Posts Tagged ‘church feedback’

If it wasn’t for congregational feedback, we might not possess one of the most valuable books in the entire Bible.

When he wrote 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul was responding to a series of questions posed by the church in Corinth about issues such as marriage and divorce, whether singles should marry, food sacrificed to idols, whether preachers should be paid, freedom in Christ, spiritual gifts, and resurrection.

Their feedback to Paul resulted in long, extended answers to questions that encompass the second half of the book.

Congregational feedback can be valuable … as long as it doesn’t become adversarial.

I’ve already saluted a structured, anonymous survey and emailing the pastor as viable feedback options in my last blog.

Let me mention four more.

First, I believe a pastor should stand before a congregation and answer questions at least annually, if not more often.

When a church calls a new pastor, they often have a question and answer session with him.  These times are valuable because they indicate how a pastor relates to the entire congregation … how well he can think on his feet … what kind of vision and ideas he has for a prospective church … and the current mindset of churchgoers.

Why do pastoral candidates go through that kind of a process … and then never stand before the church again?

Some might say, “Such meetings can become divisive.”  And I agree – they can be.

But isn’t it better for a pastor to call such a meeting proactively with the congregation than to have some in the congregation call a meeting about him later on?

Political candidates stand before crowds hundreds of times when they’re running for office.  Once in office, we rightly criticize them if they duck press conferences and town hall meetings.

The feedback generated during such meetings can enlighten and encourage everyone involved.

I realize some pastors aren’t skilled at such meetings … and some members aren’t skilled at speaking in front of groups.

In that case, why not ask churchgoers to write out their questions in advance and then have the pastor answer them the following Sunday?  (Giving him a week to think about his answers.)

However it’s done, I believe this kind of give-and-take needs to be done more often.

By the way, I loved these kinds of meetings, even on those rare occasions when the questioner became angry.  Some big-name pastors hold them on a regular basis.  I’m even aware of a megachurch where a world-renowned pastor holds these meetings periodically.  Keeps leadership accountable.

Second, I believe a pastor can visit various groups in the church for question and answer sessions.

In my second pastorate, I neglected the seniors in the church for a while, and they rebelled, with many of them leaving the church en masse.

Since that painful episode, I have learned that a pastor must touch every major group in a church throughout the year: the kids, the youth, the singles, small groups, seniors … you name it.

This isn’t hard to pull off.  When a pastor is making his annual calendar, he can make sure to schedule quality time … maybe with one group every month … where he can meet with them and take questions.

Early in my pastoral ministry, I met with the deaconesses of my church and tried to give them a vision of what they could become.

They didn’t want to hear such a vision from a man … and they let me know it.

It was the last time I ever invaded a woman’s meeting without being asked to attend.

But on occasion, I was asked to speak to the women of the church … and that’s a great opportunity for feedback … provided the pastor doesn’t tell the deaconesses how to run their operation.

Third, I believe a pastor should solicit questions on occasion about certain issues that touch people’s lives.

If I was preaching topically, I’d end a series maybe once a year by asking people to submit written questions about the issue at hand.

For example, if I was preaching on marriage, I’d let everyone know throughout the series that they could write down questions about marriage on their response card.  Then I’d sort through them all and look for patterns and themes.

Then I’d let those questions provide the outline and frame my message for the last Sunday of the series.

Frontal lobe issues are best for this kind of thing … relationships, personal finances, raising kids, apologetics questions, social issues … even Bible questions.

Years ago, I read that R.T. Kendall, who pastored for many years at Westminster Chapel in London, would take questions from the congregation after he taught.  He arranged for microphones to be set up in the aisles and listeners could ask him anything about the message he just gave.

I love this approach because it’s akin to how Jesus and Paul taught at times … and people usually learn more through dialogue than a prepared monologue.

Besides, it’s much less predictable … and has the potential for both fireworks and fun.

Finally, I believe that churchgoers should set up an appointment to speak with their pastor if they have an idea or a concern.

Most pastors … even in large churches … make provision for seeing people from the congregation at least once.  It may take a few weeks to land an appointment, but they can be landed.  (And if not with the senior/lead pastor, at least with an executive pastor.)

Whenever people made such appointments with me, I was usually nervous ahead of time because I had no idea what they were going to talk about … and sometimes, they came in great anger.

For this reason, I almost always tried to figure out why they were coming to see me … and usually got it wrong.

But a one-on-one session is really the best way to share feedback with somebody.

You can see their eyes … and their body language … and their facial expressions … and they can see yours as well.

I once read that the average American citizen could see Abraham Lincoln when he was president.

Certainly Jesus did one-on-ones with people like Nicodemus.

Every pastor should welcome this kind of feedback, even if he can’t make everybody happy.

I hope these ideas are helpful.

If a church has structured feedback, churchgoers won’t be as likely to ambush the pastor or staff with their concerns.

Your thoughts?

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: