As we continue to prepare for our transition to Indiana, we have put our two homes (one residence, one rental) up for sale here in North Carolina. Whenever a prospective buyer wants to see a house, their agent schedules a showing through a centralized service. After the showing, the buyers and their agent are encouraged to leave online feedback about the property, which is then relayed to our agent and to us.
Of course, we think our houses are great. However, it is vitally important for us to hear the impressions of prospective buyers. There are things we have gotten used to — an idiosyncratic electrical switch, nicks in the paint, rotted trim that we figured we’d take care of “eventually” — that make a bigger impression on someone who is seeing the house for the first time. We need the feedback of those who can see the house with fresh eyes.
It’s the same way in our ministry. Whether it’s the facility, the welcoming of visitors, or the treatment of staff, it is easy to just get used to the way things are instead of pursuing the valuable feedback of outsiders. When Dave and I were young seminarians, a pastor in Denver took us to lunch just to hear how we experienced his church after our first visit. Dave followed that example as Minister for Community Life at our previous church. We have also been a part of local church networks that regularly visit each other’s ministries both to learn and to offer our impressions.
When was the last time you solicited feedback from an outsider such as an unchurched visitor or a staff member from another local church? The feedback may sting sometimes, but trust the value of fresh eyes and an outsider’s perspective.