What To Do Before You Handle Feedback

I’ve been told the retreat I take students on is disliked by everyone.  I’m not a fan of absolute statements because it makes everyone look like a fool.  For a long time I was far from good when it came to receiving negative feedback, because I would always believe it to be here say.  If it didn’t match up with my opinion that’s fine but they were still wrong.
The problem with that attitude was it was immature and cocky.  And I’m sad to admit it’s probably the reason people stopped serving in student ministry.  If we can’t take criticism we come off prideful; however, if we take everything to heart it’s going to burn us out.  We need to be able to determine the difference between honest feedback and here say.  And you can do that by:

  • Checking The Crowd – It’s a clear and simple solution, though not always easy.  Best way to know if a group of people liked something is to evaluate their experience or perception.  When putting together an evaluation be sure not to lead in questions to derive a specific answer, but also don’t leave them to open ended.  Be specific and focused and you’ll get specific and focused answers.
  • Checking The Source – Are you being blamed for something that’s happening in their life? Sometimes negative feedback experience is really someone crying out for help and all we have to do is listen.  It’s easy to just dismiss someone if they are negative, but be patient and let them be heard.  If there is something you can do to follow up great, if not you at least gave them a chance to vent.
  • Checking Your Heart – Maybe you don’t like feedback because you don’t want to be hurt.  Do you have something to prove?  I know I did because of my youth and lack of experience I wanted to do everything perfectly.  So if there was honest feedback I was quick to say to myself, “That’s just dumb.” Best way to examine your heart is through prayer and ask God to reveal the emotions you are feeling.  Once you have identified that emotion (fear, anger, pride, etc.) lean into it, address it and cast it out with the power of Christ. 

However, it can’t all be done on a case by case scenario, we need systems to capture and process feedback.  It doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive it can’t always be ignored.  Here are two ways I suggest creating that system:

  1. Accountability Partners – Find people you trust, who will speak truth into you and ask their opinion.
  2. Regular Evaluation Systems – Set up a system where you are constantly evaluating parents, teens and ministers.  If it’s bringing people together have someone else (i.e. coworker, fellow minister, parent) lead the conversation so you don’t feel attacked.

What systems do you have for obtaining feedback?  

How do you determine the difference between here say and honest criticism?