Take on the 21-day complaint-free church challenge

By Rev. Kimberly Pope-Seiberling

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“Do everything readily and cheerfully — no bickering, no second-guessing allowed!” (Philippians 2:14, The Message)

Ever wonder what it would be like if your church were complaint free, with no griping about the budget, worship songs or staff? What if all our words were like honey? “Gracious speech is like clover honey — good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24, The Message)

This environment would allow God’s love to multiply exponentially in your congregation, ministries and marketing efforts. Individuals would see extraordinary changes in their lives as they experience the benefits of positive energy.

A Complaint Free World is an organization working every day to make this a reality. It challenges people to go 21 days without complaining. The charge comes with a purple band worn around your wrist. Each time you complain, use sarcasm or put someone down, you have to put the band on your other wrist. Go 21 days straight without changing your bracelet, and you have successfully completed the challenge. So far, more than 9 million bands have been distributed around the world.

Join the movement and start living in a complaint-free world today. Here are some tips.

Do not confuse complaining with accountability. Complaining is not the same as informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so it can be corrected. To refrain from complaining doesn’t necessarily mean putting up with poor quality or bad behavior. It is OK to tell the waiter your soup is cold and needs to be heated, as long as you simply stick to the facts, which are always neutral.

Make it stick. You may wonder, “why 21 days?” Some studies suggest it takes 21 days to develop a habit. The time it actually takes will be different for everyone, but 21 days is a good start. If you want to affect the world positively, why not make it last?

Be radical. Declare the church property “a complaint-free zone.” Show your congregation a few videos about the challenge and then distribute purple bracelets to willing participants. Give them tools for tackling the new challenge and talk about the integrity of communities and churches. Teach that hope and encouragement are difficult to find when one is a habitual complainer!

Don’t skimp on the purple bracelets. It is tempting to forgo the purple bracelets due to cost, but the visual reminder is important. If it is not possible for your church to use the bracelets, design something else that people can wear as a reminder and easily move when they need to start over. Whether you use the bracelets or something else, provide extra. People will want to give one to their favorite complainer. And seeing other people wear the symbol will remind them they are not alone in the journey to a complaint-free world.

More than 9 million bracelets have been distributed throughout the world. They remind wearers that they have committed to changing their lives. Sometimes the band can become the heaviest thing you’ve ever worn. To go 21 days without complaining can take a couple of months for even the most positive people. It is easy to want to quit. It’s harder to quit if you have to remove the bracelet.

You will find many free resources and downloads about complaining at acomplaintfreeworld.com. Some allow you to laugh at yourself while others are downright meddlesome.

Be prepared to explain the meaning of the bracelet. People will ask, so be sure to explain to the congregation and community why you personally chose to stop complaining! It won’t be long before everyone realizes just how much complaining exists everywhere.

Youth groups, public schools, workplaces and other faith communities are quick to adopt the challenge for themselves, spreading the “complaint-free world” message. It’s viral! Keep the energy going by having weekly updates in worship and small groups. Encourage people to share each day’s progress on social media.

For the first month, the pastor should lead the way by reporting what day he or she is on and what he or she is learning from the experience. Lead by example, and the congregation will share with the community how their lives are changing. Each story will encourage those who are having a hard time. Most importantly, sharing builds Christian community. It is not just individuals changing their own behavior, but a group of people changing the world in which they live.

Change takes time. Months will go by, and you may still see a sea of purple bracelets in your congregation. A complaint will sneak in occasionally. Many church leaders find themselves sporting the purple band for several months. It can be hard for pastors to have a true attitude of gratitude all the time. They face the daunting task of ministry, managing the church, sickness, personal crises and accountability. Negative emotions can easily creep in. However, the most difficult changes are the most important ones, so stay positive.

The Rev. Kimberly Pope-Seiberling is pastor at Immanuel UMC, Lima, Ohio. She blogs about church change at churchchangesucks.com. She and her husband, Eric, have one daughter, Lindsey, and reside with two adorable pugs and one very fat cat.
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