I heard a complaint…..

I love when people preface a conversation with this statement. To me if you say that you “heard a complaint” without saying who from or what people group you are hiding something.  More than likely you mean “I have a problem but I am not willing to admit to your face that it is coming from me”.  

A complaint is a complaint. We all deal with complainers in the ministry, it is unavoidable. What we can contro is how to respond to the complainers. I suggest never catering to complainers but you cannot just brush off what you are hearing.  Here is what I suggest

  1. Take the complant in context. Where is this complaint REALLY coming from? Is it an issue that you can control or is it out of your hands? A good example of this is if your attendance is growing and a parent complains that their kid doesn’t want to come to youth group because it is boring . If other kids want to be there then why does this one kid not want to come? It could be a social situation but it could be a personal one or just simple laziness.  You do not necessarily have the ability to fix it and you  no matter how you change your format you are not going to win over that kid.
  2. Take the complainer in context. Is the person someone who is dedicated to making things better or are they a seldish person who things the world revolves around them? Some people complain just to complain. I have had, through the years, many senior adults complain about our youth program. Problem was they had never attended any youth related activity  during my tenure. Their complaint was based on assumptions and second hand knowledge. These people will never be happy and trying to make them happy winds up in pointles exercises.
  3. Examine yourself. Is the compalint coming from one person or on a larger scale? In my current position I was faced with an issue about lack of communication.  I took issue with this because I was trying to communicate. What I had to realize was that the forms of communication I had implementend were not working and I needed to go in  another direction. The key here is you must look at the situation as a whole identify the problem and come with a solution on your own. Everyone and their uncle will tell you how to fix a problem but if you always follow other people’s solutions you will be changing things all the time and confusing yourself in the process. You need to come up with what solves the problem AND what works for you. If it is more than you can handle it will blow up in your face.

Again you will never get rid of complainers but there is a rpocess to go through. Don’t let things snowball before you address an issue. If you want to achieve longevity ou must be on your toes and react quickly and efficiently.


  1. Sounds like you’re hearing complaints as feedback for polishing how you’re structuring or delivering your services.

    You might also consider that cries for help often come wrapped as complaints. Your example of a mother complaining her child finds the service boring, an observation that doesn’t seem supported by the empirical evidence, right? Could that also be a mother recognizing she needs help, but hiding her personal fears of failure behind a complaint that indicates it’s actually YOUR fault he’s not coming?

    I think a lot of parents look at the youth ministry staff of their church as if they were fluent in some exotic language and foreign culture that the rest of us old people just don’t understand. They don’t understand how you can make their kids understand the things they’ve tried to teach them or get them excited about the ideas they’d tried to deliver so many times…and using the SAME WORDS! What is it that gives you credibility when their only reward is contempt?

    Certainly take criticisms as an opportunity to evaluate, grow and improve things, but don’t just look at the complaint in context of your “job” (organizing your service structure). Instead, use the conversation as an opportunity for personal ministry and dig deeper to uncover the real problem.

  2. You might keep in mind that sometimes complaints belie other personal issues within the complainer. Complaints many times are the “fruit” of a deeper “root” issue and you may just be the recipient of the wrath of the complainer because you struck a nerve of a core issue.

    Welcome to my world. Film at 11. Keep the faith; run with patience the race that lies before you!


  3. Great points Bryan and Charles. There is a level of discernment that must play into it. You will have a parent that is doing everything in their power to get their kid to church and involved for their own good but on the flip side you will have a parent who believes every word their child tells them and finds no fault in them. I have dealt with both but it seems that more often than not the ones who are desperate to help their kids have a different air about them. The ones who think their child is never at fault usually feel the same way about themselves and if something isn’t right then it is someone else’s fault.

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