Did you know people do that? It doesn’t happen constantly, but it’s not uncommon for people scribble little notes to the ministers on the backs of bulletins or little slips of paper.
In over 20 years of worship leading, I’ve received a few anonymous notes. None of them have ever been positive – every single one has been a complaint. In three years at Bethel, I’ve received two. One of them was last Sunday.
I thought about vlogging it – going into full-rant mode and going public. But I didn’t. While I don’t have much respect for anonymous note-writers, I also don’t want to shame them. (Very much.)
My desire to make that stuff known is really a desire to somehow communicate with the person who wrote it. Why anonymous? Why a letter? Why not walk up to me and discuss whatever complaint they have in love? I’m a big boy. I can handle it.
Here’s what I wish I could say to that person who wrote me the note:
SIGN YOUR NAME
Notes like this are of no use to me. If you wanted to actually talk about volume or song selection or theology or whatever the concern, you would engage me in some way. Maybe you’re nervous about saying this stuff face-to-face, that’s okay. But throw your email on there and let’s talk. I’m not gonna’ get mad…I love talking about this stuff. Do you know how many Sundays I go home having had no discussion with congregants about worship? Will I agree with your assessment? We’ll never know. I throw anonymous notes in the trash because they’re worthless. Conversation is what matters. Not taking a shot at somebody from the shadow.
GIVE IT TIME
This particular anonymous note didn’t like my song selection. She (handwriting looked too nice for a guy) said I didn’t do enough familiar songs and that I talked a lot. While I could totally destroy both arguments in two-seconds flat, that’s not the point. The point is this. If you’re feeling frustrated or angry or some need to complain as soon as possible, don’t. I’ve been in ministry a long time and I can tell you that ministers almost always have the purest of intentions. You don’t like the songs on a couple of Sundays? Give me a few more; find out what our church is trying to say with our songs. You don’t like that I prayed described Communion and prayed over it? We don’t do communion every Sunday. You wish I did more worship hits? Well, you gotta’ get over that. Worship’s about God, not you.
CHOOSE TO BLESS
If you want to complain anonymously, why not go the other way? Do the complete opposite. Walk up to me with a big smile and say “Thanks for what your hard work,” or “I can tell you love this church.” Not only will you feel 10,000 times better upon leaving, you’ve now established a relationship dynamic that will give you lots of opportunity for discussion. What does it hurt for you to do the opposite of your instinct?
I’m not being dramatic.
I’m not trying to make note writers feel bad.
I just want you to know that even though I throw that thing away, I think about it all day. I’m sick over it – that somebody left that room frustrated or disliking me. In some misguided way, you mean that note to help a worship leader, but it does the exact opposite. It distracts him and frustrates him more deeply that you could ever know.