Exiting a church staff member can be terribly painful. It costs the church more than just money. Trust is often eroded; people frequently leave the church during these times, and ministries typically lose momentum. Firing a church staff member should always be a last resort option.
Simply put, firing people who work at your church sucks. It’s no fun for anyone, and there’s rarely a win. That being said, there are times when it is the right decision. When those moments come along, here are some principles to keep in mind.
Most Churches Tolerate Poor Work Performance Over Poor Moral Behavior
The church is one of those weird “industries” that seems to tolerate poor work performance as long as you’re a nice moral person. I’ve seen churches keep people on staff who are constantly low performers and who produce little to no results simply because they like them and the relational or political fall out would be too great to withstand if they were ever let go.
Sometimes People in the Church Are Going to Freak Out
No matter what you do there are going to be some people in the church who just freak out because they think a church shouldn’t fire people. In those moments, I wish the church cared as much about people who don’t know Jesus as they do about their favorite staff member being asked to leave the team. But I wish that about a lot of things people freak out about at churches.
Ministry Is All About Relationships and Trust
Keep in mind that if you let go of one of your church staff members, there will be some relational loss. Trust will be eroded between the leadership of the church and the attenders. No matter how poor a performer or how right the decision is to let them go, ministry is all about relationships and everyone has their fans.
Be prepared to lead through this loss.
People Are Not Expendable
Your church staff aren’t simply cogs in a machine that can be easily replaced or interchanged. They’re people to be developed and coached. In a current church climate where the talent pool seems to be thinning in America, the best way to have a talented church staff team is to build and develop them. It’s hard to develop people if you’re constantly churning through them.
Mission Trumps Everything
Even though it’s difficult, it’s okay to let someone go who works at your church. If they’re not doing their job, if they’re not the right fit, if they’ve hit their leadership lid and you don’t have another role for them… or a number of other valid reasons.
Jesus started this movement called the Church for a reason. He intends for it to accomplish something very particular. We don’t get to pick our mission. And the mission of the church is too important to allow the Church to be held back from taking Kingdom ground because you have the wrong person on the team.
When your church staff lose their job, they lose more than their jobs. They are losing their spiritual community, friendships, and the church that they and their family attend. Don’t make this decision flippantly.
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