the-criticCriticism inhales.

I was going to use the word “sucks” for “inhales,” but you may have taken that the wrong way… hence, my point.

So I’ll stick with “criticism inhales.” It actually communicates the point with a better word picture. Unless, of course, you disagree. Feel free to critique that (and prove the point even further).

Criticism inhales… because when you inhale, you take in whatever is in front of you in order to process it internally, silently keep what is worth hanging onto and publicly exhale what you don’t want to hang onto.

Think about it.

Consider Tom Clancy’s spin on criticism as added commentary:

“No matter what you or anyone else does, there will be someone who says that there’s something bad about it. Whenever somebody comes up with a good idea, there’s somebody else who has never had a good idea in his life who stands up and says, ‘Oh, you can’t do that…’” – Interview with Inc., 1995

I’ve seen this almost my entire life among friends or in meetings. Someone brave enough to share something out loud is immediately critiqued for it. If the creator asks the critic, “How about you give me an original idea of your own?” the response is often back peddling.

Because, let’s face it – it’s easier to inhale than it is to inspire. 

(Once again, feel free to substitute the word “suck” for “inhale” in the previous sentence.)

 

One more thing…

before you go thinking this has everything to do with your critics…

I’d encourage you to consider how it applies to you being an inhaler yourself

Yes, you.

 

P.S. Isn’t it odd how often we ask people to just inhale us for who we are, not at all considering what we’re asking them to inhale?

Criticism happens.

Adults nod our head at that reality, knowing that it’s just a part of life. We’re “mature” like that.

Students, on the other hand, are still wrestling with realizing this.

We can argue that they haven’t grown up yet like we have, but maybe it’s something else… maybe the reason they struggle with it is because they haven’t yet let go of the idea (like adults have) that such antagonism shouldn’t be a part of life in the first place. They’re still doing a double-take and a triple-take full of shock and awe on something we’ve closed our eyes to.

hqdefaultIt’s one of the reasons why I appreciate actor Wil Wheaton’s thoughtful answer to a young girl who spontaneously asked him a question at a Comic Con event. She wondered if he could give her advice how to respond to her peers who call her a nerd.

Take a look at Wheaton’s response, noting the way he serves her through the wording and pace he uses to speak to her:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04WJEEb33CY

Any takeaways? For example:

  • Notice how Wil doesn’t toss in a lot of “um’s” into his response. He was speaking from a place of conviction. How did he get there? Is this how conversations happen between you and students?
  • The audience erupted with affirmation a few times, and other times didn’t. Wheaton didn’t seemed phased (no pun intended) by whether they did or didn’t clap… he obviously wasn’t trying to get their approval but address the girl. Again, is this how you handle what students present your way or are you going for a “high five” reply that makes you look favorable/slick/hip/whatever?

What can we learn from this in the way that we serve students through everyday conversations?



Some days, ministry has a weight to it that can overwhelm you.

Perhaps this is an odd metaphor, but when God gives me a heavy message to share or significant task to do I feel like I’m like a delivery man who is cautiously transporting nuclear energy. What’s in my hands will either fuel lives with power or poison them with radiation-all based on how I handle it…or if I somehow trip in the process.

This tension only increases when we work alongside people who seem on guard against God or church.

bdos_teamI’ve experienced that sensation while leading three different Big Day of Serving events in Ohio. There’s a sort of dangerous thrill that comes with working with people behind-the-scenes who may or may not know Jesus Christ…all while you set up some powerful service projects for students to serve Jesus Christ.

It all begins with the first cold call and continues into the relationship you form behind-the-scenes. You can usually tell how certain personalities or people will be easier to work with than others. It’s a hurdle common to church environments, youth groups, and more.

This is when we’re tempted to start telling stories of transformation.

Have you ever noticed how when we’re trying to convince someone that something is worth doing, we default to telling the positive stories of life change as a selling point? It’s just as tempting to avoid mentioning the details that didn’t turn out like we wanted them to.

What do you feel like telling your church when you or your ministry are being evaluated? Do you share how your efforts have failed, or at least one story that seems to make it all worthwhile?

bdos_akron2I learned something at the last Big Day of Serving that humbled me on this.

My team was blessed to work with the mayor’s office in Akron, Ohio. They did a phenomenal job of identifying projects we could sink our teeth into and make a huge difference in.

One of those projects came through the passionate suggestions of a local resident who has been a bit of a thorn in the side of the city for years. He often writes letters to the newspaper, criticizing how the city isn’t doing its job like it should.

I don’t know how you’d respond to such a critic, but my temptation would be to fire back some emails on all the things we’re doing right.

(Again, this would be the moment I’d want to amplify “stories of transformation” as a shield to help deflect the impact of what I was hearing.)

A city as large as Akron could do the same thing, telling a critic how “We’re doing what we can,” or “We’ll get around to that sometime in the next budget year.” Instead, the city invited this gentleman to take part in the Big Day of Serving with us as a project leader.

Instead of raising a shield, they let him use his sword to help cut through the problem.

dogI met the man and his three-legged dog (who, incidentally, isn’t named “Lucky”) as we walked around the week before to preview a particular park he wanted cleaned up. It was obvious that this was a guy full of passion who had much to share about how things just weren’t getting done according to his perspective. The City representative not only listened to him, but (while wearing his usual dress clothes) followed the critic into the muddy woods to see things first-hand.

The whole time this was happening, I again felt that tension of whether or not this was going to end up amazing or blow up in our faces. It was a risk putting this critic in charge of a site that we’d be sending youth workers and students to. It didn’t help my fears when he used some loose language that I imagined I’d later read about in the evaluation forms that our work teams fill out after the event.

