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Dealing with Criticism in Youth Ministry

Yesterday I posted about getting some amazing praise and some serious criticism in the same day. Such is the life of a youth worker! Well, I know I’m not alone in this, so I wanted to share some ways to handle it right … and how I’ve also handled it wrong. Hope this will be helpful!

Criticism always ruins the moment
It doesn’t matter how awesome you were feeling about your life and ministry was 15 seconds ago, the day is ruined. This is going to weigh on your mind all day. Ever get criticism dropped on you right before you walked on stage for a message? Or a well-meaning person offered something “constructive” and you can’t get it out of your mind at the office, it becomes the topic of conversation and then you can’t fall asleep at night over it? Yup, this is practically unavoidable.

Criticism often contains some truth
My immediate defense mechanism is to defend myself. Beyond that I feel the duty to explain a larger context the person was obviously unaware of when they leveled their barrels and pulled the trigger. And while some of that may be appropriate, it is often times an excuse to ignore the reality of the criticism. Often, not always, there is some truth that stings. A strong leader filters out the valuable from the invalid quickly.

Process criticism in community
I don’t tend to bring home everything to my spouse from the church office, especially criticism. But I do need to process it with someone and ask for their opinion. Don’t simply paraphrase the criticism or lopsidedly share one side of the story. If there’s an email, let them read it. If there’s a specific person, share the source so they get context. Processing in community is NOT about rallying troops and picking sides, it is about making the right adjustments and response. If possible, try to think, “how can I turn this into questions we can talk about at our next volunteer meeting?”

Criticism attacks your calling
Criticism is good. Criticism is healthy. But criticism has a way of nagging at our hearts. It chips away at the very core of why we do what we do and pleads with us to quit. We mistakenly think, “if I quit all of my problems will go away.” Don’t let criticism fester, deal with it. So if you need to make things right, make changes, or commit arson – do it right away so it doesn’t pile up and eventually drive you out.

I’ve done all of these well and all of these poorly. Blessings as you minister, and face criticism today!

JG

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