In my “long” career of blogging (80 posts) I’ve never written anything that has received as many comments on a post as I did last week titled, “I WISH THIS WAS AN APRIL FOOLS’ COMPLAINT.” The complaint letter came from a critical parent and it triggered something from within our community and you rose up and responded. And they were funny!

Since the original post, more emails have been exchanged between the parent, the youth pastor, and the senior pastor. I’ll share the exact emails with you (below) and then reveal the two winning comments. Tomorrow I’ll post on what I try to do when I’m on the receiving end of criticism.

Here are the letters (for the entire back story and context, see original post):

Disappointed parent: (original post)


My son, Andrew, is a sophomore in high school at Union Junction and very much enjoys the high school program at church (particularly his small group). I also have two younger sons in the 7th and 8th grades who also enjoy the junior high ministry.

This past Sunday I attended the 11 a.m. service and proceeded over to the BBQ hosted by the student ministry after the service was over. When I got there, we all got in line and were disappointed to learn that there was no more food available; others had the same experience. Many of us left without eating and did not stay to fellowship with others. We were very displeased.

Suggestion: When you invite students and families to a BBQ, please have enough food for everyone.

Thank you.

The email response that the youth pastor sent to Don:


Thanks for writing. Glad to hear your kids are involved and I look forward to meeting you.

It’s always interesting to me how people respond when things don’t go their way. I get your email expressing disappointment and pointing out an obvious suggestion and I get another email from a dad who was overjoyed that we ran out of food because there was a better-than-expected response/turn-out. It’s simply fascinating to me how people choose to respond.

I’m sorry you were disappointed and inconvenienced…I really am. I wish the event could have facilitated everyone.


2nd response from disappointed parent–this time he cc’d the Senior pastor:


I am sorry that you feel it necessary to compare my response with anyone else’s and, in my opinion, ridicule what I had to say. I wrote my e-mail in the spirit of constructive suggest and not blame. It appears that you do not see it that way (especially when you use the language “obvious suggestion”).

I will not burden you with any further communications.

Thank you.

Senior pastor’s response to youth pastor:


I appreciate how you are answering emails . . . sometimes you can’t win.


I LOVE how the senior pastor responded to my youth pastor friend. He obviously understands needless and worthless criticism and used this short email to validate him. All it took was 11 words from the senior pastor and Kyle felt supported. This is so important when building a healthy team–having one another’s back during criticism is so valuable.

Could Kyle have written a different (and better) response in the first place? Absolutely! He could have simply written, “Thanks for the feedback Don” and moved on. Sure! That would have been easy and maybe Kyle should have gone that route. But, I also believe there are times and opportunities to push back a little and bring in perspective in a gracious way (which I think Kyle attempted).

Either way, critical people like this aren’t satisfied. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

Now, to the 2 winners from the contest on April 1 (which, by the way, was very difficult to choose because there were so many good ones). The challenge was for the best response & funniest response. $100 each of downloadable product from Simply Youth Ministry goes to Matthew Bell & Jeremiah Isley:

Best response:

[Matthew Bell]

Thanks for your input. God bless.

Funniest response: [Jeremiah Isley]

Thank you for taking the time to craft such an informative and helpful letter and send it directly to me. The fact that you have kept this scandalous situation under your hat without spreading rumors and discord throughout the congregation about myself and the youth ministry means more than words can ever express. My mother always told me I should never bring to light others inadequacies unless you have a solution, and you’ve cleared outlined the symptoms and a solution to this situation. You’re not just a squeaky wheel, you’re a cog that drives the well oiled machine of ministry. And so from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

Many blessings upon you and your household,

Honorable mention; category: humor [John @ymtheology.com]

Dear sir, I thought I should let you know as a courtesy that someone has stolen your email login information and has used it to send some rude comments to me. What is worse is they even signed your name at the end. If I can be of service in helping you track down this person please let me know.
Yours truly,

Honorable mention; category: wow [Todd Szymczak]

Don needs to see how many people have been waiting in line for years for food, and no email from me is going to help him understand that.

Honorable mention; category: mini-sermon [Jeremy @lifepointyouth.org]

Dear Don,
My son was a member of the human race for 33 years , I also have almost 7 Billion adopted children to call my own, as well. We know how it feels to be frustrated with a church.
 This past Sunday, I also attended the 11AM service with you and your family. There were numerous times I tried to get your attention, but you kept on ignoring me. I tried to speak through the message the Pastor gave about not judging, but you were too busy looking at your day-planner. When the Pastor spoke about giving to missions, you were trying to balance your checkbook. Finally, when the church prayed about trusting me; you wanted to rush home to watch the basketball games on TV.

You see Don, I didn’t come to just give bread; I came to be the bread. I have to take a lot of bread out of the hands of a lot of people before they learn to trust me as THE bread. I truly do apologize that you couldn’t crown “king stomach” last Sunday, but we have more issues to work on than just your desire to eat sloppy joes. Perhaps we should celebrate that there were so many people there to support the youth ministry that we actually ran out of food! How awesome is that! Did it require food to stay and fellowship? Not at all, it required obeying the spirit.

I promise, Don, I’ll continue to communicate using unconventional methods until you decide to respond to my word. I do hope that soon you realize that THIS BREAD never runs out…there’s always enough.

Hopefully Yours,

It’s obvious that criticism and leadership are like two rails of a train track (in that they exist together). So, how does a leader not allow criticism to crash their leadership? More tomorrow.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? What do you do?