Yesterday I began this post on the less constructive kind of feedback we will get week in and week out (and without our requesting it). The post-meeting handshake feedback tends to border on the meaningless as far as constructive input is concerned (although massively meaningful in terms of relationships, which are worth much more than your pursuit of improvement).
We thought about the polite comment, and suggested that you don’t build a sense of the great importance of your ministry on this kind of comment (remember, there were millions of people who chose not to be there to hear you, and some who were probably chose to mentally join the millions!)
We thought about the extreme comment, noting that either extreme praise or extreme attack tend not to be the most constructive help as you seek to improve your preaching! Two more:
3. The no comment. These are hard to read too. Is the person saying nothing or avoiding you because they are deeply challenged and convicted, or because they are livid (with good reason or otherwise), or because they aren’t sure how to do the polite thing since you were so offensive, or because they need time to process more deeply, or because they are socially uncomfortable. Some of these could be really helpful sources of feedback, but you may not even realize the connection wasn’t made.
4. The misunderstandable comment. “That was so deep!” should be interpreted as “that was completely over my head.” The “thanks for your hard work preparing” might mean “shame it came across without evidence that you’d really mastered or been mastered by the text.” “You certainly put a new spin on things!” could well mean “I don’t know of any good Bible scholar, church leader or theologian who would quite see it that way,” or even “if I weren’t so gracious I’d declare you a heretic, have you thought of starting your own cult?” And I shouldn’t miss this one: “What a feast of Scripture!” could well mean, “that felt like an accidental explosion in a concordance factory, my goodness, I couldn’t keep up with your obsessive compulsive cross-referencing!” Be careful you don’t misunderstand the thoroughly misunderstandable comments that may be some of your most insightful feedback!
After preaching we tend to be vulnerable and perhaps not in the best place to carefully process the feedback that comes our way. It is good to pray through everything people say and ask God to help us discern what is helpful, what is simply politeness in action, and what is from the enemy. But if we want constructive feedback, that usually takes an effort on our part. Having said that, tomorrow I will consider one other channel of feedback that generally is more helpful than what I have described in these posts!