Last week we talked about receiving feedback well, but once your heart is in check, how do you ask the questions that will give you the most valuable answers?

Start with yourself. Appreciation, coaching, and evaluation shouldn’t only come from others. We have to receive feedback from ourselves too! Plus, if you intentionally evaluate the things you could have done better, it doesn’t sting as much when someone else points them out too.

Create a culture of openness and feedback. People want to know their voice matters, and they want to feel heard. Consistently ask for feedback from your key volunteers and parents about your leadership and the week-to-week happenings of your ministry. Set up a volunteer or parent council that meets at least twice a year for evaluation and coaching. By being open to at least hearing all ideas, we give ourselves the chance to receive all kinds of feedback. When people know we’re open to feedback, they’re more likely to talk to us about their suggestions rather than each other (which is much healthier for everyone involved).

Be intentional with every interaction. Feedback conversations don’t have to happen only at sanctioned meetings and through formal surveys. Make it a goal to ask parents, volunteers, and kids about their thoughts and opinions on the ministry every time you meet with them. Ask about a specific event or a general ministry practice. When you’re taking a volunteer out for coffee, ask about one thing the ministry could do to help them succeed as a leader. On a Sunday morning, ask a child about their favorite activity from that day. Both simple questions can reveal strengths and weaknesses of your ministry.

Plan ahead. Especially for event-specific feedback, make a plan for gathering feedback before the event even starts so it doesn’t slip your mind in the post-event exhaustion. Host a post-event lunch with your key leadership team to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the event, favorite moments, etc. They feel appreciated with a free meal, and you get the feedback you need. Win-win. Also, if people know you want feedback at the end, they are often more intentional about taking mental notes while the event is happening.

Be specific – with the questions, the people, and even a deadline. Have a different survey for volunteers versus families in your ministry. The two will have different experiences, and your questions should reflect that. Ask specific people, not a mass email group. Whether you’re evaluating a particular event or the ministry in general, make a list of specific people and send the questions only to them. If you let participants know you’re only asking a few select people, they’ll be more willing to take the time to give you feedback because it will feel like their answers actually matter. Just make sure your group includes different kinds of people (volunteers and parents, working moms and stay-at-home moms, nursery parents and elementary parents, etc.). Also, giving them a deadline for completing the survey typically leads to higher engagement.

Gather feedback creatively. Look for new and different ways to encourage feedback, and broaden your circle. Gather feedback from people within your ministry: Use a physical or digital form for an event-specific survey. Equip your key leaders to engage volunteers in discussions and then share those responses with you. Take a group of kids out for ice cream and ask them about their favorite and least favorite parts of church. Invite your preteens to make a list of questions they have about God, the Bible, and their faith, then use those answers to guide your teachings. Next, gather feedback from people within your church: Ask your senior pastor for his or her thoughts on your ministry and leadership. Ask someone who isn’t involved in your ministry at all what they know or hear about it. Finally, gather feedback from the KidMin community: Ask a question or start a discussion in an online Facebook group like I Love KidMin and see where the conversation goes. Record yourself teaching and share the video with other children’s ministry leaders for their thoughts and opinions. Invite a friend to attend your children’s ministry and give you the perspective of a first-time guest.

Encourage transparency. If we can be transparent and vulnerable by asking for input on our leadership and ministry, the ones giving feedback should be transparent too. Ask for their name in a survey and don’t make it anonymous. Let people take ownership of their answers, and give yourself the opportunity to follow up with anyone in case something alarming comes up.

Know what to do with the answers. Asking the right questions only leads to successful changes when we know what to do with the answers. This Friday, I’ll share some of my favorite feedback-inviting questions, but these questions won’t do me any good if I don’t dig a little deeper into what the answers actually tell me. Asking a question about what a child learned isn’t just about the child. It’s a reflection of my curriculum and teaching. A question about how prepared a volunteer felt before an event shows me how I’m doing with communication and where I dropped the ball. Asking about what the families in my ministry struggle with gives me insight on how I can best support them in those struggles through resources, time, and programming.

Check out a list of my favorite feedback questions here!

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