10 Tips for Helping Your Spouse Transition to Your New Work Life

By | Church, Family, Leadership | One Comment

In a previous post, I wrote about the emotions of a pastor or leader’s spouse during a time of ministry transition. You will need to read the post HERE for this post to make complete sense.

This post has always resonated with readers dealing with this issue.

In coaching leaders through transitions, they often want to know how they can help their spouse transition well.

I don’t have all the answers, but I have some. We’ve certainly done this in our marriage.

Here are 10 ways to help your spouse in a job transfer:

Celebrate what they are doing

Many times your excitement will seem to diminish what your spouse is doing. I was talking to a young pastor who was experiencing great success in a new church. At the same time, his wife was caring for their children. I reminded him that changing diapers on the children he loves is just as powerful. He knew that, but he needed a reminder to celebrate this fact.

Help them explore and pace themselves

Eventually, the spouse needs to find their own identity. It will take time. Allow them the freedom to do so, even if this means you have to keep the children or do other responsibilities so they can.

Don’t lock them into your world

Don’t dictate their ministry. My wife and I are partners, but she is not me. Nor am I her. Her interests and mine are different. And it’s okay. It’s actually by design. She makes me better. And, in a much smaller way I’m sure, I make her better.

Listen to your spouse

This is always important, but even more so in times of stress or change. You’ll be busier than ever. But your spouse will need you – more than ever. Listen. The practice will serve you and your marriage in the days ahead.

Let them grieve

They may mourn over the separation from friends. Especially if it was your job for which you moved, they may be more likely to miss the old house. They may complain at times the supermarket isn’t as easy to navigate or the conveniences of the city are not as good. It’s a part of the acclimating process. Give it time.

Be conscious

It won’t be the same. It probably never will be. Each of your roles will be different. You will have different friends. Your schedules may be altered and routines will change. Be conscious this creates stress in people and relationships.

Be present when home

When you finally get home – be fully home. Shut down. Have some times where you quit everything work related and be with your family. Give your family the attention they deserve.

Celebrate your new area

Explore the new city together. Discover the hidden gems and be a tourist for a while. (I once wrote a post about how to acclimate to a new city HERE.)

Keep your spouse informed

They will naturally feel somewhat isolated from your exciting new world. Don’t promote this emotion because you’ve excluded them from it. Make them feel a part of things as much as you can by giving her details of your day. I realize requires more patience, but during transition the spouse needs to be even more a part of your day they missed.

Be patient

It may take longer for your spouse to acclimate to the new environment than you think it should. This is okay. Your spouse is not you. Don’t expect them to respond to change the same way you would.

Those are my suggestions. If you’re in a time of transition, for the good of your marriage and yourself – be intentional!

A Tribute to Moms With No Children of Their Own – Happy Mother’s Day

By | Christians, Church, Family, Parenting | 3 Comments

This is a tribute to the moms who have no children – of their own.

I’ve posted this thought a number of times, because I’m always sensitive to the “mothers” without children.

You know the ones. For whatever reason, they never had children.

Some never tried.
Others never could.
Some lost their child and maybe some gave them up for adoption.

For many women it’s a hidden pain they carry deeply. Deeper than any wound. The pain is deeper than most of us could probably understand. (Certainly, deeper than I can understand.)

Cheryl and I have witnessed this throughout our ministry. This has been one of the silent, unshared pains we have witnessed in churches where we have served. These are often the “unspoken” prayer requests.

For a Biblical example, I’m reminded of Hannah’s pain in 1 Samuel 1.

They never had children, but they:

  • Care for others sacrificially, simply for the joy of giving.
  • Are willing to fight lions, tigers and bears (Oh my!) for the ones they love.
  • Have more strength than the average man when caring for someone.
  • Are often taken advantage of because of their generosity.
  • Love deeply and unconditionally.
  • Make life special for others – just because.
  • Find satisfaction in the simplest gestures of love.
  • Strive to make the world a better place for those around them.
  • Hide their pain – most of the time – when people take advantage of them.
  • Are always thinking of others and willing to put others ahead of themselves.

Sounds every bit like a mother to me.

Many of them wanted children, but were never given the blessing. And motherhood is a blessing. Just as all parenting is.

They have no children.

But they have a mother’s heart.

They may not have children, not in the natural sense. They likely won’t get flowers, candy, or even a card for Mother’s Day. But in their heart they are every bit a mother.

They love like a mother. Sacrifice like a mother. Serve like a mother. Give – just like a mother gives.

