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.