There is “over-blurt” and “misdirected fire,” and we need to bring God right into the centre of this whole discussion. But there is more to consider. What if we see listener satisfaction incorrectly, or make mistakes in how we receive it?
5. Remember that the “Happy Test” is flawed. Happy listeners may make your Sunday afternoon easier, but it may not be the best indicator of church health. Our goal is not to make listeners happy with us. Our goal is to faithfully introduce the heart of God through careful, engaging and relevant presentation of the biblical text and its implication for their lives.
What if the text convicts, prods, pokes, and makes them uncomfortable? What if encountering God shines a light in protected dark places and they don’t like what shows up? What if their dissatisfaction toward you and your preaching is a sign that the Word of God is getting through? (Please be careful here, your flesh will want this to be true in every case and it may not be!)
Churches often create an atmosphere where the preacher feels like they are supposed to be popular (this is true with potential pastor dating – “preaching with a view,” but it also continues since many churches tend to dismiss the unpopular pastors too . . . does this reflect the dating and divorce culture we now live in? Maybe just a bit?)
6. Know that “anonymous” feedback is often useless. People in churches like to blast away from under the cover of anonymity. This may come from a feedback collection survey (these do have value and I am not dismissing the possibility of doing these anonymously, but be prepared to filter overt attacks from under the cover this generates – perhaps have a couple of mature co-leaders filter out anything that smells of vendetta rather than constructive input?)
The more dangerous mortar attacks tend to come through, “I know someone who said…”, or worse, “a lot of people are saying…” Again, there may be a place for this if a co-leader is guarding your heart by filtering slightly. However, as a general rule, anonymous critique should be resisted. People should be able to express critique and have follow up conversation. If they are scared of you, then you shouldn’t be in ministry. If they are scared of being identified, maybe their critique is illegitimately motivated?
More to come, but comment freely (here or on Twitter – @PeterMead, #ListenerSatisfaction)