I Heard Something About Someone Who Said This: How to prevent feedback from becoming rumors

I heard from someone the other day that I’m not a fan of here say.  Let me rephrase that, I’m not a fan of rumors, most of us aren’t; unfortunately, we come across it from time to time.  One of the most important gifts a youth minister can receive is feedback that’s going to help them in their ministry.  It doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive feedback is what guides us in our decisions and planning.  Recently, a parent asked me about something she heard about something we did that affected a student in a negative way.  There weren’t any names of who was affected, it was just something they heard and they wanted to know if I had heard the same…which I had not.  My initial reaction was annoyance at the thought of a rumor, but the more I thought about it the more I became concerned.  I know we aren’t going to appeal to everyone, I know we are going to have experiences that will turn off students and parents, but if we don’t have the opportunity to listen to the issue first hand, then that stinks…seriously.  It stinks because we are left in a situation where we can’t do anything about it…so how do we avoid these situations?
We need to be able to look at a number of areas.  First area to consider is your:

  • Area #1: Feedback System – Do you have one?  What’s your system for receiving feedback from students, parents, ministers and even coworkers.  While I have a system, I don’t follow it well when it comes to parents and students.  With my ministers I’m a little more aggressive with making sure they feel comfortable coming to me with criticism or feedback.  With my coworkers trust is a huge value that we visit again and again.  With students that don’t have direct contact with me I hope if they aren’t comfortable coming to me that they’ll go to their small group leaders.  With parents if they don’t know another parent who is one of the ministers in my program, then they’re on their own.  Don’t get me wrong I try to encourage them to call me or approach me with any questions, but it’s probably done in a more back handed way.
  • Area #2: The Door – How open is your door?  I’m sure it’s a part of our lingo, even our email signature to say, “Contact me with any questions or feedback.” but maybe our attitude really says, “But only if you dare Muhahaha.”  Humility is a value that I need to constantly embrace because I know when I first started and a parent or church member gave me feedback I would immediately respond.  Sometimes you don’t even need to respond, but if you do take some time before you write back your defensive email or making your snide remark.  When you do that your telling people you are showing people you don’t listen and then that gets out.  Most times when someone is giving us feed back we just need to listen, someone just needs to be heard.  If it’s a serious issue we need to give it time to pray and offer it up to God.  We want to make sure we are building a reputation as to someone who cares and is willing to listen even if they don’t agree.
  • Area #3: The Source – Who’s telling you about what they are hearing?  Do they tend to be a gossip or are they a trusted source?  Did they hear from someone they know or is it just floating around?  I think we all need to set-up a group of people who are going to give us wise counsel, people who are going to encourage you to look for feedback.  It’s intimidating to be evaluated, to do a survey, to ask someone what they really think, but it’s something we need to do…that’s why we need people who are going to encourage us to get feedback.  It diminishes the burden to fix things on our own and it again sends the message that you care because you are willing to bring it to other people.

Part of me wants to figure out the source of my current situation, I did ask the parent that if they had any more information to let me know and I encouraged them to encourage other parents to come to me any time they had a concern, advice or a question.  In the end we need to look at whether or not we are asking for feedback, how approachable we present ourselves and whether we are listeners or not.  It’s frustrating, something many of us may not want to approach or even acknowledge but if you don’t set up a system there’s no way of controlling the feedback from becoming rumors.
Not sure what your thoughts are:
How do you prevent rumors? 
How do you create an environment for feedback?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • my pastor and I had a deal that when we heard something, we would go straight to each other and share it and give the source if we could. we didn’t want each other to ever be blindsided. And then when we told each other, go after the source and see if its true.

  • Jay you are so right on going to the pastor, in fact that’s definitely something to be on the list. My pastor has been awesome on giving insight to how to handle these situations. But I would be curious to see how many people feel like they can rely on their pastor to help them dispel a rumor or gossip.

  • You definitely need to get credit for the funny opening line to this post! All good advice — it’s important to listen to feedback but you can’t live or die by everything someone else says about your ministry. I used to do a yearly written survey. It was anonymous and parents and teens filled it out, giving us all sorts of feedback about what in the program was helping and what needed to be changed.

  • Brian,
    Thanks for the feedback, I have to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about surveys, I’ve done a couple (maybe not enough) and I think there is definitely a skill in how you survey parents and teens. Like you I’ve gotten an array of feedback from doing one. If you’ve found success doing one I would like to hear more.