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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dealing with Unpleasant Staff Departures

Movingvan I realize I'm writing to mainly church staff members... most of which have served at several churches.  Just about every staff member I know has had at least one bad ministry experience in their career... but how should churches handle unpleasant departures?  Ken Godevenos helps us with that issue with an article he wrote for a recent edition of Church Business.  Ken writes:

I’ve witnessed or been made privy to a number of staff departures from various churches that clearly fall under the “unpleasant” category:

  • A minister, having lost the support of more than half his congregation and his entire board, refuses to leave. He says God called him to the church, and until He tells him to move on, he’s staying.
  • A minister who behaved immorally with one or more members of his congregation is privately given the option to resign or be exposed by one of his board members, who has secured concrete evidence of the indiscretions.
  • A minister of music leaves a church’s employ because he’s prevented from taking the church’s choir and worship teams to the level he feels the majority of the congregation wants.
  • An associate pastor — who has a sizeable constituency in the church — is fired because of repeated insubordination.
  • An executive pastor — who reports directly to the church board — fails to renew his own contract after board members remain silent as the senior pastor withdraws his support.
  • A minister is incarcerated on charges of using the Internet to lure a minor for sex.
  • A pastor loses his position as a result of mental or physical breakdowns caused by ministry pressures, overload or burnout, lack of balance in life, and more.

Each of the above cases impacted a number of the following stakeholder groups, whose interests, questions, frustrations, disappointments and/or demands had to be addressed:

  • The general congregation (or, in the case of parachurch organizations, those served by the ministry);
  • The board of directors, who usually took or approved the action;
  • The staff member who is departing, and his or her family;
  • The rest of the staff; and
  • The general public (usually in the Christian community) outside the church.

Knowing which stakeholders are involved in each case helps determine both the preventive and corrective actions needed to best manage the situation.

Preventive Action

In reviewing the above examples, we arrive at several conditions which, had they been in place, might have prevented one or more of these situations. [Note: I say “might” because even if everything that could have been done right was, there could be circumstances in which an individual’s behavior is beyond prediction due to a previously undemonstrated personality trait, or even legitimate mental illness. In these cases, congregations must rely on damage control and corrective actions.]

Examples of preventive action include:

A better selection process.

This includes thorough, investigative reference-checking from more sources; longer exposure to the candidate; and various forms of psychological testing, including time spent with a psychologist as part of the interview process. [I’m aware of one case in which a psychologist was enlisted to provide the search committee with additional insights into the person they were considering. Unfortunately, his advice was ignored.]

A clear understanding (including documentation) of the conditions under which the relationship would end. This might include votes by the board and/or congregation, or non-compliance with various church policies.

A clear understanding of the church’s lines of authority.

This requires a well-developed relationship between the board and the staff, established with the introduction and execution of an appropriate church-governance model.

Established and adhered-to requirements reduce the exposure of a staff person to the possibility of immoral behavior. This includes insisting that windows be installed on all pastoral staff’s office doors, and implementing rules about opposite-sex co-workers, including travel, home visitation and working late at night.

Regular planning meetings to ensure all staff are on the same page.

Everyone must agree where they want to take the church. They must also agree on a desirable leadership style for the senior and/or executive pastor.

Acknowledging the possibility that separate followings might develop within the congregation.

Personal accountability partners.

These should be assigned for every leader in the church. Doing so minimizes the chance of a moral fall.

Mentors.

Each staff person should have a mentor — either another employee or a respected businessperson in the congregation.

Regular (at least quarterly) personal discussions with each staff member.

Supervisors should conduct these. Each meeting should cover how the employee is feeling, as well as his or her performance review.

Damage Control

Once an unpleasant departure looms on the horizon — or has actually taken place — several actions must be taken to correct the situation or minimize negative impact:

Ensure the situation brewing is handled by the appropriate personnel.

Is there a chance that it could affect a senior pastor or the board? Is there room for reconciliation, keeping in mind that we are called as Christians to be reconciliatory in all relationships?

Consult with human resources or labor lawyers.

Approach either those people within your leadership or outside your church, as appropriate, to ensure you’re complying with all legal requirements in any action you might take.

Consider the reactions of — and communication to — each stakeholder. Act accordingly.

Indicate that this situation isn’t what you would have preferred, that attempts were made to correct it, that expert advice was called upon, and that steps were taken to be as fair as possible in the treatment of the individual and his or her family.

Recognize that many might be disappointed. Identify the individual’s strengths or positives and the value he or she added to the church.Then, appeal to the listeners’ trust in the board they appointed.

Point to the future and to the work that must continue. When possible, follow determined arrangements for doing so through the temporary appointment of others to fill the gap. Identify the actions you’ll take to find a more permanent replacement.

Allow an opportunity for individual members to contact leaders with their questions. Then, individually answer these questions with love and total honesty, heeding any legal implications. Don’t hide the real reasons for the departure, but don’t get personal in your expression of them. (For example, if insubordination was the case, say so — but don’t go into detail or debate the circumstances. It’s too personal, and it’s unnecessary.)

Ask your congregation to pray for the individual, his or her family, and the church. Lead them in those prayers yourself.

Wherever possible, make a real effort to heal the relationship between the church and the individual involved.

Even if it doesn’t mean the reestablishment of the employer-employee relationship, this is an important step; ultimately, we’re part of the same Body.

[Ken has a whole library of personnel related articles available in the archives section of ChurchBusiness.com.  It's worth checking out!]

