A very effective, yet overlooked method of motivating your leaders and/or volunteers in youth ministry is by giving regular feedback. Research shows that receiving positive feedback improves motivation, whereas receiving negative feedback can improve ‘performance’…provided it’s done the right way.

So how do you give good feedback (whether positive or critical) to the people in your youth ministry to keep them motivated and when necessary, ensure they’re performing up to par? The steps are actually quite similar for both positive and negative cases:


When you see your volunteers do something great (like cooking for 80 people on a youth retreat), don’t forget to give them positive feedback (also known as praise)

1. Do it soon

The best time to give feedback is right after something happened. If you see one of your leaders do something good in your youth ministry, don’t wait till weeks after the fact to tell him, it won’t have any impact. Just pull him aside after the youth service and start talking. The same goes for when you see a leader do something that’s not right, confront them immediately with it. And even though you may be a bit nervous when you have to give some negative feedback, don’t start with small talk. Just get right to the point and say what you need to say.

2. Be specific

Tell exactly what the volunteer did right or wrong. Focus on the behavior they demonstrated, not on the person.

Example positive feedback: “You did a wonderful job organizing the youth service. Every detail was taken care of, it ran smoothly, everyone involved knew what to do and you were available for any questions. Well done!

Example negative feedback: “You forgot to tell the new worship leader he also had to arrange for a sound engineer and a beamer person. He didn’t, so they couldn’t rehearse Thursday evening.”

3. Give the big picture

Show the bigger picture, how did the positive or negative behavior impact the youth ministry as a whole?

Example positive feedback: “Because you did such a wonderful job on training new youth ushers, the ten new visitors we had on last Sunday’s youth service were welcomed warmly. I’m sure they felt accepted into the group because of your team and I have every confidence we’ll be seeing them again.”

Example negative feedback: “Because you didn’t check to see if all the doors and windows were closed before you locked up, the senior pastor was called late last night that a window was still open and he had to drive over and close it. If stuff like that keeps happening, we won;t be able to use the building anymore at night for rehearsals.

4. Affirm the person

Tell them how much you value them as a person and how much you appreciate their hard work. If you’ve given them positive feedback, tell them to keep up the good work. If it was something negative, tell them you value their work in the youth ministry and how much you count on them. In the last case, it’s important not to rehash the negative stuff. You’ve delivered the bad news, now keep it positive and encouraging.

One tip I would like to add to this step is to touch people when you affirm them, just put a hand on their shoulder or shake hands. A touch communicates your appreciation and brotherly love far better than words ever could.

There’s two more things to keep in mind when you give feedback to the leaders and/or volunteers in your youth ministry:

Keep it short

Maybe it’s because they’re nervous, but leaders often start rambling when they have to deliver some bad news. They just keep going, basically repeating themselves in different words for ten minutes or so. Remember that receiving negative feedback is excruciating for the volunteer. Do yourself and the other person a favor and keep it mercifully short. It needs to be said, but that doesn’t mean it should take longer than a minute.

Do it often

A lot of leaders have issues with giving feedback. They feel uncomfortable giving negative feedback and they simply forget to give positive feedback (or they think people know all by themselves they did a great job, so why tell them?). It’s important to be consequent in giving feedback, praise people whenever they’ve done a good job and give negative feedback whenever they did something wrong.

Tip: I’ve learned a lot on giving feedback from a book called The One Minute Manager. Some of the ideas I wrote about in this post are from that book. It’s a quick read and there’s a lot of good stuff in there!

How do you feel about giving feedback? Do you find it hard to give negative feedback?