Death by Comment Card: Decibel levels, worship style, and helpful suggestions

Death by comment card would come every Monday morning. The comment cards were processed for our 10 AM staff meetings. All staff, including support staff, saw these cards. Some of the most important items would be there to follow up on such as prayer requests, first-time attendees, and spiritual decisions. But, there would also be the dreaded notes about worship services. It seemed we trained our congregation to actually vote and communicate through a suggestion box rather than face-to-face dialog.

This pinnacled the day when a board member began putting his unhappy notes about worship on the cards for all the staff to read. It took some coaxing, but I finally sat down with him in the Christian version of Switzerland–i.e., Starbucks–for a chat. It is amazing how we as people change our tone, wording, and stance when facing people in real life. It was a fruitful talk, even though I realized that I could not satisfy him since I was following the pastor’s orders that he did not agree with. A tight rope is what many worship leaders have to walk.

In another church, one of my favorite comment cards had a drawing of a baby crying and said, “The music so loud it makes Jesus cry.” No joke. On top of the hand drawn illustration, there was an additional letter stapled that clarified exactly how worship services were to be designed, including directives on decibel levels. My cell phone number was public. In that setting I had the ability to easily chat before or after services or during the week. Instead, the comment card came my way. I guess it would have been harder to describe baby Jesus crying in person.

In the past, I have heard everything from how evil synthesizers are to how women should not show wear open-toed shoes on the platform. “Don’t make us stand.” “It is too loud.” And, another on the same weekend would say, “It does not rock enough, turn it up.” “You (worship leader) do not look like you are worshipping.” To the wonderfully political, “Many of my friends have been saying…” You cannot please everyone. In fact, most know this. We only really think of ourselves first, even though this is not our goal as Christians.

Pastors who help their worship leaders filter feedback are a gift to both their worship leader and their congregation. Feedback is critical. But, living on the whim of everyone’s preference breeds insanity and keeps a church immature. Conflict is good, but it is what we do with everyone not getting their way that matters. How many style-themed venues you launch, or multiple services you lead will not solve immaturity.

Here are some bits of wisdom learned from both successes and failures I have been a part of in dealing with feedback and comment cards:

  • Clarify the “win” for a worship service. This means style, and visible goals are agreed upon and communicated. It is so much easier to respond to a volume complaint that is more about style preference if it is clear what the goal is. Are the leaders involved all on the same page with style and goals for the weekend service?
  • Develop a filter for feedback. Not everyone needs to see all the feedback. Critics are helpful, even if they might be misbehaving. However, it would help to have a policy of how to deal with these. Is it the job of the worship leader to be a customer service person? What happens when a church member is not satisfied? Are you OK with people not agreeing with your direction?
  • Take a poll or have a forum if there proves to be a disconnect. If the feedback is strong, frequent, and relentless then you do have to figure out what the disconnect is. Gather intel by taking a poll to find the attitudes and to clarify the discussion. Then, schedule some chats to listen. Leaders have to change direction at at times and sometimes even strategic passions stop working. Are you willing to listen…for real?
  • Moderate expectations to reality. Teach people that being a part of church is not about them liking everything. The comment card can teach that if you use it incorrectly. Disappointment occurs when an expectation is not met. The longer a person is part of a church, the less excited they will be. Why? Any relationship takes work. Are you willing to re-frame how people think when it comes to their personal preferences in worship?
  • Challenge people to differentiate between conscience and preference. Preferences are like food. It is not wrong when we have many differing opinions about what spices we like. Church people forget this and sometimes make everything an issue of conscience. An issue of conscience is where you have to draw battle lines. Are you willing to burst the bubbles of faulty fights?

The goal of all of these is to create a culture where helpful dialog can lead to action that benefits all. Leaders are people who learn how to frame a conversion, listening intently to the context they lead within. Sometimes a strategy has to be tweaked. Other times it has to be scrapped. Worship leading is not all the different in this way.

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

65 comments

  1. […] Rich Kirkpatrick: Death by Comment Card: Decibel levels, worship style, and helpful […]

  2. […] Rich Kirkpatrick: Death by Comment Card: Decibel levels, worship style, and helpful […]

  3. […] Rich Kirkpatrick: Death by Comment Card: Decibel levels, worship style, and helpful […]

  4. […] Rich Kirkpatrick: Death by Comment Card: Decibel levels, worship style, and helpful […]

  5. I love this! Great thoughts and an enjoyable read. 🙂

  6. I really like the idea of having a “clarified” win for the worship service. Even if it constricted to those in the “production end” – those who play a part in making the service happen.

    If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all? I’ve been rolling around 1 Cor 14:26 when planning sets, scriptures to read etc.