FOR DISCUSSION:  Have has your church handles the fallout from a bad departure?  Have you ever had a bad departure?  What happened, and how did you (and your former church) deal with it?

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December 6, 2005 in Personnel Issues | Permalink

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I once had the benefit of a premature departure from a church position. It was an ugly and unpleasant experience. During the process the church board was asked if they had a plan to be put into effect when I left the congregation. The entire board stated publicly that there was a plan and no one needed to worry about it.
When I announced my departure by a private letter to the congregation the response was interesting. The letter was short three lines. 1) I was announcing my resignation. 2) The date of my departure was ___. 3) Please not discuss this with my family. Sincerely Yours signed and dated.
The response from the board was to deny any knowledge why I was leaving and one member threatened to go the denominations judiciary body and have my ordination removed. (But he too has no ability to say why I left.)

I dealt with the situation by the immediate removal of my membership from the church. I severed all relationships with any member and have only contact with those who contacted me after my departure. I have only been in the building twice since my leaving and only with an invitation and permission by the moderator (my requirement not his)
I joined a second church of a different denomination in order to attend and to serve while waiting for a new point of service. I accepted a call to a small and struggling church where I am presently.

The church’s general board who are still in control still haven’t defined a plan of action. They are still waiting for wisdom and financial security to fall from heaven. The membership is declining and there is not a concern to address the issue.

If you ask me to make a blunt evaluation the Board is happy nothing is being done. They have enough members. With no staff their needs are reduced. And the church along with its leaders are happy with the status quo. They get the be the victims with out the responsibility to find an solution. It is consistent with their view of God and his creation.

I am not as bitter as I once was, there is a healing from God. And I know that the place where I am now will need a lot of planning for the future.

Posted by: Jeorge | Dec 6, 2005 10:55:41 AM

Great article. It's clearly time that churches start employing people with contracts. Making it clear how someone enters and how they will exit. When you know ahead of time how you will exit, it is much smoother for everyone.

Secondly, I agree that a more thorough background check and interview process is necessary in most churches. Part of that more intense process should be a two-way street; meaning that references for the senior pastor and other staff be given to the potential staff person. They are being asked to change the course of their life; they should be able to check on the new people they are going to be with.

Why is this different from secular employment? Because of the spiritual "direction" and "language" that is so often used in the process. Churches too often play the appropriate card to their own advantage: they claim "it's business" or "it's the Lord leading us".....whichever is more appropriate at the time.

Secular employers are much more straight up and they certainly don't play the "God-card" to remove you.

Posted by: Michael | Dec 6, 2005 11:01:23 AM

Churches need to install Elders as leaders.
This does not mean paid staff only, since many associate staff are in their 20's-they would not qualify as Elders. How could a subordinate younger staff member hold the Senior Pastor/CEO accountable for sinful behavior, it would never happen, the associate in an employee, and if a structure was in place such as a personel cmte to deal with such issues, they would always report back to the "Pope" who appointed them to the committee. The layman serving on the committee are afraid of losing the benefits of serving in the church, etc..and don't want to get involved in being a peacemaker which the Bible wants us to be.

This would solve the problem of the egotistical, unaccountable, Senior Pastor (lone elder), who thinks he can manipulate anyone person or situation for his own selfish interests such as moving staff around so as to hire his son's best friend, his son in law, and then firing someone who doesn't "fit the mold" because he has ideas that have proved successful and benefited the ministry but challenges the status quo of the current older staff who want to cruise to retirement.
The single Elder idea doesn't teach the congregation of their need to lead but "gives up" leadership and direction to the "Pope". This is laziness on the part of lay people. Lay people who don't care for the pastoral staff at all unless they are being catered to in some form or fashion by them. They end up having a pastor who acts the same way. If you take him out to eat regularly you are on the deacon board.

I was ready to quit the ministry until I found the "perfect staff" and leadership to work with at the new church I am serving as an associate. It is a safe place with Elders in place who loving confront the pastor and staff when needed.

I used the term "perfect staff" because this is what my previous pastor told me he had once I had left after having been fired.

Yes, I still struggle with bitterness. But I am sure this will going away as I grow through loving confrontation and simple obedience.

Posted by: Lew | Dec 6, 2005 11:40:02 AM

Yes we are all affected by the past, however, we can also learn from the past as well and endevor not to make the same mistakes over again.

Posted by: Allen Ballard | Dec 6, 2005 11:51:23 AM

As a member of a local church, I recently had to make a very unpleasant departure...and it has hurt me tremendously.

The departure was my decision, and mine alone.

I found out who my real friends in this congregation are.

And sadly enough, who they aren't.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Dec 6, 2005 12:04:05 PM

When I came to this church, there was already in place a Children's Pastor who had served the church for 10 years. She had no formal education and had often fought with the previous senior minister as well as all of the interims since he left. I found out after coming here, that she wanted to become the new senior minister, but the search committee refused to even consider that. After literally taking over a children's dedication one Sunday in the midst of the ceremony, I informed her that such action would not be acceptable again. So, three months after getting here, she stomped out in a huff just 2 weeks before our preschool was to reopen and our children's program was to restart after the summer.

She really thought that most of the church would leave with her, but only a few family left immediately. A total of about 30 people did leave over the course of the next year. It was ugly, to say the least. Twice one of her followers got up in church and pronounced that I was leading the church to doom and everyone who followed me was going too. Then 10 months later, I received a death threat on the front door of the church before Sunday morning services.

