If you’re going to do anything of importance in the world, criticism is unavoidable. And youth ministry is important.
Shout that out loud, “YOUTH MINISTRY IS IMPORTANT!”
So you’re going to be criticized. But when you do find yourself being criticized, don't do these things:
Forget to Breath
When you receive criticism in the midst of youth group or an event it often feels like a punch to the gut. In that moment, we often forget to breathe and take a minute to pray and process what was just said to us. I’ve been there and have burst back in the moment to “deal with the criticism.” The results can be devastating if you verbally attack the person, whether it be a student, volunteer, parent or church member.
Sometimes we lose ourselves in the midst of criticism. We’re up late checking messages and emails and we see those cutting words on the screen. We internalize them and start telling ourselves a story about how that person doesn’t know anything. In the midst of my internal stories, I can lose the fact that I’m just a person full of faults and needing to grow. In the midst of our wounded state we make the criticizer a villain and assume the place of hero. When this happens, no matter how we reply, we’ll never be able to grow because we’ve dismissed the critique.
I am the master of the redirect. It can happen so quickly in a conversation. The criticism is suggested and BOOM...“Can you believe the pastor’s sermon on Sunday morning? Lasted forever!” Or, “Man I hear you. I was just talking with my youth worker friends and all of them struggle with the same thing at their church.” The problem with redirection is the same as losing yourself. Both of them cut us off from truly hearing the criticism and the growth opportunities that could follow.
Internalize and Isolate
This demon haunts many of us. It is the gentle whisper after a true criticism. The whisper tells you that you stink, you’re alone, and no one can help you. I’ve experienced it late at night mulling over the conversations of my day, especially the negative ones. The way to respond is not to continue to internalize and isolate. You’ve got to stop, pray, and kill the cycle by reaching out to another person you trust, and share the criticism.
We’ve all tried new things in ministry. And some of those things have failed in big ways. I once started moving a new ministry that provided formal attire to teens who couldn’t afford it into our church. I made the relationships, held meetings, recruited people, prepared a space, all while the lead pastor was out for multiple weeks. When the pastor came back he asked if any of the other leadership approved it and the answer was, “No. But they know about it…” So I had to cut the ministry, care for some crying people, and apologize...several times. In the midst of that situation, I received A LOT of criticism. And I’d encourage you don’t respond to criticism by giving up. No matter how true the criticism. No matter how public it is. If God wants it and you’re convicted of it. Don’t give up.
Add to the list. What else should we not do when we’re criticized?