How to Respond When Criticized For Being Culturally Relevant

In every church, there are 3 groups of people.

  • Very conservative families. (compared to the rest of the church)
  • Average families.
  • Families who don't even know there is a line that can be crossed.
When you do something that pushes the envelope to be culturally relevant, you will hear from the conservative families since they are normally the most vocal.

When they criticize the song you played or the movie clip you showed or the reference you used or the person you quoted or the lesson you taught, it's important to respond with grace, understanding and wisdom.

Here's a real-time example.  Last fall, we used a secular song as part of a family experience.  Below is a letter we received and my response to the person.  May it provide insight about how to respond when you're criticized for being culturally relevant.

Letter received...

Tonight, I was so delighted to hear ****** preach a strong biblical message on our sanctifying our minds and way of life...without compromising and caving to today's culture, yet in love.  I am praying your church keeps preaching this way and refrains from trying to be like the world (I was very concerned about the **********song taught to the children and song in the sanctuary).  I assume it was a one-time error in judgment and the elders will be more involved at all levels of this large organization!  I am praying ************will be a strong light for the most HIGH LORD JESUS.

My response...

Hi *******,
Thank you so much for sharing your concern about the children’s song.  I understand your concern and am so thankful for your commitment to seeing kids grow up to love Jesus.  It’s people like you who have a heart for the next generation that makes ******* such a great place for kids and parents to discover Jesus.  I believe you are referencing the song that was part of our Fall Festival outreach service that was held back in October.  Each part of that service was carefully thought through and planned to create an environment that would reach out to the many unchurched families who came that night for the very first time.  As a church family, we all have varying degrees of preferences when it comes to music and using the culture to connect with unchurched families.  We weigh all of this in our decision making and do what we feel will be most effective for the church as a whole in reaching unchurched people.

Thank you again for sharing your heart.  As part of the family, we always welcome and appreciate your feedback and will use it to help access future planning.  Have a great week and let us know if we can be of any more help.

Dale Hudson 

A few key takeaways from the response...
  • acknowledge their concern
  • explain the why behind your decision
  • let them know they have been heard and their feedback will be taken into consideration
  • explain that your decisions are based on what is best for the church as a whole and its mission to reach the unchurched
  • thank them for the feedback
  • let them know their feedback is always welcome
One other thing to remember.  When deciding whether or not you should do something that pushes the envelope, make your decision based on the average family in your church, not on the families on the far left or far right.  You can read more about this here.

Your turn.  How do you respond when you are criticized for being culturally relevant?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.