strengths, weaknesses, and where you feel God is taking your life.

In any case, it boils down to a choice… You can perceive feedback as annoying noise, or you can leverage it as a valuable commodity.

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