How To Handle Criticism

Last month, we kicked off our fall semester of small groups. One of our small group leaders wanted to do a book study using the book I wrote, “Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You.” I was honored! The group filled up fast. In fact, there were so many people that signed up we had to start a second group. That’s all great, but you want to know what I remember the most? It’s the one bit of criticism I got.

One of the members needed a copy of the book and the leader left it for her to pick up at the church office. I happened to be standing in the lobby when she picked up her book. She looks at the back cover, sees that I am the author, then looks at me and says, “If I knew you were the author of this book I would have joined another group.”

She smiled afterward implying that it was a joke. I gave a pity laugh and then muttered something about how I hope she still gets something out of it. It stung for a few seconds, but I quickly recovered. After she left I was able to joke about her comment with my staff. As a recovering people pleaser, I’ve had to learn how to handle criticism.

As a pastor or church leader you will be criticized. The bigger the church the bigger the target is on the pastor.

“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard. Click To Tweet

As a leader, you will be criticized. Leaders bring change and with change comes criticism. You cannot escape it, but there are some things we can do to handle it in a healthy way.

3 Ways To Positively Handle Criticism:

  1. Develop a tough skin, and a soft heart. Not all criticism needs to be thought about. Some criticism just needs to be dismissed. Some of it needs to be laughed at. Having a tough skin is all about knowing who you are in Jesus. In Jesus you know you are not as bad as the critics say you are, and you are not as great as the fans say you are. If you are not careful criticism will harden your heart. You can become bitter, insecure, and paranoid because of criticism. A tough skin allows you to not be sensitive, but a soft heart allows you to continue to learn when needed.
  2. Invite the critic to do something about it. Criticism stings, but one of the toughest things is when a critic drops a complaint and then expects you to clean up the mess. If the criticism is about your church invite the critic to become a part of the solution. If they don’t like something then invite them to try and fix it. If they take you up on the offer you have helped them develop the ability to become a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Most of the time they won’t take you up on it. If they won’t help become a part of the solution then you don’t need to allow their criticism to have weight in your life.
  3. Consider the source. There are a handful of people I will look to for constructive criticism. I know they love me and will be honest with me. One is my wife, two is my ministry coach Chris Sonksen, and three is my friend Dan Peters. If someone gives me criticism and is not on my list I often will dismiss it. If there is something I can learn from it I’ll try, but I do not want strangers, critics, or those who do not have my best interest in mind to have the power to derail my mood. Sometimes I’ll take the criticism to one of my trusted sources for constructive criticism. If they agree with the criticism then I know it’s an area I need to grow in. If they dismiss it then I know it’s a criticism that is not worth my time.

Criticism is difficult to take. At ChurchBOOM we know leading is tough. We make it easier. To become a ChurchBOOM member and receive great resources, as well as, coaching to help you deal with critics and more click below!

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