Posts Tagged ‘grievance against a pastor’

Imagine that someone approaches you at church and says, “I’m upset with the pastor.”  This individual then proceeds to tell you exactly why they’re angry.

What should you do about their complaint?




Walk away?

I recently shared a meal with a friend who once served as board chairman in a church where I served as pastor.

He reminded me that whenever churchgoers approached him to complain about me, he told them:

“Let’s go see the pastor.”

My friend was seeking to carry out Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15 by bringing the complainer directly to me.

I asked him, “How did people respond?”

He replied, “They said, “No, no, we don’t want to see him.'”

I asked, “Did this happen during my entire tenure or just at the end?”

He said, “No, it happened at the end.”  (That church went through some stressful times that were beyond our control.)

Over the course of my 36-year pastoral career, I estimate that less than a dozen people ever sat down with me in a loving, biblical fashion and shared a grievance with me.

Some complained through letters and emails … others through response cards and phone calls … and a few accosted me before or after a worship service.

But very few ever made an appointment … met with me one-on-one … and then shared their heart with me.

So when someone did that, I commended them for their courage … and listened very carefully.

But the more common approach in churches is for someone to bypass the pastor and broadcast their feelings/complaints/grievances about him to their network.

I wonder how many did just that over the years?  50?  125?  250?  Only God knows.

Why don’t most people speak directly to their pastor about their concerns?

*They don’t know the pastor personally.

*They can’t predict the pastor’s reactions.

*They don’t want to be labeled as complainers.

*They don’t want to take up the pastor’s valuable time.

*They aren’t sure the pastor will take them seriously or make any changes.

One time, a new couple made an appointment to see me.  They didn’t like our small group format and wanted it overhauled to their liking.

I listened.  I understood what they were saying.  But I didn’t agree with them … so they left the church … but at least they came to me with their suggestion.

But a long-time member used to stop by my office every year and ask me, “Pastor, would it be all right if I made a couple of suggestions?”

Great approach, by the way.

When I assented, he’d make several observations … and I almost always agreed with them.  I valued his views.

If you’re upset about a church policy, speak to any of the policy makers …  usually members of the governing board.  You don’t have to share policy concerns exclusively with the pastor.

If you’re upset with someone personally, though, you need to speak directly with them in a loving fashion … even if that someone is your pastor … or let it go.

Above all, avoid spreading any discontent to others.  Those kinds of complaints are infectious and divisive … and have been known to destroy both pastoral careers and entire congregations.   Churches that permit verbal assaults on their pastor sow the seeds of their own destruction.

Remember the words of James 3:5 in relation to the tongue: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

But if someone walks up to you and says, “I want to complain about the pastor,” there’s an effective, biblical way to handle that.

Simply tell that individual:

“Let’s go see the pastor.”

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