6 Critical Steps in the Difficult Decision to Move a Staff Member

It’s one of the toughest parts of church leadership. You feel like a staff member is not a good fit. Or the elders or personnel committee feel the same about the pastor. You are confronted with the reality that you might need to ask that person to step down.

What’s next? Many churches, unfortunately, believe you should never ask a person to leave unless it’s a moral failure. “It’s just not the Christian thing to do,” they might say. But good stewardship requires leaders to ask what is best for the entire church. In reality, such a move is often best for the person affected.

I have seen these situations handled poorly. One pastor let a staff member go after telling the staff member that he, the pastor, and his wife had prayed about the decision. Really? The pastor’s wife was a part of the decision? In another church the personnel committee let a pastor go without any due process. The first time they let him know there was a serious issue was the night they fired him.

But other church leaders have handled these situations with wisdom, grace, and compassion. I have learned much from these leaders. Here are six critical steps they taught me.

  1. They prayed about it fervently. They did not act impulsively. They sought God and His wisdom.
  2. They made certain the “bad fit” was real. Sometimes the issues are not what they appear to be on the surface. There may be some other person or persons who are the real problems.
  3. They sought input from others. They really listened to wise counsel. They sought others who would really be objective.
  4. They went through due process. Such processes are not identical from context to context. But the person who is being moved from his or her position should not be surprised. There should have been discussions and opportunities for improvement.
  5. They showed compassion. In some cases they gave them time to find another position. In other cases they found a better fit at their present church. They did everything they could to help the person rather than hurt them.
  6. They tried to anticipate unintended consequences. What if the person has not found a position after the time you have given him or her? What if they fight your decision? What if a large number in the congregation vocally oppose the decision? Anticipating these and other possibilities is a part of the process of dealing with this difficult decision.

I know many of you readers have been on both sides of these situations. Let me hear from you. We really do need to learn from you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

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