Supporting Parents or Grandparents who are critical of the children’s ministry
“How do I deal with parents or grandparents who regularly criticize us for what we do with, or for, their children?”
This challenge may require more than just “turning the other cheek,” or ignoring the comments. Regardless of the size of the church or CM, vocally critical parents or grandparents’ comments can spread quickly. It is important to personally talk with the critical person as soon as his/her comment is heard. This personal contact may be complicated, but it is necessary. Ideally, the parent or grandparent’s views will be better understood, and the ministry environment will be strengthened. A critical person who does not receive personal attention may share those critical comments with the senior pastor.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool spouts folly.” Proverbs 15: 1, 2
As with nearly every parent or grandparent, this “critical” person has strong views about what happens with their children. As the leader of the CM, you have two options: 1) To confront the criticizer and ask him/her to stop criticizing or take their child to another church (the “Dictator” style) or 2) To meet with the critical person with the intent to understand his/her views or needs and to ultimately make adjustments that satisfy his/her criticism (the “Diplomat” style). The “diplomatic” approach may not solve the issue, but it is a better first step. It is better to make a connection with the critical parent or grandparent in a “casual” manner (in the CM hallway), rather than a formal scheduled meeting in your office. The office setting represents power, not personal interest. If the critical parent or grandparent already has a “chip on his/her shoulder,” than he/she will most likely not agree to meeting with you in the office. A casual encounter in the CM hallway is a more friendly environment in which to understand his/her views. It would be best to strike up a conversation after he/she has checked out their child. Doing this after check-in is not good because the parent or grandparent is probably hurrying to go to the adult service. After the parent or grandparent checks out the child, approach him/her by using his/her name and introducing yourself (if appropriate offer to shake his/her hand). Before you talk about his/her comment, compliment his/her child! This is critical! A critical parent or grandparent will “lower his/her guns” after you compliment his/her child. After complimenting the child, make a quick transition to the comment by saying, “I was told (or “I heard you say”) that you were unhappy with the service we’re providing your child(ren). Tell me more about your feelings! We work hard at doing all we can to honor the parents or grandparents here.” Then, LISTEN to what he/she says! Don’t interrupt him/her as he/she shares opinions or views. After he/she has told you the foundation for his/her critical comments, it is important to compliment him/her for his/her passion. After sharing his/her comments, he/she is expecting you to defend your policies or procedures; when you compliment him/her for the passion and care that fuels his/her criticism, you will lower the tension in the conversation. This is what God was instructing us to do in Proverbs, when He said, “…a gentle answer turns away wrath.” Another great thing to do is to ask the parent or grandparent for suggestions regarding his/her criticism. Listen carefully and don’t interrupt! After they share their suggestions, share your views about the situation and help him/her understand all that you have done regarding the situation. Ask God quickly for wisdom about how to respond to the criticism. Tell him/her what you plan to do. Ask if you could have his/her phone number to share what you have done. Respectfully make this conversation short and assure him/her that you will be in touch. This kind approach will reduce any anger that the critical parent or grandparent has about what you do in the CM. Make sure to call the parent or grandparent in no more than 2 days to tell them what you are doing to improve the situation. If he/she would like to talk more with you, invite him/her to talk with you after checkout next week. For more help, click on the links below.