During my earlier years of ministry, I rarely asked for feedback and struggled to accept a critique. I wanted only affirmation! I would work for hours to craft a masterful sermon and I was thrilled to be told how amazing it was. However, if one person gave me a critique, I would say “thank you” on the outside, but on the inside I was crushed. I thought, “How dare they?” In reality I was a thin-skinned, insecure leader with a low self-esteem.
Today, I approach leadership and ministry with a much different mindset. Yes, I still enjoy people telling me how awesome my sermon is, as do most pastors. But today, I have a deliberate plan: I ask for feedback and critique.
I preach three times every Sunday morning. After the first service a few team members critique my content, connection, clarity, passion, and anything else they find helpful. It helps me preach better in the other two services.
Every Tuesday we sit around a table and critique everything about the previous Sunday. I also invite input and critique of staff meetings, key initiatives, and decisions. Critique is a key component of our staff culture. Here are some reasons why this process is important:
You’re not as good as you hope to be.
Asking for feedback opens the door to a better YOU in the future. Everything I know, I learned. And everything I hope to know ten years from now I will have to learn. Other people can give me a perspective I could never get alone, helping me become better than I could become alone.
You’re not as teachable as you need to be.
Having a teachable spirit increases my ability to learn and grow. But the fact that I am leaning in, and asking others on my team for critique, helps build a culture of being teachable throughout the entire team. Such a culture helps me relax in meetings when I am the one giving feedback and critique. If this culture is not developed, such meetings can be tense.
You’re not as humble as you’re required to be.
Asking for feedback fosters a Spirit of Humility. Humility is one of the primary attitudes required of church leaders. 1 Peter 5:5 says “And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (HCSB).
Humility does not come naturally for any of us, but asking someone to give honest feedback and critique is one intentional way to cultivate it. When it is a practice of the Lead Pastor, others on the team will also begin to value humility.
Your team does not feel as valued as they’d like to feel.
Nothing elevates the feeling of being valued like asking a person their opinion. For a Lead Pastor to ask the Youth Pastor for feedback and critique will likely feel strange to the Lead Pastor at first, but it will definitely elevate the feeling of being respected and valued in the Youth Pastor.
The struggle is real, especially among pastors. After serving the same church for twenty years (as in my case), and watching it grow from 200 to 2,000 in worship attendance, the struggle is even more magnified. Attitudes of pride, arrogance, and entitlement are a constant threat. It’s been extremely beneficial to ask newer, younger, and less experienced staff members to critique and give feedback on a weekly basis. Their perspective helps me stay “out of the clouds” and maintain a sense of transparency and humility. By the way, several team members critiqued this post, thus making it better!
Have you been through my experience? Was there a time you avoided feedback but now seek it? Share your decision making process in the comments.