Cultivating a Feedback-Friendly Congregation

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Think of a time when good feedback or a helpful suggestion made a big difference for you or for your church. Think about what you do regularly that perhaps goes back to an observation or idea a friend shared with you. Remember all that you never realized you were doing wrong or poorly until someone pointed out a better way. Think of how much better a ministry is doing after changes were suggested and implemented. If many examples come to mind from this exercise, chances are you are a phenomenal leader, and whatever you lead is likely to bear fruit.

If church participants regularly see that feedback is welcomed and makes a difference, ideas for improvement are abundant.

We know that learnings from experience and feedback fuel personal leadership growth. Churches also need a culture friendly to feedback. Churches in which feedback is commonplace get there because leaders foster and model such a spirit. If church participants regularly see that feedback is welcomed and makes a difference, ideas for improvement are abundant. Every ministry leader can take steps to cultivate such an environment.

Nelson Searcy in Engage: A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services (Baker, 2011, 160-162) offers suggestions about how leaders can set the stage for a feedback-friendly church. While he is writing about planning and improving worship, these behaviors can be utilized in any aspect of the congregation’s life.

  • Plan a time for feedback. Set a specific time for review.
  • Begin with prayer. Thank God and ask for renewed guidance.
  • Be grateful for feedback. Thoughtful feedback leads to improvement, so be grateful for it.
  • Be your toughest critic. When others see you naming things you can do better, they are likely to be more open with you.
  • Give and seek specific feedback. If it’s not specific, it won’t be helpful.
  • Focus on the issue, not the person. The people involved in the problem probably already feel terrible. Focus on fixing the problem and not blaming anyone.
  • Ensure action for each point of feedback. If you don’t, nothing changes.
  • Seek feedback as a way to honor God. Begin with a humble spirit and a desire only to honor God more fully as you improve.

Every church needs a culture friendly to feedback, and every leader is called to model a spirit that seeks such feedback. Only in this way will congregations and leaders grow into ever more faithful and fruitful witness and service.


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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems, Jr., is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, professor of church leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.


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