Sometimes criticism, even if it is negative, can tell you that you are on the right track in your ministry.
I was digging through some old photos the other day and was surprised to find this image from the very first church I worked for many years ago and some of the first youth I'd been blessed to serve. The photo was taken at the end of a 30 Hour Famine event. We'd spent time the night before creating banners out of sheets and spray paint as a way to raise awareness about hunger and homelessness. The youth decided the best way to display the banners was to attach them together and hang them right off the front of the church building, facing the busy street (of course, I was the lucky person who had to crawl around on the roof in order to hang the thing!).
If you look closely, you'll see that the bottom panel quotes the scripture text "I was hungry and you fed me." The middle panel reads "How can we ignore the homeless everyday but worship a homeless man on Sunday?" Looks pretty cool, right? A great way to share the Christian witness, right? Well, not everyone saw it that way. On Monday morning the phone calls from the neighbors and from the businesses across the street starting ringing in the church office. "It's offensive," one caller insisted. "Jesus was NOT a homeless person" (as if there were something intrinsically shameful/unclean about being homeless). Others found the banners to be too "political," perhaps believing that homelessness was not an issue of systemic injustice but more a matter of personal choice or failing.
As a young youth minister, I was a little worried how my senior pastor -- my boss! -- was going to take all this. His response: "Sometimes a little criticism like this tells you you're doing something right. You all have obviously pushed some buttons in these folks. Maybe it will make them think a little!"
I think maybe I've forgotten that too often over the years. Yes, sometimes a little criticism is good, even if it isn't constructive. It might just tells us that we are not playing it too safe in our ministries. It might just tells us that we are pushing the boundaries and sharing a message that is more radical than the one the world offers.
What about you? Have you happily received some criticism in your work with youth? Have you experienced some push back when trying to share the radical message of Christ with your youth?