“You are always going to have critics of your ministry.” “Not everyone is going to like you; some are going to absolutely love you, others will absolutely despise you.” “There will always be people in your ministry with the sole purpose of making your life MISERABLE.”
My ministry mentors have tried to explain to me how to deal with criticism in ministry over the years. Without a doubt, no one in ministry leadership is loved by everyone. There are always some who disagree and disapprove of your ideas, methods or style.
Just recently, I was visiting with one of the staff members at the church I am filling the pulpit for and he told me in passing, “We’ve received some complaints about your preaching.”
Now, in my heart and gut I know that these kinds of comments are just part of it. You can’t please everyone all the time. I know I should not let personal criticism deter me from doing what God has called me to do. But as a regular guy with regular feels, it still hurts and sticks with you.
For nearly a week, I have been replaying that comment over and over in my head. “What can I do better?” “What complaints do they have?” “Is there something I need to change?” All the while, I am battling with the notion to just let it roll off my back, quit thinking about it, and turn those feelings of resentment over to the Lord.
So how should we deal with ministry criticism? Here are my 5 tips…from the trenches.
1. Build up elephant skin – My pastoral mentor told me that I needed to build up “elephant skin” if I was going to survive in ministry. Be tough under criticism and don’t let it get the best of you.
2. Take criticism as “iron sharpening iron.” – Maybe the criticism can be used as constructive improvement. Remember iron sharpening iron does cause friction and sparks. The complaint might be a means for the Holy Spirit to grow you in that aspect of leadership.
3. Remember who your Real Boss is – the critic in your life is not your real boss. Their approval does not hold one ounce of value compared to our Lord. If you sense God is pleased and your conscience is clear, move on.
4. Understand you are still growing in ministry – perfectionism is not possible in ministry. Take the criticism as a reminder that no one is perfect and you are desperately in need to Jesus to fill your life and ministry. Even Jesus got criticized.
5. Be thankful for your critics – If you never hear one shred of criticism, you are probably not challenging your people enough. If you’re not getting under their skin a little, you’re not exhorting them to grow. In other words, if everyone is happy and giving you unlimited praise, you need to really do some soul searching and step up your game.