Every pastor has theirs. It's an inevitable part of leadership.
Some criticism is constructive. Even when it's not constructive, you can almost always learn something. Other criticism is just a visceral reaction. A personal attack was not intended; someone just said something in the heat of the moment. Some criticism is malicious and sinful. Other times, people are using criticism in a self-serving way.
If you don't want to expend the energy to filter criticism appropriately, then you shouldn't lead a church. But the point still stands. Criticism hurts.
First, consider if the critic is influential. All barbs sting regardless of the source. However, there is a difference between the random, uninformed critic—especially those from outside the church—and the critic with considerable influence in the church. It's important to be aware of the number of critics. Having fifty ongoing critics in a church of seventy-five people is a disaster. But it's often not the number of critics that is paramount. Rather, it's the influence they hold. In some churches, one person holds the trump card. In others, gaining five influencers means you've got all the support you need.
Second, take into account whether or not the critic is ongoing. Even your best supporters will become critics for a season—depending on the type of decision that needs to be made. Just because someone is criticizing you about a specific leadership move does not mean he or she is a critic in general. Use a level of discernment. The only way you'll always have the support of everyone is to fill your church with robots or clones of yourself. A church full of yes-men robots is creepy. And I'm not even sure my clones would always agree with me.
Winning over your ongoing influential critics is vital to successful church leadership. While it can't always be done, I believe you can win over the vast majority of them. If you lack the support of key influencers, here are a few items to consider.
1. Get to know your critic. Have you sat down together over a meal? Be a friend. Minister selflessly. Win them with your sacrifice rather than berating them with your vision. Pastors lead, which means you must take the initiative.
2. Win over the critic's friends. If getting to know your critic doesn't work, then reach out to friends in his or her circles. Try to gain perspective by hearing from them. If you win over the critic's friends, then they will have influence over the critic. At a minimum, the criticism will be softened if the critic's friends are talking positively.
3. Serve the critic's family. Your service in the church should not depend on the support someone gives you. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples while knowing of their coming betrayal. You shouldn't favor big givers. You shouldn't favor big supporters. If you can't serve the critic directly, serve the family. This kind of sacrifice is one of the most difficult parts of being a pastor. It's human nature to gravitate towards those who give you the most accolades. However, it's just as important to serve those who give you the most trouble.
Obviously, you are not called to be a doormat. Nor should a church condone sin. There are times when critics need to be disciplined. Unfortunately, critics can also be gossips, which is quite dangerous in the church. But not all critics are whispering untruths behind your back.
In some cases, they simply love their church and don't like the direction of your leadership. In these cases, the critic is simply one who doesn't offer support. You should make it your goal to win them over, not run them over. Your church will be better for it. And you'll be a better example of Christ.
For the original article, visit churchanswers.com.
Sam Rainer serves as the president of Church Answers. He is also the lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church and the co-host of the Est.Church podcast. Sam co-founded Rainer Publishing and serves as the president of Revitalize Network. He has a wonderful wife, four fun children, a smart old dog, a dumb young dog, and a cat his daughters insisted on keeping.
Read articles like this one and other Spirit-led content in our new platform, CHARISMA PLUS.
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Dr. Mark Rutland's
National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)
The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!
FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.
The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.