Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't Mess With the Help

Recently I have talked with a minister and a church staff person (neither of them on my staff) who have been accosted right before the worship services. A member of the congregation pulled the person aside to complain, strongly. No questions for clarification, or suggestions, just raw ugliness expressed over the inconvenience the complainer had endured.

Unfortunately this is not a rare occurrence in churches. It’s happened to members of my staff and to me, just not lately. And it is so wrong. What causes some church members to think that verbal abuse of a church staffer is acceptable preparation for worship? Inconceivable, but true. I don’t think that even a legitimate complaint should be voiced at worship time.

I have a rule for my staff members on this (which they don’t always invoke unfortunately). Whenever this happens they are to step away and say, “Stephen has a rule that all complaints are to be taken to his office. I am not supposed to listen to them.” I’ve found that most complainers are not going to go to the trouble of coming to me – it really wasn’t so important that it would be worth the extra effort. And, if they do come to me, they find that the complaint had better have substance; and they’ll have to listen to me talk about the big picture of what we’re about and how this concern fits (or doesn’t fit) in with that.

So, if you are a church member and you’re unhappy about something, make an appointment and talk to the staff member about it. If you can’t do that in a reasonable way, then pray and ask God to reveal what’s keeping you from being a decent person. Don’t mess with the hired help, especially on Sunday. In nearly every case they are just limited, mistake-prone humans trying to serve God while being overworked, under-appreciated and underpaid.

I know that a true “complainer” will never pay attention to a message like this. And while the Church has a lot more encouragers than discouragers, it only takes one or two rotten apples to make the whole bushel seem bad. So, if you ever witness such an interaction, I hereby authorize you to enter the fray and announce, “This is inappropriate, and I’m telling.” Better yet, help create such an environment of encouragement in your church that the chronic complainers will be the ones who feel uncomfortable.

9 comments:

Lauren said...

Thank you dad for that!! Needed that one.

Steve said...

Yes, thank you. An important subject to address.

Syd said...

Romans 15:5-6
5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"And you thought I wasn't listening"

Susan said...

Hey, Stephen, I always enjoy your blog. This type of "ambush" has always royally ticked me off. As a pastor's wife I have had to smile and smooth it over BUT...the tiger in my head is scratching eyes out while my face smiles. Being a pastor's wife is great training to be a hypocrite!Love you. little brother---Susan

roadtripray said...

AMEN!

I may be only 3 months into my first appointment, but I've learned from wise pastors who came before me. I make it a point to "hide" before worship service. I'll greet the few very early birds that get to church early on, but generally I hole up in the pastor's study until 5'til.

I stay in there and read through all of my scripture lessons through, and maybe even take the time to re-read an entire section of scripture for context and to pray for the worship service and perhaps some other more specific prayers. Then I slink over to the choir room and pray with the choir before we go out.

I'm a worrier, and I know it. I'm used to trying to make things happen, so I have to be very intentional about getting in the right frame of mind to let God do what God wants to do and I just ask for the wisdom and the vision to lead the congregation along that path.

Peace,
Ray

Jonathan said...

Hi Stephen,

An interesting post, but I have a question. On the one hand you say, "If you are a church member and you're unhappy about something, make an appointment and talk to the staff member about it." But on the other hand you tell the staff to say when people come to them, "Shephen has a rule that all complaints are to be taken to his office. I am not supposed to listen to them." These two seem contradictory to me. Which is it? Do you want folks to talk to you or to the staff member?

Stephen Taylor said...

Jonathan,
Good point and question. The rule I put into effect here of bringing complaints to me only applies here. I doubt other places have that rule so that's why I suggest make an appointment. And the main focus of the post is to say Sunday morning before or after worship is just not the time for this.

Also, the rule here is not a hard and fast one. When I arrived at this church I realized the staff was afraid to try anything because the pattern was such that they would get very little help or comments in planning, but a significant "complaint" response if it didn't suit the person. I neeed to do something to free up my staff to get creative and energized. Thanks for your question.

Jonathan said...

Thanks, Stephen. I see what you mean. And I definitely agree that Sunday morning just before worship is a terrible time to bring something like this up.

roadtripray said...

"...the pattern was such that they would get very little help or comments in planning, but a significant "complaint" response if it didn't suit the person."

That seems to be almost universal.

-- Ray