If you are a pastor or lead people in any way, criticism is a fact of life. We can learn from our critics or we can destructively turn criticism into carnage in these five ways:
1. Cut yourself off from everybody who criticizes you. Stay far, far away from them. They are idiots so avoid them at all costs.
2. Believe every criticism. It's all true, every juicy morsel of it. Believe every word of it. Make it personal. Think about it all the time.
3. Disregard every criticism. Since your critics are idiots, what comes out of their mouth is infused with globs of "idiotness." You are a pastor, God's anointed, a 'called out one' who walks with God and talks with God and knows a lot about the bible and stuff.
4. When someone criticizes you, argue them down, theologize, quote the bible, use lofty logic. Make THEM realize they are idiots.
5. Demand that your leaders, staff, and boards tell you only what you want to hear. If they have a criticism, tell then to STUFF IT.
But, we don’t have to let crititicism become carnage. We can co-operate with the Lord as He uses it to build character in our hearts. As Abe Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” When I sense that heart to help, I can learn from my critics. And it all depends on how I respond to them.
Here are 10 ways I'm learning to respond and grow my character:
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. Breathe 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. Abe 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.
7. 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.
8. Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). You probably don'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 did it made it easier to receive.
10. For those who botched it, remember to avoid their tactic.
Consider This: Think how you've responded to your critics in the past. What worked and what did not?
I just finished reading You're in Charge--Now What by Thomas Neff and James Citrin. The book targets leaders...
I just finished reading You're in Charge--Now What by Thomas Neff and James Citrin. The book targets leaders moving into new positions. Whether or not you find yourself in a new ministry role, read this book. It's a great read.
The last chapter is worth the price. The authors give ten traps for new leaders by playing off the book Why Smart Executives Fail by Sydney Finkelstein where those authors list seven destructive behaviors leaders in failing companies show.
Below, I've tweaked those traps to make them applicable for ministry leaders.
A pastor can fail if he...
1. sets expectations too high (by never meeting them) or too low (and thus disappointing high performing leaders in the church)
2. akes rash decisions or suffers from analysis paralysis
3. appears to have all the answers
4. ties his or her identity too closely to ministry success
5. fails to see reality (remember the fable 'The Emperor's New Clothes")
6. squashes dissenting opinions doesn't keep his role in context (remember, we are not the savior, Jesus is)
7. misses who really holds the power (just because power roles are written down somewhere does not mean they reflect who really holds the power) tries to win every battle
8. bad-mouths the previous pastor or ministry leader
From a morals perspective, a Focus on the Family interview of HB London and Archibald Hart gives us insight in avoided moral failure. In the interview they discussed how depression from pastoral burnout can lead to loss of vision, loss of ideals, an "I don't care attitude," and potentially, moral compromise. Dr. Hart described the progression of steps to moral failure using what he calls the four A's.
1. Arrogance: I can do no wrong, I can handle life myself, I don't need anyone
2. Adventurous addiction: I get taken with excitement and become energized with what I am doing
3. Aloneness: I become more at risk as I cut myself off from others
4. Adultery: I turn to sex as the only thing that gives me a kick that can make up for what I feel I have lost
Reflecting on these eight traps and the four A's caused me to pause to make sure I don't go down those paths. Often pastors and other spiritual leaders slowly move down the path of moral compromise without realizing it. The small, sub-surface issues we don't see can lead to devastation in our lives and ministry unless we pay attention to them.
We recommend the book, 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, which discusses this in more detail. The book shows how to become aware of these ministry killers and what to do to kill them before they kill us. For a discounted copy go to: www.ministryadvantage.org/bg
Pastor Newsletter Archieves
Click to read past articles --->
Praying for Peace And It Does Not Come--->
What Pastors Should Look For in a Safe Relationship--->
Turning a Little Criticism into Major Carnage--->
Why Smart Pastors Stumble--->
When You Don’t Know What To Do, Find Someone Who Does--->
A Biblical Mentoring Model--->
When Ministry Knocks You Down--->
Introverts in Ministry--->
Should Pastors Repent Publically?--->
Guilt Producing Questions Pastors Secretly Ask Themselves--->
Saving Your Family Without Killing Your Ministry--->
Eight Healthy Ways To Respond When People Leave Your Church--->
When You’re Challenged, How Do You Respond?--->
Making the Move from Conflict to Cooperation--->