A few weeks ago I received an email from someone who was extremely negative. It was from someone who disagreed with an approach I was taking in ministry. I was not surprised to hear from someone who disagreed with me as I always invite dissenting and opposing opinions. I want to grow by hearing from those who see things from a different perspective.
This email was different. It was in response to the reader seeing the above graphic that was featured in our Children's Ministry newsletter around Easter weekend (featuring a bunny and eggs).
Here is the email in its entirety…
“I have been doing children's ministry for a long time and asked to be added to your updates. I have to say I was shocked that the first picture I saw about easter was a bunny and your family event will be based on the egg and not Christ and that is sad!!!!!!!!! When we start pleasing the world we should stop!!!!! GOD BLESS AND MAY THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICT YOUR LEADERSHIP!!!”
I know that we, as leaders, understand that we will get criticized. We are taught to deal with criticism – it’s just “part of the deal.” I wasn’t shaken by this email. In fact, I chuckled a bit as I read it. However, the fact remains that this email was from a fellow Kids Ministry LEADER!
The content and approach of this email got me thinking. Do we, as leaders, communicate criticism properly? So, I thought I would share my thoughts on when it is appropriate to criticize – and how you should deliver that criticism.
1) It’s OK to criticize - when you are part of the team.
Criticism is helpful when it comes from those who are on your team. These people have a vested interest in the outcome and effectiveness of the leader they are criticizing. As Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
This person was not a part of the team. They had zero knowledge of what was planned at the event, the goal of the event, or how many times we would be presenting Christ at the event. They didn’t ask questions and allow me to clarify. They simply looked at a graphic – and lashed out with criticism.
I wonder - how often do each of US choose to snipe and criticize those who are doing ministry differently than we think they should? If we are not on the team and are not privy to the information – we should hold back in our negative criticism.
2) It’s OK to criticize - when you are speaking in love.
Ephesians 4:15 clearly teaches, “…speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” When offering criticism we should speak softly, carefully, and thoughtfully. Avoid the “hit and run” approach that this person used in their email to me. Don’t use ALL CAPS as a hammer. Don’t use fifteen exclamation points to make your point seem stronger. Many of us do this – it’s not helpful. Rather than shooting arrows, ask questions and/or offer helpful solutions.
3) It’s OK to criticize – but criticism is best offered in person.
E-mail is a terrific way to encourage someone or praise them. It is not an appropriate tool for criticism. Most likely, your tone will be misunderstood and you will simply offend the other person, thus causing them to miss your whole point. These kinds of conversations are usually better handled face-to-face or, if necessary, over the phone.
Remember - E-mail messages live forever. They are easily forwarded. You can easily create a firestorm of conflict if you are not careful. Trust me, I’ve been guilty of this in the past. It is never helpful.
What do you think? Am I wrong? I invite you to share other ways that we, as leaders, miss the mark when offering criticism. Let’s learn from each other (and each other’s mistakes).
(for the record - I did not reply to the individual who sent the email)