By Thom S. Rainer
In any organization of size, there are likely angry people.
They are unhappy with the organization. They don’t like change. They don’t like the leader.
But here’s the catch: In most organizations, they are a distinct minority. I use the quantifier of ten percent more anecdotally than not, but I would conjecture most organizations, including churches, would have a number close to that.
In churches, I see pastors, again and again, yield to the pressures and criticisms of the ten percent. I get it. I’ve been there and done that. May I suggest some perspectives on this issue? Perspectives are not solutions, but they can help us persevere when the ten percent get really loud.
- Ten percent can seem like a lot of people. Indeed, if your church has 200 active members, 20 loud critics can seem really loud. Brad Waggoner calls it “the power of negativity.” He says the negative person has a tenfold voice in the organization compared to the neutral and positive people.
- Realize that the ten percent will take advantage of any forum you give them. They love to speak up in business meetings. They love to be the big voice in listening sessions and surveys. In fact, listening sessions can make the rest of the organization demoralized as the more positive members think the negative people are the norm.
- The ten percent want you to think there are more of them. They will use phrases like, “Everyone says . . .” or “People are saying . . .” They not only can be negative; they can be downright deceitful.
- While you want to have open communications, the ten percent will often dominate the rest of the voices in the church. Such is the reason you need to be careful about giving them the platforms and opportunities to spread their negativity.
- The ten percent love social media. They are often the most vicious when they are hiding behind a keyboard. If you wonder why you are getting sick of social media, it’s because the ten percent live there. They love the megaphone that makes their voices seem louder than they really are.
- The ten percent often are on church rotations. If they can’t get their way, they will move to another church where they can spread their negativity. Be cautious of people who want to transfer to your church if they have nothing but negative things to say about their current church.
- The ten percent often lead church splits. They will be happy at their new place . . . until they don’t get their way completely. They will then be ready to spread their negativity at the new congregation. Such is the reason so few church splits do well.
This overview is just one of many perspectives rather than solutions. If you feel like most people are against you in your church, you are likely wrong. It’s probably the ten percent. But they do have the loudest voices in your congregation.