1. The sermon insult. It’s too long, too short, too shallow, too deep, too funny, too serious, too convicting, too controversial, etc. I think you get the picture. It is likely that if you are getting insults you are also getting compliments. File those compliments away in your mind. When someone says your sermons are “too” something, reach into your compliment file. Say something like, “I know that was a controversial sermon, but there was a sister here today who shared that God spoke right to her heart through the sermon.” You don’t have to use the person’s name, but it is okay to share with others how God is speaking through your sermons.
2. The dream job insult. “It must be nice to only work two days a week!” I generally respond to that one with, “Here’s five bucks. Go get a new joke book.” Well, that’s how it works in my fantasies. Or, I want to say something like, “I’ll tell you how it feels to work two days a week if you tell me how it feels to be a jerk seven days a week.” But that’s not kind. We can’t do that. I would encourage you to keep up with what you do. There are times that I work 17-18 days in a row without a day off. I tell my deacons when I do. When assaulted with snarky comments, I explain how difficult it is to prepare messages, preach funerals, counsel the hurting, minister to the needy, etc. I use specific examples of things that have been going on in my life. I try and turn the insult into a conversation about all that we in the ministry do. Sometimes I say, “Would you like to trade places for a week?” I have never had a person agree to do that.
3. The comparison insult. Ministry leaders are often compared to others in the ministry. It is often a person who held our position in the church before we arrived. Sometimes it is a high profile leader in the public eye. Regardless of who we are compared to, inevitably we will be compared to others. It isn’t fair and often the comparison isn’t accurate. I have found with a little bit of statistical study we often find we are doing a better job than those we are compared to. Numerically anyway. Don’t take the comparison insult too seriously. It is usually the result of an emotional connection a church member had/has with a ministry leader. If you are constantly being compared to a previous staff member momentarily embrace it. Speak with those who are constantly comparing you. If you’d like, you can connect with the former staff member. Start a friendship if possible. Find out what they did that worked/didn’t work. You may even discover that the previous staff member was also compared to a predecessor. And you will love the look on the faces of those comparing you when you ask for the phone number of the one you are being compared to!
It is my practice to call former pastors before I take a church. I ask them a list of questions and try and get their sincere opinion about the church. It’s fun to watch church members as you tell them about your lunch date or telephone call with their former pastor.
If I had to summarize this blog, I would say this: Engage the insulter. It works. Don’t just let them insult you and walk away. Talk to them. Encourage them to elaborate. Reveal contradictions. Remind them of what God is doing in the lives of other people.
In conclusion, I would like to add that criticism should be taken seriously. God uses others to reveal our weaknesses. It could be that our insulter is trying to injure us, but God uses them to instruct us. When our insulters are right, it is a good practice to let them know it. Once again, engage the insulter. You’ll be glad you did….but they may not.
Ed.’s note: Unappreciated Pastor has a wonderful wit regarding church ministry, and keen insights into it, too. SBCToday urges you to visit UP’s blog for some humor, a little conviction, as well as laughter; it does one’s soul good, like medicine. CLICK HERE.