Archives For Criticism

Some things just get a person in trouble. Many of us have been guilty of writing that scathing e-mail where we use ALL CAPS to get our point across and later regretted we even sent that e-mail. Or maybe you wrote that blog post with every intention of settling the score once-and-for-all only to have 44 comments of people bickering about how wrong you were. Or maybe… just maybe… you were preaching from a book in Scripture and a sermon fell on a particularly controversial passage (say Matt. 19:3-12.. or any thing related to M.D.R. for you coC friends) and you presented a different view and received scathing comments. Either way there has to be some advice one should receive before sending “that” e-mail, preaching “that” sermon or writing “that” article. I have come up with a few suggestions:

  • What is your purpose? Some controversy should just be avoided altogether and your opinion on the matter, albeit important for your faith formation, will probably solve nothing and might even stir the pot a little more. Consider your motives and read 1 Corinthians 16:14 and then write the post.
  • If you can’t take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen. There is a reason why some people avoid the controversy as they do not want to deal with the fallout. This is especially important if your leadership has to deal with some of the darts people throw at you. A leadership may not want to deal with the extra stress so if you don’t have the tools and people to back-up what you say then don’t say it.
  • Let someone older and wiser read what you have to say before you publish it (Prov. 15:22). There are some things I have preached on that were controversial that could have been polished more with the eyes of an older and wiser Christian. I may have said the right thing but I probably said it in the wrong manner.
  • Sticks and stones may break my bones AND words will still hurt me. Be very careful when you label someone. Words like “liberal” and “legalist” and “sacrilegious” and others are probably not helpful, especially when you have not talked with the source. Bashing people online (“trolling”) is a passive-aggressive form of bullying and is weak, cheap and cowardly.

Did I miss anything?


I received a comment about my sermon last night and I think it was constructive but I was not sure.  I am not going to tell you the comment as it really does not matter because it got me thinking: When is criticism constructive or destructive?  We have all met those people who tried to constructively criticized but after a while the criticism did not have the other person’s best interest in mind.  So answer the question on this long Monday morning and help me out.


When is criticism constructive or destructive?

Dear Elders,

First I want to say thank you for providing so many youth ministers with opportunities to grow and learn in their ministries.  You have stuck with many in the trenches and many of you are the reasons why youth ministers are still thriving.  You show up at their activities, skits and you even take them out for lunch letting them know how much you appreciate them.  I want to thank you for the great ministry of shepherding you have done and for that we owe you our love and support.  However, if I you were to ask me some advice for elders based on a youth minister’s perspective I would give you the following.  Please do not micro-manage us and actually trust us.  I understand you come from an atmosphere where the “bottom-line” is the point of conversation but the truth is that youth ministry is messy.  I can give you financial statements, expenditures, number of visits, phone calls, hours in the office, gas mileage, class reports, individual growth reports for teens, parent meeting reports, future planning, vision and anything else you want but that would mean I would never see my family and the truth is that youth ministry is never, ever, ever neat.  Some of you get that and trust us tremendously but many of you could care less about what we do and all you want to know is that we are a) not losing kids, b) not losing money and c) keeping parents happy.  So please do not micro-manage us but actually trust us to do the job that you hired us to do.

Secondly, I wish you would go to bat for us when a parent comes to you with a “problem” instead of coming down hard on us every time a parent whines and complains.  Let’s be honest elders, some parents are 40 year old kindergarteners.  Some of them get mad because we “made” them put their children’s phone up in bible class.  Some of them get jealous because they think we love other kids more than theirs.  Some of them get mad because we encouraged their daughter to put some modest clothes on and then encouraged mom to do the same.  I wish you would tell parents to first talk with us before they come to you.  You guys are not the principal’s office or the NCAA rules violations committee you are our shepherds.  If they have not come to us first then that is biblically wrong (Matthew 18, et al).  We need your support and if you keep defending parents all the time then, like a defenseless deer, we are going to run.

Thirdly, please pray with us and our families.  I have discussions all the time about youth ministers who are exhausted and I ask if their elders have sat down and prayed with them and the answer is invariably no.  We need to feed but we also need to be fed.  Coming into our office with no agenda but only to pray is food for our spiritual soul.

Fourth, discipline us.  WHAT?  I know that sounds crazy but just like youth ministers need not to be micro-managed we also need evaluation, constructive criticism and discipline.  If we think we are always doing the right thing and nobody tells us otherwise then we assume we are always doing the right thing.  That’s not right.  Sit down with us yearly to talk about our successes but talk about where we need improvement.

Finally, cast vision and differentiate.  There are elders in churches who are too scared to do and say what they need to because they are afraid of brother or sister so-and-so.  If it is not a matter of doctrine and it is for the betterment of the sheep then do it.  Fear paralyzes churches and the result is that we will not grow.  I was talking with Dale Jenkins one time and I said, “I don’t think we need to change for change sake.”  His response was appropriate and made me think, “Well why not change for change sake?”  I wish elders had 1, 3, 5 and even 10 year visions for what they want the church to do and be.

I love elders and Main Street has some of the best but these are my thoughts I wish every elder would listen to from youth ministers, for youth ministers.

Deo gratias.

Silencing the Haters

July 26, 2010 — 4 Comments

Last night the youth group and I had an excellent period of worship at our monthly teen devotional.  I directed our thoughts from Philippians 1:27-30 and it seemed to be a good grounding point for the challenging next few weeks for the teenagers.  The Philippian church was not without her faults as apparently there were some preachers who were selfish in their desire to proclaim the gospel (1:15-17).  This must have been frustrating for Paul to see men proclaim a gospel yet only do so for selfish interests and personal gain.  Then Paul addressed something in Philippians 1:27-30 that caught my attention:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have (NIV). 

“Whatever happens” is a bit of an understatement when you see the difficulties Paul himself faced (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:16-32).  He told them to act like citizens who are worthy of the death of Christ which is the gospel of Christ.  But he told them to not be alarmed by those who oppose you (ESV “opponents”).  We all have our “haters” don’t we?  Haters come in all shapes and sizes.  Haters are those who poke fun at the fact that you are a Christian and do things differently than they do.  Haters like to belittle your church participation and often are cynical at what you are trying to do.  Haters look at the church and are quick to point out her flaws, her inconsistencies and her hypocrisies.  Haters do not recognize the good that comes out of the church only the bad aspects.  Haters try to stifle, stymie, stall and cause the church to stalemate.  Haters, like the Devil, are equal opportunity destroyers lurking about seeking ways to bring the church down.  Haters are outside the church but often you will find some haters who are inside the church.     

What do we do about them?  Paul says to not be afraid of them and to keep on acting in a manner worthy of the gospel.  In the words of Nehemiah we need to say:

 “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (6:3). 

Paul said that these haters will eventually go away because doing the right thing as a Christian is a sign of their destruction.  So may I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing—yea—do what you are doing with even more zeal and let God and the gospel take care of the haters.