It will happen to most pastors. They will wake up one morning to texts or emails. The wording will say something like, “Pastor, you need to see what Mike Smith wrote about you on Facebook.” The pastor’s day is already messed up. Most pastors will feel the need to read the post. Many will feel sick to their stomach.
But this article is not as much about the pastors who get criticized; it’s about church members who see such negative posts. How should they respond? While my list is not exhaustive, I suggest the following ten action items.
1. Immediately begin praying for your pastor. They are under spiritual attack. No godly person would bring a complaint to a forum like Facebook or some other social media channel. The enemy is at work.
2. Don’t assume any or all of the post is true. In fact, it is usually the opposite. But the venomous critics can sometimes use half-truths, innuendo, and false piety to sound convincing.
3. Most of the time it is best to ignore the post and move on. The more attention you give it, the longer the issue will remain open for argumentation, fighting, and more innuendos.
4. On occasion, you may need to write a word of defense and support for your pastor on social media. Critics hurt pastors. But those in the church who are too weak and fearful to stand up to bullying critics are sources of deeper pain.
5. Send your pastor a note of encouragement. It could be something brief like, “Don’t let Mike Smith bother you. We know you are a person of honor. We’ve got your back.”
6. If other church members contact you about the post, let them know that you support the pastor, and they should as well. It only takes one or two strong and supportive church members to bring the discussion to a needed ending.
7. Find a way to show support in a setting in the church. I am familiar with one church member who stood up in a prayer meeting and asked everyone there to support and pray for their pastor. That church member is still a hero to the pastor who was criticized.
8. On occasion, you might be the person who needs to confront the critic. There are no clear guidelines for who should confront a critic on social media, but you may sense your call to this task. Don’t take the confrontation to social media, though. Call or meet with the antagonist.
9. Find ways to encourage the pastor’s family. It’s not unusual for the pastor’s spouse and children to be aware of the attack. They hurt too. Communicate to them your love for both the pastor and them.
10. It might be best to block the critic on the social media account. Again, there are no clear rules for blocking a critic, but it would send a clear message if enough people blocked him or her.
So, what if the pastor is really in the wrong and the critic is right? Well, I know the critic is wrong in a big way for the way he or she vocalized the issue. Social media is not the place to address these issues.
I would love to hear your perspectives on this matter. What are some experiences you’ve had as the pastor who received criticism or the church member who read the criticism online?
Posted on February 6, 2023
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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