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If you don't want to know, don't ask.

I got some tough feedback this week. How often do you ask for feedback? I don't ask every week, I couldn't cope with that, but I ask often enough to give young people the chance to say, 'This isn't working,' before they vote with their feet. Some will be helpful, some will be hurtful and some will be both. Most of us will struggle with negative feedback. We like to be liked and we're trying to do a good job. It's amazing how often harsh words come at just the wrong time; maybe just after a really good session where we've felt that God was at work.

10 top tips for dealing with criticism

1. Read it. Someone has taken the time to write it - that's a good thing even when it's tough. If it's about the group rather than personal criticism, it means they care.

2. Put it down and come back to it later. This gives you time to prepare and look at it more objectively, rather than just reacting against it. And you can make a cup of tea!

3. Weigh it up. Is it fair? Is it balanced? Even when it is not balanced, there will normally be some truth, so there is nearly always learning for you. Find that truth.

4. Try to read between the lines. Is there an issue you can see behind the criticism that may not be what they are protesting most loudly about?

5. Ask for a second opinion from another leader. You don't have to carry this burden alone but must choose wisely. You want to be supported but not indulged, You need to hear: "This is really hard for you to read but remember last week when God used that talk you did..." rather than, "This isn't true. You're the best youth worker in the whole world!"

6. Come back to the aims of the group. What are you trying to do? If someone criticises you for talking too much about the Bible, and you're trying to teach the Bible, you'll work out what do with that complaint. If someone says the group hasn't welcomed them well and you see your hospitality as a key value, can you see changes that need to be made?

7. Work out what you have control over. They may be negative about the type of people in the group, something leaders have little power over. A leader may have been unkind to them. leaders have power over that.

8. Take it to God in prayer. Ask for discernment. Ask for peace. You don't have to carry the pain of criticism, even if it is fair.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11.28-30

9. Make changes to the group and retrain leaders if necessary.

10. Remember God's goodness and his call on your life. Even if you decide you've messed up, God can redeem and, if you are humble and learn, God will use even your biggest mistakes to build his kingdom.

What would you include in your 10 top tips?

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Get more ideas and support for your youth ministry with my book: "RAISING THE BAR: Nearly Everything You Need to Know about Christian Youth Ministry."

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