Posts Tagged ‘anonymous complaints’

When I first started going to Costco twenty years ago, it was called Price Club.  Our local Costco was about one mile down the street from our church in Silicon Valley.

Every time I entered that store, I did the same thing: grab a batch of complaint forms.

Was I unhappy about the prices?


The quality of the merchandise?


The attitude of the cashiers?


I couldn’t stand the lines.

And more than that, I didn’t like how the lines wrapped around so that I couldn’t tell where a line started.

Call it Costco chaos.

So I’d fill out the complaint forms while I was standing in line.

I’d write: “You have lots of cash registers.

Can you open more registers?

Can you hire more cashiers?

Can you start an express line?”

I was full of suggestions.

And Costco didn’t implement a single one.

Anonymous complaints are rarely effective, either in a store or in a church.

In my second pastorate, the church had a wooden suggestion box.  People could walk by and drop an anonymous note into the box, hoping it would eventually reach me.

Sometimes those notes sat in there for weeks.

Why didn’t I eagerly pluck them out?

Because that’s now how the body of Christ operates.

All pastors receive anonymous notes.

Sometimes they’re on the back of a response card.

Sometimes they come in the form of a letter.

Sometimes they’re passed on to someone with a name: “Pastor, I know someone who is very unhappy with the music right now.  I’m not at liberty to say who they are, but they’re going to leave the church if things don’t change soon.”

Now how can I answer that complaint?

I don’t know the name of the person who made it.

I don’t know their gender, age, or spiritual maturity.

I don’t know if they’re a regular attendee or a sporadic one.

To me, the complaint is worthless.

And that’s why I instructed the staff of my churches never to read an anonymous note.

If someone sent me a note, but they didn’t sign it, I’d tell the office manager to throw it out, even if it made valid points.

I didn’t even want to hear about it.

In my last church, some people were unhappy with me.

One day, I went to get the mail at home and received a letter without a return address.

For some reason, I knew what was inside.

It was a note addressed to me and demanded that I RESIGN from my position as pastor.

You know what I did?

I laughed.

Of course, I didn’t like having anyone insist that I quit.

That hurt a little … and it was meant to hurt.

But … the person who sent the note was confessing something.

He – or she – was a coward.

And I actually felt sorry for them.

Because if they had revealed their identity, I would have known who sent the note … and their ugliness would have been exposed.

Let me share three quick ideas on how to register a complaint – even at your home church:

First, identify yourself.  Write your name.  Say who you are.  If you won’t take this step, then don’t complain.

Second, list your contact information.  List your email address.  Give your phone number.  Let the person you’re complaining to know how to reach you.

Third, respectfully state your complaint.  Make it brief.  Make it honest.

And don’t make any threats.  If someone threatened to leave the church if I didn’t do what they wanted, I’d say …


I have enjoyed Rick Steves’ Travels in Europe TV show on PBS for nearly 17 years.

I have all of his shows on either video (the old ones) or DVD (the newer ones).

I have nearly all his non-guidebooks, along with a healthy number of guides to places like Eastern Europe, Ireland, and Paris.

But a few years ago, I became angry with a position he took on a social issue.

I fired off a quick email to him, figuring it would land on a secretary’s desk where she would tally up the “yes” and “no” votes and pass that info on to him.

But I didn’t expect to receive an email back from Rick himself within a few minutes.

And he wasn’t very happy with my complaint … or the way I voiced it.

I wrote him back and apologized for my hasty words.  I stood up for my position, though, and he wrote back to tell me he’d sought counsel from his pastor on the subject.

The lesson?

If you’re going to complain to someone about something … even the pastor of your church … then let them know:

*who you are

*how they can reach you

*what your complaint is

Because if you do that, you have the best chance to be heard.

Otherwise, why complain?

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: