We all like a pat on the back, don’t we? When someone has something negative to say, most of us get an uneasy feeling in our gut. Upon hearing criticism, our thoughts immediately go to all the reasons why something is the way it is either because it is the truth or because we aren’t comfortable in the critical position. Out of a innate need for self-preservation, we avoid criticism like the plague. Most of us don’t willingly send out evaluations for personal reflection or invite people into a conversation beginning with, “What do I do that you hate?”

I think it’s really important for us to remember that criticism is our friend. We must not forget, we are biased individuals who are in love with ourselves and the way we do things. Criticism is just about the only honest way we’re going to get better and one of the best ways to utilize the amazing power of criticism is the systematize it. Send out a survey to first time visitors every Monday morning asking for feedback. Send an evaluation to families after events or classes like child dedication or baptism. Have leaders evaluate services/messages each week so your staff and planning team can know how to make improvements. I think its amazing how most of us continue to do the same things year after year without asking the question, “So, how are we doing?”

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned on criticism is that criticism is neutral, regardless of who brings it. I remember a particular parent many years ago who just drove me nuts. One Sunday, she pulled me aside and had some harsh things to say about an event I was planning. This parent was pretty opinionated and was rarely kind and loving in her communication. I did not like the things she was telling me, so I was quick to dismiss what she had to say. A few days went by and her words continued to echo in my thoughts. Eventually I swallowed my pride and admitted that she was right. She didn’t like me and she didn’t like the way I was leading the ministry, but she was right about how I could do my job better in regard to that particular event. I ate some humble pie and made the suggested changes and things improved. I improved.

You see, criticism is your friend. Even if it’s delivered in a harsh and nasty way, when properly received, evaluated and applied, it helps you improve. Even if someone leaves an anonymous note in your box with some sharp suggestions, criticism is criticism. I’ve heard people say, “If someone doesn’t have the nerve to put their name on the note or say it face to face, then I’m not even going to waste the time reading the criticism.” In my opinion, that’s just silly. People can be jerks and mean, but criticism, regardless of the source is criticism.

Will you let criticism be your friend?