let me give you some feedback

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read the words feedback and review?

For some, it might be a sudden bolt of terror as you consider being on the receiving end of a rant about your inadequacies. For others, it might remind you of awkward moments of forced encouragement sharing around the boardroom table. For others, it might be more about overly long meetings that meander around, are unnecessarily drawn out and don’t always have any tangible impact. Or a combination of all that and more.

When I read the words feedback and review I think necessary! 

Feedback is PERSONALLY necessary.

External feedback and review is essential to personal development and discipleship because it answers the question (we should all be asking), “How do other people experience me?” You know your motives, you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you know your intent but what you don’t always know is how those things are received by others. Feedback is the key to discovering that and to inviting the wisdom and perspective of trusted others into your personal and character development.

Feedback is essential to IMPROVEMENT.

If your team or organisation is wanting to do things well (and if you’re not, what are you doing them for at all?) and to do them the most effective and efficient way (and if you’re not, you’ll be frustrating and burning out high capacity volunteers and staff) then you need to know what is good about your good so you can keep doing it!

You can’t improve what you don’t review.

Even if something is going well, you need to know WHY so you can continue to do what made it work in the first place. Without reviewing to identify the key components to your success (in anything – a project, strategy, team meeting, performance or service provision) you may unwittingly attribute that success to the wrong thing and neglect to focus on or repeat those factors that led to the success. Furthermore, your capacity to turn good into excellent is thwarted when you don’t know why it was good to start with.

If you don’t know why it’s working when it’s working you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.

Feedback is essential for SELF AWARENESS.

Ignorance is not a virtue. Feedback is the anecdote to that moment of revelation when we discover something about ourselves that we previously hadn’t known. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” The people around you know your weaknesses and strengths – they are on the receiving end of them everyday. There is no benefit to remaining unaware of the impact we make on others and how we are perceived and received.

We want to learn from those who love us so we won’t be unnecessarily shocked by those who don’t.

As Proverbs 27:6 frames it “Wounds from a friend can be trusted…”. We want to invite healthy and helpful feedback from those who love us, are for us and who are onboard with the mission and vision we have for our life or our organisation and will help us to head confidently in that direction.

No one has been fired for asking for feedback but many could’ve avoided being fired if they had!

Feedback given well results in profound ENCOURAGEMENT.

People need more encouragement than we think they do – and sometimes even more than they think they do. For the most part, many of us live in the void of knowing how we positively influence people or contexts around us.

We are never in the room when we are not in the room so we don’t always know the impact we made on the room!

Feedback is the vehicle to help us understand the unique offerings we contribute to relationships, to teams, to projects and to environments.

Often, our greatest strengths and our most unique capacities feel so natural to us that we don’t realise the impact of them on others. You might observe this for yourself, often when you affirm an attribute in someone they’ll respond with “yeah, but anyone could do that.” – when the truth is no, anyone could not do that. The fact that it comes easily or naturally to you doesn’t make it universally common.

Intentional feedback gives opportunity to highlight and celebrate strengths, talents, skills and gifts in others. Providing great encouragement and fuelling ongoing engagement.

Feedback shapes a healthy CULTURE.

When feedback becomes part of your culture (in relationships, as a family, team or organisation) it is self-determining. The more we give feedback, the more aware of self and others we become and, the more aware of self and others we become, the more feedback we will be led to offer.

When feedback is expected it is more accepted.

The more we engage in intentional feedback; the better we get at giving and receiving it and, the more we anticipate that as the natural process of living our best lives. Feedback culture creates pathways for feedback to be given – intentional processes and opportunities for feedback to be invited, offered and received. These pathways are predictable, accessible and supportive of the easy exchange of ideas and review. A culture of feedback also shapes language that makes this feedback most useful.

A simple example of this is the use of the word ‘because’. “I liked your presentation this morning” is a nice pat on the back but holds little value. What did you like about it? What’s your idea of a good presentation? What are you comparing it to? What did you get from it? How has it impacted you?

