The simple implementation of the Monday rule can change the climate of your church for the better significantly. NVC has worked, unofficially, at creating a “Monday Rule” culture. We’ve never stated it officially, but is understood by most of our people nonetheless because we have encouraged it from our beginning. Staff abides by it, as well. It has never been stated explicitly, but we do coach it as we can. It’s the Monday rule, which might be stated this way:
“If you have concerns or the feel the need to complain, do it Monday (or another day of your choice). Please don’t do it Sunday–or when the church is gathered for worship.”
To clarify, we aren’t saying people should never complain or voice concerns. We are saying there is a time and place for it — and that’s not Sunday mornings during or around the time the church is gathered for worship. What we are doing when the church gathers is cherished by God and important for the building up of the Body and calling our church to mission. Every Sunday we have guests come searching for God, not a solution to the complaints of Sister Sue or Brother Bill. The Body needs strengthening and encouragement. She needs her mission clarified and her calling reinvigorated. She needs to hear from God. That’s what the weekends are for.
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One of the greatest services leadership can provide the church is the effective handling of the church’s concerns, which includes the timing of such dealings — not just making sure they are heard. Implementing the Monday rule will do more for your church’s weekend assemblies than nearly anything. It keeps the air fresh. It honors God over our temporary concerns. In various times and places, A couple of assumptions can be made reasonably about people who complain chronically on Sundays.
First, they lack a sense of the impact of their comments on others — especially staff or those whose spiritual frame of heart impacts others that day.
Two, they lack spiritual focus during times that are unique in the practice of the church — and their complaining will spread this across the Body if not checked.
Three, they likely do this because of proximity. They want to get it dealt with right then — because it could consume their time and energy to do it another time. So, they’d prefer to use yours on their terms rather than deal with the problem another way.
Implementing the Monday rule shepherds a person on all three fronts, and accomplishes the following as well:
1) It keeps God at the center. It’s easy to allow a “concern” to become the predominant factor of the morning in your heart, or the heart of the person you jabbed with it. All days are God’s days … but Sundays are special. It’s when His people gather together for a unique time of honoring him. If the music is too loud for you, that’s not the most important thing going that morning. If you think the Youth Minister shouldn’t wear shorts to church — it can wait until Monday. Don’t let that consume your mind or that of others for the morning. Keep God at the center. That’s why we are all here.
2) It protects the church’s worship experience. Our sacrifice of praise, if it is to be pleasing to God, must rise before Him in unity and love. We must cherish not only our time together, but the gift of joy, peace and love it brings with it.
I’m not suggesting people who complain are intentionally trying to hurt the unity of the church. I’m saying I don’t bring up our income taxes or any issues I have with my wife on date night. There is a time for everything. If you have concerns, Sunday morning at 10 a.m., right as church is starting, ain’t it.
3) It protects first-time or short-time guests from overhearing complaints or breathing in the foul air of dissension on a morning when unity, love and passion for God should be most evident. Some time ago, I had to remove a pair of greeters (the kind that hand you a bulletin and say “Hi” as you arrive) before church because they were griping loudly about a perceived lack of cleanliness of the facility as people arrived for worship. People arriving actually had to walk between them to get on site. They were loud and not ignorable to everyone arriving. I warned them kindly, but firmly. They wouldn’t stop. So, we replaced them. They later apologized, and both went on become excellent greeters.
4) It preserves the staff’s focus and frame of heart for the morning. When the preacher, worship leader, elder or whomever is pulled off-focus or newly discouraged from a complaint session (whether gentle or coarse), the impact will be felt. You would be amazed at the things people say to preachers right before they preach, to worship leaders right before the first strum or hum. If you have a complaint, you should know that you’re highly unlikely to get a good hearing for your complaint on Sunday, anyway. It would be much, much better to wait until people aren’t rushing around and can actually listen.
5) It vets complaints and thus helps people control their emotions and tongues. Some people feel as though it is a virtue to say what’s on their mind — right then. It’s really not. Saying what’s on your mind is a virtue when you really need to do it. But, that’s not usually Sundays.
If you are still mad about it on Monday, reach out. That will let you know whether or not it really bothers you, and will respect the church’s gatherings. Don’t take hostages on Sunday morning. No drive-by or hit-and-run verbal attacks that discourage others. Half of complaints would never be uttered if people weren’t able to do it Sundays.
Imagine what Sundays could be like if the church, from leaders to guests, could punt concerns until Monday — focusing instead on encouragement and welcoming the outsider. What a difference that might make in our weekend gatherings.
Concerns aren’t unimportant. Sometimes, they just aren’t that important.
Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book Jesus, the Powerful Servant.