    “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

    1. “If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all?” – INDEED!!

  7. I really like the idea of having a “clarified” win for the worship service. Even if it constricted to those in the “production end” – those who play a part in making the service happen.
    If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all? I’ve been rolling around 1 Cor 14:26 when planning sets, scriptures to read etc.
    “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

    1. “If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all?” – INDEED!!

  8. I really like the idea of having a “clarified” win for the worship service. Even if it constricted to those in the “production end” – those who play a part in making the service happen.

    If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all? I’ve been rolling around 1 Cor 14:26 when planning sets, scriptures to read etc.

    “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

    1. “If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all?” – INDEED!!

  9. I really like the idea of having a “clarified” win for the worship service. Even if it constricted to those in the “production end” – those who play a part in making the service happen.

    If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all? I’ve been rolling around 1 Cor 14:26 when planning sets, scriptures to read etc.

    “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

    1. “If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all?” – INDEED!!

  10. I really like the idea of having a “clarified” win for the worship service. Even if it constricted to those in the “production end” – those who play a part in making the service happen.

    If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all? I’ve been rolling around 1 Cor 14:26 when planning sets, scriptures to read etc.

    “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

    1. “If we don’t have an attainable purpose for our gatherings, why have them at all?” – INDEED!!

  11. […] Death by comment card would come every Monday morning. The comment cards were processed for our 10 AM staff meetings. All staff, including support staff, saw these cards. Some of the most important items would be there to follow up on such as prayer requests, first-time attendees, and spiritual decisions. But, there would also be the dreaded notes about worship services. It seemed we trained our congregation to actually vote and communicate through a suggestion box rather than face-to-face dialog. Continue reading. […]

  12. […] Death by comment card would come every Monday morning. The comment cards were processed for our 10 AM staff meetings. All staff, including support staff, saw these cards. Some of the most important items would be there to follow up on such as prayer requests, first-time attendees, and spiritual decisions. But, there would also be the dreaded notes about worship services. It seemed we trained our congregation to actually vote and communicate through a suggestion box rather than face-to-face dialog. Continue reading. […]

  13. […] Death by comment card would come every Monday morning. The comment cards were processed for our 10 AM staff meetings. All staff, including support staff, saw these cards. Some of the most important items would be there to follow up on such as prayer requests, first-time attendees, and spiritual decisions. But, there would also be the dreaded notes about worship services. It seemed we trained our congregation to actually vote and communicate through a suggestion box rather than face-to-face dialog. Continue reading. […]

  14. […] Death by comment card would come every Monday morning. The comment cards were processed for our 10 AM staff meetings. All staff, including support staff, saw these cards. Some of the most important items would be there to follow up on such as prayer requests, first-time attendees, and spiritual decisions. But, there would also be the dreaded notes about worship services. It seemed we trained our congregation to actually vote and communicate through a suggestion box rather than face-to-face dialog. Continue reading. […]

  15. […] Death by comment card would come every Monday morning. The comment cards were processed for our 10 AM staff meetings. All staff, including support staff, saw these cards. Some of the most important items would be there to follow up on such as prayer requests, first-time attendees, and spiritual decisions. But, there would also be the dreaded notes about worship services. It seemed we trained our congregation to actually vote and communicate through a suggestion box rather than face-to-face dialog. Continue reading. […]

  16. This article was great! Someone on our leadership team wanted us to start using the “dreaded” comment cards last year and I valiantly held on to the idea that people should be strong enough to tell us of a concern face to face. I also appreciate your last paragraph about differentiating between conscience and preference! Very wise.Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Michelle. Face to face is always better in dealing with church conflict. It should be a no-brainer, but…you know.

  17. This article was great! Someone on our leadership team wanted us to start using the “dreaded” comment cards last year and I valiantly held on to the idea that people should be strong enough to tell us of a concern face to face. I also appreciate your last paragraph about differentiating between conscience and preference! Very wise.Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Michelle. Face to face is always better in dealing with church conflict. It should be a no-brainer, but…you know.

  18. This article was great! Someone on our leadership team wanted us to start using the “dreaded” comment cards last year and I valiantly held on to the idea that people should be strong enough to tell us of a concern face to face. I also appreciate your last paragraph about differentiating between conscience and preference! Very wise.Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Michelle. Face to face is always better in dealing with church conflict. It should be a no-brainer, but…you know.

  19. This article was great! Someone on our leadership team wanted us to start using the “dreaded” comment cards last year and I valiantly held on to the idea that people should be strong enough to tell us of a concern face to face. I also appreciate your last paragraph about differentiating between conscience and preference! Very wise.Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Michelle. Face to face is always better in dealing with church conflict. It should be a no-brainer, but…you know.

