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One well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.”

I’d like to suggest one more, for those in ministry.

The two things pastors can’t avoid are…

people late to the service and…

critics.

Having served in full-time ministry for 30 years, I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. When I’ve sensed a good heart from the critic, I tend to respond with more grace.

As Abe Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”

Here are 10 ways I’ve learned to respond to my critics (actually 9—I’d love to hear your 10th).

1. Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.

2. Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.

3. Avoid an immediate retort, such as “Yea, but” or “You’re wrong” or some other defensive response.

4. Breath this silent prayer: “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”

5. Before responding, take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abe used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.

6. Look for the proverbial "grain of truth" in the criticism.

7. If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (See my post on What to Look for in a Safe Person.)

8. Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). You probably don’t want to vacation with them. 

9. Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, notice what they did that made it easer to receive. For those who botched it, remember to avoid their tactics.

10. ...Tell me how you’ve responded to your critics. I’d love for you to give me a 10th tip.

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, "People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership" (IVP 2014), and his most recent book, “Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry” (Abingdon, May 2015).

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Talk about it...

Larry Stines

commented on Oct 15, 2011

I would offer as #10 - Make sure the criticism is genuine and not driven by the ever present gossip mill. Many times I have had to confront criticism that was coming from something that the person had heard and not experienced themselves.

Mary Hollifield

commented on Oct 15, 2011

I believe that #10 should be a remnder to self to not let one critisism (or even a few) steal your focus and energy away from all the good you are doing.

Gerald Griffin

commented on Oct 15, 2011

Be aware of WHEN you listen to criticism. Your message can be ruined if you listen to criticism right before you preach. Satan will do anything to destroy the work of God so he often starts with the proclamation of the word.

Sterling Franklin

commented on Oct 15, 2011

#10 - Flee from idolatry, whether it be pride, perfectionism, legalism/self-righteousness, etc. since it's so easy to turn an ill word from someone else into serious sin in our own lives. We are always 'unworthy servants' serving an amazing merciful God, and our reputation must never take His place!

Reverend Keith Moreland

commented on Oct 16, 2011

#10: If you criticize, you have an idea how to do it right. No idea, no criticize. Everyone who has a problem with something needs to have at least one idea for a solution. My standing rule. Keeps useless gossip at bay.

John Prince Raj

commented on Oct 16, 2011

Classify every critics. Let the positive critics for ur spiritual maturity. Ignore the negatives to progress. Dont let each and every critics to rule over u. Let not our ministry lean on those. Criticizers mostly blabber. Let ur life and ministry be safe away from negative criticisms. Adapt only the scriptures

Fred Jacoby

commented on Oct 17, 2011

#10 As you interpret the criticism, be aware of your own heart's desires to please people and make people happy. You can respond by saying, "Let me chew on that a while" and go before the Lord with the criticism to determine its validity and measure.

Troy Heald

commented on Oct 17, 2011

We are to strive to keep relationships in tact with people and therefore need to make sure we "respond" to critics and not "react" to them. This may mean we have to think about it for a bit before we respond, gain wisdom from others, or make adjustments. Even if the critic is wrong, be considerate of their willingness to bring a concern to you (how many others have concerns but choose not to bring them and instead let them simmer to a boil?) Just think of how God responds to our complaints to Him. I do like the thought of asking what their solution is. If they have a problem should also have a solution (may still be wrong or not a right solution but at least they have done their "homework.")

Thomas Gaskill

commented on Oct 17, 2011

Remember Jesus' command to love even in the midst of criticism.

Aren Haggard

commented on Oct 19, 2011

Recently, I had to write this blog post in response to criticism. http://arenhaggard.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/jesus-likes-his-christians-strong/ Maybe this should be your #10... 1 Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others. ?Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

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