Follow Us

Feedback is essential for growth

If you’ve never been in a relationship where you’ve regularly received constructive criticism, then you’ve not really been discipled. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a disciple, you’re just doing it the slow way. To grow as a disciple, you must change your behavior (moving from your way of doing …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

If you’ve never been in a relationship where you’ve regularly received constructive criticism, then you’ve not really been discipled. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a disciple, you’re just doing it the slow way. To grow as a disciple, you must change your behavior (moving from your way of doing things to Jesus’ way), and that requires feedback.

Paul tells Timothy how to use Scripture to give disciples feedback in 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2 – it’s to teach, train, correct, rebuke, and encourage (notice that the last three in the list are reactive feedback, contingent on the actions of the disciple). One of our primary tools for growing people in our discipleship programs at AIM is constructive feedback. On the World Race, you can count on it – we’re going to let you know in no uncertain terms how we believe God wants you to change your behavior.

How to give feedback

When giving feedback in discipling, first, ask, “Will this feedback help my disciple at this point?” Ephesians 4:29 says we should share “only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs,” so begin by asking, “What does my disciple really need?”

It’s best to make your feedback as honest, but as positive as possible. Sandwich your constructive criticism between two positive remarks. As Mary Poppins said, “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

Look at the way Jesus gave feedback:

  • He rebuked a judgmental Pharisee (Luke 7:39-47)
  • He asked for a big behavior change from a leader (Luke 18:18-22)
  • He cited a flaw and showed a better way (Luke 10:41-42)
  • He outlines a procedure for giving difficult feedback (Matthew 18:15-22)
Why feedback is hard

Because people don’t like change, may be insecure and defensive, may be too busy to listen, or may be having a bad day, feedback is often rejected out of hand. To give feedback is to risk rejection. What’s more it takes time to think through what you’re going to say, to line it up in a way that makes sense, to edit the parts that don’t need to be said.

Sometimes feedback can backfire, actually hurting rather than helping a relationship. I remember calling up a friend to tell him to be careful of getting to close with his pastor – that the pastor was fundamentally manipulative. He and his wife felt bad as a result and for a time, our relationship suffered. Later, however, when the pastor treated them poorly, I was glad that I’d shared what was on my heart.

How to receive feedback

Because most feedback represents an effort to invest in you, the appropriate response almost always is simply, “Thank you.” Usually, it is intended as a gift, so appreciation is in order. Because many of us have a streak of insecurity, this may be difficult for us – we want to defend ourselves or at least explain the situation. But if you want to grow, it is imperative that you discipline yourself to respond appreciatively. You may want to begin by asking someone who will be honest, “Do I sometimes reactive to feedback by defending myself?”

Of course, you may want to follow up with a clarifying question, but if people know that you’ll be thankful for the information they bring you, you’re more likely to hear it.

Comments (6)

  • Hey Seth,

    I have watched you do this with people and one of the tools you have used are questions like: “Have you ever thought that……?” In other words rather than demand something you “lead” people. That takes skill and no doubt practice. Having been on the receiving end of things it was always more easily accepted when I knew the person really loved me.

    In any event these are good insights–thanks.

  • Thanks for this. As a current team leader I’m learning a lot more about how to give feedback to my coleader, my students (who don’t necessarily want it!) and our ministry contacts. And I second what Butch says…

  • Here is a passage from The Message Bible describing Prophets.

    “We dont read very many pages into the Prophets before realizing that there was nothing easygoing about them. Prophets were not popular figures. They never achieved celebrity status. They were decidedly uncongenial to the temperatments and dispositions of the people with whom they lived. And the centuries have not mellowed them. It’s understandable that we should have a difficult time coming to terms with them. They aren’t particularly sensitive to our feelings. They have very modest, as we would say, “relationship skills”. We like leaders, especially religious leaders, who understand our problems (come along side us” is our idium for it), leaders with a touch of glamour, leaders who look good on posters and on television.

    The hard rock reality is that prophets dont fit into our way of life. For a people who are accustomed to “fitting God” into their lives, or as we say, “making room for God,” the Prophets are hard to take and easy to dismiss. The God of whom the prophets speak is far to large to fit into our lives. If we want anything to do with Him , we have to fit into Him.

    The prophets are not “reasonable”,accommadating themselves to what makes sense to us. They are not diplomatic, tactfully negotiating an agreement that allows us to say “yes” in the outcome. What they do is haul us unceremoniously into reality far too large to be accounted for by our explainations and expectations.”

    On behalf of myself and any other prophets out there I just want to sincerely apologise if our correction seems harsh. Ive read what you have said Seth and boy would I love to have those skills!!! Unfortunatly, as much as I try, it still comes across “cutting”. I hope the above passage would shed some light on the “why” but my heart is still to come across more loving. I prayed again the other day about this and have done many times before and God gave me a picture of this massive crab claw with all its teeth trying to hold a delicate flower! Its not easy but I do hope you will all accept my apology if in the past my words have been too sharp. I do lack the skills to bring the words in a nice gentle way, I am aware of it and trying my best to work on it!

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Radical Living:

Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

© Adventures In Missions. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | RSS Feed | Sitemap