And if God were to celebrate Mother’s Day, I think He would include them in the celebration.

Because in God’s way of doing things, it’s always about the heart.

“Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

This year, as you celebrate Mother’s Day, don’t forget the moms who have no children.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the one whose mother isn’t here any longer. And the one who has a hard story with their mother. And all the others who – as one person celebrates – another person weeps.

Let’s be like our God who is close to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18) and be sensitive to the needs of others.

7 Ideas To Feel Productive During Quarantine and Social Distancing

By | Christians, Family | No Comments

Many people are stuck at home during this Coronavirus pandemic. For the first week or so it might be fun. After a week or more, some will become stir crazy. It may require discipline not to lose patience with the situation. 

When much of life is out of our control, it is often therapeutic to focus on some things you can control. 

I previously posted some ideas to help with children – especially elementary aged

Here are 7 ideas of things you may be able to do at home.

Write letters to your family. I’ve written before about one of the best gifts I ever received was a Bible from my grandmother when I was about 20 years old. The Bible was my first study Bible. I loved the Bible, but the best part was the handwritten letter she placed inside of it. I still have it today. 

Journal your thoughts during this period. You’ll look back some day and this will just be another memory. It will be interesting then to see how you are feeling and what you are experiencing now. (Some of these may even turn into a blog or social media post and be encouraging to others.) 

Make a checklist of activities around your home. Complete them one by one. Organize the closet you’ve been meaning to do for years. Rearrange the furniture. Clean the windows. Organize pictures. You don’t have to do all of them immediately, but making progress on something will make you feel productive. Just do something. 

Make a list of things you are thankful for. We used to do this every year at Thanksgiving as a family. We would each list our “top 10” things. It’s good to remind ourselves there are blessings in our life. 

Call friends you haven’t seen in years. Try calling someone you haven’t talked with in a while. Perhaps a childhood friend. (You may have to stalk them first on Facebook and message them for their number.)

Learn something new. There are apps where you can learn a new language. (What if you only learned a few words?) Explore your genealogy online. If you’re computer savvy at all you could even learn a new skill that could become an income stream – such as coding or graphic design. 

Record all the questions of Jesus from the Gospels. Go through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and look for question marks for the words written in red. I’ve done this twice and it’s powerful. Jesus asked the best questions. 

Share some other ideas in the comments. I may add some of them to this post – and give you credit.

12 Ideas to Help Young Families Endure the Lockdown of COVID-19

By | Children, Christians, Church, Encouragement, Family, Parenting | One Comment

Our boys are grown. Cheryl and I enjoy empty-nesting. I remember a few times when the boys were little that we were stuck at the house and couldn’t go anywhere for a period of days. 

There was an ice storm. Times when we had no electricity in our town. And there were a number of times one of the boys was too sick to get out of the house. 

We had to improvise to find fun things to entertain the boys – and us. 

I have a suspicion there are many families in this scenario with the COVID-19 crisis. Who knows how long many will be stuck in their home? 

I see my role as a pastor to help families. I spent some time brainstorming things families could do together – especially families with younger children who have a harder time entertaining themselves. 

Here are 12  ideas you can do at home to hopefully pass the time and enjoy each other. 

Get out all your old picture albums. Discuss when the pictures were taken and tell stories you remember about those times. 

Build a life map for every member of the family. Include critical moments, spiritual markers, funny stories and hard times. This may especially be good for elementary students, but I think high school students could even enjoy it.  This could be a great way for parents to share their legacy with children. 

Play a FaceTime game with grandparents or elderly people in the church. You may have to coach them through it on the phone, but this would be a way to spend quality time with people you miss and love. 

Write and make an original movie with your phone camera as a family. Dress in costumes. Share it online. Who knows? It might become a hit and go viral. It could also be entertainment for the rest of us waiting out this crisis. 

 Make a collage of things you want to do when this is over. Find pictures in old magazines or just draw them. Do you want to go to your favorite restaurant, to the beach, or even on a cruise? 

Spend time dreaming about the future. Where Do you hope to travel someday? What would be a dream vacation? Let children share what they would want to do vocationally someday? Where would they want to live? What will their family be like? 

Discuss your family’s genealogy. Talk about relatives they may have never met. What are unique stories about your family? How is the father’s family different than the mother’s family? 

Parents, tell stories from your childhood. Share some funny things you did. When is a time you got into trouble? Who was your favorite teacher? What was your favorite class and why? Share what you liked to play and talk about some of your best friends. 

