We trust you’ll enjoy this month’s blog posts. Be blessed!
Criticism is a fact of life and leadership.
Thom Rainer said, “If you are not being criticized, you are not leading.”
While some leaders enjoy criticism, most do not. There is also the question of, should you listen to your critics? I mean, if they are against you, can they show you anything?
The to those questions is, maybe and yes.
The reality is, you can’t not listen to your critics because you hear them. You can’t drown out their voices because they exist.
While there are many questions, you should ask of your critics to discern if you should listen to them. Here are three questions I’ve found helpful:
1. What does this person stand to lose if my vision gets fulfilled? The reason criticism happens is you are proposing a change. That’s what leadership, vision, and direction do. They change things. They push the status quo. When you have a goal or dream, you are saying something needs to be different.
It’s interesting in the book of Nehemiah, that as he is rebuilding the wall, his most prominent critics stand to lose the most. For your critics, it could be financial, influence, a change in a relationship, but as a leader, when you experience criticism, you must figure out what that person is losing or stands to lose. Almost always, not always, but almost always they stand to lose something, so they are criticizing to keep things as they are.
You’re trying to make an important decision and you find that there’s a lot of advice flying around. Sadly, you soon realize that most of it isn’t good and very little of it is actually useful. How do you make it easier for yourself to identify bad advice?
There’s a lot in my sketch (below). So, here are the 3 key takeaways –
1. Great advice has 2 characteristics – it is based on principles and it is intended for your benefit. Great advice is incredibly rare because it requires a lot of thought to get to the principles and in-person investment to understand your specific context.
2. On the flip side, bad advice is what you hear 80%+ of the time. The most telling characteristic of bad advice is that the giver either speaks to himself/herself or to his/her interests. Combine this with a random jumble of thoughts and anecdotes and it is easy to spot. Most bad advice is a result of absence of “skin in the game” (H/T N N Taleb). When someone says something is ‘good for you’ when it is also good for them and when they don’t face the downside of the decision, it is likely not good for you. Think: Peter Thiel telling you to drop out of school.
There are many leadership mistakes we make as pastors. I’m certain I make one nearly everyday.
This post is only about one mistake. Only one, but one of the worst.
And, frankly, I’m as guilty of this one as anyone. I think most of us are prone to making this mistake. In any realm of leadership.
Here is one of the worst mistakes pastors make in leadership:
Allowing a few negative voices to overwhelm us.
Have you been guilty of that mistake?
Be careful. There is a Biblical principle here.
“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)
When we place our focus on a few negatives, it injures everyone.
- We cater to them.
- We try to appease them.
- We worry about them.
- We neglect the greater good.
And, in the end, here’s the strange part I’ve seen –
We usually find out nothing we could have done would have made them happy anyway. Negative people are often negative for reasons other than something you did as a leader. They are hurting. Of course, we need to love them, pray for them, and help them as we can. But, when we let their negativity control us, in the process, everyone loses.
The bottom line is this mistake drains your energy and valuable resources as a leader and keeps you from investing fully in people who are believe in the vision, support leadership and are ready to help you build a great church.
It’s counterproductive. At best.
So, be honest with yourself.
Let me just get this out there at the outset: For many, being single in the church can sometimes feel very awkward. I have heard a number of singles tell me stories that have made me cringe—stories of how the leadership and the marrieds in the church spoke or acted in ways that were silly at best and dishonoring at worst. Let’s all face it: Singles make up half of our churches, so we best learn to treat all people—married or single—equally.
In fact, the singles in our churches are quite significant, and are, in fact, integral to our mission.
Changing patterns of marriage and singleness
More and more, Americans are staying single by choice. A Pew Research Center study released in 2017 found that 42% American adults are living without a spouse or a partner. That number is up 3% since ten years ago in 2007, when it was 39%. The biggest change was adults under 35. Today, 61% of adults under 35 are single. That’s five points up compared to where it was a decade ago, at 56%. Singles make up a significant portion of our population.
Singles are not an accessory or an appendage in the life of the church.
Knowing that will shape how you engage them. Many married people tend to think of single people as incomplete married people – married people often assume singles will find somebody else, the two will be made one, and then they’ll be complete. The reality is that’s a very different view than the church has held historically and biblically.
Some examples from church history
If you go back over the centuries of the history of the church, it’s actually consistently single people who were thought of and looked to as some of the most influential Christian leaders. Many of the church fathers and men and women throughout history who’ve made a significant difference have been single.
Thank you to our sources for this month’s blog posts:
Joshua Reich – 3 Questions to Ask About Your Critics
A Learning A Day – How to identify bad advice
Ron Edmondson – One Terrible Leadership Mistake We Make as Pastors (And Leaders)
New Churches (Ed Stetzer) – Singles are A Vital Part of Our Church