Yesterday I listed some questions we might use to pursue meaningful and constructive feedback on our preaching. In most walks of life a combination of feedback, objectively measured results and supervisor evaluations are the norm. Preaching is one of the few avenues in which helpful feedback is an optional luxury (athough many may be giving great feedback, just not to you; and the results are objectively measurable; albeit not entirely in the present; and the greatest of all supervisor evaluations is coming for us all). But there is a cheap shortcut to getting feedback, and it is generally worthless.
Post-meeting handshake feedback is part of the package of ministry. Tempting as it may be to hide in a study and pray, you have to interact with folks in case the odd one here and there actually wants to talk and there might be a deeply meaningful conversation. That said, the majority of what comes with a handshake should be graciously accepted, without any delusions of having really received feedback on your preaching.
I think there are several categories worth pondering:
1. The polite comment. If someone gives you a cake, you say thank you. If someone give you a ride, you say thank you. If someone does anything for you, you say thank you. If someone preaches a sermon for you, you say thank you. And, since you are shaking hands at the time, you probably add another comment too since human interaction seems to require it. Perhaps “thank you for the message,” or “thank you for preaching,” or “really appreciate you coming,” or “that’s given us a lot to think about,” etc. I’m convinced there are some preachers who have built a lifetime’s ministry on this category of feedback without ever realizing that it is bordering on meaningless as far as constructive value is concerned. People don’t tend to say, “thanks for preaching, your second point was unclear and I found your repetitive sword fighting gesture a bit distracting.” You have to pursue that kind of helpful feedback.
2. The extreme comment. Some people are just polite. Let’s face it, some people are just rude. Or socially uncomfortable in the other direction. They don’t know how to turn on the tap and get an appropriate flow of gratitude or critique. Instead they always give a firehose blast and you aren’t helped much either way – “that was the worst thing I ever heard” or “that was the best message I ever heard” are both a bit hard to process.
Tomorrow I will add a couple more to finish this list. Hopefully we can see that there is a world of difference between handshake comments and sought-after, permission-given, constructively thought through feedback.