“They also implemented a customer business review process to regularly sit in front of more customers than ever before. Ironically, this not only facilitated stronger relationship, but it gave someone else the opportunity to keep score – the customer. and when customer impressions are measured, it can lead to important insights.”

When was the last time you walked up to a parent and asked them for feedback on how your ministry was meeting their needs? And I’m not talking about your “best” parents who serve and champion your efforts at every turn. I’m talking about random parents who you don’t really know but they show up week after week and never tell you anything. Have you asked them how you’re doing?

Companies are beginning to include their customer base as part of their feedback loop for the review process. They’re not weighted as heavily in the process, but they do add a significant voice to how a person is doing in their job.

I’ve questioned how this might work for ministry. It’s not apples to apples of course, but we need to know how we’re really doing not how we think we’re doing. We need feedback from the ones experiencing our efforts.

This could be a survey, but surveys only get so far. Gathering the best feedback may call for you to create several focus groups that could encourage dialogue and uncover the answers you really need to hear.

Who should be around the table? 

A need a true random sampling of the families in your ministry. Don’t go through and choose the families you think will give you good feedback. You really need to hear from people who never talk to you.

While the sampling should be random, it needs to be strategic. (Yes, I realize that sounds like a contradiction.) However, you need parents of younger and older kids around the same table. You need people who have been around awhile and those new to your church.

Divide your name tags into age groups that reflect how your ministry is divided. Depending on the size of your church, pull four to ten name tags from each group. You those names and divide them out into smaller groups to make sure that each group has representation from the important demographics.

Who should lead the discussion? 

You need an outside facilitator who is not directly associated with your ministry. We had a member of our church who did this for a living. She often donated her time to help us out.

Whoever you get, they need to be objective and not lead the parents in any particular direction. The facilitator should ask questions and keep the discussion on point, keeping rabbit trails to a minimum.

What should you ask? 

Everything is fair game, but you should ask quesitons related to their experience in your environment.

How do you interact with our staff? What is your impression of our staff?

How does your child talk about our ministry when he’s at home?

How do you use our take-homes throughout the month?

Have you ever invited anyone to our ministry? Why or why not?

What was your first impression of our ministry? How has that changed since you’ve been here?

What could we do to improve?

What is the best part about our ministry?

You probably have a good idea of the questions you need to ask. Make sure these quesitons are mostly open-ended and will get parents talking about the ministry. The best feedback will come from the stories you’ll capture.

It’s important to know how parents perceive our ministry. Yes, our ministry is to children, but we’re partnering with parents. We need to keep them in mind when we serve their kids.

How about you? How have you used focus groups in your ministry? What questions would you add to the list? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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