One of the absolute best parts about working in the church is the anonymous criticism that you get from time to time (see definition: sarcasm).
While these things sting for a while they are usually a few things:
- Lacking vision
- Passive aggressive
- Most of all, incredibly unhelpful
How Anonymous Criticism is Unhelpful
I wanted to focus on the third. This form of criticism is unhelpful in a number of ways:
- No opportunity to ask, “What do you mean by that?”
- No opportunity for further learning. If I’m being critiqued by someone, I’d much rather have a dialog about the critique, so that I can learn more about how to remedy the situation or so that I can offer the opposing viewpoint and vision.
- No opportunity for me to thank the person for expressing their feelings and open dialogue for further growth and discussion for both parties.
Some anonymous notes can be genuine, relevant criticism that needs to be addressed. However, when an anonymous note is left on your office desk, even if it’s valid, it’s very difficult not to take it as a right hook to the face, especially after a season of feeling discouraged.
What saddens me the most about these things is that it seems to happen in churches FAR more often than anywhere else. When I was working in “secular” business, criticism and critique were always directly addressed. Why doesn’t the church, which is supposed to be the leader in conflict resolution, giving preference to others instead of yourself, and compassion for each other know how to handle these things better?
Useful Criticism Is Actually Helpful
I think there are several better ways to offer criticism to church pastors, staff, and leaders:
- Best: ask to meet together to address concerns. Be open to an opposing viewpoint AND be prepared to offer some encouragement as well (this happened recently, which I’m very thankful for)
- Good: place a call or send an email with the concerns and allow opportunity for feedback or a follow-up visit
- Okay: at least sign your name and give some contact information and end the note with “Feel free to follow up if you think I need to understand the situation a little better”
Church pastors, staff and leaders: learn from the anonymous criticism that’s valid. Throw away the rest. Church members and attenders: please don’t offer anonymous criticism. Communicate, learn from each other, grow together, love each other, and celebrate how God has made you united in one body, even despite differences.