Responding to Upset Church Members

9 Ideas for Addressing the Concerns of an Upset Church Member

What preacher has not had somebody get upset with him? Who has not had folks who through misinformation or a legitimate grievance have become disappointed in their pastor? All of us, if we stay any length of time, will have to deal with upset members. Here are some techniques which I believe to be scriptural and have found to be helpful:

1. Listen to what they have to say. You may feel like you know the answer before they are done explaining the problem. If you interrupt them, they will not believe you understand. You must listen to what they have to say before you can hope to teach them anything.

2. Repeat back to them what they have said so that they know you understand it. There now can be no question in their mind that their position is clear to you.

3. Endeavor to see their perspective. Agree with everything you can. Tell them the things that you understand about their feelings and explain that you might feel the same way if you were in their position.

4. Seek to become their advocate, not their adversary. Assume that you and the member both want the same things: to be right with God and to be able to serve God happily together. Work towards that goal, not towards the goal of getting them to agree with you or of justifying yourself.

5. Admit your fault. If you have been wrong in any way in the situation (or if staff members have behaved inappropriately), admit it. Take a little more blame than you think you deserve. The more blame we take, the less blame we get. The less blame we take, the more blame we get.

6. Having done all of the above, you have probably earned the right to explain the reasons for your behavior. When you do so, ask if what you are doing makes sense and give them a chance to comment.

7. Try to come to an agreement. Perhaps you can propose a course of action; perhaps you can agree to try to do better in the future; perhaps you will simply agree that each person was sincere and well-meaning but had a different opinion.

8. Pray. Ask God to bless the upset member, thank God for the good qualities and faithful service of that person.

9. Shake their hand warmly. Let them know you love and appreciate them and thank them for coming to you with their concern instead of going to someone else. Let them know that the door is open should they ever need to talk to you on a similar matter in the future.

It has been my experience that the more open and accessible a pastor is, the more kind and considerate he is; the fewer complaints he gets from the members. I hope this will be true with you.

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