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5 Types of Critics in Your Church

And how to handle them

No matter how far up the ladder of ministry you climb, you will always find those eager to analyze and judge your work. So how do you respond?

Maybe whenever you see one of your critics coming, your palms begin sweating. The hairs on the back of your neck may stand straight in a salute. Your eyes focus on every object in the room and rest on the chemical storage closest—perfect! Maybe you've even squeezed your body into the tiny space and watched through the cracked-open door as she passed by.

Surely there is a better way to deal with your critics in the church than hiding from them.

Here are the five different types of critics who may be infiltrating your ministry and practical advice on how to deal with them without hiding in the chemical closet:

1. The Cruel Critic rarely considers herself cruel. Usually, the Cruel Critic experienced cruelty during her childhood or adolescence and responds out of her own pain. Take a step back and breathe. Clarify what she is trying to say. The truth of her statement may be hidden underneath the poignancy of her words. Address the real issue in a non-defensive way, smothering your reply in grace. This breaks the cycle of spite and exemplifies another way to behave.

You will occasionally encounter the Cruel Critic face to face, but most often you will find her online. Through a screen she forgets she is communicating with another human being. With the keyboard as a separator, the temptation to counteract critique with a sharp tongue is even stronger. Give yourself even more time before you respond.

When appropriate, give the person the benefit of the doubt by assuming her cruelty is unintentional, and help her recognize what she is doing. Remember to temper your words with love and grace, especially since you don't know if her passion is due to past pain. Chances are, if the Cruel Critic communicates to you online she is also communicating to others in the congregation in a similar manner.

Never forget the importance of extending grace and kindness to The Cruel Critic. You may become a balm of healing and restoration in her life.

2. The Never-Satisfied Critic is exhausting and will grate on your emotions. Part of the reason your best isn't good enough is because her best isn't good enough for her either. With this insight, encourage this Critic when her best is good enough. Did she do a good job greeting newcomers last Sunday? Tell her! Whenever a victory occurs, especially when the victory is hers, include her in the celebration.

If including her still doesn't help, request to change the ratio. This will be a hard conversation but well worth the difficulty. Ask the Never-Satisfied Critic to provide three positive comments for every one negative. If she still isn't satisfied, consider asking her to plug into another area of ministry. Remember that she has a gift someone else may be better equipped to discover and celebrate.

3.The Self-Appointed Critic deems herself the judge of everything you do. While having someone who can recognize problems is important, what you really need are people who will also provide a solution.

Rouse the Self-Appointed Critic to take responsibility for finding a solution by asking her how she would fix the problem. By suggesting she can be the key for resolution, you'll redirect her energies from conveying critiques to creating closure. You may find that the your biggest critic becomes your closest champion.

4. The I-Wish-I-Were-You Critic can be difficult to identify because you may not recognize where the sharp edges of the critique come from. "In my experience"; "At my last church, I"; "When I was leading" are all phrases this Critic tends to use.

Give value to the gifts God has given this Critic. Perhaps she did an excellent job orchestrating the last women's retreat. Awesome! However, you have been placed in your particular leadership role for a reason. Establish the boundary of your leadership with gentleness. Once you have done so, use your role to raise up others as leaders, including the I-Wish-I-Were-You Critic.

Is there a place she can serve? Need another small group leader? With some guidance, she may help launch a fabulous new ministry or outreach at your church.

5. The Constructive Critic is the Winner of the Best Critic Award. The Constructive Critic not only identifies the problem, but has a solution and wants to take part. Invite her to celebrate as goals are accomplished. Be intentional in identifying her strengths to give encouragement. As she gains more trust, invite her to contribute further and to take ideas to the next level.

Which critic is the hardest for you to deal with? Why?

How far out of your way have you gone to avoid a critic?

Margaret Feinberg is a popular speaker and author of more than two dozen books, including Hungry for God: Hearing His Voice in the Ordinary and the Everyday. Margaret lives with her husband, Leif, in Morrison, Colorado.

February29, 2012 at 12:17 PM

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