Over the time since she left (2 1/2 years now), we continue to hear comments from the larger Christian community that her followers have made. I have personally been called more nasty names than in all the previous years. Much damage has been done to the church by this woman and her followers. Yet, we are recovering now. We have rebuilt our children's ministries and they are thriving. Our youth ministry is still in the process of recovering. We've spent a lot of time and energy correcting the mistakes of the past - time and energy that could have been spent building the kingdom, but we are stronger for having gone through all this.

I have to credit our Elder board who has shown great leadership to make sure that I was not "left out there hanging". Yet, I would never hope anyone experiences what we've gone through.

In retrospect, I wish I has confronted this person immediately in coming here. She was set on a power confrontation and made sure there was one. However, she did not win, even when I thought she would. My advice for others would be to simply stand firm, with love and grace. If your leadership stands with you, you'll get through it. If they don't, you'll probably end up moving much sooner than you thought. But in all things, I have remined myself the two principles I outlined as soon as I came: 1) Whatever we do from now on, we're going to do it the right way, regardless of the cost and 2) Whatever we do, we're going to keep everything on top of the table so there are no surprises to come back and haunt us later. It was no fun (and still isn't), but for the church to move forward, I now see that there was no alternative. Reconciliation was not an option.

Posted by: John | Dec 6, 2005 12:10:36 PM

I agree whole heartily with Michael. The book by John Piper, "Brothers we are not Proffessionals" is an excellent book on church leadership. Mark Dever's " The Deliberate Church" Also a Good one. If a church is folllowing a Biblical model, rather than a traditional model, or a worldly model, There will be less room for failure. Simply stated God will bless the work if it is according to his pattern. Even so there is still room for problems, because that is the nature of the church. Remember Acts 20, Paul instucts the elders at Ephesus, that ravenous wolves will rise up from amongst them? Wasn't Timothy an apostolic leader in Ephesus when Paul was writing to him about the problems with apostacy, and apostate l;eadership? Which is why certain character qualifications are given in 1 Tim 3. The model of putting people in school and hiring them with the "CEO" menataility is a recipe for disaster. We must follow GOd's word, in observing someone's personal conduct, according to 1 Tim3, for a good season to see if thier lives are producing fruit evident of God's calling. Only then can we make a decision in good conscience. I personally detest the idea of having a psychiatrist on the pulpit committee. That is just using worldly wisdom, as opposed to Godly wisdom. Hope the books I reccomended were helpful to some.

Posted by: Robert | Dec 6, 2005 12:19:14 PM

Re: John's story. I just DO NOT get it. A death threat? Is this terrorism on the local level? What on earth is wrong with these folks? Do secular businesses get death threats when they change operations or personnel?

I have to really recommend the book "A Elephand in the Board Room" by Resse and...someone else. It's available thru Church staffing I think. Several blog articles have quoted it and the main point is that change eventually happens and we need to be prepared to handle it. Get proactive rather than deal with the unpleasant aftermath.

I think I will take more seriously a psychologist to evaluate our pastoral candidates when we get to that point. Hate to do that, but I take this too seriously to let any possible pro-action go undone.

Lew was right about laziness of lay people. Our church previously let a pastor get away with throwing out the constitution and by-laws.

Posted by: Abbey | Dec 6, 2005 12:22:30 PM

My husband of 31 years, a church musician, was having an affair with his children's choir director. I left him when I found them together in my home, and I did not feel it was my obligation or duty to inform the church of what was going on. The rumors were rampant, and even when confronted with absolute knowledge of the affair, NOTHING WAS DONE.

I believe that mayber our marriage could have been redeemed if even ONE staff person had stood on their moral authority and confronted my ex-husband about his immorality, Instead, he was allowed to resign quietly, the congregation was told that he was resigning "to pursue other offers", and NOT ONCE by any of the pastors was he ever taken aside and counseled as to the spiritual and moral sin that he was committing by seducing young women under his spirityual authority for his own purposes.

The result is that he was given glowing recommendations by people who KNEW what he was doing, and he has gone on to pursue other positions with churches.

The result of this, is that that church continues to bear the burden of what went on. It is gossipped about, talked about under the table, but nothing was ever publickly acknowledged and dealt with. Is it any wonder that the Christian church is in such muddy waters when it comes to moral and ethical issues involving their staff people? If people who claim to be God's men and women are allowed to just go on as if nothing happened, no one is required to face the consequences of their actions in any meaningful way, and they simply go on to other churches without ever confronting their own sin, God WILL hold churches and staff and boards responsible for this kind of "sweeping under the rug".

Posted by: TB | Dec 6, 2005 12:35:36 PM

My husband of 31 years, a church musician, was having an affair with his children's choir director. I left him when I found them together in my home, and I did not feel it was my obligation or duty to inform the church of what was going on. The rumors were rampant, and even when confronted with absolute knowledge of the affair, NOTHING WAS DONE.

I believe that mayber our marriage could have been redeemed if even ONE staff person had stood on their moral authority and confronted my ex-husband about his immorality, Instead, he was allowed to resign quietly, the congregation was told that he was resigning "to pursue other offers", and NOT ONCE by any of the pastors was he ever taken aside and counseled as to the spiritual and moral sin that he was committing by seducing young women under his spirityual authority for his own purposes.

The result is that he was given glowing recommendations by people who KNEW what he was doing, and he has gone on to pursue other positions with churches.

