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One of the best ways to improve your ministry is through feedback.

Some see feedback as a negative, perceiving it to just be criticism or giving people the opportunity to gripe and complain.

But if you want your ministry to improve, then see feedback for what it really is: a gift! No matter how off-base some of the feedback may be, there is something you can learn from it that will make the ministry better.

With feedback, you can better understand people's needs, wants and expectations. Based on that, you can improve your ministry to better serve people. You can be a learning machine who gets better week after week.

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Feedback can also help you discover blind spots in your ministry you would never have considered without it. Whether the feedback is a compliment or complaint, see it as your friend.

What's the best way to gather feedback? Let's look at four ways you can obtain feedback for your ministry.

Face-to-face interaction: You can get feedback in person by asking people how they enjoyed their experience at your church. I'm not saying to stand at the exit door with a clipboard and tell people they can't leave until they give you some feedback. That's probably not a good idea anyway. You don't want to get in the way of a hungry church member who is headed for the local buffet.

In-person feedback should be gathered casually. Some examples: Asking a family how they enjoyed the service as you pass them in the hallway. Listening at the exit door as parents pick up their children and ask them if they had fun. Having someone passing out candy after the service and asking kids and parents what their favorite part of the service was that day. Have a photo spot set up and have someone there to take pictures of families with the family's smartphone. While taking the picture, the photographer can ask what they enjoyed about the adult service, kids' service and so on.

You can then have the people who were asking for the feedback tell you what they heard and saw.

Focus groups. One of the best ways to get feedback is through parent focus groups. You can do this by inviting eight to 10 parents to participate. Make sure the group is diverse so you can get balanced feedback. This means having some families who have been in your church for many years. And having families that are brand new to your church. Ask single parents to be part of the focus group as well.

You can get more information about hosting a parent focus group in this post. It includes a list of questions you can ask parents.

You can also get great feedback through a kids' focus group. Who better to give you insight about the ministry than the people for whom it was designed?

There are tips for hosting a kids' focus group at this link. It includes examples of how to get kids to share what they like and don't like about the ministry.

Online surveys. Send out an online survey to families in your church. Keep it simple, five or six questions tops. Give them the option to just make a quick response and space for them to go into more detail if they'd like.

You can get a higher response rate if you'll offer guests a free gift for their input. It can be a book, a gift card, a coffee or another treat on their next visit. Because they have fresh eyes, guests can provide insight you wouldn't notice yourself.

I remember we once received feedback from a guest. They mentioned that we did a great job helping them check in. But they said when they got to the classroom door, the lady who checked them in never smiled.

Guess what our next training was about? Looking new families in the eye and smiling at them. We wouldn't have gotten that valuable information without feedback.

Social media / online reviews. Today's families are in tune with social media posts and reviews about every area of their life, including reviews of churches. Many times, they will post about their experience at your church.

It's important to know what families are saying online about your ministry. Check social media and online reviews on a regular basis. You can get valuable feedback from it. It's also good respond to negative feedback in a loving, humble and teachable attitude. This will show that you are sensitive to people's needs and want to serve them better.

One last thing: What should you do with the feedback? First, thank them for it. Let them know that you are listening and appreciate their input. Second, sit down and work through it with your team. What changes need to be made? How can you use the input to make the ministry better? Third, make changes as needed. Fourth, loop back with them and let them know the changes that are coming based on their input.

Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in south Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry, 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool Ministry, Children's Ministry in the 21st Century, Sunday School That Works, the Top 100 book, and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.

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