By Andrew Hébert
Each summer at Paramount Church, we welcome several summer interns. It’s a joy to see them work together with our team, especially as we walk them through the kind of day-to-day situations church leaders experience.
I recently had a conversation with our summer interns about how to handle criticism in ministry. Someone once said that compliments are written in sand while criticisms are written in stone. We’ve all be there. It’s rarely fun to receive criticism, but there are certain things we can do to handle it well.
Here are ten ways to respond to criticism to the glory of God.
1. Have a Tough Hide and a Tender Heart.
If we’re going to survive in ministry, we have to develop a tough hide while keeping a tender heart. Cynicism can emerge after criticism, and it kills.
2. Don’t Take it Personally.
Don’t take all criticism personally. Criticism may be more about the one giving the criticism than the one receiving it.
3. Look for the Motive.
Try to discern the critic’s motives. There may be a hidden hurt involved. Or, even if if criticism is given in the wrong way, the person giving it may have a good desire at heart—for you or the church.
4. Look for the Truth.
Look for the grain of truth in the criticism. There’s always something to learn from criticism. Ask God to show you what’s true in what they say.
5. Spit Out the Bones.
Disregard what’s not true. Hear criticism like you eat fish—eat the meat, spit out the bones.
6. Stay humble.
Humble yourself because God has something to teach you in every hard moment. How you handle criticism (and conflict in general) is a test of character. It can lead to sanctifying moments in your life and theirs. It can also solidify your credibility as a godly leader—if handled well.
7. Thank them.
Thank the critic for trusting you with their criticism. If they come to you with a complaint, it’s because they believe you can do something about it. Get worried when they stop coming to you—that means they don’t believe you can fix the problem. Thank every critic.
8. Grow Through the Learning.
Ask God to grow you and make you a wiser leader because of what you’ve learned through the criticism. Sometimes our critics are right and we’re wrong. Ask God to show you this and then teach you how to do better in the future. You’ll be a better leader as a result.
Freely you’ve been forgiven. Freely forgive. If we want their forgiveness when we err, we need to forgive the critic when they say the wrong thing in the wrong way and hurt us. Give them the benefit of the doubt that this may not be their best moment and show grace.
10. Move forward.
Don’t live in the past and wallow in the hurt of yesterday. Take the criticism, learn what you can, forget what’s hurtful, and focus on what’s next. You can’t drive forward while always looking in the rear view mirror.
ANDREW HÉBERT (@andrewhebert86) is a husband, father of four, and pastor of Paramount Church in Amarillo, Texas.