Giving and Receiving Feedback (1-Hour Small Group Study)

Small Group Study / Produced by TOW Project
Feedback sealions

For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.


Talk about performance at work can bring up all sorts of mixed feelings. In a recent study of over 1,000 professionals, nearly a quarter of respondents said they "feared" their performance review, while 42 percent said they think managers leave important elements out of their review. According to the study’s authors: "Traditional annual performance reviews are inadequate. They’re biased towards recent work, goals aren't communicated clearly, there's misalignment in objectives between organizations and employees, and quite simply, the whole process just takes too long."

While some large companies have scrapped the traditional review process, many Christian professionals still give or receive reviews each year. This session will offer a Christian perspective on measuring performance and giving and receiving feedback.


In one sense much of the Bible reads like a performance review. In Genesis 1 God evaluates his own performance after each day’s work and pronounces things good. The job description for human beings is laid down in Genesis 1 and 2 and the first human failure and performance review takes place in Genesis 3 with drastic consequences. In the Old Testament God establishes a number of formal covenantal relationships with his people, with privileges and responsibilities clearly defined on each side and the knowledge that there will be review and accountability. When God gives the Law to Moses and later raises up Judges and Prophets to evaluate the performance of his people, it is with reference to the special relationship that they enjoy with God who crafts for them a special destiny.

A similar review process that demonstrates a commitment to growth within a faithful relationship takes place between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus offers both personal encouragement and critical evaluation. Furthermore, performance evaluation also operates in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. These are often letters of encouragement, instruction and critical evaluation that come out of a strong personal relationship. The people of God are commended for what they have done right and criticised for ways in which they have strayed. Paul offers instructions about what is required to get back on the right path again. He prays for them and offers what personal support he can.

In brief, the Bible offers this model for performance evaluation:

  1. Review within a committed supportive relationship
  2. Start with a reminder of job description, privileges and responsibilities
  3. Give positive encouragement for accomplishments
  4. Critically evaluate failures
  5. Give instruction on how to deal with failures and build on successes
  6. Offer ongoing support and help


Encouraging The Potential In Someone

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:13-19)

This interaction between Jesus and Peter sets the stage for Peter’s future ministry. It is particularly striking because Jesus sees something in Peter that few others see. At this moment in the story, Peter is a volatile, impetuous, naive and unstable man. He is hardly the foundation stone on which you would expect Jesus to build a movement. Yet Jesus sees potential. In this passage Jesus lays in front of Peter a vision of what he can become.

Part of offering encouraging feedback is seeing not only what is, but what can be. Then nourishing this hope with positive affirmation.

Discussion Question: Has a teacher, coach or supervisor ever pointed out some potential in you that you didn’t see? How did that make you feel? Did it change the way you thought or acted?

Facing Failures

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
(Matthew 26:69-75)

Peter was not immediately up to the task of demonstrating rock solid faith. In this scene Peter denies three times that he knows Jesus, just as Jesus predicted a few hours earlier, even though Peter swore up and down that this would never happen. This story invites us to ponder what to do with failure.

There is nothing so awful as failing those we love. Even in work relationships, failure can bring on a feeling of tremendous embarrassment. Peter is reduced to tears over his failure, so we should not be surprised if failure leaves us in a similar emotional state.

Feeling remorse for failure is the first step in making failure a useful learning experience. The good news is that no failure is final. Peter’s failure started with grief but ended with redemption. The difference between a person who languishes in whether or not they accept the failure and move beyond it.

Discussion Question: How to you tend to face failure? What is hard about learning from failure? What is exciting about it?

Moving Forward After Failure

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
(John 21: 9-19)

When Jesus gives feedback he stresses the primacy of relationships. In this scene Peter is restored to relationship with Jesus and to his importance in the Christian mission. Using Peter’s original name “Simon son of John,” Jesus reminds Peter of the beginning of their relationship. Then by asking Peter to profess his love three times, Jesus gives Peter a way to process and remedy his previous failure. With the instructions to “feed my sheep” Jesus gives Peter instructions on how to move forward.

Discussion Question: What can you learn about performance reviews from Jesus and Peter? What lessons do you see for someone supervising a performance review? What lessons are there for someone being reviewed?

Best Practices From The Business World

Tips on Giving Feedback

  • Feedback should be about behaviour not personality
  • Feedback should describe the effect of the person’s behaviour on you, for example: “When you did [x], I felt [y].” “I noticed that when you said [x], it made me feel [y].” “I really liked the way that you did [x] and particularly [y] about it.” “It made me feel really [x] to hear you say [y] in that way.”
  • Feedback should be as specific as possible. It's easier to hear about a specific occasion than about ‘all the time’!
  • Feedback should be timely - not only in formal meetings

Discussion Question: Are these tips similar to or different from the biblical perspectives on giving feedback?

Tips on Receiving Feedback

  • Be open to the feedback
  • Clarify what you don’t understand, for example: “I'm not quite sure I understand what you are saying.” “When you said ........ what did you mean?”
  • Restate what you have been told in simple terms
  • Do not add to the speaker’s meaning or take the speaker’s topic in a new direction
  • Always thank the person for giving you feedback

Discussion Question: Are these tips similar to or different from the biblical perspectives on receiving feedback?


To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who are they that fear the Lord? He will teach them the way that they should choose. (Psalm 25:1-12)