One of the joys of being in any sort of leadership role, or at least in a position where you have to make decisions, is getting unsolicited advice and criticism. It goes with the territory. Pastors have no monopoly on being criticized and advised.
I have found that typically (certainly not always) the people who advise the most are people who are least involved.
My favorite advisor in my church is a woman who is at church about 18 times a year. We have about 130 regular church services a year. She’s at about 18. She rarely comes to anything else our church does either.
But she will always let me know what other churches are doing and wonders why we don’t do that. She’s given me more ideas about how to raise money, attract people, do music, do kid’s stuff, how I should communicate with people, etc. Her combined advice far outnumbers all other advice I’ve received from anyone else.
And, here’s the deal, because she’s not at church much, most of her advice isn’t even possible. She has no concept of what she’s talking about or the realities of our church. I’ve even told her that “yes, I’m aware what other churches do. The board has talked about this. We’ve decided it doesn’t fit with what we’re doing here.” She’ll just give a confused look, laugh, and dismiss our collective intelligence. Usually she’ll throw in another piece of advice before departing to find something else to advise.
Giving advice is frequently a cover for guilt. They know they aren’t doing what they could to actually help. So they make up for it by advising, which sure feels like help without having to actually do anything. Advisors are always superior. They know more. People who are guilty desire to do something that makes them feel better.
Advisors abound. You will have to deal with them. Here are 4 ways to deal with advisors who have little concept of what they’re talking about.
1. Belittle, mock and sarcastically dismiss.
This is the option I’d most like to do, but alas, for the most part I have avoided it. For instance, for Mrs. 18 Times In Church A Year, whenever she says, “You should do such and such to get more people to come.” My head always thinks, “I could, or you could just show up, and oh hey, here’s an idea, maybe bring your husband sometime.” I’ve never said it. I might at some point. But I don’t feel this would be constructive. (And I’m pretty sure I know why dear hubby isn’t with his wife.)
2. Immediately implement it.
I know a pastor who tried to keep everyone happy and tried to do everything everyone told him to do. He was the most miserable pastor I’ve ever met. He was constantly in trouble and tossed around with the latest windy opinions. Certain people in his church found out he’d obey them and they just never shut up finding fault with everything. My 18 Times A Year lady above? He had several of them in his church. It was a giant mess. He died young.
3. Consider it.
Consider everything people say. Sometimes they are right. Most of the time they aren’t. Most are genuinely trying to be helpful, I think. At this point in my ministry experience, there are very few bits of advice I haven’t already heard. I’ve thought through what I’m doing and why. But I still courteously listen. I will tell them “no” quite bluntly, I’m past the beating around the bush insecurity of my youthful pastoring. But I attempt to remain calm and let them know I do think about stuff. I want my response to assure them in some way. The advice of some people has actually been very helpful to our church.
4. Get rid of them.
This is only in extreme circumstances. There comes a time, though, when certain advisors have taken it upon themselves to start a rival church within your church. These people need to be confronted and Matthew 18 church discipline rules applied. This should be rare. As Paul told Titus, there are certain people whose mouths must be stopped! This sort of thing is actually good for a church to see. It shows that you care and are willing to fight for what is right, to protect the flock from the wolves. The pastor above who tried to please everyone never did this and he was constantly abused by advisors trying to take over. Ugly.
There may be a time and place for sarcastic dismissal, but more than likely this should just stay in your head. There are times to implement advice. Consider all of it and be respectful, listen the way you’d like to be listened to. And, when push comes to shove, don’t be afraid to take steps to eliminate the problem as a last resort, after all patience has been exhausted.
It’s hard to give specific advice in a general way! Church aint easy. Watch and pray. We are not ignorant of our enemy’s devices. He wants your church to be a mess. The Apostle Paul wants you to set things in order. God is a God of order. It’s His church. Keep it in order.