How Much Do You Complain?

Are you in the habit of complaining about those you lead? It’s an easy habit to get into, because we can always find something to complain about. “They just aren’t getting the message.” “Susie always responds negatively to a new idea.” “If people gave more, we wouldn’t have this budget crisis.” The problem people I talked about in the last post can be endless fuel for complaints. We may not necessarily complain to others at church, but we complain to our families, our colleagues and our friends.

I keep thinking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words in Life Together, which I read earlier this year. “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.” (p. 29; I’d add in “her congregation.”) He goes on to say that when a pastor begins to complain, he [or she] needs to look at himself first, and then pray for the congregation.

Even when there are real issues to be dealt with, if we shifted our approach from complaint to prayer, we might be able to see more clearly what needs to be done. And perhaps we’d find ourselves less annoyed and frustrated by the petty matters that are part of every community’s life.

I’ve offered my share of complaints; perhaps that’s why Bonhoeffer’s words have stuck with me all year. What about you?

2 Responses to How Much Do You Complain?

  1. Rebecca, what a great idea. To encourage pastor/parish committees to be thoughtful about what is going on in a congregation is a real leadership contribution. And of course, it helps the pastor stay more thoughtful about it, too.

  2. That is a great blog Margaret. I have been thinking about pastor/parish relations committees recently, in regards to complaints. Sometimes these committees are seen as ‘venting’ places for the pastor and/or places where congregations can pass on their
    complaints about the pastor. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to use these committees to look at emotional process? One of my goals for the year is to work with my pastor/parish committee and come up with some questions or ponderings about emotional process.

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