Trace the story of the Bible. Google if you need to, but cover the major highlights from the Creation to the coming of Christ. (This one may require some research on your part, but it would be a learning experience for the whole family.) 

Decorate the house for Christmas. Why not? You might be inside a while. You could watch Christmas movies and sing carols. Let it remind you of fun times to come. 

Do an Easter Egg Hunt. It’s almost Easter. If you don’t have eggs – improvise. You could even just do a scavenger hunt. Hide items in the house and have fun looking for them. Be sure to share the real story of Easter.

Build a tent. You can build inside or, if weather allows outside. Pretend you are campaign out. Maybe even pack a picnic. Let everyone plan their own meal. 

Bonus: Plant something outside and watch it grow over the next few weeks. Take pictures or a video every few days to compare the progress.

Feel free to share some of your own ideas in the comments. I may add some of them to this post. 

Let’s get through this together! God bless you. 

4 Suggestions to Protect Your Marriage This Christmas

By | Christians, Family, Marriage | No Comments

The Christmas season can be hard on relationships. As a pastor, I can’t tell you how many times I met with a couple after the holidays because of problems developed – or were exaggerated – between Thanksgiving and New Years.

How can you protect your marriage this Christmas? Sounds like a good goal, right?

Here are 4 suggestions to protect your marriage this Christmas:

Plan a budget together.

As a couple, agree upon how much you are going to spend and stick to it. This may require compromise. Often there is one spender and one saver in a relationship. Or two spenders. A good principle is don’t spend in December what you’re going to regret in January. Be wise on the front end.

Protect your immediate family first.

Even if it means saying no to some extended family events or time with friends, put your immediate family needs ahead of other obligations. (For years we did this wrong and we regretted it later. It wasn’t until our boys were in high school and voiced that they wanted more time with just us that we scaled back our schedule.) As a couple, agree on where you’ll spend your time this holiday season.

For parents, remember your children will only be children for a few short years.

Build traditions which actually celebrate Christmas.

We often get distracted by things which matter less. Find a way to celebrate the reason for the season together. It could be reading the Christmas story or serving at a homeless shelter. A Savior has been born – He is Christ the Lord. Lead your family to celebrate Christmas – the real Christmas – and you’ll enjoy it even more.

Don’t allow outside tensions to reign inside your home.

The Christmas season can be stressful. It’s hard to be everywhere we are expected to be. Emotions – good or bad – run abnormally high this time of year. People who don’t see each other often are in close quarters with one another. Make a decision together that outside tensions will not distract you from the closeness you have with each other or the joy of Christmas.

7 Words That Protect Our Marriage

By | Christians, Marriage | No Comments

Cheryl and I are in a good season of life and marriage. In many ways it is a stressful season with work, family demands, and constant transition, but it is a good season in so many other ways. We’ve been empty-nesters for a number of years now and we’ve adjusted to it well. It was hard missing our boys at first, but we enjoy our time together. These are some of the best years of our marriage.

The greatest thing I can say about our marriage is that we can’t think of anyone we would rather be with. When we are off from work we want to be with each other.

Isn’t that a great feeling?

We have always intentionally strived to protect our marriage. It’s always a work in progress, but we know that if we ever let up the enemy will win.

I’ve been asked many times how we keep our marriage strong.

Here are 7 words to capture how we strive to protect our marriage:

Walk. Cheryl and I walk together almost every day. I’m typing this after we returned home from an evening walk. When weather and time permits, we walk hours and miles together. We’ve now become “mall walkers” when weather isn’t conducive to being outside.

As an introvert, I talk more — and am more comfortable doing so — when I am being physically active at the same time. Our communication is strengthened when we have an activity we do together regularly. So, we walk.

Talk. And that’s so incredibly important. As we walk we talk about our day. We debrief our life. There are always moments of the day we would have to explain to understand them. Explaining cuts down the surprise factors in our life. I’m a part of every aspect of Cheryl’s life and she is of mine.

Question. Cheryl and I have been known to ask some strange questions of each other. More than, “What are you thinking?”. Cheryl or I might ask something such as, “If you had one prayer — and only one prayer — for our boys, or for me, what would it be?” We ask questions that keep us thinking deeper about our life and each other.

Dream. Everyone has them. Some of us hide them better than others. Cheryl and I have a consistent habit of dreaming together. No dream is too small or too large.It may or may not become reality, but that’s okay. It’s fun and energizing of our relationship to dream together.

