There is not an organization nor leader that does not field complaints. Every single person sees through a different lens. Our lens causes us to see things our way. When what we experience does not match the lens we are looking through, it leads us to complain. Sometimes those complaints are legitimate. Other times they are selfishly motivated. Occasionally I will joke about people who complain or grumble. At times I am that person who complains. The truth is, none of us enjoy being around a chronic complainer.
I am frequently asked about what types of things people commonly complain about in church. What are the most common complaints that I receive as a pastor? There are plenty of different complaints, but the most common ones I receive fall into these four areas. To be clear, sometimes the complaints presented to me are legitimate. They need to be listened to and addressed. Other times they are just places where the thing taking place does not match the preference. Let’s take a look at the four areas.
This has been a point of contention for ages in organized church. As music evolves so do the style and type of songs we sing as well as the instrumentation used with them. We should sing more hymns. We should sing new songs. Why don’t we have a choir? The music is too loud. I cannot hear the singers. I don’t like the drums. Why are there so many guitars? Where is the piano or organ? We sing too much. I wish we sang more. The tension of music will ever be present in the local church.
It really does not matter what the change is, the change will inevitably not be what someone wanted. We all want the change we initiate. We resist change someone else initiates. We want the change that has low cost and high reward. Resistance to change is not limited to parishioners. Leaders are often as averse to change as anyone. The older a person gets the less likely they want a change of any kind. There are numerous reasons for that. The older you get the more life brings certain change you have no control over. Also the older you get the more safety you tend to want and change means risk. Change happens and someone is sure not to like it.
Some of these complaints are exclusive to the church. This one is not. This one can be heard just about anywhere a child and parents are involved. My child was not allowed to participate. My child does not enjoy that class. Many times in the church environment parents are looking for the church to solve behavior and spiritual problems they have chosen to ignore for years. The church will rarely be able to correct what is being tolerated or overlooked at home.
I Didn’t Know
More often than not, this is where you will get a legitimate complaint. Communication is critical. Something is happening, especially where change or children are involved, and the information is not shared very well. Other times people just do not pay attention when the information is shared. I have had people complain about not knowing something that was in the bulletin for a month, in the monthly newsletter, on the video announcements and social media and even mentioned live in service. But, they are upset because they did not know when the real issue was they did not pay attention. Miscommunication causes problems for every relationship. Communication requires information to be shared, but it must also be received.
You cannot have an organization without complaints. Learning which ones to address and which ones to ignore is the challenge of wise leadership. These are my most common complaints. What are the most common complaints you get in your organization?