On the other hand, this man was as much a part of the reason why we were doing the Big Day of Serving work projects themselves. Maybe his soul was the real thing that our students would be “working on.” Could you just imagine the type of passionate, “Peter-like” Christ-follower this man could be if God somehow got hold of his life?

Maybe I should tell you the rest of the story.

There is one, by the way.

Instead, I’m going to end right here for now and dare you to live in this dangerous, nuclear tension I’m outlining.

Thom and Joanie Shultz describe it in their book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore:

  • bdos_workDivine Expectation: Realize that God is actively involved in everything, all the time. He has something dangerously thrilling for you to share and carry into the lives of other people. If you aren’t experiencing some “fear and trembling” in your ministry, quit being such an expert and remember how powerful the One you serve actually is.
  • Fearless Conversation: Make the cold call. Say several bold things in a message. Let others use loose, random language around you without you amplifying or mirroring it. Ask great questions, and let those around you do the same.
  • Genuine Humility: Carry a notebook and write down what you hear, seeking evaluation instead of praise. Be radically relational, honoring how God may be speaking to you through a voice you don’t want to hear.
  • Radical Hospitality: Make everyone feel as important as the world-changer Jesus says they actually are. Seek to understand them through the lens of caring curiosity, and create an on-ramp for them not to just join you…but so that you can also join them.

Carry and deliver whatever wild burden God gives you… hobble forward if that’s the best you can do.

hopeWhich reminds me of one last thing…

the three-legged dog?

Its actual name is “Hope.”

- – - -

I’d love to hear what you’re experiencing or learning in whatever your situation is. Please chime in.

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*

weekofhope-sandiego-ym-inline

I’ve been feeling something for a while now.

Maybe you have, too.

It’s something I’ve even “prayed” about… like how Christians say they pray about things, but really just conclude something they hope God’s okay with.

closedpulpitI plan to leave my church.

I’ll stand in front of my congregation and say,

“I’m going to attend elsewhere. Things don’t feel like they used to. There’s another congregation that seems more put-together and exciting. They even somehow seem more ‘biblical’ over there, too. You guys just aren’t feeding me anymore.”

Such a plan only lasts for a nano-second.

(Translation: I’m not actually planning on leaving my church. I’m confessing a temptation I feel every now and then… maybe you have, too.)

I’m supposed to be mature.

I need to think bigger than that. You need to think bigger than that.

We need to think bigger than that.

As a lead pastor, I do get emails from people who do this almost every season. It’s like the changing weather makes people change their church.

Thankfully, there always seems to be a remnant through God’s grace – a core group who understands things at a healthier level. These are the “for better or for worse” servant-leaders who get it and push through spiritual walls for the sake of what God is doing in them and through them.

The problem is on a general, church-wide scale it feels like when people aren’t “feeling it” they’re eventually gone:

  • “The worship team doesn’t play the songs I like.”
  • “I purposefully didn’t come for weeks as a test. No one from the church called me. Never mind that I’m not in a small group… the point is…”
  • “The building campaign should be run this way…. instead of that way.”
  • “I showed up for an event and it wasn’t what I expected.”
  • “It’s not how it was when I first started attending.”
  • “I’m just not feeling fed.”

It’s the last one that grinds me the most… not because I believe I’m a great preacher, but if God’s Word is the foundation of a message the only reason people couldn’t feel “fed” is if they closed their “mouths.” According to Jesus, God’s seed is good – it’s the soil that has the problem. Maybe it’s just easier to blame a preacher or church than personally own that.

Why am I posting this here?

There’s a reason why your senior pastor seems worn down some daysit’s because your senior pastor is worn down some days.

Senior pastors often feel like plate spinners who are trying to keep things healthy so people stay happy. It’s not our job, but it somehow becomes our job. It ultimately makes us want to work somewhere where people demonstrate long-term commitment and patronage… like their favorite ice cream store. (Sadly, that comparison is truer than we’d like to admit.)

Right now, go reaffirm a “for better or for worse” commitment to your church and its senior leadership. While you’re at it, dare others to do the same.

Feed up… before he or she gets fed up.

What are some of the “reasons” you’ve heard someone left a church? Share a comment. (Maybe by confessing some of the insanity we’ll better recognize it before it comes out of us.)



From time to time I’m asked to contribute to the Slant33 blog and this week this scenario was presented: A parent complains about a recent youth group event; how do you respond? Here’s the first half of my timeless wisdom on the subject:

Easiest question in youth ministry history! Seriously?

The first thing you should do is ignore the parent as long as possible. You are taking some well-deserved time off after the world’s Best Overnighter in the History of the Universe (TM). Here’s a handy rating scale to let you know how seriously you should take the criticism they level at you:

If the complaint comes via voicemail… Listen carefully to the voicemail, then shake it off and go back to relaxing. A voicemail tells you that the person is 50+ years old, and to help them take a technological baby step, you need to delay returning the call for at least 48 hours. Unless, of course, they name-drop a key elder, deacon, or even hint they might go over your head to the senior pastor. Deduct 1 hour from the projected response time for each time they cry or scream in the message.

If the complaint comes via written letter…
Don’t even open it for a few days. Snail mail, really? Did someone use a Portal gun and drop me back in 1974? After a few days, simply toss the letter in the trash then claim it must have been “lost in the mail,” and when you see them across the pews, just say you are so sorry you didn’t respond earlier, but you had no idea.

If the complaint comes via text message… Quickly reply with a short apology and promise to make everything right within 24 hours. This is to honor a parent who knows how to text and is also savvy enough to spread some serious thumbs down on social media if you don’t jump into action.

Obviously meant to be funny … lots more of the answer on the Slant blog if you want to head over there to catch it. HA!

JG