The result of this, is that that church continues to bear the burden of what went on. It is gossipped about, talked about under the table, but nothing was ever publickly acknowledged and dealt with. Is it any wonder that the Christian church is in such muddy waters when it comes to moral and ethical issues involving their staff people? If people who claim to be God's men and women are allowed to just go on as if nothing happened, no one is required to face the consequences of their actions in any meaningful way, and they simply go on to other churches without ever confronting their own sin, God WILL hold churches and staff and boards responsible for this kind of "sweeping under the rug".

Posted by: TB | Dec 6, 2005 12:36:46 PM

John- curious as to your analysis of how well you followed Matt. 18 in the conflict with this woman... please share if you can. I personally believe Matt. 18 can solve many of these problems... also add lots of love (five love languages)...

Sounds to me like she was dis-enfranchised with the new leadership, rather than engaged. Her immense investment was devalued.

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Dec 6, 2005 12:41:58 PM

You can have all the guidelines & protective measures in place that you want, but if church leaders want to get rid of you, they will.

I was in a church in Michigan 12 years ago where I was experiencing the most exciting youth ministry of my then 18-year youth ministry career, when a parent who didn't agree with a decision I made began to spread a rumor around the church that I had been in the bedroom of their 15-year old daughter. It was true. But what she failed to add was that I was in the bedroom WITH MY WIFE while being given a tour of their house by the MOTHER, herself!

Well, despite the fact that the pastor & several church leaders got to the truth, I was still forced to resign to protect the "integrity of the church". But the real kicker was that even though our denomination's CHURCH MANUAL stated then that a staff member could not be dismissed without being given the opportunity to present his or her case in front of the local Church Board, I was denied that privilege. And, naturally, the congregation was never told the truth.

The bottom line is that churches that are more concerned with their image than in confronting the truth will always find a way to get rid of a staff member. It's easier to replace a staff member then to upset congregational members who may be offended (And implicated)if the real truth is laid out for all to see.

So set your guidelines & prepare for the possibility of having to deal with these kinds of situations. It's still a wise thing to do. But if honoring God by standing for the truth isn't the church's #1 goal, then the staff member will invariably become the scape-goat. Even with a contract, churches know that most staff members won't resort to taking legal action if the contract is ignored. Win or lose, taking a church to court will probably cost a staff member any chance at a future in staff ministry, and church leaders use that knowledge to their advantage.

Another devious tactic churches will use to bury the truth in these circumstances is to BUY the staff members silence. In the previously mentioned situation and in a church I was again forced to leave in Alabama just 4 years ago because several members resented the fact that the church had hired a "northern yankee", I was offered a large severance package...but ONLY if I resigned quietly and didn't force them to fire me. Yes, for the sake of my family I accepted the offer each time, but where's Christ in a tactic like that?

What I'm getting at is this: If a church is unethical and even dishonest in removing a staff member, it has no right to expect anything other then an unpleasant departure.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 6, 2005 12:43:28 PM

Wow!
What a topic, what great advice?
My experience has been that those who don't know and/or understand accountability and how it's suppose to work, hate it!

A wise board will develop clear guidelines and expectations of every position of ministry that they oversee that includes accountability...

I've been a part of a church in the past where the people were very loving, supportive, giving, but not very discerning and their lack of understanding the importance of accountability opened a whole can of worms that leads to people getting hurt. This article is very helpful for those who are in a position of making the next hire and working to define the roles that are functioning within the church... The notion of team is most important.... people with no sense of accountability are "out there" by themselves. Some times it's the church's fault for allowing this to happen... Unfortunately, some view the notion of being accountable "one to another" as legalism. It can be if love is not applied throughout the process but my experience has told me that people who hate and fight accountability, will cry "foul" no matter how much love is applied! At times it takes tough love speaking the truth in love, to see the rest of the body protected.


Posted by: B. Marsh | Dec 6, 2005 12:48:47 PM

Wow! There are some terrible things happening in churches. It is all due to a lack of biblical accountability and discipline. I like the elders idea. I was part of a team that planted a church and until a pastor was called, we used a team of elders. This caused some flak by the women's missions team as being "not Baptist" but it worked. They left and we grew. The pastor who was called enjoyed the relationship with the elder board and though it was not "Baptist" it was biblical in his opinion.

My only experience with staff was a secretary. She also served as pianist, choir director, treasurer, and secretary. She worked for the church but not the pastor. I discovered she was instrumental in the departure of four pastors. Matthew 18 saved my "bacon" in dealing with her. She was eventually caught up in a financial issue and a coverup. She was removed from a couple of positions and placed under probation. She blew up at me and ranted about 15 minutes before worship - were 20 observers were. That cause a couple more to jump in and follow me into the study for more screaming. I called her Monday to have her schedule a meeting with the deacons (the second step of Matt. 18). She refused and left. She called a group to her home to have a meeting about "getting rid of the pastor." It back fired. Her friends told her to do right, repent, and apologize. She never came back. Her two friends who followed me into the study also left.

I like the ideas of contracts. Churches have covenants and by-laws. A contract really spells out the relationships and expectations of all parties. It also, when done right, has the specifics for termination. This protects both parties. I work part time as a Chaplain for a VA home. I have a contract with them as a staff member. I like it because it is simple - two pages - and specific. I do the things of the contract - they pay me. I fail to do the things of the contract - they fire me. Simple. I know who my supervisor is. I know how to give notice. I know where to go for help. Hmmmm. I wish I had something similar with the church. For our new secretary - we have a job description that is simple, specific, and to the point. It lays out her duties, how we evaluate, and what are the causes of termination.

Just my thoughts.

