How to give your pastor feedback


Preaching can be a strange thing sometimes.

There’s the holy task of getting up and proclaiming to speak God’s words to God’s people on any given Sunday. You’ve been studying words of scripture all week, chewing them over, wrestling with them and forming it all into a message that is easily understood by your listeners and applicable to their lives.

It’s an incredibly emotional experience too. If you do it right, you are challenged by what you’re preparing before your people hear the finished article. Your listeners get the cream-at least 80 percent is left in the study.

You get up, deliver your message and then it’s over. Phew. A week of preparation over in a half-hour sermon.

And then someone accosts you at the door and let’s you know that your message was ok, but there were a few things that they disagreed with. And then they proceed to elaborate for your benefit.

Now I’m all for feedback. I welcome it and also am glad to give it when asked. I believe it is an integral part of the learning process and is often neglected in a church context.

But there are some forms of feedback that are really helpful, and others that are simply destructive.

Allow me to offer a few tips on giving constructive feedback to your minister:

1. Don’t go for the jugular at the door.
As I’ve just outlined, preaching is an emotional process. When your pastor is done, he is likely to be emotionally ‘raw’ and probably won’t benefit from your comments at that moment, especially if they are of a negative variety. Much more helpful would be a quiet word at a later date, an email or phone call.

2. Check your heart before you dive in.
Some feedback is genuinely meant to be helpful. But let’s face it, a lot is harsh and loveless, seeking to demonstrate how much the one giving feedback knows, seeking to correct the pastor (who don’t forget has been pouring over the text all week-you probably haven’t).

Before speaking up, ask yourself: what is it that I disagree with and why? Am I motivated by love and desire to strengthen my pastor, or am I just trying to show how much I know and assert myself above him? Am I being respectful-of his calling and office of pastor?

3. How well do you know your pastor?
Feedback is much easier to accept when it is from someone you know, someone who you know is for you and not against you, who seeks to build you up rather than tear you down. Your pastor will know your motivation and accept your feedback more readily when he knows your heart and character.

I have attended some churches as visiting speaker when members have given me direct feedback…as soon as I had stepped off of the platform. Irrespective of what they said, it left me with the sense that such congregations have problems with lovelessness and a critical spirit.

4. Have you heard it right?
A while ago, I was offered some comments after a message I preached (ironically on judgmentalism). The man had completely misheard what I had actually said and proceeded to correct me based on his faulty interpretation. Perhaps there was a lesson for me to be clearer on a certain point – the feedback under the feedback – but he’d obviously gotten his facts wrong.

Listen again to the message if you are able to access a recording of it.

Humility is the key here for both parties. The pastor should humbly accept feedback from his listeners and be prepared to listen even if its not delivered with grace and cotton wool.

However, the giver should also offer feedback in humility, not assuming that they have it all sussed, but in a spirit of love, seek to build up their pastor through the delivery of helpful and timely feedback.