The Future Church - A Church Communications Podcast
Church Media + Communications

E062 - Responding To Messages

James: So on the theme of complaints and feedback what do we do when we get something from someone we know that's from a church goer. And usually it's going to come through e-mail or message. So how do we deal with those directly?

James: So Jo working church communications you definitely have some experience with this what is kind of your way to handle it?

Joanna: Yeah. One of my favorite quotes about complaints and feedback is Carl Lentz actually out of Hillsong in New York and he has a real swagger so I appreciate what he says about this. But he says basically "we love to get complaints and feedback because if they're right we can change and if we still disagree after hearing their feedback it only affirms who we are where we're going and the culture we're trying to build".

James: That's a great way to approach it.

Joanna: And I think that we should probably take that approach in our whole life like if they're right let's change! And and if we disagree even after hearing it kind of affirms we're going in the way we really did want to go. And so I think of like a complaint maybe it's a classic complaint is "the music's too loud" and you might be able to say you know what actually you're right we had some issues on Sunday with the sound, it's a new guy training it wasn't the right thing. Or on the other end because they actually we intentionally want the music at this volume. It's a safe volume for ears no one's getting damaged by that. And we really want to build a culture of this kind of sound in the room. And so that's what I mean by if they're right you can change if they're if you're if you're still disagreeing it just confirms the culture you're building. And so a lot of what we're talking today about is less around like theological feedback. Let's talk another day around people who are writing in or asking about what our opinions are about some maybe weightier topics this is stuff like just this weekend you know we got a complaint that had to do with they didn't like the joke, one of the jokes that the pastor made they felt sort of offended by it. And that's always a tricky thing with jokes isn't it? Because in a sermon you might use it the nature of a joke is, it has a punch line. And so sometimes people don't appreciate that and that doesn't mean it was. You know we're not talking about highly offensive content we're talking about just jokes that person didn't find funny maybe because they work in that industry or they they have that personal life experience or whatever it is and they find that maybe it was a stereotype they didn't appreciate. So in general here's what I would say. You should reply to these people they have identified themselves. On Google Reviews like we talked about in a previous episode. You can't really get back to people because you don't usually know who it is. But if someone is emailed or called or left a message for the church or come up to people in the church or fills out a comment card or whatever it is and they've identified who they are it is an opportunity to build relationship. The whole point of church life is about community, connection, and relationship. It doesn't mean you have to agree or that you have to concede to what they're saying but it is an opportunity to actually have a conversation. I think one of the worst things to do is just ignore the e-mail.

James: Yeah. So we don't ignore it. That's a great time to open up dialogue with a person because maybe put our own ego aside or our own belief and maybe they're right. Like maybe there was something wrong with that joke or maybe maybe we need to reconsider how we're doing things because a complaint can also touch on something that is truly there right? I mean this can apply in the business context like even on our Facebook page about once a month I'll post complaints or feedback like tell us what you're not liking. I want to know what's not working with my business and what people are struggling with because often it does point out a weakness and that's good. And you know it doesn't mean that every complaint can get solved. Sometimes there are things that can't be solved or it's too minor that it doesn't actually affect the larger group or it's not the direction your business or church is headed. Sometimes there's actual valid feedback. This is not working well and we take a step back and we look and say you know what that person's right. Maybe we had the wrong strategy maybe we're just not doing a good enough job at it let's try to hunker down and kind of solve that problem. And the same is true in the church where like sometimes if you start getting the same feedback from different people over and over it might actually be pointing out a problem that needs to be solved.

Joanna: Yeah that's right. And I mean there are some people who in every church might have the fame of being the person who complains all the time. And so sometimes actually I think that person starts to get disregarded inappropriately like they actually we should listen to them because maybe they're saying something that other people didn't have the courage to say. Or they're just a person who is unhappy and ultimately maybe this isn't really the right church for them because the things you're complaining about are very minor or unhelpful and kind of losing the focus on the goal of what we're really trying to do about developing disciples of Jesus. It feels like sometimes oh you know if they're complaining that their seat is uncomfortable it's not really something that we need to fix for them. But I do think it's good to reply to them. And I think ignoring it only builds hurt mistrust it builds an opportunity for them to tell other people their complaint because you could kind of like you could kind of deal with it privately. But if you don't address it and have the ability to comment and communicate back with them and you this doesn't need to be 10 emails back and forth and back and forth I think there should be a boundary around how much you communicate but you should communicate back in an appropriate grace filled honoring way as soon as you can. Without feeding the beast of just going on and on and conversation back and forth.