Dan

Posted by: Dan Moore | Dec 6, 2005 1:03:00 PM

My husband and I have had more than one unpleasant departures, and we have attempted each time to protect the church for the Lord's sake and for the sake of new believers. One situation was especially painful for our family, because we had actually planted this ministry. The Lord had given us the vision; we bought property; we built a coffeehouse youth center; and the Lord used my husband to start a new, thriving church and outreach ministry with a fellow Christian gifted in evangelism. The coffeehouse plan made possible 2 full-time pastoral salaries, which hadn't been available just by the church tithes. It was definitely one of those God things.

The problem came in when we hired a local youth pastor and his wife who had a secret agenda of controlling the ministry themselves. They began causing dissention among our leadership team, working to separate the 3 church planting pastors/elders who had previously been united in vision and, eventually, we knew it was stay and fight, or walk away from the vision we'd poured ourselves into building for 2 years. It was a heart-wrenching situation; yet, we knew we had failed in hiring this youth pastor. At this point, the youth pastor had so entranced the pastor (evangelist friend), that even if the leadership team voted to remove the youth pastor, the dissention would remain, and the pastor was no longer behind the original vision.

The Lord told my husband to lay it down, and He would give us back the vision. We resigned and walked away without a fight, broken in spirit and disheartened. The worst part was that because we left quietly, and the church knew that we were the ones who planned and planted the ministry, there were many questions. We had asked the remaining pastors (evangelist & youth pastor) to please just share that we had a difference in vision, and we chose to move on because of that. (The 4th leadership team member had already resigned when we didn't dismiss the youth pastor.) Instead of allowing us to leave graciously, they told many lies about us and the other family who had left. They said we were angry, we had lied, we had misspent the church's money, and really painted an ugly picture of us.

With time, there has been healing for us personally, and the truth has become clear to those who were involved in that church with us, but it has taken about 5 years. The Lord has blessed us in ministry since that time, and is now bringing together a new plant team with an expanded version of our original vision in the city where we've always wanted to live. (Isn't God good?!)We are so excited about the unity of our team and the Christ-like love we have for one another!

At the same time, we know that the bad experience was for our training. We now recognize easily that controlling spirit in potential team members. We don't ignore any "red flags" the Lord shows us. And we are stronger leaders. We certainly have not "arrived," but we're much more prepared for this ministry than we were the first time.

In all of this, I would encourage pastors and church leaders to use wisdom and discernment in placing people in your ministry (paid or volunteer). Seek the Lord in every little decision you make. And, most importantly, stay on track in the vision the Lord has given you and don't compromise to please people or just to keep peace. Please God with your decisions, rather than men. And also, be gracious to those who do move on, as well.

Wow! This is a long post! Just wanted to share a little of what the Lord has shown us. God bless!

Posted by: Cindy | Dec 6, 2005 2:04:13 PM

I am grateful that we can discuss something that is always an emotional topic in a non-emotional forum.

I have been unpleasantly removed from a church on 2 occasions. In the first instance I made a decision based on Matt.18 and with the boards approval chose to exclude a leader from an executive level meeting. Unfortunately for me this angered a family friend and "big giver" in the church. She confronted me after the meeting and told me "I know how to get rid of you and I'll do it." I should have taken her seriuosly because within 3 months she kept her words. In may churches money talks much louder than the bible. Ostensibly, against the wishes of the board but for the "integrity of the church" I was asked to resign.

The second instance was even more devious. My pastor inherited me from the former pastor. I volunteered to resign when he came but he insisted that I stay on. He finally decided to manipulate a situation that was a lose-lose situation for me and for the church body and again I was placed in a position of leaving "for the good of everybody."

In both instances I believe a contract would have saved the unpleasant depature. With stipulations clearly stated, there would have been no room for the possibility of what happened. Corporate America has figured out that it can save the integrity of everybody involved by insisting on contracts.

As far as asking for analysis, etc. I think that becomes an expense of hiring that must be carefully examined by every local body. If they are suspicious of the candidate perhaps they should stop there and skip the cost of analysis. Why let an outsider convince you?

To God, Only Our Best,

John

Posted by: John Barrett | Dec 6, 2005 2:05:13 PM

This past year our church suffered at the departure of our youth pastor into another career field. Unfortunately the church was divided over his departure into two broad groups. One group felt the leadership fired him while the second group felt he had resigned. As a result words went everywhere, relationships were strained and broken. What started out as a board decision due to our youth pastor's decision ended up (in the mind of some)as a supposed personal vendetta I had towards the youth pastor. This was not our finest hour. In fact, there were several times when I (as well as the remaining board members) felt like resigning on several occassions.

If I never face another situation like this again in my life it will be too soon.

Posted by: Dana Arledge | Dec 6, 2005 2:06:14 PM

In light of what is being said, I would also offer that there are many churches whom are doing an incredible job of caring for thier staff, listening to thier issues, evaluating properly and doing all they can to hire the right personnel to lead them well.

As for hiring and instituting effective reviews with current staff so "red flags" can be seen sooner than later as well as helping church staffs begin function at their maximum potential, I would offer the advice of perhaps utilizing Clarion Consulting (www.clarionconsulting.com). They coach missions and church staffs in personal and team development. Their coaching system assists local church leaders with Four primary questions: Who am I? Who are We? Where are we going? What is my part? Their model helps with crafting personal missions, team dynamics, team and personal reviews, strategic planning, etc... Check them out. They might be able to offer some help so some of what has been described doesn't happen to you or your church. Just so you know, I use Clarion with my staff.

