One well-worn adage goes, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.” I’d suggest one more adage for those in ministry. “Two things you can’t avoid in ministry are…people late to the service and … church critics.” In this short post I suggest 10 ways to handle the church critic.
Having served in full-time ministry for 40 years, I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. When I’ve sensed a good heart from the critic, I tend to respond with more grace. And, I’ve learned to appreciate this advice from Abraham Lincoln. “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.“
10 healthy ways to respond to my critics (actually 9, I’d love to hear your 10th).
- Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.
- Let your body language communicate that you are really trying to understand their criticism.
- Avoid an immediate retort such as, “Yea but,” “You’re wrong,” or some other defensive response.
- Breath this silent prayer, “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”
- Before responding, take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. President Lincoln suggested that we when we get angry we should count to 100 before responding. That may a bit of overkill, but counting helps us avoid reacting.
- Look for the proverbial ‘grain of truth’ in the criticism, and learn from it.
- If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from a safe person in your life. (see my post on What to Look for in a Safe Person).
- Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). You probably don’t want to vacation with them.
- Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, ask yourself what they did that made it easer to receive. For those who botched it, remember to avoid those tactics.
- …… what would add as a tenth?