responding to complaints

I’m pretty sure it only happens at my church, but from time to time someone complains about it being too loud. I’ve written a few posts already about how loud is too loud, which addresses the philosophies around volume at church, but having values around why your volume doesn’t stop some people from thinking it’s too loud.

Recently we adjusted some setting for the low end in our PA in an attempt to solve a few problems, but we ended up creating new low end issues. As a result, we got more than our usual amount of written and verbal complaints about it being too loud.

For us, we have a pretty decent understanding of how loud it should be, and I’m pretty comfortable with the fact that some people will still complain. So how do you handle those complaints? Since there is no way to make everyone happy with the volume, what do you do?

I have a theory that people want to feel heard. So here’s what I typically do when I receive a volume related complaint.

I first reach out via email explaining that I received their email about it being too loud and that since I am responsible for the live production elements at our church, I would love to talk further. I then ask for the best way to reach them, then wait to hear back from them. I try to respond within 24 hours of getting their original email.

This quick response communicates that someone is listening and cares about their opinion. It also puts the ball in their court to respond back. If I hear back from them (which I normally do) we then arrange to talk on the phone or meet in person.

When we finally talk, I ask them a series of fact finding questions:

  • How long have you been coming? How often do you attend?
  • Was this an isolated volume issue or is it something you feel on a regular basis?
  • Where do you normally sit?
  • Do you notice if the volume changes based on worship leader/worship style?

Once we talk through these, I usually walk through the following:

  • The locations in our auditorium that tend to be quieter.
  • That we keep track of our dB levels over time and know scientifically that we aren’t causing permanent damage to people’s hearing.
  • Our philosophy on volume…in a nut shell, we are trying to match the energy in the room and create a great worship experience for the largest number of people.
  • We are constantly evaluating volume and trying to get this balance right.

9 times out of 10 this conversation goes very well and the experience leaves people feeling heard and valued. In the past, we used to send people an email with documentation and an open letter (that you can read here). These are necessary to have on hand, but they don’t address the real issues, which is a member of the congregation feeling like a someone at the church actually cares. The letter alone is too cold and impersonal.

Picking up the phone to a potentially hostile conversation is not my idea of fun. OK, who am I kidding? Picking up the phone at all is one of my least favorite things.

In all the years that I have been making these particular types of phone calls, I have never had a bad experience. At the end of a conversation, I have made a great connection with someone in the congregation that I serve.

Responding to complaints is a necessary part of leadership. Responding to the production related complaints is a tangible way for your to help carry a small part of the leadership burden for your senior pastor.

 

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  • @soundguy_64

    Excellent post! I am going to incorporate these steps into my church environment. The basic truth that was brought out here is that people matter and how they feel about how much their church staff cares matters and will go a long way in serving God by serving His people. Thank You Todd!

    • Thanks for the comments! Listening to people’s concerns is a great culture builder for your church. Understanding what you and the leadership think about volume is also a huge step toward answering people’s concerns.