LUP038 – Responding to Criticism in Ministry

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll hear in Episode 38:

  • Update – Progress on our 2017 Deputation Survey for Churches and Missionaries.
  • Encouragement – Find out what the survey responses have had me thinking about criticism.
  • Tech. Tip – How to keep your phone battery from draining so fast when you lose your cell signal.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Update

  • Deputation survey:
    • A little over 200 pastors and 300 missionaries
    • Interesting watching how people are influenced to take the survey
      • About 14% of the people who responded to the survey have successfully invited at least one other person to take the survey.
      • The most influential person so far had 52 people take the survey as a direct result of his invitation.
    • 19 mission boards signed up.
      • 7 have had at least one missionary respond.
      • 4have had enough responses to qualify for a complimentary copy of the report.
      • Much better than last month.
      • Means there are 15 people who are interested in the survey results but may need a reminder to recruit participants.
    • Besides those mission boards, there’s still somewhere between 70-80% of the people who took the survey and gave me their email address but who haven’t invited anyone else to take the survey
      • More opportunity for me to reach out and encourage sharing.
  • Not everything has been focused on the survey this past month.
    • We took a week-long family vacation to the canyons of Utah and Arizona – Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Bryce and Zion canyons.
      • Refreshing and exhausting at the same time.
      • Glad to be back.
    • While we were away, a missionary reported a problem updating his website.
      • I could manually recover for him, but to prevent the problem from happening again would require some changes to the part of the custom website builder software that shows a missionary’s current support level.
      • My developer son Joshua was getting ready to leave to serve at a Christian camp again this summer. I could have tried to put this problem on his shoulders while he was trying to get packed, but this time I had a better option.
      • If you’ve listened to a few of the previous episodes, you know I’ve been talking a long time about getting a development environment prepared – one that would let someone besides my son Joshua do the development work for Edify Hub.
      • Well, in the last month or so, that project reached a major milestone.
      • I was able to use an automated system to create on my laptop a complete development environment.
      • On my laptop, I could walk through the entire process of creating a brand new missionary website – to experience things the way a missionary experiences them.
      • And the whole thing lived only on my laptop, so I could mess around with it without risking any problems to the real missionary website system.
      • On my laptop, I could re-create the problem that the missionary was having, change the software to fix it, and test the fix on my laptop.
      • And I could promote that fix into the live system and actually prevent the problem from occurring again for other missionaries.
      • Oh – and Joshua left for his summer work the very next day.
    • Quite a milestone
      • With the database of churches, missions organizations, countries, and people groups, along with a whole dedicated user management system, there are a lot of moving pieces in the Edify Hub website builder system.
      • Much of that is not just for creating websites, but also for some of the foundational work, preparing to help with deputation streamlining.
      • Getting all of those moving parts installed and configured automatically on a brand new laptop to allow a new developer to start contributing was a lot more work than I originally imagined.
      • But – that’s done now.

Encouragement

Criticism.  It’s inevitable – well almost.

In my survey, I asked both pastors and missionaries to share some of their most rewarding and frustrating experiences with the deputation process. Asking somebody what frustrates them is definitely inviting some criticism, and reading what people have to say has been rather enlightening.

Today I don’t want to talk about the specific issues that people brought up. I’ll save that for the final report after I have more responses collected.

Instead, I want to talk about the topic of criticism itself, to see if I can be an encouragement for those times that you face it.

(Listen to today’s episode to hear this discussion.)

How about you? Have you recently faced criticism? Was it harsher than it needed to be? Was it unjustified? Was it maybe convicting because it pointed out something that you really did need to change?

There’s a way to prevent criticism. Remember Aristotle’s tongue-in-cheek advice. “Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

But that’s not your calling I’m sure.

Zig Ziglar used to say “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you can learn to do it well.” Don’t be afraid of doing your work poorly. Don’t be afraid of the criticism you’ll get when other people find out what you’re doing.

If that criticism is justified, well, we can disagree on whether or not that’s still technically criticism, but my intention is to learn from it. I hope yours is, too.

Tech. Tip

Today’s Tech. Tip was something I found very helpful during my family’s recent vacation to the canyons of Arizona and Utah.

You see, my smartphone is a little over two years old, and it’s still on the original battery. Under normal usage, I can still go several hours before I need to charge my phone. But there are a couple of things that can drain a phone battery pretty quickly – even if it’s not as old as mine.

The first thing (and the most obvious thing) is heavy usage. If you’re browsing websites, playing games or videos, scrolling through Facebook or using your phone as a map navigator, you’ll notice your battery percentage dropping far more quickly than if you just keep it in your pocket.

But there’s something else that can drain your battery just as quickly, and that’s what I faced this week out in the canyons. It’s called “No signal.”

Even if you keep your phone in your pocket and don’t use it at all, your phone is trying to stay connected to the cell phone towers around you. When you travel to a remote village, to a different country, or to a rural area where your normal carrier doesn’t have a tower or a roaming partner, it starts to struggle.

When it can’t find a good connection, it starts listening harder. It starts amplifying all of the electronic noise around you – trying, hoping, straining to pick out some kind of signal from your carrier, even though you know you’re out in the middle of nowhere. Well, at least as far as your service provider is concerned.

Before you know it, your phone has completely exhausted its battery, struggling in vain to find you a connection to a cell phone tower that doesn’t exist. Your camera? Dead. Audio recorder? Yep. That’s dead, too. If you wanted to use those in your ministry wherever you were going, well you’re out of luck.

Then, when you’re back close to home, your phone has nothing left to give. Even though your carrier is available again, you still can’t call anyone to let them know you’re close.

Poor phone. What wasted effort.

If only we could send it a message. If only we could let it know that searching for a signal was pointless. We don’t want to turn it off, because we still want to use it for other things, like maybe taking pictures. That’s the position I was in while trekking through the canyons. I wanted to take a bunch of pictures, and I needed to keep my battery charged in order to do that. I didn’t want it wasting its energy searching for a signal it was never going to find.

And there is a really simple way to tell it that.

Airplane mode.

It makes sense, really. It almost sounds obvious once you hear it. Airplane mode cuts the radio in your phone. Originally, it was to prevent potential interference with in-flight equipment, but by turning off your phone’s radio, airplane mode also keeps it from wasting the battery searching for a signal.

So next time you find yourself in a remote area with no signal (or like me, with a weakening battery and you want your phone camera to last as long as it can) switch on airplane mode and give your phone a rest.

Closing

So today, you’ve learned about how you can save your phone battery when you’re traveling away from phone towers. You also heard some thoughts on dealing with criticism, prompted by some of the responses to Edify Hub’s deputation survey.

If you’re a pastor or a missionary and you haven’t yet taken Edify Hub’s 2017 Deputation Survey, please do me a favor and contribute your answers. You can start by visiting edifyhub.com/2017survey.

And if you’re not a pastor or a missionary, or if you’ve already taken the survey, let me invite you again to use your influence to encourage every pastor and missionary you know to take the survey — especially if you’re not one of the 14% who have already brought in another respondent.

So how will you deal with criticism? Will you respond in a way that helps build a positive relationship? Do you know someone who might be facing unjust criticism and could use a word of encouragement? Consider Hebrews 12:12, and let me ask as I usually do, Who will you lift up today?

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