Home Pastors Articles for Pastors How to Criticize the Leader—Your Boss, the Pastor, etc.—Successfully!

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

Five. Then, when you meet with the boss, remember a principle which husbands and wives have learned concerning family arguments: Never blame the other person. You might say something like, “I have this problem. It involves something you do.” Marriage counselors tell husbands and wives to express their criticism in the form of personal feelings: “Can I tell you how this makes me feel?”

By going directly to the leader, you are demonstrating great confidence in him/her. You are respecting them as a person big enough to be able to take this and respond faithfully. (I sure hope your trust is well-founded.)

Six. For 24 hours before your appointment, practice your short speech. Toss out the negativity and look for a positive way to express your concern.

Seven. After giving the boss your little speech, quit talking. Be quiet. Do not overtalk.

Eight. Do not ask what the boss plans to do about this. You simply wanted to bring this to his/her attention. Thank them, then leave. If they want to talk further, or if they have questions, send up a quick panicky prayer—“Help me, Lord!”—and do the best you can.

Nine. Leave it there. If the leadership makes a change as a result of your little visit or not, leave it with them and with the Lord. There may be forces at work here you know nothing of. Pray for your boss and work to be a good team member.

If you’ve ever been the boss, you know things your employees do not. You have forces at work on you—the big boss, the deacons, stockholders, etc.—from the top, and cannot always do things that please your subordinates. You appreciate their understanding this.

Ten. Later, if you decide to send a thank-you to the boss, the best one is simply: “Thank you.” And sign your name. That’s all. Nothing more.

If it doesn’t go well…

Not every boss is worthy. Not every pastor is mature, reasonable, thoughtful or godly. Sadly, not even every person claiming to be a follower of Jesus is teachable or humble or Christlike.

Not every leader takes criticism well, even if offered kindly and graciously.

So be clear your mind before you go in that this could happen. (Therefore, you may decide your criticism is not important enough for the risk. In which case, try to put up with the misbehavior or weaknesses of your leader and go forward.)

–Whistle-blowers have been known to be fired. At this moment, the key leadership of a major Christian educational institution is being ousted. One of the charges against the president is that when an employee went public with criticism about the institution, she was fired. I wouldn’t be surprised if the trustees apologize and rehire her.

–Those who go to the boss with criticism have sometimes been labeled as complainers and had this added to their record.

–You’re taking a chance. Make sure your criticism is worth the risk.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some of this. Here are a few instances that come to mind…

–As a young (and green) pastor, I was using slang in my sermons. It was how I talked in conversation and since I’d not been to seminary (and taken classes on preaching), it felt natural. A leader called one day and asked if I could drive up to the church on Saturday for a visit. When he expressed his concern, his words hurt for a few minutes. Then I realized he was right. I changed. It was that simple.

–After seminary, I still committed my share of goofs. Once in an attempt to be cool in my sermon, I said someone looked like “a refugee from a polio factory.” Don’t ask me what in the world that meant. I’m sure I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. However, a church member reminded me that the lovely Miss Ethridge in our congregation lived in a wheelchair as a result of her polio. (In time she became Miss Wheelchair America!) Wow. I was chastised and apologized profusely. And once more began to pray the words of Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard upon my mouth, O Lord. Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

–In a church staff meeting with spouses present, one minister said I promised him two days a week off work and he wasn’t getting it. When I questioned whether I made such a promise, his wife said, “You did, Joe.” And even though I did not recall it, I trusted them and apologized.

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.