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Posts Tagged ‘creating feedback mechanisms for churches’

Many years ago, I did something really stupid.

(I did something stupid yesterday, too, but let’s ignore that.)

Someone tried to convince me to show a music video during a Sunday service.

I liked the video … and the group that did the video … and the song they sang.

But the first time I saw the video was during the service … and the video just wasn’t appropriate for our congregation at the time.

And I heard about it … and handled the reaction that came my way rather poorly.

When pastors get together, they sometimes share war stories about the complainers and critics inside their churches.

Many times, the pastor doesn’t deserve the critcism he’s receiving … but sometimes, he does.

And many … if not most … pastors haven’t created feedback mechanisms for attendees when they’re unhappy about something.

I once knew an older gentleman who would stop and see me in my office about once a year.  Whenever he stopped in, he had one or two “suggestions” he wanted to share with me.  And they were always good ideas.

But if he didn’t have the courage to approach me directly … and many, many churchgoers are too afraid to speak with their pastor about anything remotely negative … I wouldn’t have benefited from his observations.

What kind of feedback mechanisms can pastors use to solicit congregational feedback?

First, I believe that every pastor should take an open-ended survey of the congregation on an annual basis.

A pastor would ask five or so questions that demand more than a “yes” or “no” answer.  For example:

*Why do you come to this church?

*What do you like best about the church?

*In which specific ways can we improve?

*What can we do to attract more guests?

*If you could wave a wand and get rid of one thing, what would it be?

I’m not suggesting that these are the actual questions to be asked … they’re just samples.  Every pastor needs to devise his own.

But this kind of a process makes the following statements:

*This church isn’t perfect.

*We value your input.

*We believe that you notice things we don’t see.

*We put a premium on constructive feedback.

*We take your ideas seriously.

To really be effective, this kind of survey has to be conducted during a weekend service … maybe at the very end, so people can finish their surveys and then leave.

But if church attendees knew that every year … maybe at the beginning of fall … they would be asked to share some opinions about the church, wouldn’t that be a great place to channel their ideas?

In this case, I think it’s okay to ask people to fill them out anonymously unless the person filling out the survey wants to expand upon their suggestion.  In that case, they can give their name and email/phone.

Second, I believe that churchgoers should feel comfortable emailing their pastor about their feelings and ideas.

I’m more of a visual guy than an auditory one.  Many things that people tell me go in one ear and out the other … as my wife can attest all too well.

If I can read an idea, I’m far more likely to remember it than if I just hear it.

For that reason, I’m not too receptive to people coming up to me after a service and hitting me with a complaint or a suggestion.  I’d prefer they put it in writing so I can understand what they’re trying to say more accurately.

Maybe this is just me, but I’d rather have someone email me their suggestion on a Monday morning than talk to me after a weekend service … and I suspect that many pastors would agree with me.

Whenever people gave me feedback via email, I tried to get back to them within 24 hours … and I always thanked them for contacting me directly … even if I didn’t like what they said.

I’ll share some more feedback mechanisms next time.

Which feedback mechanisms do you believe work in congregations today?

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