Posted by: Kris Kraihanzel | Dec 6, 2005 2:42:07 PM

Let em' go. They are expendable.

Pastor's Wife told me to shut up and that I was stupid, one Sunday. I was SSSuperintendent. I was opening up about the lesson and that is when she told me that. It hurt and because everyone heard her and started laughing.

Same church I was youth leader a dad came up to me and told me "You will not be teaching my kids that crappy music you like. This is what you will teach them, and I don't care if you like it or not.

Same church, Pastor told me to my face that I needed to leave and the radio ministry I started would not make it.

I shook the dirt off and moved on....

Posted by: Tiko Tut | Dec 6, 2005 2:57:18 PM

I am the 9th Pastor of a church that is 56 years old. EVERY Pastoral transition here has been painful for the church and the previous Pastor's family.

Last 2 Pastor's marriages ended in divorce. For the last 25 years, we have had a Pastoral transition every 4-5 years, with the exception now of my pastorate.

I am just now marking 20 years with this congregation. Spent first 8 years as Youth Pastor, next 4 as Associate Pastor and now the last 8 as Senior Pastor.

5 years ago (about 3.5 years into my Senior Pastorate), I crashed in burnout. Leadership at the time rejected my offer to resign and move on, believing our church needed to see a Pastor get healthy instead of disappearing.

Since then, we've had to hash out quite a bit of conflict, much of it involving staff departures that either took place or NEEDED to and finally did take place.

This article certainly hits home with a history like this. All the ideas mentioned are, by and large, good ones. None of them in and of themselves is going to be a "ticket" to bypass what promises to be an extremely painful and difficult journey.

I would add a couple of things:

1. The old adage remains true - you will NEVER please everybody. Doesn't matter how well you think it through or try to handle it, you're going to disrupt a number of people.

Find out who YOU are (I wish I had done it earlier), ask God's wisdom on handling the circumstance, get alot of outside (read: objective) help, and then lead lovingly and firmly.

2. Get and maintain a life outside of church. NOT doing so is a big part of what led me into burnout.

Just my thoughts ....

Posted by: Paul Kuzma | Dec 6, 2005 3:03:28 PM

If candidates for pastor's positions can have a psychologist review them, can this be requested of board members as well? Fair is fair.

Posted by: Pastor Ambiguity | Dec 6, 2005 3:31:48 PM

Was the following situation handled correctly, I would like your response.


The youth pastor became angry about the course of worship in the church so he asked if he could lead it. The answer was yes, and he was instructed that he was free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as he led worship, but that he should do his best to help keep the eyes of the congregation on the Lord during worship and not on personalities on stage. He whole heartedly agreed. He led worship for about 3 months when he sat down with an elder and the pastor to level his complaints of how the people were not doing what he wanted. It was explained to him that whenever we begin to lead people in a new direction we must be sensitive and communicate that direction clearly with love and grace. He agreed. We continued on with him leading, when he became angry with the “worship team” because they had some input on what music they would like to see sung at times. He became angry and up and quit leading worship and then resigned from his position as youth pastor. While we felt bad about his choice, we did not stop him or try to discourage him from resigning. We did however support him in prayer, we sent him off with a big party and we prayed over him as a congregation that God would help him find another place to minister in. I felt that the congregation was more then generous in their attitude and behavior towards him – yet he and his wife went out of the church and spread rumors about the senior pastor and the congregation throughout the town. Any type of effort for reconciliation was rebuffed.

What do you do in a situation like that?

Posted by: Pastor Al | Dec 6, 2005 3:56:41 PM

Respectfully, everyone keeps saying that a fully independently operated Congregation, governed by a local Board is Biblical. [After nearly 40 yrs in Ministry as a Sr. Pastor, Pioneering Pastor, Assistant Pastor, Youth Pastor, & Evangelist: With a ministry that has been recognized by Leaders from over five U.S.Denominations,Heads of Ancient Foreign Christian Denominations, International Independent Ministries, Presidents & Deans of more than one Seminary, having won awards with my Wife for our ten years in active inter-racial / inter-denominational ministry that has even brought us circumstances where we restored other Pastors & Priests of Evangelical - Pentecostal - Catholic Churches]: After truly researching Ancient First Century Synagogue Based, Hebrew founded, Judaistic Structured Christian Church Structure, & comparing that with what seemingly the majority of Western American Based Independent Churches consider "Biblical", is in the least, very deluted; at the Most totally mis-guided rebellion, founded on a sinful desire by mankind to find a way to appear holy and biblical, while at the same time staying in control without being forced to truly be accountable and submitted to Biblical Authority.

In the First Century Church, actually set up at the Leading of Yahweh-the Holy Spirit - after Pentecost; This was the actual founding structure of the Church in totol form;

a) The Council of Twelve Apostles were the Supreme final decision makers universally through the Roman Empire that went from Northern Africa, up through most of Northern Europe & in the Ilse of Man - later to become the British Isles.

b) The "Church" was prodominently still worshiping -Hebrew & Gentile - in the Synagogues of Judaism, where-in their Rabbi's (Teachers) & their own families were each commissioned to build, own, & run each synagogue.

c) As in Judaism, there has always been an understanding, & custom of Believers eating meals together, with that activity being considered an actual Form of Worship to follow Corporate Sanctuary Synagogue Worship, weekly: As the Believers in Jesus as Messiah Arm of the Judaistic Culture grew in numbers, they began fellowshipping with common meals, House to House.

