One well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.” As a pastor, I’d like to suggest two more for those in ministry. Two things a pastor can’t avoid: people being late to the Sunday service and … critics. I’ve served in full-time ministry for 35 years and I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. And I’ve learned nine ways that have helped me respond better to the church critic.
9 Ways to Respond to the Church Critic.
1. Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.
2. Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.
3. Avoid an immediate retort such as “Yea but” or “You’re wrong” or some other defensive response.
4. Breath this silent prayer, “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”
5. Before responding, take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abraham Lincoln used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.
6. Look for the proverbial ‘grain of truth’ in the criticism and act upon it accordingly.
7. If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (See my post on What to Look for in a Safe Person.)
8. Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). However, you probably wouldn’t want to vacation with them. 🙂
9. Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, ask yourself what about how they criticized you made it easier to receive. For those who don’t criticize well, avoid their tactics.
What has helped you deal with the church critic?