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By Jonathan Howe

I am unapologetic about my stance that churches need to have a social media presence. Included in that is a Facebook page for the church that stays updated with current information. Unfortunately, these pages can be targeted by those who have a less than favorable view of your church, pastor, denomination, or members.

I’m frequently asked for my advice on how to deal with this type of criticism. My response often depends on the nature of the criticism. Sometimes the critics have a valid point, other times they are either misinformed or just trolling the church. Regardless of the nature of the initial criticism, your response should always show Christ’s love.

With that said, here are some quick guidelines on how to respond to social media criticism.

  1. Apologize. Even if the criticism is unfounded or misinformed, your response should be apologetic. When the criticism is based in truth, an apology is even more in order. A posture of humility represents our Savior well and can often diffuse a tense online exchange.
  2. Address the problem with the critic. If the criticism or complaint is valid, address it in your response and pledge to correct it. When the complaint is unfounded, do your best to explain why, and inform the critic the best you can without adding fuel to the fire.
  3. Take corrective action if needed. A valid complaint or criticism requires correction. If something needs correcting at your church or in your policies, then do so.
  4. Ask for another chance. They may not take you up on the offer, but at least you have tried to reconcile (Romans 12:18). Sometimes all you can do is try and then leave the ball in the critic’s court.
  5. Keep a record of complaints. This is not to be vindictive or to hold as ammunition against the critic. Keeping a record of the criticisms you receive allows you to track patterns to eliminate the criticism before it comes. If you continue to get complaints or criticism about a certain aspect of ministry, maybe there is an execution problem or communication problem that is the root of the criticism. If you notice a pattern, be preemptive and address the issue before the negativity is directed your way.
  6. Never compromise biblical fidelity. You may receive complaints and criticism about a host of issues. But if they are about core biblical doctrine, there’s not a lot of room for appeasement. Always hold your ground when it comes to standing on the Word of God. Compromise is not acceptable in these instances.

Have you experienced social media criticism or online complaints? How did you handle them? What would you add to this list?

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week, and the managing editor of Jonathan writes weekly at on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

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