How to Deal with Negative Feedback

Now that I’ve coached over 1,000 pastors through my Senior Pastor Coaching Networks, you can probably imagine that I get a lot of emails from week to week.

In fact, most of the time, it serves as a huge encouragement to me – hearing the stories of growing churches, radically changed lives and greater Kingdom impact in communities all over the U.S. and beyond!

Occasionally, however, I receive emails from pastors who are hurting.  Just recently I got an email from one of my coaching alums who was feeling the sting of some negative feedback.

He had invited some of his church’s First Time Guests to complete a survey about their experience at the weekend service (something I recommend in my Assimilation System).

It’s a great tactic for gathering feedback from new people and reinforcing a positive experience.

In this instance, though, one of his church’s guests replied to the survey with an apparently honest, but negative impression of the “friendliness” of the people in his church.

And that hurts – it’s one thing to see the flaws and shortcomings of your own church, but it’s something else entirely when someone else points them out!

The sad thing is that just one negative survey response like this can steal the joy of even the biggest and most powerful Sundays if you let it….

Maybe you can relate –

– A dozen people commit their lives to Christ on Sunday, but the thing that sticks with you is the critical comment about your sermon.

– Everyone raves about your special worship service, but the only thing you remember on Sunday night is the person who complained about it being too loud.

– Your inbox is full of encouraging stories of how Jesus is changing people’s lives, but you just keep reading and re-reading that one email from the family who’s leaving your church.

I could go on and on (I’m sure you could too), but the point is this:

Negative feedback is a fact of life for church leaders and it will ruin your day (or week/month/year) if you let it!

So here are a few tips I shared with him for dealing with negative feedback (because we all get it from time to time):

  • Don’t let it get you down – it happens to the best of us
  • Reply to the sender (if appropriate) and thank them for their feedback
  • Let them know that their feedback will help your church do better in the future
  • Ask for grace and offer your prayers as they search for the right church home
  • If the feedback is constructive, use it as a teachable moment with your leaders (but only if you can use it in a positive manner)
  • Above all else – don’t get discouraged and don’t give up…

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

P.S. For more helpful insights on dealing with the hurt of people leaving your church, check out my newest resource, Why People Leave Your Church (And What You Can Do About It).

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church growth strategist, pastor, church planter and coach, consulting with churches around the world. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has personally trained more than 3,500 church leaders in over 45 denominations through live events, seminars and monthly coaching. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in Boca Raton, FL. Nelson and his church routinely appear on lists such as “The 50 Most Influential Churches” and “The 25 Most Innovative Leaders.” He is the author of over 100 church growth resources and 18+ books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life, Ministry and The Difference Maker: Using Your Everyday Life for Eternal Impact, and At the Cross with the People Who Were There. He and his wife, Kelley, have one son, Alexander.

Nelson SearcyAssimilation

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