How to Deal with Criticism

Some criticism is frivolous. Someone doesn’t like your clothes or hair.
Some criticism is personal. Your family isn’t the perfect model they expected.
Some criticism is serious. Your preaching isn’t what it should be.
Almost all criticism is painful.
We cannot control whether we will face criticism. It will come. We cannot always control when criticism comes, but we can control our reaction to it.

Realize that criticism will certainly come.— The “honeymoon” is that period of time when you have recently come to be pastor of a church and you can seemingly do no wrong. All your ideas are fresh and new. The people have not yet seen you fail. Your few mistakes are overlooked because you are new (you just didn’t know any better). But the time comes when the honeymoon is over. Reality sets in for the pastor and the people. Be ready, criticism will come.

Make a distinction between the person and the criticism.— Remember that the person who is making critical statements is not the enemy. Your criticism may come from one who is a spiritual baby. He or she may be backslidden. Your critic may be misguided by some manipulative other person. Or the criticism may even be right and justified. In any case, the critic is not the enemy. Very likely, your critic loves God and wants what is best for the church.

Continue to love those who criticize you.— Continue to be their pastor. Minister to them at every opportunity. Ask yourself what Jesus would do in this situation and do your best to be like Him. Many times in my ministry I have continued to love, and even serve, critical persons, while they criticized me. Sometimes, not always, these critical persons have become some of my best friends and strongest supporters. How you react to criticism is a demonstration of your maturity and confidence. Don’t become defensive. Resist the temptation to strike back. It is unflattering and counterproductive.

Honestly attempt to determine whether the criticism might be valid.— Even if the criticism is not deserved, you may be able to learn from it. Remember the principle of Romans 8:28. Since we know that “all things work together for good,” God may intend for something good to come from this criticism.

Ask yourself these questions: Is the criticism meant to be constructive or destructive? Can I improve myself or my ministry by accepting this criticism as constructive? Is pride keeping me from hearing an important message?

Consider the source of the criticism.— Why is this person expressing criticism? Is there a pattern of a critical spirit in this person? Is the critic usually negative? Is this person motivated by factors other than the obvious?

Don’t allow unjustified or destructive criticism to get you off track.— Criticism can be discouraging. A discouraged pastor is often an inactive pastor. When you are immobilized by discouragement, you are less effective for the Lord; and you are most vulnerable to your enemies. If you humbly and honestly search your heart and believe the criticism to be unjustified, continue to serve God and lead the church. Continue to love and serve your people, even the critical ones. Demonstrate patience and perseverance. Don’t let discouragement immobilize you.

Apologize when appropriate.—If you have miscommunicated or behaved in an inappropriate way or harbored an inappropriate attitude, be mature enough to apologize. Your stature as a leader will increase in the eyes of your people.

(Adapted from Willie Beaty, “How to Deal with Criticism,” Great Commission Breakthrough: “How to” Ideas for Great Commission Churches).