Addressing the Heartbreaking Issue of Firing Someone in Your Ministry

Firing someone is obviously never easy.
Firing someone is obviously never easy, but it might especially be so in ministry. (iStock photo )

Whenever I talk about firing people in ministry I create a great deal of interest. Some feel it makes the church seem too much like a business.

I get it, but the other fact is, and many understand through difficult experiences, if we don't address this very serious issue, kingdom dollars are often misused. And, if we are honest, this has been allowed in ministry far more often than it should be. Our command to love or even to be kind shouldn't cause us to waste kingdom dollars.

Please read my previous post before reading this one.

The fact is, in nearly every situation I'm aware of where this type decision is made, it's not an issue of likability. It's not we don't love the person or their family. If this was the case, all this would be easy. It doesn't even always mean the person did something wrong. At times, it is a simple issue of chemistry or fit and often the person proves later to be a great fit elsewhere.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Making this difficult decision has many times proven best for all parties involved, but admittedly, getting to the point of release is sometimes a most difficult process. As hard and delicate an issue as this is, it is poor stewardship, in my opinion, not to address the issue.

With this in mind, I always have people ask for suggestions when having to release someone from a ministry position. They want to know some best practices to protect the church and person?

Here are five suggestions when you have to fire someone in ministry:

1. Be certain. Not as much from a legal sense, but from a moral sense, we need to be sure this is the right move. (You need to be legal too and if you aren't sureask. I have always consulted an attorney before anyone is released. Always.) The fact is it will be difficult. It may even be messy. There is usually some damage done to the body. You shouldn't hide from the right decision because of it, but you should make sure you're making the right decision.

2. Be generous. This will differ depending on the person's tenure with the church and the reason for dismissal, but be as generous as you reasonably can be. This could be financial, but it could also be in the way you allow an exit to take place. I've had some unique situations to accommodate. Knowing how hard this is going to be for the affected party, as much as possible, be overly generous.

3. Be graceful. I've been involved in a few messy situations involving the release of a staff member. Many times the most gracious thing to the departing staffer is the information that's not shared. There is always more to the story and everyone wants to know the "more"—sadly many times for the wrong reasons. Keeping information as confidential as possible extends grace to the person, the person's family and the church.

Grace should also be extended in creating an exit strategy that protects the person's future employment possibilities, as much as possible. There may be moral or legal issues you feel obligated or legally have to share, but as much as possible, extend grace.

4. Be honest. Here, I am talking about what you communicate to the person being released. Don't sugarcoat. Now is not the time. What's the real reason? Hopefully, by this point, there has been sufficient due process and fair warning, except in cases where an immediate exit is the only option. Either way, tell the truth. I've seen churches disguise the real issues in an effort to land a "softer blow". Many times this only creates more tension, because of the ambiguity and uncertainty of the dismissal.

5. Be helpful. How can the person improve for their next position? What are the areas they do well? In what ways can you help them land better into their next role? The person won't always be open to your "help", but you should be available to help them wherever and however they might be.

This is admittedly hard. No one enjoys this discussion or this process. I don't even enjoy writing this blog post. We should be biblical in our approach always, but it's not biblical to avoid hard issues hiding behind a label of ministry.

What other suggestions would you have when you have to release a person in ministry?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders