5 Questions: The art of asking for feedback

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If you’re leading a ministry, worship service, or creative team then you’ve been in the driver’s seat at the intersection of worship and design. Some services or projects coast along perfectly while others end in a total wreck. Regardless of the outcome, you need feedback and here is why:(1) To know where you stand, (2) to learn how to improve, and (3) to be motivated and appreciated.Asking for feedback doesn’t need to be scary.Nor does receiving feedback obligate you to take it. Learning the art of asking for feedback enables course corrections along the way.

These 5 feedback questions have helped me navigate feedback in a variety of contexts, like worship design. They are especially helpful for creative-types when clarifying communication and design strategy.

1. What is the vision?

Vision is the litmus test for your plan: the songs you select, the stories you share, and the creative ideas you flesh out. Everyone one on the team should be able to share, even recite, your vision. The vision is the bulls-eye at which you are aiming. ­It’s what you desire to be, achieve together, and where you are going.

Even though everyone is familiar with Coca-Cola, they still advertise their message. Millions of advertisements are seen daily around the world. Sustaining vision means you repeat your values daily. For organizations with limited resources, unlike Coca-Cola, social media is an unbeatable space to keep your vision in view.

If you lack vision, you lack a purpose. Take the time to rehearse the vision with your team when gathering feedback. If those offering feedbackdon’t understand the vision, the end results may be off target. If they get it, sound advice is likely to follow.

2. Who is the audience (or worshipper)?

This is an easy question to misunderstand. “Everyone” is a common answer given among churches, but every church has a unique core audience. Define what differentiates your audience from another for your specific service or project.

If you are asked to lead worship for a youth camp, your set list will sound completely different than if you’re planning a set for the local nursing home’s worship service.When the demographic isn’t so simply obvious, it’s helpful to openly discuss this question with your team and take in outside perspectives. Likewise,the legibility of font size and color choice on-screen should be clearly readable by every person from the front row to the back row.

Nuances of the audience inform your worship design in areas like lyric selection, technology, font-size, color choice, transitions, sound, and so on. If your audience has a high percentage of academics, your choice of graphics, story, drama, and video should resonate with them logically to maximize the message’s impact. Define the target audience and increase the impact of communication.

3. What do you see?

During a recent worship service I attended, while following the chorus on the screen, instead of the word “songs” appearing, the word “dogs” was in its place. While humorous, the error unintentionally altered the mood of worship. The obvious tip here is spell-check everything twice as misspelled words are incredibly distracting.

What do you actually see? Ask people to describe what they see. Sometimes the obvious choice is right in front of your eyes. If you were projecting the lyrics of Hillsong’s “Oceans” would choosing a red sunrise or blue water motion background make more sense? Selecting the blue water makes logical sense in this case. Strengthen your communication with supporting visuals. And don’t forget to consider your off-screen visuals. Architecture, visual art, and spatial relationships form our worship experiences in powerful, even if subconscious, ways.

4. How does it make you feel?

Happiness, trust, empathy… Feelings can motivate us. The moment a person makes a decision, it is based more on feeling than logic. Case studies of successful advertising campaigns with purely emotional content perform about twice as well as those with only rational content.

The emotional power of color is substantial and note-worthy here. Walk into a warm colored room and you automatically feel more energetic. Color impacts your moods and creates a reaction, even to those who are colorblind. Match the emotion and color to compliment your message. Online you can find many charts illustrating the color theory of emotions.

Ask for feedback in the form of single words (i.e.feeling or emotion descriptors). By grouping similar words together you can see a pattern emerge. These patterns can help you improve the message morethan generic feedback people share. Let’s say you’re selecting songs and receive these descriptors before the service:

Song 1: enthusiastic, joyful, alive, warm, reassured, noisy

Song 2: slow, tense, cold, empty, mournful, silent

What emotions are you trying to evoke? All have their place and power to communicate a message. You’re likely already doing this intuitively with song selection. Asking the question when you are less certain can reveal some helpful insights.

5. What does it communicate?

This avoids the open-ended, often unhelpful, question “What do you think?” Discovering what something is communicating is far more helpful than opinion.

Everything communicates. Evaluate all aspects seen and unseen (sound, smell, taste, touch, perceptions). Does your platform design include poorly made felt-fabric flags from another century? Are you serving the paper-thin communion wafers that taste like wax with sour juice? Notably, I’m picking on the low-hanging fruit here, but the point is ask, “What is being communicated about worship?”

Here’s a more dynamic example of examining what is being communicated. A church in the Northwest USA serves their community where 50% of the children born have single-moms. The church believes they should be family to these single moms and kids. One way they serve these women is by fixing their cars for free. Local news stations have asked to run this story. The church examined what was being communicated to the families they serve. Accepting publicity could change the single-mom’s perception of the church’s motive. Relationship trumped. The church declines the media attention despite the good favor it might bring them in the community. That’s communicating a lot.

Before jumping back in the driver’s seat, artfully ask for feedback and learn how to crash gracefully. Start with vision, differentiate the audience, and better understand what others see, feel, and think so you can more effectively communicate. Whatever your context, feedback will help you evaluate, improve, and be motivated.

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Professional collaborator. Amateur chef. Being made new. Creative director @wesleyanchurch. I believe in simplicity and the power of transformational stories. Working in the world of non-profit design and brand strategy. Creating collaborative environments where worship and art dangerously expose hearts to receive God’s love.

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