Dealing with Angry Church People

Angry3
Several times over the past week I've encountered Church leaders who
shared with me about dealing with angry church people.  They served in
various capacities of the churches.  Several were sound engineers (or
sound guys).  One of them, in fact, was my dad.  He explained how at
our past church he got regular complaint notes from one of the church
members about how he was doing on sound.  He took it cordially and did
his best.  Later, after leaving that church to serve at the church we
attend together today (and where he still serves faithfully on sound),
he got another note from that angry church member stating something
along the lines of "Thank you for all you did with sound at our
church.  I miss you now that you are gone.  It's not the same without
you."  How the tables can turn.  I face some confusion in my head about
this issue of complaints, or as some might refer to it - consumer
wants.  The latter suggests an important part of effective business or
ministry.  How can we build our church organically around the needs
& gifts of our members,  and the needs of our communities.  So I
face a fork in the road.  I believe we need to allow a safe environment
for complaints or suggestions if you will.  I also believe we can't
please everybody, and if suggestions turn into angry complaints, no one
ends up happy.  Here are a few thoughts on creating a safe environment
for suggestions ... (I'd love to hear your input in the comment section
below as well):

1.
Create a Safe Environment for Opinions - have a suggestion box in
physical form and online on your site.  Make it a non-public spot where
members and guests can share complaints, suggestions or testimonies,
and a specific Pastor can respond and share the heart of the church,
clearing up as much misunderstanding as humanly possible.
2. Respond
to Concerns - some people just want to get complaints off their chest. 
They share their mind and get peace of mind.  Others need to hear a
response or they will feel as if their concerns didn't matter in the
first place.  Respond promptly to people, if necessary face to face, to
discuss their concerns.  Listen closely and try to understand where
they are coming from.  Thank them for being willing to talk.  Share the
heart of the church or ministry and explain you will consider their
complaint or suggestion.  Do your best not to say you cannot do
anything about it, instead letting them know you will bring their
thoughts to the right person (if it's not you).  Later, write them a
note about why or why not you have decided to adhere to their opinions,
again thanking them for their concerns and encouraging a safe
environment for future concerns. 
3. Create environments for
demographics - if possible have a service for the elderly that fits
their needs and concerns.  Also, have a service for younger people that
is innovative enough for their tastes.  One way to discover these,
beyond waiting for complaints, is to hold a "focus group."  A focus
group is a marketing term for gathering a group of leaders from within
a certain age group to discuss their preferences for each service. 
Attempt (although this will take work, patience and
flexibility/openness) to become a "yes culture" at your church or
ministry.  By this meaning spiritual leaders who will say "yes," to
those your serve and their desires or wants.  You are there to serve
them, not the other way around.  An example of this is Panera bread,
whose employees are taught to say yes to customers, even if they are
asking for things such as free refills, etc.  Make every effort to
bring a resounding YES to church members questions of what church could
and should be.  Free WiFi and laptops in church to follow links to the
pastor's message? Yes!  Coffee in the sanctuary, or any food for that
matter? Yes!  Different seating arrangements around hi-top tables? Yes!
While some of these things may not fit your church culture, take time
with groups of members and find out what would make them love church
even more.  Also, if there are age/style specific services, you will be
much more able to respond to members needs by referring them to a
service time that would better fit their needs.  Complaint solved.
4. Remember who's the servant and who's the master - in the revolutionary book Relentless: the Japanese Way of Marketing,
the authors explain that the massive auto empires built by the Japanese
(ie - Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, etc.) can be attributed to
the fact that the Japanese understand that the customer is the master
and the brand is the servant.  Without their consumers, and without our
members we are nothing.  We have no following and no impact.  It is
therefore vital to listen carefully to those we serve and minister to,
in order to better meet their spiritual needs in ways they will
comprehend and catch.
5. Upset the right people - we obviously will
never be able to please everybody, therefore we need to decide what our
untouchable core values are and why.  We must be willing to anger a few
people, and accept the fact that we can't please everybody.  Jesus and
the Apostles didn't, and we can't either.