  20. This article was great! Someone on our leadership team wanted us to start using the “dreaded” comment cards last year and I valiantly held on to the idea that people should be strong enough to tell us of a concern face to face. I also appreciate your last paragraph about differentiating between conscience and preference! Very wise.Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Michelle. Face to face is always better in dealing with church conflict. It should be a no-brainer, but…you know.

  21. When I led in a previous local church community, feedback sometimes came through a letter in the “church mailbox” but most often they’d pass on their opinions to the senior pastor who usually only passed it on to me when he personally thought it was important. So I understand the struggle with trying to encourage people to talk to us directly.

    Cool thoughts. I have to admit though, I never got a comment with a crying baby picture before. That is wild. If they really wanted to be creative, they could buy one of those cards you can prerecord a message onto and put that into the comment box (if it fit) 🙂 . To keep the card or not to.

    Something I was striving to make reality was seeing my position as a shepherd like the senior pastor (even if people don’t see me that way), and just trying to get to know people, visit them, grab coffee, or have them over for dinner (or vice versa), hang out with them at community events, basically any chance I could be with them. Relationships lead to trustworthiness and trustworthiness allows comfort in conversation and sharing. Then the challenge would be not to pursue relationships just to have favor, but because we actually care about people. Heart check.

    1. Adam, I love the heart you have! Sometimes, Christians are vampires in church settings. Those are the ones who want what they want, and only use relationships for that purpose. My two cents: Be careful to trust, while building trustworthiness.
      Take a fist bump from me for wanting to actually shepherd people!

      1. Thanks for the advice with trust. I know I am someone who easily does from the start.

  22. When I led in a previous local church community, feedback sometimes came through a letter in the “church mailbox” but most often they’d pass on their opinions to the senior pastor who usually only passed it on to me when he personally thought it was important. So I understand the struggle with trying to encourage people to talk to us directly.
    Cool thoughts. I have to admit though, I never got a comment with a crying baby picture before. That is wild. If they really wanted to be creative, they could buy one of those cards you can prerecord a message onto and put that into the comment box (if it fit) 🙂 . To keep the card or not to.
    Something I was striving to make reality was seeing my position as a shepherd like the senior pastor (even if people don’t see me that way), and just trying to get to know people, visit them, grab coffee, or have them over for dinner (or vice versa), hang out with them at community events, basically any chance I could be with them. Relationships lead to trustworthiness and trustworthiness allows comfort in conversation and sharing. Then the challenge would be not to pursue relationships just to have favor, but because we actually care about people. Heart check.

    1. Adam, I love the heart you have! Sometimes, Christians are vampires in church settings. Those are the ones who want what they want, and only use relationships for that purpose. My two cents: Be careful to trust, while building trustworthiness.
      Take a fist bump from me for wanting to actually shepherd people!

      1. Thanks for the advice with trust. I know I am someone who easily does from the start.

  23. When I led in a previous local church community, feedback sometimes came through a letter in the “church mailbox” but most often they’d pass on their opinions to the senior pastor who usually only passed it on to me when he personally thought it was important. So I understand the struggle with trying to encourage people to talk to us directly.

    Cool thoughts. I have to admit though, I never got a comment with a crying baby picture before. That is wild. If they really wanted to be creative, they could buy one of those cards you can prerecord a message onto and put that into the comment box (if it fit) 🙂 . To keep the card or not to.

    Something I was striving to make reality was seeing my position as a shepherd like the senior pastor (even if people don’t see me that way), and just trying to get to know people, visit them, grab coffee, or have them over for dinner (or vice versa), hang out with them at community events, basically any chance I could be with them. Relationships lead to trustworthiness and trustworthiness allows comfort in conversation and sharing. Then the challenge would be not to pursue relationships just to have favor, but because we actually care about people. Heart check.

    1. Adam, I love the heart you have! Sometimes, Christians are vampires in church settings. Those are the ones who want what they want, and only use relationships for that purpose. My two cents: Be careful to trust, while building trustworthiness.
      Take a fist bump from me for wanting to actually shepherd people!

      1. Thanks for the advice with trust. I know I am someone who easily does from the start.

  24. When I led in a previous local church community, feedback sometimes came through a letter in the “church mailbox” but most often they’d pass on their opinions to the senior pastor who usually only passed it on to me when he personally thought it was important. So I understand the struggle with trying to encourage people to talk to us directly.

    Cool thoughts. I have to admit though, I never got a comment with a crying baby picture before. That is wild. If they really wanted to be creative, they could buy one of those cards you can prerecord a message onto and put that into the comment box (if it fit) 🙂 . To keep the card or not to.