“I liked your presentation this morning … because …” You used great visuals to support your point. It was really engaging. You helped me understand something new. You brought a fresh perspective … you get the idea.

Empty praise is not accepted in a healthy feedback culture.

TRUST is required and nurtured.

A key component in a strong and healthy Feedback Culture of a team, family or organisation is trust. When feedback is part of natural rhythms and interactions it builds trust.

We can trust the motives of those who would give us feedback. We can believe that they are all about working towards our shared goals or for my personal benefit.

We can trust the silence of others because we know if there was something to be said they would have said it. Feedback culture means that there is as much honesty in the meeting as there is in the hallways (or the “meeting after the meeting”). We don’t have to fear what is not being said.

We can trust how we are being spoken about because of how we are being spoken to.

A healthy culture of feedback will nurture high trust and shape an incredibly healthy work or relational environment.

***

Let’s keep this conversation going – watch out for future blogs in this series about the necessity of Feedback. We’ll look at asking for feedback, how to GIVE it and how to RECEIVE it. Stay tuned.

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serve one another – an example to follow


“I have given you an example to follow” – these are the words of Jesus to His disciples, to us, and the very core of discipleship. Jesus is our example of how to live and love, how to follow after God’s heart and pursue His mission, ministry and purpose.

Except these words were said by Jesus after He washed the stinky, gross feet of His disciples. Removing His Rabbi robes, wrapping a towel around His waist – the uniform of a servant, and kneeling on the ground to pick up one disciple’s calloused, dirty, smelly feet after the other – washing and drying them. (The story is recorded in John 13.)

I have given you an example to follow.

Sure, Jesus says His disciples should also wash the feet of others as He has done, but His call to follow an example is greater than that.

Think like Jesus

The text tells us that Jesus is filled with a sense of who He is and Whose He is and SO He gets up from the table and goes to wash the disciples’ feet.

That’s a completely different way of thinking. It’s a way of thinking about power, about position,  authority, about influence, about knowledge, about privilege, about entitlement, that is completely different to our own natural thinking on these things. Position and power for us can mean you think you are to be respected, treated differently; honoured. Our ‘celebrity’ culture is such that a person’s status or fame or notoriety becomes something of a free pass – you get the better seats, the table in a ‘booked out’ restaurant – all the bowing, scraping and pandering to your every need and whim.

Jesus THINKS differently. He sets us a different example.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus HAS the power, authority and influence. He just didn’t consider it something to leverage for Himself – for His own gain. Instead He set it aside, He gave it up … He took off the robes and He put on the servant’s towel. He humbled Himself enough to become human … but then He went even further and died a criminal’s death – the lowest of the low.

Jesus THINKS differently.

Love like Jesus

Verse one set up this whole foot washing scene through the lens of Christ’s incredible love for His disciples … for us. He had come to the world because of love. He had walked with them in the years of His ministry in love. This was the night before He was going to be crucified for the sins of the world because of love. And here in this room as He washed the feet of each one of them … it was again, an act of love.

And, of course, we see as He did go to the cross – this incredible demonstration of His love for us.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

Jesus lay down His life for us out of love. This example that Jesus portrayed for us in the washing of the disciples’ feet was MAGNIFIED in the work He did on the cross. Stooping down. Bending low. Getting in amongst the dirt and stink and messiness. Using His power and authority to serve and elevate.

And our call is to let His love in us compel US to great love. To be so stirred by the needs of people around us and so captivated by the picture of others that GOD has – people of infinite worth and preciousness to their Heavenly Father – that we would respond by setting ourselves aside. Stooping low. Humbling ourselves. Putting others before us. Letting go of pride and self. Lifting our attention from us and our own needs and our own hurts and our own desires. Leveraging whatever power or influence or authority we might have for those who have none. Laying down our lives.

Jesus’ example is love.

He calls us to THINK like Him, to LOVE like Him and to RESPOND like Him.

Respond like Jesus

These two serving examples are pretty useless in terms of an actual activity to repeat.

