Constructive criticism for preachers
Having just last weekend given three talks for the youth in my Church on the prodigal son, I find myself longing for some proper feedback on what I said. So far what I have managed to determine is that noone will say anything bad about the talks, and the good points are generally vague (although one really useful specific point was given). I am not so foolish to think this means my talks were perfect! Which leads me to believe that people aren’t willing to give proper feedback for some reason.
I spoke to my pastor, and it seems that there is no real feedback structure for the Sunday service preaching, although it seems he wants to set something up and has a few ideas which is great.
Feedback is essential when you’re doing pretty much any skilled work because without it we really cannot grow and improve our skills. But feedback is also really hard because it means we need to be humble and open to criticism. Feedback is also really hard to give because most of the time you aren’t really any better than the person you are feeding back to, and you must be humble and loving when you feed back or it will be ignored (and probably offend).
Feedback also needs to be balanced and consistent. It’s no good telling the preacher about all his mistakes without mentioning his successes, but equally completely positive feedback is unhelpful too. And only feeding back when a talk is brilliant or terrible isn’t helpful either, the average talks need feedback just as much!
So what are we going to do about it as a Church? Well Richard has said his plan is to arrange for regular feedback to happen among the men who preach on Sunday regularly. This is a great idea because it levels the playing field, they each know how much feedback is valued and will be aware of the dangers in being overly negative and such because they preach themselves.
I am thinking also about putting together a feedback questionnaire, basically so that if you aren’t really sure what is important to feed back on you have a series of singposts pointing you towards useful information.
What questions you would want people to answer if they were giving you feedback on your preaching?