Ministers have critics. You're not going to be everyone's cup of tea. Not everyone will like how you do your job. Some won't even like you as a person. I've had difficulties coming to terms with this over the years, but I have resigned myself to it. To be frank, it's always puzzled me as to why some people wouldn't like me. I think I'm a likeable guy. I've never been out to intentionally hurt anyone, to promote myself, or to cause discord in a church. I've always done what I felt was right, preached what I thought was true, and put my heart and sweat into my work. But some personalities mix like oil and water, so each of us manage to repel some while attracting others, often through no fault of our own.
So in ministry you must face the reality that not everyone will be your fan. There will usually be someone at each congregation in whose eyes you can do nothing right. If you say something is down, your critic will say it is up. If you say something is black, your critic will say that it's white. It's like this person's mission in life is to oppose you. There has been one of those at almost every church where I have preached, but they've fortunately never seemed to be the majority. As one of my favorite preachers once addressed a congregation, "Some of you may be here because of me and some of you are here in spite of me." You must learn to accept this reality in ministry, as well as the fact that a good number won't even care who is in the pulpit. But here are some perspectives for dealing with critics:
1) Be Yourself, Because You Can't Please Everybody
I've always been intrigued by the fact that I'm both commended and criticized for the same things by different people. For example, I've been told by progressives that my preaching is too closely tied to the text, while conservatives have charged that my sermons don't have enough Scripture. Progressives have said my preaching needs to be supplemented with video clips, drama, and other innovations, while conservatives have said that I have too many illustrations from history, popular culture, books & articles, and personal experience. I was told that one critic's family found it refreshing to visit other churches where the ministers "just preach the Bible." Some have said I spent too much time in the office while others have complained that when they've called or came by I was difficult to catch.
The moral of that story is that you cannot please everyone and don't even try.
2) Consider the Source
There really is such a thing as constructive criticism, which doesn't always make it easier to take, but sometimes you'll need it. I'll admit that I'm initially defensive, even when approached with a needed criticism, but upon reflection I try to find at least a grain of truth. I want to know about my mispronunciations, any annoying pulpit mannerisms, or when I've unintentionally offended someone.
My current elders are the best at offering critique in the form of suggestion as opposed to sounding critical. I always try to comply.
I once was present with a family who was gathered around the death bed of a loved one. The room was grand central station and there just never seemed a good time to call things to order and offer a prayer. I left without leading a prayer and the elders caught wind of it from an offended party. It was suggested to me that people do expect that and it really goes with the territory. Upon reflection, I realize that I should have taken charge of the situation and acted like God's representative. I usually do, but that day I just wasn't in top form for some reason or other.
A suggestion from another elder was that I use "big words" with less frequency. So I have stopped using superfluous words like "superfluous."
If a suggestion, or criticism, comes from the elders or another committed and spiritually mature member, I am more apt to take it seriously than if it comes from a nominal member or someone whose approach is not very Christ-like. If the critic is someone who is consistently critical of my work, with little or nothing positive to say most of the time, I usually take that person's opinion with a grain of salt. I have little patience for chronic complainers. Right or wrong, I typically stop listening at all since the person will never be pleased.
3) Realize that you can only Change so Much
Now in my late 40s, I am basically the person I'm going to be. While I should always make an effort at being a lifelong learner, repentant sinner, and a more effective preaching minister, here's the deal: My basic personality pretty much is what it is. Not that some quirks cannot stand alteration, but I'm basically the person I'm going to be and I cannot be anyone else.
My preaching style is probably not going to change that much. I'm not going to switch from expository to topical or from the NIV to the KJV in order to please a critic. My basic approach to ministry and how I prioritize tasks is not likely to change either. My basic theology is not likely to change since decades of intense study and experience have formed who I am. Yet I still reserve the right to change my mind.
Some critics will never be pleased unless you either become a different person or reinvent yourself so drastically that you'll be miserable. Even if you changed completely the critics will still gripe because that is their mission in life. In fact. my harshest critics through the years have typically been the most critical of my predecessors and successors based on our comparison of notes. Some people, in the words of one of my friends, are just "preacher devouring machines."
You cannot live to please your critics. Don't even try.