3 “Don’ts” When Dealing with Complainers

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Originally posted July 17,2012

“Our small group curriculum is too much fluff!”

“I can never find out what’s going on around the church!”

“Why do we sing so many old hymns?!”

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If you’re a church leader, you’ve likely heard each of these complaints, or some variation on these themes.

The point is, as a leader (and especially as a church leader), dealing with complaints is part of the territory. What’s important is how you deal with them, and even more so, how you don’t deal with them.

Here are three vital “don’ts” when it comes to dealing with complainers.

1.   Don’t take on every complaint yourself
A common mistake made by inexperienced leaders is to assume that simply because someone brought a complaint to your attention, that it now becomes your problem to solve.

Instead, listen politely, discern the nature of the concern, and immediately point the person toward the person on the team best equipped to respond.

2.   Don’t get defensive
Effective leaders know that even within the shrillest sounding complaint, there can be a kernel of truth worth listening to. But if your skin is so thin that you immediately reject any complaint out of hand you can miss out on information that could help you improve your leadership or the ministry of your church.

Learn to look for the nuggets of truth contained within any complaint.

3.   Don’t miss out on a teaching moment
When a complaint comes forward, even one laced with sarcasm and hurtful language, you have an opportunity and responsibility to coach and correct.

First, deal with the content of the complaint in whatever appropriate manner you choose.

Then, separate out the tone or manner with which the complaint was brought forward. If it was presented in a respectful manner, affirm and reinforce that tone.

But if the complaint was presented in a mean-spirited, hurtful manner, deal with that. Deal with that clearly and unequivocally. To let such behavior go unchallenged will only lead to more problems in the future.

Complaints happen. And as a leader in the local church you will deal with them more often than you’d probably want to.

And so since you can’t avoid them, you might as well grow through them.

What leadership lessons have you learned in dealing with complainers?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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