You Are a Bad Pastor: How to Handle Criticism
A friend who pastors at a different church called me in the middle of the day. Actually, I missed his call 3 times and gave him a call back when I had a 15 minute break.
"What's up, bro! How are you?"
"Not so good, I'm having a rough patch."
"Oh no, what happened man?
"Someone lashed out at me and said I make their life miserable."
We've all heard it. We've all felt it. Some of us even know it to be true. If you're a pastor, you will receive criticism. Do you know why?
- Because everyone compares us to Jesus.
- You're a leader.
- You're a public speaker.
- Everyone looks to you to be the father they never had (especially in Korean culture).
Even the POTUS (President of the United States) has at least 1/3 of the country that hate him.
Criticism can be psychologically damaging if we don't know how to handle it. Most of us gave up law school, broke off relationships, left high paying jobs to live out our convictions, to serve Jesus, to love people, to change the world!
And then we hear, "You are a bad pastor." We feel depressed, inadequate, unworthy, un-liked. We get angry, defensive, sometimes even destructive. What should we do?
My friend knew he needed someone to talk to. He needed to feel like he's not talking bad about someone else. He needed to be heard, known, and seen.
Isn't it strange that pastors are always in the spotlight but many don't feel known or seen?
When we go through criticism, who can you call? I have a friend I call, a friend that is always 100% safe. No judgement. He just listens and helps me process my insecurity and hurt ego.
Do you have somebody? If not, you can reach out to one of us at nexgen. (As consultants, one of our greatest services is being emotional health coaches for the lead or exec pastor).
One more thing.
Be That Person For Another.
Finally, let's be a safe place for one another. Go and make a visitation to one of your colleagues from seminary. Reach out to the pastor of the church down the street. Go on a field trip with some of your co-pastors and be that safe space for them.
When there is no conversation, hurt turns quickly into bitterness. Let's be ministers who lifts each others' burdens as Paul says.
The greatest distance is from zero to one, greater than from one to any other number. In other words, it's hard to initiate. It's especially hard to initiate when you're at risk of being shamed.
But it's easier to initiate when you are helping someone else. This all might become easier if we have more people reaching out, offering themselves, no strings attached.
Eddie Park is a teaching pastor, writer, and church consultant. Before becoming a pastor, he worked in the corporate world as an analyst for companies such as Merrill Lynch, Yahoo, and Hulu. Currently, he serves as pastor of teaching and discipleship at EvFree Fullerton in California. He is host of two podcasts, Nexgen Leadership Podcast and the #AskEddieP show. Eddie is a graduate of UCLA, Biola, Stanford GSB, and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Ministry at George Fox University in Semiotics and Future Studies.