4 Tips to Help You Navigate Through Complaints About Your Ministry

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I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes what we do, what we plan and what happens is not liked by everyone at our churches, by some staff members and some parents. I know for me as we are transitioning some things and restructuring our ministry that it is going to (and has) rubbed some people the wrong way. Sometimes when you change things up, it’s going to get in the way of how people have done some things in the past, and they are troubled when now poses a “threat” to what they have known. They start blaming things on your ministry and tell you how to do things.

I love what Andy Stanley said at Catalyst: “Blame is just a change-avoidance strategy.” I know that the Lord has called me and our ministry to a certain vision for our ministry, and I know the way I am going to go about certain things will make people uncomfortable, and I have to be OK with it. It’s how you handle the confrontation and conversations that follow. I have had to have chats with my supervisor, with staff members, team members, volunteers and parents, and I feel we have been able to move forward in doing what God has called me to do.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while navigating change and tough conversations:

They just want to be heard—Be a great listener. Regardless if you agree with what they are saying, affirm their concerns, because when they feel like they are being heard they are more likely to hear what you have to say as well. I had a parent not too happy with our change in summer camp, and I just got to hang with, listen and have a conversation, and we walked away feeling really good about our route.

Most of the time, there is something more behind the complaint—From all of the conversations I have had, usually the initial complaint is not the real reason behind the complaint. Usually there is something more behind it, and having a conversation will help you get though it and move past it.

Let your supervisor know—If they are good, they won’t care. You need to have good communication and you need to have their trust in order for this to work for you. I let my supervisor know about any email he will be getting or conversation coming his way and I know he loves it. He doesn’t like to be surprised, and I’m assuming yours doesn’t either.

Respond gracefully and explain the “why”—When people don’t agree with you, we need to respond in a way that gives God glory, as hard as that is sometimes. Also when we respond, instead of saying, “Well that’s just what we are doing,” explain the why behind what you’re doing. Simon Sinek says, “People usually don’t buy what or how you do things, they buy the why.” Usually when people understand why you are doing a certain thing (because usually they assume and are wrong), they are more likely to understand and get behind you on it. I have had staff members and parents who were against me at one point turn to be my biggest supporters because they got the “why.” Sometimes they won’t be on borad and you have to be OK with that, and all you can do is respond gracefully and with love.  

 

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Justin Knowles
Justin Knowles is the Lead Next-Gen Pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees junior high, high school and college ministries at the church and is passionate about reaching students. He also blogs regularly and creates content for Downloadyouthministry.com.

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