How to Criticize the Leader—Your Boss, the Pastor, etc.—Successfully!

How to Criticize the Leader--Your Boss, the Pastor, etc-- Successfully!

When King David was criticized by a fellow named Shimei—and I mean publically and cruelly, cursing him—one of David’s men asked for permission to execute him on the spot. David’s response is worth noting. “My own son wants to kill me; how much more this Benjamite. Let him alone and let him curse, for (perhaps) the Lord told him to do this. Maybe, if I’m merciful to him, the Lord will be merciful to me” (Paraphrase of 2 Samuel 16:9-12).

Every leader gets criticized. If you don’t want it or cannot take it, please refuse when they offer you that promotion.

To be a leader—the manager, president, chairman or pastor of the church—means you will have a target drawn on your back. You must be able to take the heat.

Every leader needs the blessing of positive criticism from the ranks of the membership or team or congregation. The leader who rejects criticism is asking for all the trouble he/she is going to inherit.

But what if you are the employee or member of the congregation or team member and need to get a word of constructive criticism to the leader?

It happens.

There are wrong ways to get criticism to the pastor. To the leader, boss, chair, president, whoever.

–Tell his spouse to pass it on. (When I was doing an article for this website on pastors’ wives and the stresses they endure, several told me this was a pet peeve of theirs, how church members would tell her to pass along their gripes about their pastor-husband. One wife said, “When my husband gets home, the last thing I want to do is add to the stress of his day by passing along criticism!”)

–An anonymous note. This is a popular approach for good reason. It has two great benefits: It does the job (gets the message to the person) and it leaves you out of it. However, anonymous notes have numerous negatives: It’s cowardly, offends the recipient and may bring about the opposite effect from what you intend. Furthermore, if it’s ever proven that you are the author of the poison-pen letter, you are history.

Tell a co-worker or colleague. I’m not sure what we hope this will achieve. But people do it all the time. Maybe they want to see if others feel the same way.

–Pull together a group of similarly disgruntled team members and go as a group to the boss or leader. This has the advantage of group protection, but almost never achieves what you hope.

Of course, you could buy a billboard and plaster the criticism before the world. You could use your Facebook page to criticize your boss publically. You could buy time on television or radio. But no, don’t do this. There are easier ways to commit suicide.

How to pull it off…

One. Pray, pray, pray. Read the first chapter of Nehemiah to see how he achieved something similar. His wasn’t criticism of the king but it may as well have been since he was going before the king with a strange and difficult request.

Two. Wait on the Lord. When we ask for the Lord’s will in a matter, we should be willing to wait for His answer and His leadership. Otherwise to ask for His will is pointless.

Three. Get counsel from a friend not remotely connected to the organization, the person or the problem. Ideally, this might be your pastor from two churches ago! Leave names out of it, but just tell the situation and get his counsel. You’d be surprised who knows whom!

Four. Then, when the time is right, make an appointment to see the boss. When the administrative assistant asks, “What is this about?” say, “I have a little problem and need his input.” That’s all. Say no more.

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.