Criticizing Ideas vs. Criticizing People

Have you ever been in a meeting where the team was brainstorming ideas of your ministry in hopes of trying to find a good idea?

Brainstorming sessions are great because it is an opportunity to be innovative and creative in our thinking. Some of the ideas that come forth are good and have some merit to them. Other ideas are really bad ideas!

I know you have experienced this. Someone throws out an idea, there is an awkward moment of silence as everyone processes how bad of an idea it is, and then someone tries to break the silence by throwing out another idea, which is almost as bad, but slightly better, just to move the conversation away from the really bad idea.

That’s part of a brainstorming session. Not all ideas are great. But every idea is thrown out on the table, which allows everyone to build upon that bad idea to make it a better one.

However, the whole process can be railroaded by one person on the team who cannot distinguish the difference between and idea and themselves.

Here’s what I mean: someone shares a bad idea, someone else says it is a bad idea, and the person who came up with the idea is wounded by that statement. All of a sudden, the brainstorming session moves from being about ideas to being about the people around the table, their emotion and feelings.

Effective brainstorming has stopped. Now, no one will share good ideas for being afraid of being criticized and no one will say how bad of an idea it is because they don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.

Before a brainstorming session or team meeting begins, I think there are a few rules that need to be stated at the beginning of the meeting:

  1. No idea is a bad idea. Bad ideas are often the catalyst for coming up with better ideas.
  2. It’s about the ideas, not about you. Don’t get your feelings hurt just because someone criticizes the idea. That will derail the entire meeting.

This can be tricky in ministry, because you want to be pastoral leaders. You want people to like you.

Don’t let someone taking the criticism of an idea personally ruin a great creative team meeting. Set the rules up front.

Question: What happened at one of your meetings where someone thought it was about them and not about the ideas?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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