Sprint has a great idea: Get rid of complainers


Ever wanted to get rid of church members that complained about your sermons?  Or members that griped about the fried chicken at the covered-dish?  Well, Sprint has a solution — just send them a letter and dump ’em!

Seems that Sprint, one of the nation’s largest wireless providers, got tired of about 1,000 of their customers who called customer service too much.  Sprint decided to terminate their service, which is one way to solve a problem.  Kind of a high tech Sopranos-solution, I guess.

A couple of months ago, I read about a church that has a Relocation Pastor — a staff member who helps steer disgruntled members to other churches where they might be happier.  That reminded me of a conversation I overheard at a pastors’ meeting one Monday morning.  A pastor walked up to a friend of mine and said, “One of your members joined my church yesterday.”  To which my friend replied, “That’s great, I’ve got some more I’ll send you!”

Fortunately, church isn’t business, and members aren’t customers.   Church is community.  Church is family.  Church is the place, to paraphrase Robert Frost, that when you go there, they have to take you in.  At least that’s the way I think church should be.  What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Sprint has a great idea: Get rid of complainers”

  1. Titus 3:10
    10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
    NIV

  2. As much as I would have liked to have gotten rid of some church members, I agree with you. Paul never told the Corinthians to break up, and if there was ever a divisive church it was that one. And I also have to remember that some of those church members may have wanted to send to the staff of another church. 😉 Ah family, isn’t it wonderful?

    Shawna R. B. Atteberry

  3. Shawna,

    From Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church:

    1 Cor 5:12-13
    12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
    NIV

  4. Sprocket,

    In those verses Paul is talking about a man who was having sex with his step-mother and was unrepentant. Yes, the church needs to deal with sin. I think expulsion is the absolutely last resort though.

    Personality differences, butting heads, and just not agreeing with some church members, are not reasons to expel people from the church.

  5. Sprock, I think she’s got you there. Sounds like this Corinthian guy was more than just a complainer! See my next post for more on this! — Chuck

  6. Chuck,

    Sorry, I didn’t know we were playing a game of one-upmanship, I could have fought dirty if that was the case. 😎 I was just sharing scripture that showed that there ARE occasions when expelling members of a church is called for (don’t blame me, blame Paul and Titus). I’ve gone back over my comments many times and don’t see anywhere where I called for expelling people for “Personality differences, butting heads, and just not agreeing with some church members”. If Shawna “got me” (and again, sorry, didn’t know that was the game) it was only by inferring things that I did not say or even intend (didn’t know that was generally allowed in civil discourse among Christians). Ironically, all I did was quote scripture, and specifically from the letter to the church in Corinth, which is where she was referring: “Paul never told the Corinthians to break up, and if there was ever a divisive church it was that one.”

    Did you read the whole article about the Sprint customers, by the way? They didn’t just drop the casual complainer disputing an overcharge or a faulty phone. The article states that these were people who called customer service on average 40-50 times a month! That’s over once a day. They were people who called repeatedly about the same problem even after the problem was resolved to the best of Sprint’s abilities (in other words, harassing the customer service reps who are not just a big company entity, but real people). Further, many were repeatedly calling to get information from another person’s bills, which is not allowed (and is probably someone stalking another person).

    In other words, this wasn’t just a heartless dropping of people with real complaints, but a pruning of very abusive customers. I’ve worked in customer service, and I can tell you, the customer is NOT always right.

    Let’s apply this to a church situation. I, too, have never “expelled” a church member (even though there have been times when biblically I probably should havepushed for it in the case of unrepentant sin). I don’t think that it is something that the bible urges us to do lightly: Paul speaks of expelling the brother in 1 Cor. with great pain, and then chastises the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians for not restoring the same repentant brother fast enough.

    Shawna misrepresented me, and you applauded her for that (didn’t know that this was that kind of blog), but I would NEVER advocate expelling a member for the petty reasons she mentions, and am a little miffed that that was read into my quoting of the verse I mentioned.

    But, just like the customers dropped by Sprint were more than “just a complainer”, there are some people in churches that ought to be asked to leave after the process in Matthew 18 is carried out, and even then after much prayer, fasting, weeping and wailing.

    I’ve gotten complaints before and taken them for what they were worth, but what would you do with a person who was in your office 40-50 times a month, just smile at them and accomodate them? What would you do if someone were harrassing other church members and causing them harm, just tell the harassees to deal with it? What would you do with an unrepetant sinner, just overlook their sin? What would you do with a divisive person who is working overtime on the phone to divide the church because they did not get their way on the color of the carpet… ignore Titus 3:10?

    And, as the guru of turning around the struggling smaller church, what would you do if someone were determined to do whatever it takes to stop your plans for re-inventing the small church? What if someone was vocally and hatefully opposed to you doing VBS with other denominations and was calling members of the church to denounce you and your character and calling for your dismissal. You would just smile at them and affirm their point of view? I really doubt it.

    My point here, no matter how much mind-reading and assumption-making Shawna does, is not to advocate booting members from a church for silly reasons, but to say that there IS a place in the NT church for discipline for those who are more than mere complainers.

    The closest I’ve ever come to dropping a complainer who was above and beyond what is rational is to stop trying to accomodate their every whim (as a people-pleaser, that can burn you out very fast!). This was a woman who would call the elders and complain if the temperature in the sanctuary was below 80 in the summer (I’m not kidding), if she were not visited 8 times a week, or if the food the ladies brought to her was not up to her standards. I didn’t drop her membership, but I gave up trying to please her and she eventually left to find another people-pleasing minister who would try to keep up with her demands.

    I might point out that in many churches they ask people to leave who don’t like the new “Purpose” the church is taking (for example, if it is moving towards being more seeker-friendly) or if they don’t like the music (usually when it goes more contemporary). They justify this by saying that if the people aren’t on board they should just find another church… I’m not in ANY way advocating this.

    Why don’t you go read the Sprint article in full and you’ll see that they didn’t just drop the honest customer with a legitimate complaint, but the real trouble-makers.

    I agree that you don’t boot someone with a legitimate complaint just to get rid of them, but then again, I never said that, did I?

  7. Sprock, this obviously has touched a nerve with you, and from the experience you have had I can understand. All of this was intended as a good-humored look at the Sprint decision from the small church perspective. I apologize if you felt “ganged up” on. — Chuck

  8. No problem, but the comment: “Sprock, I think she’s got you there” seemed more like something I would expect from Bill O’Reilly or Hannity and Colmes than a Christian blog. All is well. Or good. I forget which.

  9. I just had this issue come up this week, and I did a web search to find articles like this to help me better understand what the appropriate response should be. Thanks so much for the point of view. I attempted to support this specific complainer, but it does get exhausting trying to meet the needs of one person. And, it is never enough. So, he parted ways with us. It was really for the best, because one complainer can really tear ministers and members down.

    1. Rebecca, thanks for your comments. As you can tell from the other comments, different folks have different responses. I would seek to be redemptive and reconciling, but sometimes it is best to part company if there is chronic unhappiness. Glad you stopped by. -Chuck

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