Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

My Guilty Pleasure

As I write this I prepare to say good-bye to whatever vestige of mature, cultured, intellectual status I might have previously claimed, revealing myself to be a total slob. As if you didn’t already know.

Three tides converged at about the time I retired from full-time parish ministry:

  1. My wife and I took ballroom dancing lessons.
  2. I had more free time in the evening.
  3. "Dancing With The Stars” became a TV hit.

What can I tell you? I confess to being a “Dancing With The Stars” fan. And this is what I have noticed:

I have noticed that when the judges give the celebrity dancers less than stellar reviews, the audience gets upset, and sometimes the dancers do as well. These are people who are used to being applauded. The public more-or-less loves them. To have their performances critiqued is offensive, and they resist. It feels to them like they are being criticized as persons, when, in fact, it is their performance that has been evaluated. But other dancers (often athletes who are used to being critiqued by coaches) can hear what the judges are saying, absorb it, and get better. They make more progress than the dancers who cannot tolerate criticism do.

One of the functions of supervisor and lay committee is to give feedback. It would be pleasant if all of that feedback could be positive, but that would also be misleading. There are no perfect interns, performing flawlessly in every setting. (Just to be clear, there are no perfect supervisors either.) Supervisors and lay committees, wanting to help the intern “get better,” offer constructive feedback, which sometimes involves pointing out those places where performance has been less than it should have been. It is not a criticism of person, but of performance.

I’ve noticed that the interns who make the most of their internship experience are the ones who hear what their supervisors and lay committees are saying, absorb it, and get better. They make more progress than interns who cannot tolerate criticism do.

Supervisors and lay committees: give that feedback, even when it’s hard.
Interns: listen to it and get better.

When they recruit me to be part of “Dancing With The Stars,” I will let you know.

previous main next