Pastor, how do you respond to criticism? All too often, we reject criticism from people in our church, and sometimes that is understandable. At your church, you might have people complain that the music is too loud, that the auditorium is too hot, and that the lines in the parking lot are too long. But, the danger of rejecting criticism is that we can tune out legitimate input that is intended to help, not hurt. Today, I'm going to share three ways to accept criticism from the people in your church.
When people make comments about your church, be attentive. You might think you've heard this criticism before and so you don't really listen. But when people have a criticism about your church, actively listen to what they have to say. There might be some merit to it.
James 1:19 (ESV) says,
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
People in your church want to be heard when they feel they have something important to say, especially when they are trying to help. Being "quick to hear" will help us understand what is being said and know how to respond.
Proverbs 11:2 (ESV) says,
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
If we don't listen to criticism, we will suffer for it. I remember one time there was a children's volunteer at a church I served at. She wrote a long email making suggestions about ways we could improve the children's ministry and offering to help make those improvements. As the pastor, I thought the ministry didn't need to make changes and rejected her suggestions. I handled it so poorly I not only didn't make changes to the ministry but I lost a volunteer and her family in the process. Looking back, I realize why I didn't want to listen to her: pride. I thought I had it all figured out and didn't need to listen to anybody.
Pride not only leads to "disgrace" (Proverbs 11:2) but it also keeps us from making changes that will help our church. When people offer constructive criticism, be humble. They might just have a better way of doing something than us!
When you get criticism and know you need to make changes, do it immediately, but with diplomacy. It might be a staff member who needs to have a conversation with another person on staff. It could include a "tough conversation" between a staff member and a volunteer. But, whatever the changes are, don't delay. Dealing with criticism is never easy. And the temptation can be to put off making changes for an easier time. But there is never an easy time to make changes. When the criticism is justified, accept it humbly and then make the necessary corrections.
Pastor, you have been called to the greatest thing on the planet: the local church. Accept criticism from people who love your church and want to make it better.