What to do with a disgruntled member?

September 28th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments


I am a homeschool mom who is connected to a homeschool community. We meet on a weekly basis. The children are tutored by the moms and are paid. The moms are encouraged to help out and use their talents with organizing field trips, taking photos to create a year book , etc.

 We have a situation where one mom, who was involved very much and due some circumstances after paying full tuition, decided to register her children in a school. In the contract it states that parents after  paying tuition will not get a refund. She is very disappointed because she is treated the same as a parent who did not lift a finger. What is a biblical approach to this case?



Dear S.,

Financial interactions and human interactions are intertwined. While money allows us to work together peacefully, it can also be the source of ill feeling and friction.

It’s always a good idea to step back from an issue, which is what we would recommend doing in this case. The reason businesses or organizations (like a homeschool co-op) have contracts and rules is so that everyone knows the bottom line and is assured of being treated equally. (Much of the American electorate is feeling distanced from its government because many people suspect that the law is applied differently to different people and groups.)

Imagine if you did refund this woman’s tuition despite regulations to the contrary? From then on, wouldn’t you have to refund everyone’s money or to delete that contract item? Otherwise, you are not playing by the rules which is a certain way to cause dissension. Since we assume the rule was put in for good reasons, you do need to follow it.

At the same time, this woman feels that she, unlike many other parents, devoted volunteer hours to the co-op. Being treated like everyone else is leaving her feeling unappreciated. We doubt if the tuition money is the issue as much as her emotions. Perhaps the co-op could give her a gift acknowledging her role along with a heartfelt letter expressing gratitude for all she has done? In this way, you would be acknowledging her efforts while not undermining your organization.

This episode might be an opportunity to review your co-op rules. Maybe every parent should be expected to put in a certain amount of volunteer time or maybe ‘more than usual’ volunteer hours should be reimbursed with credit towards tuition. You might also consider adding (with permission, of course) a pastor or community leader’s name on the contract as the person selected to settle any disputes. Especially in a small-knit group such as yours, this might make decisions less emotionally charged.

Wishing you a successful homeschool year,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Timothy Mauch says:

In my area, at least, Catholic private schools require all parents to participate in school activities. A home school coop would probably benefit with such a requirement.

Susan Lapin says:

The one I belonged to had exactly that rule.

Lorita Heale says:

Outstanding remarks Rabbi Lapin.

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you.

francis a says:

Thank you for the succinct response with real life applications.

Susan Lapin says:

We try very hard to give practical answers to real life problems. Thanks for commenting.

Marie says:

Great advice, however, I would also suggest someone quietly collecting a love donation as well. She has a financial need that isn’t being met which is why she asked for the money back in the first place. I suspect most of the participates are Christians and as such Christians not only have an obligation to care for the spiritual well being of our sisters and brothers but the practical as well. A situation such as this is not only a difficulty but an opportunity for our trust in God to be exercised. The rule ties the hand of the organization but not its members. Ladies think outside the box. Set up a GoFundme account and tell the members in your church of this family need. Take your eyes off the organization and place them back on God and your responsibilities.

Susan Lapin says:

That’s an excellent point, Marie. There certainly might be a financial need involved. I imagine you’ve had some experience with this. Is there a possibility that the family would be embarrassed by such a fund? How is that avoided?

Marie says:

Yes, Susan a family can be embarrassed by this but only if they are paraded in front of congregation and made to feel like beggars. A GoFundMe is no difference than a love offering given by the church or from colleagues when someone has a death in their family. It’s usually collected discreetly without the knowledge of person it’s being collected for and given in a card. If it’s over $300 I would put it on a visa gift card. It only takes a friend to pull them aside at the co-op and present it them with the gift or make an appoint and take it to their home. However, when I gave a love gift to some friends I took it to their home and slipped it under their door when I knew they weren’t home. I left the return address blank because I didn’t want my friends to be embarrassed or feel obligated every time they saw me at church. My gift wasn’t a group effort. I simply came into back monies so, I was able to met their need. I believe the key is discretion. But I wouldn’t allow the lack of discretion to hinder me from doing something that needed to be done either. Do the best you can and let the LORD work it out!

Susan Lapin says:

Marie, I guess that like anything else, helping people can be done in a positive or negative way. There was no indication that the family in this homeschool co-op was in financial distress, but they certainly might have been.

Pamela Braatz says:

I am not fond of the Go Fund me charity out there, I have seen it abused to a point of people using others hard earned money to take a Disney vacation, while those that put in hard earned money thought they were helping w/ a crisis situation, ( have seen things like this more than once) Maybe you all have had better experiences than I did , I know they used to set up charities for medical bills etc at local banks, I think whoever misuses these funds will be VERY accountabe for this, after all this is coming out of the good hearts of people, We ( DH and I ) were in a prison ministry for many years, We never handed out money, what we did do was give gift certificates for the local grocery store or actually pay electric bills etc, I am not suggesting this bc this lady may feel worse,,,,,but, what bad could come from ~a grocery certificate, One can stiuplate no cigarettes , liquor etc, Just basic food, through the store, And no one needs to sign their name at all, Just give it, At least thats how I would do it, but you must pray over it first then do what God lays on your heart to do, I kind of feel that if I have extra dollars in my wallet and there is a real( and I mean real need) what harm could come from giving it to a soul in need, Thank you for allowing me to express my views on this issue, I do think that this can be handled with great delicacy and a whole lot of love, Oh, and for the record,I dont think one should be volunteering so much that it becomes an issue of money or who is more active etc, I think if done that way it is an issue of the heart and done for the wrong reasons, We do things like this to please God not man, and please do not think me hard hearted, One hand should not know what they other is doing in regards to charity, both in time and treasure,

Susan Lapin says:

Great perspective, Pamela. I know when I was approached by a teenage boy once asking me for money because he was hungry, I walked with him into the supermarket and bought him a sandwich. I didn’t feel comfortable giving him money wondering if he was playing a game, but I didn’t want to ignore him in case he really was hungry.

Kat says:

Fantastic perspective and advice!

Susan Lapin says:

It is always easier to respond when one isn’t emotionally involved in the situation.

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