The best way to communicate effectively is to learn what works and what doesn't and then grow from the experience. It's through giving and receiving feedback that you learn and hone skills.
Analytics may provide data on how much your communications are being absorbed, but a direct review from others provides further benefit.
Whether you are the one to receive feedback or you’ve been asked to give it, consider both the value of and best way to deliver an evaluation.
Why is feedback important?
Without feedback it can be hard to know whether your message has been received and understood. A constructive assessment of what was said and how reveals gaps ripe for improvement.
When I was in seminary I attended a United Methodist church that encouraged members to offer comments on the attendance cards. I would use that to share concerns but more importantly to praise the preaching of the seminary intern to the church leaders. I was hoping that this congregation would take notice of the growth potential and help her to further develop skills for ministry. That intern is now chair of her conference’s Order of Elders
Feedback goes beyond just saying whether someone did a good job or not. I’ve spent more than 10 years as a member of Toastmasters, an international organization that develops people’s skills in communication and leadership. A key part of what makes Toastmasters successful is feedback. At every meeting every speaker receives verbal and written evaluations.
Toastmasters look at the structure of the speech, the presentation and other areas that the speaker may be working on. In learning the skills to be a good evaluator, I learned to keep my eyes and ears open to where we all can improve.
Evaluation is not just about pointing out areas that need improvement, it’s also about encouragement. There is no instructor in Toastmasters, so peers support one another. We all recognize that encouragement is helpful when trying something that’s different and possibly scary.
So, how do we bring feedback back into the church? Surveys could be one way to get general feedback. A full communications audit could be another. No matter the primary method, it’s important to hear more descriptive details straight from individuals.
Find people throughout the congregation who are good listeners and want to grow as much as they want to help others improve. Don’t just ask someone to evaluate worship or the church newsletter as a whole. Invite one or more people to examine specific parts. For example, how smoothly did the announcement time connect to the worship time? Would the announcements be clear to someone who has never been to this church before? How could they have improved? Refer to the “Four questions to make your worship more millennial-friendly” for other items to have people consider.
Beyond worship, have someone who is not involved with implementing church communications give feedback to the social media coordinator. Are there too many or too few posts? Do the posts have clear messages for those outside the congregation? How well are comments responded to? Where could there be improvements?
When giving feedback, always include suggestions for improvement and growth. These may be a sermon topic idea or perhaps telling the communications team about someone's story that could make a good social media post.
Feedback is important to our growth as communicators and as people of faith. We learn from supporting each other, and we need to let others know that we value their feedback.
God bless you in your communications journey and growth.
Andrew J. Schleicher, ACS, ALB, is an ordained deacon in the Michigan Conference and a certified Christian communicator in The United Methodist Church. He is appointed as a senior project specialist with United Methodist Communications.