No one really likes criticism, especially if it’s not constructive, not given in a manner meant to help. We have all received feedback that was meant to demonstrate the intelligence of the one offering the criticism, or meant to tell us about what they value, that contains nothing on which we can build. I want to do my job well, and so do you, whatever you do. I think ministers often have a hard time with criticism because:
We have a heart for the church and want to see it healthy. It’s hard for me to imagine that many people care more about the church than those who lead it. At the basest and crassest level we need a healthy church so that our children can remain clothed and fed. On a more important and profound level we have given up our adult lives, or large parts of them, to intentionally work long hours to build up the church. Implied in that is not only our sense of calling but also our sense of the value of the work. This makes it hard for us when people shine lights on aspects of the church we aren’t proud of. It’s like we are classic car aficionados and someone notices the scratch we haven’t had time to repair on our lovingly restored vehicle.
We have a heart for the people we serve. We don’t always show it that well (or I don’t anyways) but we love our people and want nothing more than to see them flourish, to see Christ take root in their lives and families, to see them rooted in a community of grace and love and restoration. This makes it especially hard to hear about how a person is struggling to relate to the church or about the conflicts that arise between people who have lived together in peace for many years. It break our hearts to see people fall away and we rage at whatever is getting in the way of their salvation, whether we understand it or not, and whether we can do anything about it or not. We’re like parents struggling to figure out how to help our teens relate to school, we know it will be worth it in the long run, but at times it sure is hard and can feel like no one is on our side.
No one knows better than I do how far from my perfect vision things are. Every event, every relationship, every counseling session, every sermon, every Sunday morning experience, every bible study, every youth group, every meeting, has dreams associated with it; dreams that are virtually never achieved. This means that when people offer criticism they are hitting close to home because we know better than they do just how far off the mark we feel we were. The upshot of this is that a comment needn’t be pertinent, it needn’t be on the mark, it may not be something we feel bad about or feel we need to fix in the future, but it points us, it reminds us, I might even say it haunts us, with what we had hoped would come to pass.
rch and have comments to make try to make them with grace, make them with constructive intents. Other than in very few and select cases feel free to trust me when I tell you your pastor’s head isn’t “too big” and they do not need to be “brought down a peg” or “have their bubble burst.” They need your love and patience. When offering feedback work alongside your pastor to make things better because the pastors want nothing more than for next week to be better, closer to their vision and to God’s will than this week. Remember, we are all on the same side.