worship leading essentials 10 – Dealing with Criticism

 The more you are in front of people, the more criticism you get. It comes with the territory. If you can’t deal with it properly, it can eat you alive. Criticism will come. Count on it.

When asked what it was like to be famous, Chris Tomlin said that it used to be nobody offered him any advice or criticism. The more that he becomes known, the more people criticize him. Criticism has happened to you as well. You may not know it, but they talk about you when you are not listening. Everyone is a critic. Paranoid yet? Relax, it’s all part of the job. So, how do you deal with criticism?

  1. Deal with your critic face-to-face. The more you let it fester, the more both sides get things blown out of proportion. Get pro-active and offer to talk to your critic one-on-one an discuss the issues. Avoid talking to other people about the issue until you have talked with the critic.
  2. Find the truth in the criticism. Someone once said that “there is truth in all criticism.” Find the truth and deal with it. Sometime my critics have been painfully correct. Sometimes the truth has been that they are a whack-job looking for vengeance on someone. In that case, I look at them and say, “You’re an angry elf.”
  3. Know why you do what you do. A woman visited our gathering at exchange one Sunday and told me she thought the music was too loud. She was from a church out of town. “This music would never work in my church,” she said. I politely told her that I didn’t doubt it and that I was sure her church was good. “This gathering,” I said, “is not designed for people like you.” We know why we do what we do. We don’t apologize for that.
  4. Apologize. You will not always be right. There are times I have to say, “You know what? You are right. God is convicting me through you and I appreciate you talking with me about this. I am sorry” Be confident, but don’t be a jerk. You will not always be right.
  5. Realize you can’t make everyone happy. Been there. Done that. Doesn’t work. Your job is to lead in the way that is directed by God, under the authority of your Sr Pastor. Some people are chronic critics and are on the hunt for someone to shoot. Since you are visible, they put a laser on your head and come at you fully loaded.
  6. Know that the criticism voiced is not always the issue. Many times people are all worked up over something that they do not want to reveal. Instead they find something easy to complain about and lash out. I once had a conversation where someone was being critical with me. I stopped the person and just said, “This isn’t the real issue is it? What is this really about?” The whole tide of the conversation turned to the real issue. The result was something much more productive. In another conversation with a friend and team member, in the midst of ranting criticism, I looked at this team-mate and said, “How is your Life Journaling?” He stopped and his face fell. Do your best to get to the real issue.
  7. Don’t take it personal. OK, easier said than done. As artists who create and risk, when people complain it is hard to not take it personal. You have to realize that they are not critiquing you, but some of your actions. Huge difference.
  8. Use criticism as a way to gauge the guardrails. I sometimes listen to criticism to find the way in this new territory. An example. For a season in the early life of exchange, my playlist was more intimate and less rock-and-roll. I had several people say that they really enjoyed the more aggressive stuff. I fought it for a bit and then after some guiding from God realized that they were honestly expressing that they connected to God through the louder and more aggressive experience. If I had not listened to the critics, I would have missed part of the road we were to travel.

Don’t be surprised when criticism comes. We know it is coming. We just don’t know exactly when. I do not welcome criticism, but I learn from it. Criticism has refined me. It makes me a better leader.

What about you? What has been your experience with criticism?

[tags]criticism, worship leading, elf, church, Chris Tomlin[/tags]

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8 thoughts on “worship leading essentials 10 – Dealing with Criticism

  1. The more you’ve dealt with criticism, the more you learn to discern valid and useful feedback from grumpy Joe.

    I find that most of the “grumpy” criticism comes from personal preferences or expectations not being met. However, if you hear similar criticism/feedback from many different people, it might be worth looking into.

    What’s the real kicker is learning different people’s character and social make-up. There have been countless times when someone has come up to me with a compliment or positive feedback, and it’s come across negative or critical.

    But, in any case, the one attitude and the one outlook you can control is your own. Choose to take criticism/feedback with a positive attitude, and try not to be defensive about it if it really does hurt. Take the feedback to a couple of trusted mentors, and discuss if any of it could be valid points to work to change.

    For newbies to criticism, if you start taking criticism as a personal attack on you, you will start harboring ill-will and defensiveness, and you will begin to allow a wedge to be driven between you and the group you are leading in worship … that’s not a good mix for united worship.

  2. Thanks for this post Scot.

    I’m fairly new to worship leading and while I’m generally not affected by peoples comments, I was not prepared for a bought of criticism recently.

    Knowing why we do what we do is hugely important.

  3. Great 10-pointer. It seems to all boil down to discernment. Dealing with criticism differs with each person that gives it. And I’m glad we don’t have many angry elves in our church. Most try to be very constructive. 🙂

  4. Scott,

    This is a good list. I think it’s kind of funny of that the people most likely to be worship leaders are least likely to deal with criticism well. No matter how much credibility you place in the Myers Briggs personality test, it shows an overwhelming trend of two key personalities that are drawn to the church. I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago.


    I’ve really enjoyed the ‘worship leading essentials’ – have you thought about setting up a permanent link to these posts?