How to Manage a Constant Complainer in the Church

The grouchy grumbler. The negative naysayer. The gloomy pessimist. Complaining has many forms. Not every complaint is toxic. Sometimes, a complaint is warranted and can help to identify problems. Additionally, everyone needs to vent from time to time. But many churches have at least one person who complains about everything.

Constant complaining can easily control the narrative within a congregation. People focus on the negative. Complaints get more attention than compliments. When a constant complainer has a prominent voice, negativity is amplified and misrepresents the actual state of the church. When someone trumpets a series of baseless complaints, they are like a young child discovering a live mic in a room full of people. The noise is loud, overbearing, and impossible to ignore.

Consider the emotional and spiritual impact of chronic complaining.

    • The more you complain, the less room you give gratitude and appreciation.
    • The more you complain, the higher the likelihood you become addicted to drama.
    • The more you complain, the greater the chance you weigh others down with negativity.
    • The more you complain, the more you spread the contagion of pessimism.

What are some warning signs a constant complainer is gaining too much influence over others in the church?

    • The complainer uses negativity to garner sympathy and leverage power.
    • The complainer dominates discussions with perceived problems yet offers no solutions.
    • The complainer repeats pessimistic views to recruit others to a vague cause.
    • The complainer dumps objections on people with no leadership roles in the church.

When you encounter a constant complainer, what should you do? How can you manage this person without fueling the fire of negativity?

Do not engage complainers in a back-and-forth debate. They feed on negativity. More attention only draws more complaints.

Do not jump to harsh discipline. Often, this kind of move validates the complaints and proves the point of the complainer, bringing others into the mix who view your actions as unjust.

Do not appease complainers with positions of church leadership. Far too many churches have made the mistake of assuming a committee position, a board seat, or a deacon role will shift the mindset of complainers. In most cases, they use their newfound authority to complain even more.

Ask the complainer what he or she views as a positive outcome. Put them on the spot. Make them go on the record with something constructive. Then, keep redirecting the person back to this outcome.

Give the complainer opportunities to work towards a solution. But not with large groups or with more sensitive people. For example, if a complainer does not like the Sunday school curriculum, ask them to research alternatives. This kind of task can be accomplished alone.

Pray with the complainer and focus on guidance from the Holy Spirit. The temptation is to ignore complainers or pass them off to others. The better option is to engage complainers with a time of genuine prayer.

Remove the complainer from settings where complaints can be amplified. You must protect the church and the complainer. Much damage can occur when you allow complainers to be the megaphone of negativity among a large group.

Constant complainers are exhausting to those around them, and they never seem to exhaust their stream of negative perspectives. Remember, pessimism is a weight. Optimism is an investment. As a leader in your church, you have a responsibility to convey a hopeful message to your congregation.

Posted on March 13, 2024

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Simon McCaughey says on

    I think I’m prone to complaining, I just see stuff that we can improve. I’m an elder in the church, and I work hard to try to improve everything, slowly, and bringing people along with me.

    But I feel constantly I need to ‘pick my battles’ otherwise I’d just be perceived as negative all the time. I try not to criticise people, and I always try to offer solutions or ideas for improvement. Maybe people might perceive that as positive, rather than negative? I’m always pressing forward, because I think, I know we can do better with the resources and effort we already expend.

    I’ve been pushing the “invite your one” and the other outreach tools from church answers, and everyone appears receptive but it seems to end with inaction. It’s frustrating. We’re inward focused, and aging.

    This is a very helpful article, thanks so much for all the content you produce!

  • Larry Webb says on

    I think I was one of those complainers years ago. I gave the pastor a hard time. I have promised myself and the Lord, I will lift up and be an optimist from now until I am called home.
    This was a great piece! Especially for former complainers.
    For the most part complaining does no good except raising blood pressure.

    • Sam Rainer says on

      Thank you, Larry! Love the point about blood pressure.

    • Robert Hopkins says on

      Thank you for you reply. I had a complainer in my last church that eventually made me take another call even though my family and I were loved by 99% of the congregation. They have now been without a pastor for almost two years with no end in sight.