Categorizing Complaints in the Church

seeking4 Ways to Categorize Complaints in the Church – article by Jonathan Rourke, senior pastor of Tri-City Bible Church in Vista, California (original source I engage in a ritual sorting. At end of my driveway is a metal container holding items delivered by various messengers. Step one is to sort them into what is important or valuable, and what can be tossed away or ignored.

We should treat complaints from church members the same way. A mentor of mine said every pastor needs to have a blind eye and a deaf ear. He meant you need to learn how to ignore stuff. That’s been good advice.

But sometimes, you can’t ignore a problem. Hopefully this short post will help this pastoral conundrum. Think of this as a way to sort the complaints you hear into four different categories: preferences, opinions, convictions, and attitudes.

PREFERENCES

Preferences are subjective commitments that have no moral consequence. They can be exercised with little to no impact on the rest of the congregation. Interestingly, concrete examples are very had to find in Scripture. The closest would be what Paul calls “interests” in Philippians 2:4. It’s a general word you could probably even translate to “things.”

In short, we all have things that matter to us, and complaints can arise when church members insist on their things being more important than someone else’s things. There is no clear right or wrong here.

Dealing with Preferences

If preferences are the source of the problem, remind each side that different doesn’t mean bad. If we all sang the same notes in the same way we’d have no harmony. Unison is not unity.

Reminding someone of this should help give him or her a perspective of ministry as a whole. Show them how their thing fits into a big and wonderful collection of things that work together to accomplish the one thing we all should be about. In these situations, be careful about taking sides. Don’t be the champion of any one thing. Remember, no one expects you to do everything, just their things.

OPINIONS

These are reasoned conclusions that shape conscience. This informs your moral code of conduct. Believers experience the greatest degree of potential discord when it comes to opinions. Conflict most commonly occurs in a church when one side despises those who abstain or judges those who enjoy (Romans 14:3). Continue reading

Issues for First Time Guests

Church80In an article entitled “Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-time Guests” Thom S. Rainer writes:

If you attend a church regularly, you’ve probably noticed the phenomenon. A guest shows up for a worship service, but he or she never returns. It is, unfortunately, a common issue in many churches.

I did a Twitter poll to ask these first-time guests why they chose not to return to a particular church. While some of the responses were anticipated, I admit being a bit surprised with some of them.

Though my poll is not scientific, it is nevertheless fascinating. Here are the top ten responses in order of frequency.

Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.

Unfriendly church members. This response was anticipated. But the surprise was the number of respondents who included non-genuine friendliness in their answers. In other words, the guests perceived some of the church members were faking it.

Unsafe and unclean children’s area. This response generated the greatest emotional reactions. If your church does not give a high priority to children, don’t expect young families to attend.

No place to get information. If your church does not have a clear and obvious place to get information, you probably have lowered the chances of a return visit by half. There should also be someone to greet and assist guests at that information center as well.

Bad church website. Most of the church guests went to the church website before they attended a worship service. Even if they attended the service after visiting a bad website, they attended with a prejudicial perspective. The two indispensable items guests want on a website are address and times of service. It’s just that basic.

Poor signage. If you have been attending a church for a few weeks, you forget all about the signage. You don’t need it any more. But guests do. And they are frustrated when it’s not there.

Insider church language. Most of the respondents were not referring to theological language as much as language that only the members know. My favorite example was: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GAs usually meet.”

Boring or bad service. My surprise was not the presence of this item. The surprise was that it was not ranked higher.

Members telling guests that they were in their seat or pew. Yes, this obviously still takes place in some churches.

Dirty facilities. Some of the comments: “Didn’t look like it had been cleaned in a week.” “No trash cans anywhere.” Restrooms were worse than a bad truck stop.” “Pews had more stains than a Tide commercial.”

There you have it. The top ten reasons first-time guests said they did not return to a church. I can’t wait to hear from you readers. You always have such good additions and insights.