What To Do When Someone’s Mad at the Church

Have you ever fielded a call or email from a less-than-happy (okay, really mad) individual? Working in the Finance department of a ministry gave me several opportunities to handle those situations. People are kinda sensitive about money issues, you know.

One instance stands out in my memory. I was talking with a mom who was understandably upset with us. We’d made a data entry error that led us to believe her daughter’s account wasn’t paid in-full for trip she’d signed up to attend. In addition, another department had lost an important document she needed for the trip. Double-whammy.

 “How can I trust you with my daughter when you can’t get these smaller issues right?”

Yep, I had an unhappy momma on my hands. Now, I couldn’t blame her one bit for being upset. After all, we’d made the mistakes – and they weren’t insignificant ones either.

My first priority was to listen.

She was upset and needed to vent. More importantly, she deserved to be heard. So, while trying not to take things personally, I listened as she took out her frustrations on me. Once I could tell she was winding down, it was time for phase two…


“Mrs. Smith, I am so sorry. We messed up and you shouldn’t have to be dealing with this at all. I completely understand why you’re frustrated with this situation.”

Next up, was to make it right.

“I’ve had our team research the check you sent and we’ve found it in our database. It was credited to the wrong account, but I have Susan fixing that right now. I’ll send you the updated report within the hour.”

“Also, I’ve had our team looking for the document and since we haven’t located it yet, here’s what we can do to get an alternate ready so your daughter can proceed on the trip.”

Then, I let her know I was on the case.

“I will personally see this through to make sure we fix these issues. Here’s my direct number and email address if you have any questions. I’ll call you as soon as I have the updated report and the document replaced.”

Whether it’s an upset parent calling about an issue with the upcoming youth trip, a volunteer frustrated by a lack of communication, or a fellow staff member whose PO got lost in the shuffle, you’re likely to deal with the occasional irate individual.

You may not have been the person who made the mistake that led to the phone call. You may not be able to fix it personally. However, the person who called doesn’t know (or even care) about all that. Maybe he should, but he doesn’t so be prepared to take the hit and still respond in love.

The final step to this process that I didn’t know to do at the time is to find a way to release the tension these conversations create. I’d had a busy season with several similar situations to handle and the emotions built up. I was stressed, exhausted, and kinda ticked off that I was dealing with the aftermath of mistakes I hadn’t even made. You need to figure out what works for you, but taking a walk or venting to a confidant (keeping names out of it, of course) helps me.

To recap, here are the 5 steps I recommend when dealing with an upset individual:

#1 – Listen

#2 – Apologize

#3 – Make it right

#4 – Follow-through

#5 – Release your tension

I hope you don’t have to use these steps, but if you do, I’m confident this method will make the situation a bit easier to handle.

How have you handled this type of situation?