Last year when the Serial podcast burst on the scene, it immediately gained a huge following. The first season was a riveting investigation into a 1999 Baltimore murder case. One of the biggest challenges the Serial reporters faced was the 15 years that had passed from the time of the murder. Even with recorded trial testimonies, detailed investigation notes, and in-depth interviews with many of those involved, it was extremely difficult to put the pieces of the real story together. No one seemed to be able to put all the pieces together because their memories had faded or become distorted.

The people involved in the case fell victim to an inescapable characteristic of human nature: that our memories fade as we move away from a moment in time. Even the details of our most memorable experiences disappear the further we get from the actual time of the event. Studies show that our efforts to fill in those gaps later are often inaccurate.

The challenge is magnified when we have to recall memories of recurring events. The details often get meshed together and we can’t separate one event from the other.

This Looks Familiar

In most cases, the flow of our weekend services looks relatively similar from week to week. This is why it is difficult for most of us to recall what happened in our services three weeks ago, not to mention three months ago. If we’re honest, it is sometimes hard to remember the particular facts about what happened last Sunday, especially if there are multiple services and/or multiple campuses.

So when things go wrong or well, how do we ensure that we communicate to our team members and to leadership what actually happened? Enter the post-service check-in.

If you haven’t experimented with post-service check-ins, this may be a missing link in your weekend evaluation process. Rather than rely on your memory to evaluate later in the week, you will gather immediate feedback that will help you make accurate adjustments before the next service or the next weekend. Here are some do’s and don’ts of a successful post-service check-in.

Post-Service Check-in Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t let everyone leave immediately.

The reason we don’t check-in after services is because often people are ready to pack up and head out. Try to catch everyone before they leave and ask them to gather for a quick meet-up.

Do begin with highlighting what went well.

Always begin by pointing out the wins, even if it was a train wreck Sunday and all you have to say is, “Well, we survived.”

Do make it short.

We’re talking 3-5 minutes tops here. Don’t be longwinded. Just ask a few simple questions like: 1) What went really well today that we should try to repeat as much as possible? 2) Was there anything we could have changed to make things run more smoothly? 3) What needs to change before we do this again?

Don’t address personal issues among the group.

This is not a meeting where you get into individual accountability or confrontation. For many of you this will seem obvious, but I have seen too many people called out publicly and embarrassed by leaders. For example, if someone had a bad attitude that day, it is better to address that one-on-one. Ask that individual to stay for a minute after the meeting to talk with them individually.

Do check-in before you let them go get coffee and donuts.

In the multi-service model that many churches use, the post-service check-in meeting is huge! It’s easy to let everyone go their separate ways between worship sets or assignments and not have time to execute an action plan to iron out the problems from the last service. You don’t want to meet with them three minutes before the next service and try to fix a critical issue. Give yourself as much time as possible to communicate to anyone involved in any changes you decide to make. For instance, don’t change songs without talking to your tech team first. There may be unforeseen reasons why you don’t need to make that change.

Don’t make huge changes in the moment.

Be careful not to make huge changes just because you didn’t get the response you wanted from the congregation on a particular song or service element. Every church is different, but don’t forget that there are a lot of moving parts to each element. A small thing like deciding to not repeat a chorus of a song or cutting out a slide in the message is manageable. But changing multiple songs or rearranging key points could throw everything into a tailspin. Become skilled at quickly assessing the cost of “on-the-fly” changes. It may not be worth it. Also, work on your ability to find the root of the problem and make decisions from that knowledge. Don’t just make changes because your bagel isn’t sitting well with you.

Do communicate with kindness.

Always. Enough said.

Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you.

It’s easy to get into an emotionally charged conversation immediately after something goes wrong. Lead with self-control and others will follow.

Do write down important details and action steps/follow-up steps.

This is what makes the post-service check-in effective. Take a moment to write down any responses you hear, any action steps you need to take, and any specific information you need to communicate to other leaders. This is the tactic that will help you overcome the memory gap. I live by this quote I heard years ago, “Writing things down gives you permission to forget.”

Taking time to check-in with your team immediately after service can be more than just a quick “good job”. It can be a strategic moment where you pause and capture real-time feedback from the people who made it happen. This can be highly useful for your whole team. To continue growing in excellence, our changes must be made based upon accurate feedback and not just vague memories of what happened. Keep listening. Keep investigating. Keep pursuing excellence in your worship.