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Don't let the angry 10 percent decide the direction of your church

Don't let the angry 10 percent decide the direction of your church

Unsplash/Akira Hojo

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 10 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 10 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 10 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 10 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 10 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 10 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 10 percent live there. They love the megaphone that makes their voices seem louder than they really are.
  • The 10 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 10 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 10 percent. But they do have the loudest voices in your congregation.

This piece was originally published at Thom S. Rainer blog

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.

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