    Something I was striving to make reality was seeing my position as a shepherd like the senior pastor (even if people don’t see me that way), and just trying to get to know people, visit them, grab coffee, or have them over for dinner (or vice versa), hang out with them at community events, basically any chance I could be with them. Relationships lead to trustworthiness and trustworthiness allows comfort in conversation and sharing. Then the challenge would be not to pursue relationships just to have favor, but because we actually care about people. Heart check.

    1. Adam, I love the heart you have! Sometimes, Christians are vampires in church settings. Those are the ones who want what they want, and only use relationships for that purpose. My two cents: Be careful to trust, while building trustworthiness.
      Take a fist bump from me for wanting to actually shepherd people!

      1. Thanks for the advice with trust. I know I am someone who easily does from the start.

  25. When I led in a previous local church community, feedback sometimes came through a letter in the “church mailbox” but most often they’d pass on their opinions to the senior pastor who usually only passed it on to me when he personally thought it was important. So I understand the struggle with trying to encourage people to talk to us directly.

    Cool thoughts. I have to admit though, I never got a comment with a crying baby picture before. That is wild. If they really wanted to be creative, they could buy one of those cards you can prerecord a message onto and put that into the comment box (if it fit) 🙂 . To keep the card or not to.

    Something I was striving to make reality was seeing my position as a shepherd like the senior pastor (even if people don’t see me that way), and just trying to get to know people, visit them, grab coffee, or have them over for dinner (or vice versa), hang out with them at community events, basically any chance I could be with them. Relationships lead to trustworthiness and trustworthiness allows comfort in conversation and sharing. Then the challenge would be not to pursue relationships just to have favor, but because we actually care about people. Heart check.

    1. Adam, I love the heart you have! Sometimes, Christians are vampires in church settings. Those are the ones who want what they want, and only use relationships for that purpose. My two cents: Be careful to trust, while building trustworthiness.
      Take a fist bump from me for wanting to actually shepherd people!

      1. Thanks for the advice with trust. I know I am someone who easily does from the start.

  26. Would it be any better if it were a face to face conversation , I wonder ?? Perhaps people are bolder and thus more critical when comments come via comment cards or e-mail.

    1. Yes, that is a main point here. Face to face is always to go to with dealing with conflict.

  27. Would it be any better if it were a face to face conversation , I wonder ?? Perhaps people are bolder and thus more critical when comments come via comment cards or e-mail.

    1. Yes, that is a main point here. Face to face is always to go to with dealing with conflict.

  28. Would it be any better if it were a face to face conversation , I wonder ?? Perhaps people are bolder and thus more critical when comments come via comment cards or e-mail.

    1. Yes, that is a main point here. Face to face is always to go to with dealing with conflict.

  29. Would it be any better if it were a face to face conversation , I wonder ?? Perhaps people are bolder and thus more critical when comments come via comment cards or e-mail.

    1. Yes, that is a main point here. Face to face is always to go to with dealing with conflict.

  30. Would it be any better if it were a face to face conversation , I wonder ?? Perhaps people are bolder and thus more critical when comments come via comment cards or e-mail.

    1. Yes, that is a main point here. Face to face is always to go to with dealing with conflict.

  31. The trend in our church is for a nasty comment to come on a comment card with NO NAME. It’s rare – maybe less than once a month. But when it comes in, it’s a zinger. And since there’s no name – guess where it goes. File 13, baby. Our pastor’s stance is, if they don’t care enough to put their name on it, it’s not worth our time.

  32. The trend in our church is for a nasty comment to come on a comment card with NO NAME. It’s rare – maybe less than once a month. But when it comes in, it’s a zinger. And since there’s no name – guess where it goes. File 13, baby. Our pastor’s stance is, if they don’t care enough to put their name on it, it’s not worth our time.

  33. The trend in our church is for a nasty comment to come on a comment card with NO NAME. It’s rare – maybe less than once a month. But when it comes in, it’s a zinger. And since there’s no name – guess where it goes. File 13, baby. Our pastor’s stance is, if they don’t care enough to put their name on it, it’s not worth our time.

  34. The trend in our church is for a nasty comment to come on a comment card with NO NAME. It’s rare – maybe less than once a month. But when it comes in, it’s a zinger. And since there’s no name – guess where it goes. File 13, baby. Our pastor’s stance is, if they don’t care enough to put their name on it, it’s not worth our time.

  35. The trend in our church is for a nasty comment to come on a comment card with NO NAME. It’s rare – maybe less than once a month. But when it comes in, it’s a zinger. And since there’s no name – guess where it goes. File 13, baby. Our pastor’s stance is, if they don’t care enough to put their name on it, it’s not worth our time.

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