My young son has a natural talent for drumming. At a very early age it was easy to see he could detect rhythm and passionately appreciates music of all types. Like any good parent developing a prodigy, my wife and I began taking every opportunity we could to resource him. We set him up with drumming lessons, a drum set, and frequent mini-lectures on how to detect the drumbeat in any (and almost every) song he hears.
While driving recently, a song with a clearly defined beat came on the radio. I jumped at the opportunity to help him identify it. I turned the volume up and began “tapping” my finger in the air, so he could see. I said, “Son, hear that beat right there?” Now bobbing my head, the beat shifts, as does the staccato of my finger.
I faintly hear a sound coming from the back, but I’m disinterested because I have something to say that he needs to hear. Finally, the sound becomes distinguishable. He’s saying, “Dad?”
Down goes the volume and I say “What, son?”
His reply, “I’m thirsty.”
Listening for The Voices
When you’re on a roll, it can be hard to slow down and truly hear what people are saying. It’s easy to assume you know what people are thinking and caring about. But sometimes, what people want and need is different than what we’re offering. It was more important to my son, at the moment, to quench his thirst than glean my rhythm wisdom.
In a ministry setting, it’s only when we listen to the varied voices of our people that we can truly gauge how we can meet those needs, leading to more growth and buy-in from engaged audiences.
It’s not enough to publish great blog posts, share the latest social media trends, or produce quality Sunday morning messages. We have to listen to what people are saying.
Communication must go both ways if we want to let people know that they are part of the conversation.
The Benefits of Feedback
More than ever, people want to be heard. They want to belong, be part of something. People want to know that what they have to say matters. As the old saying goes, “They won’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Nothing could be truer of church communication. Listening let’s people know we care.
When people feel that their voice matters, they are empowered to engage and take ownership of a thing. They become excited, and excited people share what they’re excited about.
As the people in your church become more valued, engaged, and part of the conversation, they will speak out and support the ministry in more personally profound ways. This leads not only to an empowered congregation, but a group of people that helps your church grow.
When you understand what’s striking a chord with your church you can, in return, craft messages that they actually want to hear and share. As a result, your communication becomes more effective and transformational.
You don’t always have to turn down your volume to hear what people are saying. Sometimes, you just have to give them the tools to speak more loudly. Many times their feedback will come as a result of you sharing a compelling message while allowing them a way to respond.
There are a variety of techniques and tools, from old-fashioned to cutting-edge, which will ensure you’re hearing what people are saying. They include:
- Event Responses: Capitalize on people’s excitement surrounding a specific event. Capture their contact information at the event and send out a survey asking them what they enjoyed most, and if they have any pictures to share. Make it easy for them by providing custom hashtags and phrases about the event that they can share on social media. You’ll find out what they think by what they share.
- Pre-service: Set up a station where people can fill out an online survey via an iPad. If you don’t have that capability, print a card with a questionnaire they can fill out and drop in the offering.
- Post-service: If you’re gathering people’s email addresses at events, using a connection card during service, or at a kiosk, pre-service; you can then follow up with questions about their experience. You can ask what matters to them most, what parts of the message resonated with them, and any other questions you’d like.
- Online: Utilizing online survey tools (and there are plenty out there), you can get more personal with people, maybe even allowing anonymity so they feel free to respond with what they’re truly thinking. You can also include questions related to some of the tactical things you’re doing; in a sense, evaluating your job performance.
- Social Media: Have some fun on social media channels, asking people what they think about something telling, but not directly related to your church. Ask questions about how groups and other ministries are impacting their lives. Some social media platforms, such as Facebook, have built-in survey tools to make this process even easier.
Whatever you do, get creative. Ask pointed questions. Ask open-ended questions. Find what works for your church and engage your people in the conversation. You’ll be happy you did.
If you are committed to listening, and acting on the feedback you receive, your church will experience more growth and richness in Body life. What’s more, the people you are reaching will be more profoundly impacted by a ministry they know cares. And that is something everyone can be excited about.
So, the question is: How will you gather feedback and act on it?