How To Handle Feedback Wisely

Courtesy of striatic/Creative Commons License

I had just finished speaking to the high school students when one of my volunteers came up to me and asked, “Chris, do you mind if I offer you some advice?”

I began to cringe and reluctantly said, “Sure, go for it.” He proceeded to tell me that I was losing the students with message because I was speaking for too long.  I immediately snapped back, “Well, I don’t know if I agree with you on that.  Some of the teens were really engaged and I don’t think there should be a time limit.”  The volunteer smiled back and said, “No problem, only trying to help.

He was trying to help and I acted like a jerk.  Whether or not I agreed with his advice I didn’t have to be so rude with how I responded.  As a youth minister you are constantly receiving feedback and advice from volunteers, parents, teens, your pastor and even complete strangers.  Some of it’s useful; however, a lot of it can be agitating.  But, even if it is annoying, don’t be quick to dismiss feedback because it could be the key to helping you take your ministry to the next level.
When it comes to handling feedback make sure you:

  • PAUSE, THEN RESPOND – When feedback hits us close to home our initial response is to fight back.  The best thing to do is pause, breathe and listen.  Pausing allows you to hear everything and check-in on all the emotion surrounding the situation.  Know what you are feeling before you proceed.
  • ASK YOURSELF, “WHAT IF THEY ARE RIGHT?” – If it hits us wrong, our first thought is to prove them wrong.  Again, take a moment to breathe but consider their perspective.  After all what they are giving you might be a little more objective than what you are feeling.  Analyze their words, take into consideration what they are suggesting and don’t be afraid to implement.
  • BOUNCE IT OFF A FRIEND – Sometimes we turn down advice because it’s from a source we have difficulty trusting.  Take the opportunity to share the situation with your friend, see if they have similar thoughts.  If they do, then give the other person credit and embrace their insight.
  • MOVE ON – Critical feedback can eat away at us if not processed properly. First, hand it over to God, share it with a friend and if there is truth to it implement it.  But, if there isn’t any truth and you are being fully attacked, check your heart and ask God for guidance.  
When you appropriately receive and process feedback you display quality characteristics of a leader.  People will want to follow and listen to someone who is willing to listen to them.  Make sure pride and past experiences don’t stand in the way.  Embrace situations when criticism or insight is given and hand it over to God.
How well do you handle criticism and feedback?  Leave your comments.