Laugh. We don’t have the same sense of humor, but it doesn’t matter. We enjoy laughing together about whatever there is to laugh about at the time. It would probably be silly and not funny to anyone else, but that’s okay.

Cry. I’ve got to be honest on this one. I’m not a big crier. I cry, but very selectively and very privately. But Cheryl and I are willing to be vulnerable with each other. I’m not afraid to tell her I’m afraid or that I’m hurt. I can admit when I wish life was different than it is — even if I have to say it with tears in my eyes.

Love. Cheryl and I deeply love each other. It’s the kind of love that can overlook the flaws we bring to the relationship. Love is ultimately a choice we make. A deep, committed, loyal kind of love is a choice. I choose Cheryl and she chooses me.

What keeps your marriage strong?

7 Things I’d Say to Parents of Married Adult Children

By | Christians, Marriage | No Comments

In helping marriages, I often try to share some of the barriers that I have seen to having a good marriage. My theory is that if couples are aware of the barriers before they become an issue it’s much easier to deal with them when they arise.

One of the consistent barriers I have seen in having a strong marriage is the way the couple deals with outside influences. It could be friends, family, work, or hobbies. It’s mostly people.

One of those primary outside influences that many couples struggle with is dealing with parents.

I am a parent of adult married children – two of them. Cheryl and I are trying to be good parents and in-laws by learning from other people’s experiences we have encountered in ministry.

Here’s some of my best advice for parents of married adult children:

Remember “leave and cleave” and let them experience it.  Two people are trying to become one. That’s the goal. That means the two can’t be part of another unit in the same way they have been. Yes, they are still family, but they are creating something new. Their relationship will likely look different from yours — hopefully it will even be better.

No doubt you have influenced who they are as a couple. That may be in good and bad ways. Let them as a couple determine what they keep of your influence and what they leave behind. That may include leaving behind some of the family traditions you have too. And that obviously can be harder to accept.

Know this: Everything you say to your child impacts their spouse. One way or another. And it will likely either be repeated and injure your relationship with their spouse or cause a hidden wedge in their relationship. You can’t expect them to become one as a couple if you have a private world of communication with your child. If they are trying to be a good husband or wife they will not keep secrets from their spouse.

There may be times where it is necessary for them to come to you in secret. But those should be rare in my opinion. You can help them reduce friction in their marriage by not contributing to or promoting private conversations.

They sense the pressure to “come see you”. Chances are they have pressure elsewhere too. Maybe even from other parents. How welcoming is it if you spend most your time talking to them complaining how little you see them?

Yes, it’s hard when you feel slighted in the amount of attention you receive, but guilt and complaining won’t accomplish what you’re attempting. It might even get them there, but it won’t promote quality time with them.  And it will often build resentment.

Get rid of the phrase “What you should do is”. It isn’t helpful because it’s usually received with an immediate pushback. Again, they are trying to form their own identity as a family.

Offer advice only if you’re asked. It’s not that you don’t have some good advice. And they might even be better off if they listened to your advice from experience more often. But most couples want to discover things on their own just as you possibly did when you were younger.

Unsolicited advice is almost never seen as valuable as solicited advice.

Be an encouraging place to hang out. All young couples need to see healthy people and healthy relationships. Marriage is hard without any outside influences. So the more healthy and fun environment you can create for them the more often they will want to be a part of that environment.

Love them both unconditionally. I would even say equally, but I understand that’s hard. You’re going to naturally lean towards favoring your own child, especially when there is friction or conflict in the relationship. Be patient with both of them. Give grace generously to both. And, perhaps most difficult, hold your tongue when you’re tempted to say something that could be hurtful.

Finally, forgive quickly when needed. Remember, you are supposed to be the maturer people in this season of life.

I am praying with you as we attempt healthy parenting of adult married children.

The Emotions of a Pastor or Leader’s Spouse in Times of Transition

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Family, Marriage | 11 Comments

When I’m talking to a pastor or other leader who has accepted a new position or is in a time of transition – after I hear the excitement in their voice of what they see God doing – I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your spouse dealing with the change?”

I like to encourage pastors and other leaders to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition.

When I ask the question I often hear a short pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She/He seems to be doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on him/her than I thought it would be.”

Pushing even further, I have even heard something like, “I don’t understand why he/she is not as excited as I am. We agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the leader is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as it did for the pastor/leader. It will likely come in time – if given time – but for now, the spouse is simply not as excited about the change in positions as the one who made the change in career is.

Why is this?