d) Just as in the Pre-Messiah Days of Judaism, there were active Prophetic Ministries - Prophets. As the Messianic Arm of Judaistic Culture expanded, the Schools of Prophets naturally were encorporated into the Whole Church Body as a whole.

e) The Term "Church" was actually an ancient term from Judistic Culture that Denoted All Hebrews as "God's Chosen" or, "Church of Yehovah Yahweh". THus, as the Apostles over-saw the "Church", it did not ever mean a single congregation standing alone. It actually meant the WHOLE MESSIANIC ARM OF JUDAISTIC BODY OF BELIEVERS TOGEATHER AS ONE UNIT scattered across each Region or City-State inside the Roman Empire. Men anointed as Evangelists were sent forth to reach regions where Hebrews were known to live; with the Gospel of the Messiah. They like Prophets, were considered to operate under the power of Yehovah-Yahweh-Yesua and though they would fellowship in different Churches as they went about their assignments, they -like Paul & Cephas, answered directly to the Council of Twelve Apostles.

f)As the "Church" was growing across the Empire, an Attorney set in the Judean Senate that operated as a Sub of the main Senate in Rome, called the Sanhedrin, as a Ruler over Judea for life; called Saul had the Holy Visitation of the Risen Christ, he 7 his Brother In Law began evangelizing across the Empire. At first, he went only to Hebrews. Thus, as in the City-State of Ephesus, & in the City-State of Corinth (which was in size nearly the size of our Rhode Island State); He put the "Church" in Order using the Judaistic Synagogue / Temple form. He even sent Lay Ministers back to Jerusalmem with Gifts & Letters, insuring he was setting things in proper Order according to the Council of 12 Apostles.

g) During this period of the Empire "Church" Age, the whole Empire was thrown into Economic Depression as has been historically proven. Further, the whole Earth was thrust into major Climatic changes. By that time, the "Church" was scattered over most of the Empire. The Apostles could not be traveling constantly in different directions, so the Second Phase was put in place.

h) The Rabbi-Teachers who taught the Law of Moses & Ancient Prophets, were now joined by a new Sect set up by the Apostles, Shepherd-Pastors. The Term Pastor came from an understood Jewish Sheep Herding Term. It designated anointed and appointed ones by the approval of the Council of Twelve, with the responsibility to lead the congregant Messianic Hebrews & Righteous Gentiles into good spiritual pastures with clear clean spiritual water of the Word. As the Apostles set the Pastors up to operate along side the Rabbi-Teachers of Judaistic History & Culture of Synagogue / Temple Worship; they were given the same authority and power held by Rabbi's.

i) With the Empire in economic & climatic upheaval, Messianic Believers began suffering along with everyone else. THe Council of Twelve did not have the time to handle the setting up of a full system of feeding and clothing the now destitute families. So, they designated a new Servanthood Ministry. Yes! a directly defined Servanthood Ministry. Deaconhood. THese were sent forth with clear defined spiritual requirements. They had to have experienced the same as those on the Day of Pentecost, They had to be of a servant's heart, being directly led by the Holy Spirit just as the Apostles, Evangelists, Rabbi's & Pastors were. But, THey were given a specific job range and job authority: No more, no less! They were to coordinate the traveling, the collecting, transferring, and warehousing of food and clothing between all separate congregations in each Synagogue led and managed by the Rabbi's & Pastors that were situated in each City-State, and coordinate the distribution of food - clothes - & funds to each registered family across the Empire that needed assistance. That was it! No more - No less! They too were under the authority of the Rabbi's & Pastors, who with the Prophets and Evangelists answered to the Council of Twelve. At no time did any Deacon receive authority to set up, manage, hire, or, fire any Rabbi, Pastor, Prophet, Evangelist, or Apostle. They were rather Servants of all the above with one job duty alone.

j) As the "Church Body" scattered across the Empire grew to the hundreds of thousands, it grew to large for the Apostles to directly manage, so, they then designated a new Office of Ministry as "Sub-Apostles" in authority: Bishops. It was the responsibility of each Bishop to teach and anoint, by laying on of hands, and assign, all Rabbi's, Pastors, Evangelists, approving those chosen as Servant Deacons. THe Bishops continued to answer unto the Council of TWelve Apostles until each died. The Bishops were actually raised up into each Seat of Apostle as one died. Until there was the Council of Bishops. The Council of Bishops over-saw their own "Church Body" that was made up of in some City-States, as many as 125 separate Messianic Synagogue Congregations. But, As early as Peter-Cephas, & Saul-Paul, when a Legal Dissertation (as the early Rulership Letters were called -Epistolic Letters); was Written either for the setting up of the Church as a whole across the Empire, or, those separate Synagogues scattered across a City-State such as Galatia - Ephesus - Corinth in settling management issues, THere had to be designated rules for new departments of a growing empirecal church: "Convent Ministries for the Elderly Destitute Women, who were assigned to teach young women how to be proper righteous wives, feeding the destitute-working with the Servant Deacons in food preparation for the needy. Elders were always a part of Judaistic Culture. It was a Term designating the Oldst Clan Patriarch in every Family. For, in Judaistic Culture, each "Family" was actually made up of every Son & Daughter & their Spouces & children extended, until that Patrirach passed away. THe next Eldest would replace the Patriarch of the family. So, the Apostle / Senatorial Attorney - Paul, set the same Role asside in the Church Body of each City-State, headed up by their Bishop. Each Church Body, scattered across each City-State, headed up by their Pishopric/Apostle, was then investigated by each Bishop, as Timothy. THe Bishopric/Apostle was then to choose the Oldest, Most Holy Spirit (Yahweh) led Male Members, set them apart, teaching them, instructing them in the Law of Moses, the Customs, & the Messianic Teachings of the New Covenant, & in proper Empirical Wide Church Structure, anointing them with one job duty. They were to be walking in the Gift of Healing & other Holy Spirit Gifts of spiritual ministry. They were designated to function under the Bishopric/Apostle - Rabbi - Pastor. They were to aid in praying for the sick and those battling other spiritual concerns. But, at no time were they place in authority to manage, hire, fire, anyone. They were in essence filling the Role that in current culture is caoined; "Assistant Pastor".

