Skip to main content

Have a question or comment you need to relay to your church’s leadership? Try this six-step process for best results. 

Thrive consultants regularly hear from members of congregations who want to communicate questions or concerns to their church’s leadership but aren’t sure how to do it. They don’t want to come across as being overly critical or ungrateful and they know leading the church is a big job. They don’t want to put the leadership in a defensive position but they do have something they think is important to say or a question that’s important to ask. 

How can a person raise a question or concern to their leadership in a constructive way? 

Step One: Ask, “Is it worth mentioning?”

Not everything related to the church or to your spiritual life requires council’s involvement or input. Consider praying about whether or not this needs to be brought to council. Give it some time. Some things, which seem very important in the heat of the moment, seem much less important a week or two later. But if something persists in feeling important over the course of time and prayer, it is probably worth bringing up to your council. 

Step Two: Don’t bring it up on Sunday. 

It’s so easy to bring up concerns on a Sunday. The pastor, church staff, and every other church leader are right there. (They’re practically sitting ducks!) You see them across the sanctuary and you remember that you wanted to say something to them. It would be so easy. And then you could stop thinking about it (and make them start thinking about it). 

Resist the temptation!

Particularly for pastors and church staff, Sundays can be stressful and emotion-filled days. Your church leaders are trying to be present to God and to each member in a particularly focused way. Meanwhile, they’re like everyone else. As much as possible, they need their Sunday to be a day of worship and rest. Obviously, that’s hard when you have work responsibilities during that time. But just because staff and pastors already have some responsibilities on Sunday does not mean you should add to their responsibilities on this Sunday. Unburdening your question and concern means burdening someone else with it. Don’t make it harder for someone to worship and rest by bringing up a concern on Sunday that could just as easily be brought up on Monday or Tuesday. 

Step Three: Don’t Include More People than are Necessary

When we notice something amiss at church, one of our first and most natural reactions is to ask others if they also noticed and think it's a problem. Before long, we can attract a small coalition of similarly concerned people. It may feel like you are helpfully doing some of the council’s work by talking about this with others. Now you can tell the council, “It’s not just me, lots of people agree with me.” 

As helpful as that might seem, the truth is that this dynamic can veer quickly into sowing dissension. Nothing will put your council in a defensive, anxious position more quickly than the words, “It’s not just me, lots of people agree with me.” If you have a question or concern, raise it directly with council and don’t involve others unnecessarily. 

Step Four: Put it in writing. Offer to Meet. Ask for a response. 

One reason to put your concern in writing is that it makes sure that the leader knows this is important to you. When you just mention something in passing at a community night or worship service, it may not be obvious to the person you are talking to that this really matters to you or that you want a response. 

So, put your concerns in writing and indicate you would like this brought to the attention of the council. Ordinarily such communication would be sent to the council clerk, chair, and/or your district elder or deacon. Don’t just send it to the council member you think will be most sympathetic to your position.

In your communication, offer to meet to elaborate or answer their questions. And ask for a response. 

If you are not comfortable putting the question or comment in writing, try calling and asking if there’s a convenient time for you to ask a question or raise a concern for church leadership. Don’t assume that the moment you are calling is that convenient time. 

Step Five: Pray for them and Encourage them

When we ordain and install elders and deacons we promise to “Sustain them in prayer and encourage them with our support, especially when they feel the burden of their office.” Assume that your leaders are “feeling the burden of their office.” 

If your pastor and council are doing their jobs well, you will likely only know a portion of the things that they are dealing with right now. There are always other, significant and confidential matters weighing on church leaders.  

So while your question and concern is important, and while you may want an answer immediately, slow down and pray for the people you’re communicating with and tell them you’re praying. Offer them encouragement for the ways you have seen them lead faithfully in the past few months.

Also, remember that your officebearers should not only hear from you when you have a problem or concern. Make it a habit to regularly pray for and encourage your officebearers and church staff. 

Step Six: Give the Council the gift of your patience and prayers

The typical council agenda is packed. Leading a church is a challenging calling. Officebearers often find themselves on the receiving end of unfair accusations and unreasonable demands. These realities make it important for you to assure your council of your patience and prayers even as you share your concerns. 

Don’t assume that a delayed response means you’ve been ignored. Councils are notoriously slow-moving decision-makers. But that slow pace is partly by design—councils are called to spiritual discernment, not business-like expediency. 

That said, even as you try to extend grace to the council, don’t be afraid to ask for a tentative estimate of when you might expect a response. 

If Your Council Doesn’t Agree

Though it may be disappointing, it is possible that the council will not agree with your assessment or validate the weightiness of your concerns. Remember that a council can take your concerns seriously and can listen well without fully agreeing with you. It is even possible for the council to turn around and raise issues or ask questions for you to wrestle with. In such a situation, be open and curious to hear what they have to say. 

If Your Council Won’t Listen

Sadly, sometimes a council neither agrees with you nor takes your concerns seriously. If you feel like your concerns remain weighty but your council continues to ignore your respectful request for a response, it may be appropriate to seek a meeting with your classis church visitors. Read more about when and how to talk to church visitors on the Network.  



Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post