Well, consider it from the spouse’s position. (This is always a good practice in any relationship issue.) The pastor/leader who moved to a new opportunity came with their center of gravity and purpose defined. You know what you are going to be doing with your time and energy. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for theirs. That takes time.

Often a new pastor, for example, comes home at the end of a long day and has something exciting to share about the day. Whether the day is good or bad things are moving, changing, and challenging them daily. So, even on days things aren’t going well they have drama in their day they can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, the spouse has days which basically look the same.

Since a majority of my readers are in vocational ministry, let me say a word to the new pastor. This is just a typical scenario I have heard many times.

You arrive at your new position, come home at the end of the day pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most – your partner in life and ministry.

But if you’re not conscious of your spouse’s emotions, depending on their state of mind, they may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.”

Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not and would not think those things – and would never want your spouse to think you do, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. This is part of change.

Your spouse likely moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. They may even be more relation-centered emotionally. Their heart may transition slower. The roles they held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times the spouse may have taken a step backward. Or, at least, seems to have for now. This will change in time, and the spouse probably knows this intellectually, but emotionally they feel a sense of loss which will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

The key is to remember your spouse is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Failure to acknowledge this and be sensitive to it is not only unfair it can damage the relationship and slow the process of acclimating in the transition.

7 Ways to Help Introverts Better Engage in Meetings

By | Church, Family, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 23 Comments

I have frequently been asked how to engage introverts on a team in meetings. I guess because I am an introvert, and have written extensively about the subject, people assume I know how. I try to remind them other people are different from me – even other introverts.

Although it is a common perception that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, introverts are a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. For example, if you give me authority, I’ll lead the meeting with no problem. It is not uncomfortable for me to speak to a crowded room – especially if I’m the scheduled speaker. That would never be comfortable for some introverts.

So, my best advice for leaders about engaging people into meetings would not be to consider the introverts, but to consider everyone different. When it comes to meeting dynamics, everyone has something to add and does so in their own way. It takes me time to understand the team.

Part of my job, if I’m leading a meeting, is to analyze the people in the room, as much as I can, before the meeting begins. If it’s “your” team this is done over time – getting to know the team. If the meeting involves people you don’t know or know well it’s more difficult, but good leaders learn to study people – such as the way they respond before the meeting, when they are introducing themselves, or their posture during the meeting.

But I do understand the introvert question. Many introverts don’t engage in meetings. They keep to themselves, especially in large group settings surrounded by extroverts. They aren’t as easy to get to know. And, yes, I can certainly be that way if I’m not in a leadership position where I have to force myself out of my introversion.

So, here’s my attempt to answer some of the questions about engaging introverts in meetings. Again, we aren’t all alike, even though we share the introvert characteristic, but try a few of these and see if they improve your meeting dynamics.

And, by the way, some of these can help extroverts make better decisions in meeting too.

7 suggestions to help introverts engage more:

Give them time to respond

This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer. This can actually be a great characteristic if used well, because it usually means their answer has already been tested – at least in their own mind. They are likely to share some of the most valid options on the table if you give the process time to work.

Ask specific questions – ahead of time

Give them a problem, and time to solve it, and most introverts will enjoy the challenge. If you want them to brainstorm effectively, tell them exactly what you are going to brainstorm about prior to beginning.

Let them respond in writing

When I know there are numerous introverts in a group, I will usually find a way to let them put something in writing. If there is a whiteboard in the room that could work. You could let them respond on their own paper and then share later in the meeting. I have even allowed them to text or email me during the meeting. It’s amazing some of the suggestions I’ve received when an introvert doesn’t have to say it aloud.

Don’t put them on the spot

If you call on them for an immediate response you might get an answer, but it won’t necessarily be their best answer. And it will often make them more introverted the rest of the meeting. Many introverts are not huge fans of being singled out to answer a question. They may be better prepared if you ask a question, let people respond who have instant answers (usually the extroverts), then call on the introverts later in the process. And, again, giving the questions ahead of time is an added bonus.

Separate them from the most extroverted

If there are too many extroverts in the group introverts are even more likely to shut down communication. Try putting a group of introverts together, give them plenty of time and thought provoking questions to stimulate conversation, then allow the process to work on their time. Then you can often prepare to be amazed.

Give them an assignment they can control

Many introverts (this one included) can perform to task if we are put in the seat of responsibility. It could be speaking to a group or working the crowd at a banquet, but when it’s purposeful and I have an assigned responsibility, and can control how I do it, I’m more likely to perform like an extrovert. Before the meeting (with as much notice as possible), and if they are willing, give introverts an assignment where they are responsible for sharing.

Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas

All of us, introverts and extroverts alike, love to be respected for our thoughts and ideas. If you want an introvert to share more, remind him or her how valuable they are to the team and how much their thoughts are needed. This is best done before the meeting starts.

By the way, some of these suggestions might help if you lead a Bible study at church also.

As already stated, this isn’t an exact science. We are all different. Knowing introversion, however, as I do, it’s a little easier for me to land on these points. Don’t overlook the introverts on your team as if they have nothing to add to the discussions. They do. They will simply share that information differently. They may not talk as much as some or seem to have as many opinions, but when they do, it will often be golden.

Are you introverted? What tips could you share?

7 Ways to Identify Constructive Criticism

By | Church, Culture, Encouragement, Family, Leadership | 7 Comments

Constructive:

Serving a useful purpose; tending to build up.

Criticism:

The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

Constructive Criticism

You’ve heard the term. As a leader, I hear it all the time.

If you’re a leader then you’ve certainly had people offer criticism. Some even say they are just giving “constructive criticism”. Or they believe so at the time.

Most of my pastor friends have heard, “Pastor, let me give you a little constructive criticism.” — (Sometimes just as they are about to deliver the weekly message. 🙂 )

So, what does “constructive criticism” mean?

I’m thinking we often misuse the phrase.

And it’s not just with leaders. It’s in every phase of life. I think it’s a societal issue. It’s even on social media. We think we are offering “constructive criticism” when we update our Facebook status or Tweet about our service with an airline or a restaurant or a school system – for example. Or anywhere else we feel a need to criticize for some reason. We may not label it that way, but I’m convinced it’s what we think we are doing – offering constructive criticism.

In reality, I’ve learned that phrase – constructive criticism – is sometimes just a nice way to say, “I have a personal complaint about a personal issue, but it will make me sound less self-serving and more justified if I label it (maybe just in my mind) as constructive criticism.”

I have been thinking about the term lately – even as I might use it personally.

First, let me be clear, I’m not down on constructive criticism. I think it’s good. And often needed.

Using the definition (serving a useful purpose; tending to build up) constructive criticism serves a place within any organization – even the church. It can, by definition, help us all.

There is a place for constructive criticism.

But how can we make sure the criticism we offer is actually constructive?

And what is it actually? I think this is the bigger issue.

How do we know when it is “constructive criticism”?

And how can we give constructive criticism to others?

Here are 7 indicators of constructive criticism:

It builds up the body or organization for everyone,

It’s helpful for the good of the entire vision. Everyone can benefit from constructive criticism.

It is not self-serving.

This is a huge one. Constructive criticism doesn’t seek a merely personal gain. Scripture makes humility an ideal, encourages unity among believers and commands us to consider others better than ourselves – even to pray for our enemies.

It offers suggestions for improvement.

I’m not saying it does every time. Sometimes we just know something is wrong, but this would certainly be an indicator the criticism is actually constructive (again, simply by definition).

It creates useful dialogue.

And, here again, this may not happen every time, but if conversation can lead to the benefit of everyone, then it could be an indicator of being constructive – it helps build – construct.

It affirms others or the vision.

As I understand the terms, constructive criticism would never tear down the overarching goals and objectives of the body or organization. This would seem to contradict the definition. Criticism might, but not constructive criticism.

It can be realistically implemented or discussed.

I’m just working with the term and definition here, so if the criticism is an impossibility – would never work – then it seems to me it isn’t “serving a useful purpose”. (Extreme example: I once had someone criticize my allowance of phones in the worship center. They thought I should be like a school teacher and take them up at the door. Okay…)

It is not overly divisive.

Constructive criticism serves to build up – not tear down, so to meet the definition it must not divide people as much as it at least makes an attempt to bring people together around common values and vision. Of course, this is not always possible. It’s near impossible to get everyone to agree on anything, but constructive criticism doesn’t seem to be the type criticism which would splinter the groups opinions or divide people extensively.

This may simply be my personal rambling thoughts on the issue – maybe it’s not even constructive, but I’m all for offering better criticism. Constructive criticism seems like a better societal way to go.

There may be a need for non-constructive or destructive criticism sometime. Jesus cleared the temple this way. We may need to clear some things. If so, let’s deconstruct.

But, all I’m saying is – if we are going to attempt to constructively criticize constructive criticism should live up its name.