Sunday, March 29, 2009: Dealing With Complaints

aeronautical-test-labWow,
What an amazing worship set this morning. You can zoom over to richkirkpatrick.com to see the worship set-list. Guest worship leader David Upton was such a pleasure to have back in town. And knowing his style of music I decide that I would mix things a little hotter than a normal Sunday. Typically we run around 95 C-weighted, but I felt that 100dB would be more appropriate. And it really was. I have a feeling we’ll be getting a lot of great comment cards this week about worship.

During the worship set I noticed a gentleman with his fingers in his ears and I knew from reading his body language. He didn’t like the volume level. I know that volume issues are very big in some churches. So I thought I’d write a post on how to deal with people who come to you or comments come through the grape-vine on how to deal with complaints in regards to mixes and volume issues.

1. Clarify the Goal - You need to know who you are trying to reach as a church. Is it a particular demographic, or just non-christians in general? If you aren’t crystal clear on this point you NEED to sit down with your senior pastor for about 15 minutes and have him articulate who he would like the worship (and sound) try and reach. Trust me, he will appreciate you taking initiative to try and do a better job.

2. The Devil Is In The Details - I have found with experience that it is very difficult to have the average congregant articulate clearly what they didn’t like about the mix. Getting them to tell you what exactly they don’t like is very difficult sometimes, so…

3. Feel Free To Ask Your Own Questions - When you are talking with someone and they are telling you what they don’t like, ask them questions to dig deeper. Find out where they sit. Acoustics of the room are a huge issue, if you’re sitting in front of the subwoofers and don’t like low frequencies, I can’t really help you except to find you a better seat for next week. If they think the overall volume is loud, have them sit towards the back of the room. The Inverse-Square Law states that for every time the distance of a sound source is doubled the volume is halved, so it’s going to be quieter in the back of the room than in the front.

4. Treat Everyone Respectfully - There are about a dozen scriptures that state how we should treat each other with kindness and love. NEVER forget that. You should reiterate the clarified goal of who the church is trying to reach. However, just because the person who is complaining is outside your target audience, does not give you the right to simply blow them off. You can do something better…

5. Turn a Problem Into a Solution - The best thing you can do is empower people towards a solution. If a group of people come to you in regards to a specific issue, try and find a way to have them help you solve that problem. Example: some people don’t like a particular area of the room because it suffers from poor acoustic qualities. So, tell them that you would like them to help donate acoustical treatment to help that particular section of the room. There are so many churches that have large tech needs and have had their tech budgets slashed to zero because of the economy. I should know, I’m in one of those churches. But if you’re clever, you can figure out how to artificially generate budget for your ministry needs. The stage bleed is annoying? Ok, maybe you can help us by donating some in-ear monitoring systems for the musicians. Our youth hasn’t had any of their equipment replaced since 2000. Most of the room is held together with gaffers tape and they need A, B, C, and D. Can you and your friends help…

Are you following me, are you seeing the pattern?

You can turn your biggest complainers into your biggest helpers by refocusing their vision to helping others find Jesus, instead of their own comfort zone at church.

[Go read Jeremy’s blog Church Audio and Sound for more articles like this one]