Top 10 Tips for Handling Church Critics

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Charles Stone encourages pastors to use discernment when receiving criticism with these ten tips.

One well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.”
I’d like to suggest one more, for those in ministry.

The two things pastors can’t avoid are…
people late to the service and…
critics.

Having served in full-time ministry for 30 years, I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. When I’ve sensed a good heart from the critic, I tend to respond with more grace.

As Abe Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”

Here are 10 ways I’ve learned to respond to my critics (actually 9—I’d love to hear your 10th).

1. Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.

2. Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.

3. Avoid an immediate retort, such as “Yea, but” or “You’re wrong” or some other defensive response.

4. Breath this silent prayer: “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”

5. Before responding, take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abe used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.

6. Look for the proverbial “grain of truth” in the criticism.

7. If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (See my post on What to Look for in a Safe Person.)

8. Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). You probably don’t want to vacation with them.

9. Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, notice what they did that made it easer to receive. For those who botched it, remember to avoid their tactics.

10. …Tell me how you’ve responded to your critics. I’d love for you to give me a 10th tip.

Charles Stone

5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them
Charles Stone, D.Min. serves as senior pastor of Ginger Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago. He has been in the ministry for 30 years, has published numerous articles in church and ministry magazines, and is co-author (with his daughter Heather) of Daughters Gone Wild—Dads Gone Crazy. Charles has graduate degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Learn more from Charles in his most recent book, 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them (Bethany House)

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