Slow Burn


Extinguishing Low Heat

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If you wake up one day and feel like never returning to your job,
you may have experienced long-term low heat. There’s typically no
trigger — it’s just the buildup of subtle criticism over a long
time. These tips will help you handle the slow burn of low

• Write it down. You may not remember all the
critical comments that brought you to burnout point. They’re too
subtle. So each time you feel criticized for something, write the
situation on paper. Also write down one thing you can learn from it
and one positive thing about your gifts and skills as a leader.
Then forget it. You’ve learned from it, now move on.

• Take time away from the heat. You can handle a
little low heat-as long as you have a break. Just get out of the
office for a while to think objectively about the situation. Go for
coffee with a friend. Do something that makes you feel good about

• Ask for validation. If someone offers
criticism, it’s okay to ask for a dose of positive feedback, too.
If a child says, “This lesson is boring,” ask kids what they like
about it. It’s important to know what you’re doing right so you can
work on areas of improvement.

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• Approach your leader. It’s possible there’s
merit to what people are saying. Have a conversation with your
leader. It’s more positive to proactively address widespread
complaints than to continue absorbing negativity. And, if you
discover that blanket complaints are part of a deeper spiritual
issue in your church, work with your leader to use that as an
opportunity to help people grow.

Freezer Burn

Inter-staff criticism is freezer burn. That’s because it’s an
oxy-moron: Something can get burned…in the freezer? It’s true.
The same goes for criticism. Scorching criticism can come from an
unlikely place: your support network. This criticism is difficult
to hear because it’s from those who are supposed to believe in you

Gerri Baker, children’s pastor at East 91st Street Christian
Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, says support-network criticism is
the most difficult to handle.

“Staff members need to be supportive of each other-no matter
what,” Gerri says. “And if there’s a legitimate concern, they
should come to you in person.”

Defrosting Freezer Burn

Freezer burn presents a delicate situation because you’re dealing
with close personal and professional relationships. Consider these
points as you deal with this frustrating form of criticism.

• Address critical issues. You trust your support
network to handle concerns with you directly and in a professional
and supportive manner. If someone in your network isn’t playing by
those rules, address it personally. Emphasize your reliance on the
person’s support to continue to help children effectively

• Ask follow-up questions. Even if your critic
doesn’t offer suggestions in the most positive way, your overall
support network has your best interests at heart. Ask non-defensive
questions to get to the core of criticism and learn what you can do
about it.

• Face the truth. Because it’s coming from your
support network, there’s probably a nugget of truth. These people
know you better than anyone. So it’s a good idea to


High-speed jets are equipped with devices designed to burn exhaust
gases, leaving burnt fumes behind as jets fly out of sight. These
afterburners can leave bystanders scorched-after the jet is long
gone. Also known as the hit-and-run method, afterburners shock
before they hurt, and the effects are long-lasting.

Perhaps you’ve been singed by critical messages from someone who
quickly retreats. An email from a volunteer who didn’t appreciate
how you handled an issue. A voicemail from a parent angry about a
lesson. These critical messages leave you dumbfounded and tempt you
to respond in a hit-and-run manner, too.


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