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Everyone wants to be proficient at their job. But how do you you know if what you're doing is working? While there are different metrics you can use, encouraging feedback from students is a tool many people overlook. Our friend Jamie Mullen, youth minister at LaBelle Haven Baptist Church, regularly seeks feedback from his students. We recently chatted with Jamie about this and other topics.
Jamie solicits feedback from his youth group once a year. He believes that it’s important to guide his students through it to make sure that they understand how to provide meaningful feedback in a constructive way. He asks specific questions and open-ended ones; this way, he gets feedback on the current direction and gathers potential new ideas.
Jamie makes a great point: The point of the feedback is two-fold: It helps you improve your ministry and it helps your ministry improve you. If one isn’t growing, the other can’t grow either.
Here are a few of the questions we asked Jamie and our summary of his responses.
How do you receive the feedback?
Jamie lets his students choose whether or not they want to remain anonymous. He says that for him, there is value in both options. Maybe students are afraid to attach their names to feedback that is more critical, so giving them the option to remain anonymous allows them to still give you that feedback, which could turn out to be valuable information that could lead to a much-needed change in your ministry. On the flip side, if one of your more trusted students gives some honest feedback, you can know that it is coming from someone who may represent the rest of your youth ministry.
How do you collect the feedback? Digitally? On Paper?
Jamie elects to do his on good old fashioned paper and the most important part of his process is making sure that you don’t group your students up. If you say “form groups of four and discuss what feedback you would give me,” there is a good chance that you’re going to get the same answers from those four students. While breaking off into pairs or groups can be valuable in other ways, Jamie says that he is looking for each individual students individual (and honest) answers.
How much weight do you give to the feedback?
When you open yourself up for feedback, you're opening yourself for both positive and negative responses. It’s important to understand that most of it is not personal and that it’s the opinions of the students you’re serving. While you can know that some of your student's response may not carry as much weight as others.
When it comes to using the feedback to take action, Jamie says that it's important to tell your students that some of the things that they ask for are just impossible to do right now. It just isn’t the time or it just may not be feasible at this moment. So it’s important to ask yourself, “What can I actually change now” and “What would be most beneficial to change now?” You can find yourself with responses that can be implemented easily and that can grow them, or grow you, or even grow your ministry.
Once you have received your feedback, how do you process it? Alone or with a team?
Jamie and his wife work through a group they called their “college and career.” These are the people who have been with them and who they have trained, but also ones that they can trust. It’s good to get with a group like this and ask, “Is this really something we think we can do?” Recently, in a feedback session in December, a girl asked for more time with the girls in devotion, and that was something Jamie and his team could do, so they did it. They took the feedback, and they made a chance that was meaningful and made an impact on their ministry over their students.
In the end, you need feedback from your senior pastor, or from elders or deacons, but they aren’t the ones down with you in the trenches. Use the feedback of the students that you are serving to make impacts on your ministry and on their relationship with Christ!
Jake and Jamie discuss these truths in the video below!