“Hi Jamie – do you have a minute?”
“Well, the craft guild was talking this past Wednesday, and we decided that when we sang that song that says ‘thank you for the cross’ last week, that singing it four times was too much. Two times would have been fine. They asked me to tell you.”
“Oh… well, uh…. OK. Thanks…”
“Oh, you’re welcome. We just think two times is plenty.”
This is an actual conversation that took place after a Sunday morning service when I was a teenager first starting out leading worship at a small church where my Dad was the pastor.
I was putting my guitar away when an older member of the congregation, a woman who had been there for probably about three hundred years, approached me with this report from the “craft guild”.
And for anyone (i.e. everyone) who doesn’t know what a “craft guild” is, then I’ll explain. It’s a fancy word for a group of ladies who get together every week at the church and do crafts (i.e. making potpourri, knitting blankets, and occasionally complaining about things.)
In some circles this would be called “the ladies who make crafts”, but in more liturgical churches we like to use words no one knows the meaning of because it makes things sound impressive. This is why the lobby is called the “narthex”, the lay elders are the “vestry”, and the custodial staff members are referred to as “sextons”. Seriously.
My initial response to this ambassador of the craft guild, sent to convey their unanimous decree that I repeat the bridge to Matt Redman’s song “Once Again” not four times but two, was to be offended and then get defensive. Oh the nerve! She doesn’t understand! She smells like blankets!
Taking criticism is never easy. And how to respond to that criticism depends on many different things. What is the heart behind it? How is it being given? Even though this is hard to hear is it right? Is this something I should ignore? It’s different every time. And sometimes, the best way to respond is just to laugh.
You’ll do well in ministry if you’re able to laugh. And this isn’t a mocking, cynical, arrogant laughter, but a “I refuse to let this get under my skin” laughter. I want to seek to humbly respond to criticism, listen to people with a gracious heart, and love even the people who are difficult. But sometimes those people who are difficult will say things that are hard to take. That’s when it’s helpful to laugh. But not in front of them. You might wind up discovered by a sexton buried under the narthex wrapped in potpourri.