Most of us can wash our own feet! We probably (hopefully) did it in the shower today or will tonight. If I showed up at your place and you proceeded to try and wash my feet I would probably be offended that you thought they stunk or that you were worried about me making your floors dirty or something – it certainly wouldn’t feel like an act of service. In fact, those who don’t like people touching their feet would probably leave rather than subject yourselves to a foot washing. It’s not a helpful illustration in that sense.

And neither is dying on the cross. There are very few opportunities we have to actually give our physical life for another’s. And certainly not in a way that would buy any sort of eternal security or salvation.

So when we look at this idea of ‘Responding like Jesus’ we have to look at the principles rather than the practice.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

We have to see that we are called to RESPOND … in humility, grace, forgiveness, generosity, compassion and mercy. We have to consider meeting needs of a practical nature – it might not be dirty feet but it might be a long lawn or overwhelming financial issues or a broken down car or a ministry opportunity. We have to consider meeting needs of a spiritual nature – to be prayed with and for, to be led to Jesus, to be helped to understand the saving message of Christ, to be grown in faith and obedience. And we have to consider meeting needs of an emotional nature – the need for companionship or a hug or advice or support through a difficult time.

We won’t be asked to give or do as much as Jesus – but we do need to be prepared for the fact that it will cost us something. Laying down ourselves by virtue does cost.

It will inevitably cost us time. It’s a blessed thing when you can serve someone else without impacting your own schedule – but it’s unlikely! It might be costly to your family, to your finances, to your study schedule, to your sleep – that’s what ‘laying down your life’ might mean. Completely setting yourself aside for the purposes of considering someone else. It’s big.

Serving costs us because loving costs us – it costs us something of ourselves.

Jesus says “I have given you an example to follow” … to serve one another in love.

Think like Jesus. Love like Jesus. Respond like Jesus.

camps are the best!!


When I was 7 years old I made my own response to Jesus at a camp. Mum & Dad were Camp Parents at a teen camp which meant I got to tag along and I can still recall many details of the moment when I was touched by Jesus in a personal, powerful way. 

Camps were a significant part of my faith journey as a youth. I lived in a small country town where only a handful of teens were part of my church. It was incredibly important for me to connect with a broader network of Jesus followers to ground and inspire my faith as I navigated my teen years. 25 years later some of the people I met at those camps are some of my closest friends and key players in my continuing God-story. 

As a Youth Pastor I have seen and championed the value of camping to the discipleship of young people. There are many reasons for their value but I think among the most impactful is the intentional setting aside of time and attention to make oneself open to the plans and purposes of God. 

There’s a new environment – a beach, a mountain, a view – at the end of a physical trip that marks a disconnecting from the routine, familiarity and comfort of home. There’s the need to sign up, save up and plan towards it that builds expectancy for what might happen. There is a new community created for the set time – relationships started and built in that set apart environment. There’s the worship and teaching sessions on a Saturday or Tuesday morning – normal “Sunday” activities engaged in a new way at a new time. There’s a leadership team who have been gearing up for this and are prayerful and hopeful for real God encounters and transformation – giving of their time and money to create an opportunity for young people to experience all that God has for them. 

Research points to camps as being a major contributing factor for faith retention and development. 


Critics of camps will point to the concern that camps generate an artificial spiritual ‘high’. They might observe behaviour afterwards and question whether or not that experience was authentic. I have ridden that wave as both a camper and leader. My belief is that ANY encounter with God is used by Him to draw us closer to Him. We don’t ever return to the same kind of ‘normal’; what we learnt is not un-learnt. The discipleship journey for everyone – particularly young people – is a series of steps and missteps as our faith increases and our personal story of God expands. 

I can’t recommend camps highly enough. The research is in. The testimonies are strong. The investment of time and money is worth the reward it reaps. 

What about you? How have camps been part of your faith journey? What involvement have you had in seeing camps impact others? What resources have you found to make camps most effective?