A Better Way To Handle Criticism
I remember the excitement of the first month of being a full-time youth minister. I had so many ideas of how I was going to evangelize the world and raise up a new generation of sold-out Jesus-freaks. With my Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields in one hand and my coffee mug in the other, I felt excited to begin building my ministry. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that you can’t just build a ministry and expect everyone else to immediately be on board. I quickly realized that criticism (and sometimes constant criticism) was going to be something I would have to deal with.
Here is the reality: In ministry, not everyone is going to like the decisions you make. Actually, in ministry, not everyone is going to like you. As harsh as that may sound, it is a very important reality that all ministers need to know. You are going to get angry emails from parents. You are going to have students who actively work against your plans for the ministry. You are going to have church leaders and pastors who don’t agree with you. So here are a few things every minister needs to remember when dealing with criticism and conflict.
1. Don’t Be Everything To Everyone
I wish someone would have told me at the beginning: experiencing criticism doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. When I first met with criticism, I thought it was my job to make everyone happy. I jumped through as many hoops as possible in an attempt to make every student, leader and parent happy. You will never make everyone happy. Nor should you. Some of the people who are criticizing your ministry are actually wrong and just want their way. Remember that. To follow the people-pleasing path is a quick slope downward toward burn-out.
I heard a pastor once say “If we become everything to everyone… we actually become nothing.” Many churches think it is their job to make every person in their congregation happy. That is a ridiculous claim. If that was the case, Moses would have let Israel turn around and go back into slavery. In 1 Samuel 8:7, Samuel was distressed as the nation of Israel refused to have God lead them because of their desire for a king. It reads, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” Sometimes people who are coming to criticize you are scapegoating you because of their own personal sinfulness and brokenness. Like Samuel, sometimes we as leaders need to step back and see things from a broader perspective.
[bctt tweet=”“If we become everything to everyone… we actually become nothing.” ” username=”ys_scoop”]
2. The Wise are Willing to be Corrected
“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” -Proverbs 12:15
“Arguments always begin with an answer in mind. Conversations begin with a question.” -Unknown
As leaders, we need to be wise and many times that means we need to be willing to hear others out. Many times in Proverbs, true “godly wisdom” is explained to us as being humble and willing to receive correction. It is really easy for us to treat our ministry like our “baby.” We can become prideful and closed-minded when we refuse to hear another out. As leaders, we need to be seeking help and insight from other “wise” sources. Sometimes we have blind spots in ministry. When parents, leaders and students come to us with right intentions, we need to make sure their voice is heard.
3. Lead People to Be The Solution
God gives insight to people for a reason. In the church, people often think they are given insight so they can tell the pastor what to do. But many times, they themselves are the ones that hold the greatest solution. If a student comes to you and says that youth group games are boring and outdated, maybe they need to be involved in leading and organizing the games for youth group. If a parent comes to you and says that communication between the pastor and the parents is failing, maybe they need to be a part of helping administratively to communicate with other parents.
This is not simply a response like “Well then you just do it.” Instead, it is an invitation into finding a better solution together. You may be surprised how helpful some of these people can be for your ministry and how much quicker solutions are found.
Your job as a leader is to be faithful with the church God has given you. Remember to ask for his strength and that he would give you discernment in his Spirit to know who is criticizing in love and who is seeking their own way. It is a huge responsibility to lead others and it can get messy sometimes. Know that God is using you in the lives of teens and families. Seek his vision and his direction and remember that he is already pleased with you.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.