How to Provide Your Church Staff Helpful Feedback

Posted by Aaron Buer on June 24, 2021

Right now, nearly every industry across the nation is struggling to hire solid employees.

As the nation reopens, some businesses have more work than they can handle and not enough employees to do the work.

There is a labor shortage.  

Churches are dealing with the same challenge. At least mine is. 

In a season where hiring is difficult, leadership development becomes even more critical.

To be effective, we need to grow the people we have into the leaders we need.

A big part of this is providing your team with good feedback so they can be appropriately challenged and encouraged to grow and develop.  

Of course, you can’t control how people respond to feedback.

As a leader, that’s not your responsibility.

What is your responsibility is to deliver good and receivable feedback that can be put into action.  

And how do you do that? I’m glad you asked.

I have four tips I’d like to share that I’ve learned along the way…mostly from my mistakes.

Timely Feedback

Boss: “Hey, do you remember five months ago when you said…?”

Employee: “I have no idea what you’re talking about…”  

This is what it’s like to receive feedback that isn’t timely.

I’ve said this in numerous posts, but we often save feedback for a bi-annual or annual review.

That’s not very helpful.  

What’s more helpful is to pull the person aside right after the moment or a few hours after the moment and provide timely feedback.

One of my mentors is really good at doing this.

He calls me or asks me to swing by his office at random times to talk about something that happened or something I said.

He typically does this within hours of the situation he wants to discuss.

And, it’s not always bad feedback either.

As we will see, the most effective feedback is often positive reinforcement.  

If you want to deliver feedback that is helpful and receivable, deliver that feedback in a timely fashion—as close to the event as possible.

Regular Feedback

I grew up hating hard conversations and conflict.

I remember deciding to break up with my girlfriend in high school and then actually breaking up with her months later because the idea of the conversation brought me so much anxiety.

Ugh! I was the worst at engaging in tough conversations.  

These days, sharing negative feedback and engaging in hard conversations has become more normal for me.

Why? They happen all the time.  

When feedback conversations happen regularly, they become normal.

Every time I preach, there is a feedback conversation right after the sermon.

In every one-on-one with my direct reports, I attempt to provide both positive and negative feedback.

I receive the same sort of feedback from my boss.  

Feedback conversations have become normal. 

If you want to grow and develop your church staff and volunteers, giving and receiving feedback should be standard.

When it becomes part of your culture, the shock goes away and it becomes something your church just does. “We always do this.”

And, when combined with healthy levels of trust, a high feedback culture usually leads to high team performance.

Actionable Feedback

  • “Stop being mean.” 
  • “Stop being lazy.”  
  • “Take more time off.”    

These are examples of vague and unhelpful feedback.

What is much more helpful is specific and actionable feedback.

When you give someone feedback, be sure to tell them exactly what you want them to do.  

  • “When you critique others’ ideas, first encourage the positive aspects of their ideas.”  
  • “I need you to start showing up to meetings five minutes early because you’re developing a reputation for being lazy.” 
  • “Please schedule a week off within the next three months.”  

These are examples of feedback that can be put into action.

Aim toward specific and actionable feedback to help your church staff and volunteers grow.

Positive Feedback

There are a few moments in my life that will always stick with me.  

  • There was the time that my high school English teacher told me I was a good writer.  
  • There was the time that a good friend told me that I should keep singing.  
  • And, there was the time that my dad and youth pastor told me I should go into ministry.  

These positive words shaped my life.  

  • I developed a passion for writing that evolved into blogging.    
  • I learned how to sing in tune and later enjoyed leading worship for years.
  • I’ve been serving in ministry for almost 20 years. 

You have stories like this too, where someone saw something in you and spoke words that have directed you ever since.  

This is the power of positive feedback.

The truth is, positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative reinforcement.

This doesn’t mean that you should stop giving negative feedback, but it does mean you should focus on positive reinforcement as much as possible.  

One of my mentors puts it this way:  

Encourage the positive you want to see more than discourage the negative you don’t want to see. 

It’s just a more effective way to lead.

Reciprocal Feedback

If you want to build a high trust/high feedback work culture, feedback sharing must go both ways.


One of the most helpful things a boss can say to an employee is this:

What can I do better?

Ask it often and ask it genuinely.

If the people you lead believe you are interested in their feedback and humble enough to listen and implement it when it is accurate, you will develop a culture of trust, humility, and growth.

As leaders, you and I set the tone for our churches and organizations.

Feedback starts with you—both in receiving it and delivering it.

Wrap Up

Leadership development and growth are important in this season.

The truth is, most of our churches will not be able to go out and hire the people we think we need.

There is a labor shortage.

What we can do is develop and grow the people we have.  

If you’d like to dig into these ideas further, I recommend these two books:  

  1. Thanks for the Feedback
  2. Radical Candor (FYI, this book contains lots of colorful language)

Topics: Advice

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