Handling criticism from church leaders, students and parents
Handling criticism from church leaders, students, and parents can be an ongoing fight. You must develop an internal fortitude and strategy to manage and deal with criticism. There are multiple resources out there regarding how leaders should handle criticism. Because this is an important topic that every youth leader will experience, I would like to speak from my heart into this subject of criticism.
As electrifying and/or exciting as youth ministry is, there are times that criticism comes into the picture. I once heard a leader say, “If you don’t allow yourself to be moved by the praise, you won’t be moved by the criticism.” As youth workers across the world speak into the lives of teenagers and develop programs, we will start to come across the remarks of people who watch us closely and those who watch from afar.
When you are in a good season of youth ministry and the morale is high, you might get a lot of praise from others. When this happens, we begin to measure our success by the caliber and the consistency of the praise we are receiving. This is when we find ourselves trapped and now our self-awareness is altered by a different set of needs which are no longer in line with our faith.
Instead, we finally pick up the phone as fate calls and answer by saying, “Hello my name is ______ and I need to belong and desire a safe place of self-praise and self-worship.” I desire affirmation and to know that I am doing a good job. However, please know as a youth worker that doing “God’s job” doesn’t always mean you will be doing a good job. Many can relate and are at this place where handling criticism can be challenging. One might ask, is it possible to please church leaders, students and parents? When all three are happy does this define success? I can only imagine the youth workers who appear to please church leaders, students and parents and made each constituent happy only to find themselves lost inside the prison of needing a sense of belonging.
Here are some healthy tips on handling criticism from church leaders, students, and parents.
1. Take Your Title Out of It
My name is Chandler who serves in youth ministry. I am no longer Chandler who is the Youth Pastor. To a certain extent I am, but if Chandler is not doing well, neither is my title. Therefore, I can gauge the level of criticism I am actually getting with the level of emotional intelligence that is going on within me. This is called self-awareness. If you are going to handle criticism well you must develop self-awareness. Youth workers should desire a strong sense of self-awareness more than a desire for a sense of belonging in the youth ministries they serve in. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane desired a sense of belonging with those around him too. However, they could not exactly meet the need Jesus desired. According to Matthew 26:36-46, Jesus desired that His disciples stay awake and spend time with Him. However, Jesus soon realized within his own self-awareness that this was not possible. Could it be that it is not possible for all three to be happy?
2. Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
Are students coming to Jesus in your church? Are they growing in their faith? Are relationships between your youth workers and students healthy? If your answer to these questions is an alarming yes then you are right where you need to be. Although constructive criticism exists and it is important to understand the need for it, there is a difference between constructive criticism and criticism. Nevertheless, if a youth worker focuses on the move of God and the response the teens are having to the things of God, it is easier to go through the process of being criticized for the work of God. Although, youth workers do need to take heed to wisdom and at times even gain insight from the ones that have come before, Paul reveals the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing with this scripture when he stated, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).” This is a reminder to many who serve in youth ministry to keep the main thing the main thing. One must also understand that although the journey requires criticism, one must trust in God during the heat of it and remember that they are being led by God and are doing a good work for Jesus!
3. Listen with a Godly Filter
It is wisdom to understand as a significant reminder that ministry is a Spiritual work, not simply a natural one. Although there are practical rubrics and knowledge needed to do youth ministry, a youth worker can not rely completely on the information given from organizational leadership and business. There is a spiritual and biblical precedent for ministry and this is the filter that youth workers must have at times when handling criticism. Here are some practical examples. If students complain that they are not allowed to bring marijuana and alcohol on the youth retreat you are taking them on this fall, should the youth worker be completely moved and disheartened by these group of students? One can say that the answer to this is an alarming no. It is important to use a Godly filter / biblical foundation with every decision you make. Furthermore, not just practically but biblically it is encouraged that Christians must follow the law of the land and that there is a Godly perspective that weighs heavier than the criticism this youth worker is getting from those students.
In conclusion, it is important that every youth worker understand that the power they have to influence young people is critical and that many have a strong interest to care for students. Youth workers must know that although they may be the primary leaders and visionary of the student ministry, it is good to have people weigh in from time to time to develop a culture of feedback. Lastly, the Holy Spirit and the guidance of a Biblical precedence will help you recognize the difference between being attacked and being critiqued. You should have the necessary tools to handle and weigh any criticism from church leaders, students and parents.
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Father, I thank you for these awesome youth workers that serve young people all around the world. Lord, we are not perfect, but it is in you that we live and have our being. God guide us, show us, and assist us in measuring our worth and work as we conduct youth ministry. Jesus it is only in you that we can keep the main thing the important thing and that is you. Lord, with your help and our sensitivity to what you are doing with our teenagers we can handle any criticism that comes our way. Amen.
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.