This Church Structure was built by the Council of Twelve Apostles. Even the Attorney/Senatorial called -"Apostle to the Gentiles" in the last half of his ministry; As he set up Church Structures in different City-States, went back to Jerusalem, staying with the Brother of Yeshu-Jesus (A later designated Apostle with Peter on the Council of Twelve); to make sure that everything he was doing and teaching was exactly correct.

This form of Church Structure stood until the Battle of Bishops in Rome & Constantine brought a separation of the Empirical Church into separate divisions, operating under each Bishop. Then, as each New Revival Form would arise somewhere in the Empire, rather than being able - If the Ruling Bishop was not truly holy - or, if that Bishop feared loss of Control or proper Church Structure at times; Those -Usually un-educated, or undereducated Laymen would attempt to "Set Up" their own new "Denomination" with protective systems in attempts to guard the Very Move of the Holy Spirit-Yahweh which they were experiencing in their DAy, in their region; They being uneducated concerning Biblical Church Historical Structures, & not wanting to loose control of what they had, or, literally not being educated in the language of Greek - Hebrew - Aramaic - Latin, of which all of the Writings of the Law of Moses, the Ancient Prophets, the Apostolic/Bishopric Letters - (Epistles), or Writings of the other Ancient Messianic Hebrew Teachers and Evangelists or Scribes such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc. They, literally set up their "Denominations" by HEAR-SAY understanding of what someone told them the New Testament Church was structured as. Remember, in the Middle AGes & up into the middle 1800's the majority of people could not afford to send children to Schools to learn to read their own several languages, much less, the Ancient Biblical Languages. Thus, it was left up to either HEAR-SAY understanding, or, low educated traveling Ministers to attempt to help set up congregations. Thus, As each period of Hundreds of years, with caos running across thew world, in the hundreds of years following the collapse of even the Holy Roman Empire, & the Downfall of the Eastern Empire by the over-running of the Muslim Armies: As Lesser Kingdoms fought against one another, scattering peoples world wide, the Original Understanding of Early Judaistic Hebrew Synagogue / Temple, Apostolic/Bishopric Church Structure was lost to the Masses of the ever growing Gentile Body of World Wide Christians. Thus, as each generation came and went, as is natural in cultural mixing and in constant eroding that will take place until the End of Time of the "Church Age" with the Return of the Messiah/King: Each GEneration has lost more and more. THat is why Yeshua-Jesus declared about the Time of His Return, when he declared; "When I return to this Earth, Will I find any FAITH on the EArth." Now, John the Beloved in his long extended Holy Vision, wrote Prophetically concerning each manifested future Church period, by using each City-State's division of the Whole Body of Believers on the Earth at that time, declared: The Last Period of Laodocian Church Period, would be one of Brokenness, One of much "Knowledge" but of little truth, One of Congregations, each declaring in themselves supremity of Doctrine, allowing for many false doctrines. Just as another Apostle declared Prophetically, when he declared that in the last period of the Church Age, men would be out for only money and power gain in their churches and ministries, that regular merchandising of the Gospel would be done, when many would rise up, declaring themselves holding a "Form" of true christianity, but deniers of the Power. THat declaration is two fold, for, in the one sense, it was prophetically declaring that men was "Say" they believed everything as written in the Bible for their Day, but, in action, & reality, they would be denying the Power of what Yeshua-Jesus declared, saying; "When the Holy Spirit - Yahweh is come, the things ye have seen me do, you will do, and even greater shall ye do, & in Saint John 17, saying; Those coming later, beliving the testimony of these with me, they shall bew one, walking in my "Glory" (Power). Thus, sadly, every Lay person, walking about Western Cultural Christianity, demanding that Rabbi/Teachers-Shepherd Pastors, Bishopric/Apostles, Evangelists, ALL SUBMIT UNTO THEM BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN ELECTED OR CHOSEN TO HOLD THE NAME, BUT NOT THE ORIGINAL SERVANTHOOD POWER OR JOB ASSIGNMENT AS THE FIRST CENTURY DEACONS HELD, Or, CALLING THEMSELVES ELDER: DEMANDING SUBMITION FROM THOSE WHOM IN REALITY THEY ARE TO BE MINISTERING SERVANTS UNDER AS SUBMITTED ASSISTING MINISTERS; SADLY, THEY ARE NOT IN TRUTH BIBLICALLY IN ORDER! Thus, Sadly, so many Congregations, though large, or, small, find little New Testament Power. Their Numbers shrink. They bite and devour one another, ever competing to be in control. Their Rebellion, generation upon generation, has caused the fading away of the RABBI-TEACHER who built, ran, and owned each Synagogue. Thus Solid Biblical hard Teaching of the Whole Word of God has also faded away. Thus, every Believer sits under his proverbial tree believing whatever he chooses to belive - calling himself Biblical Christian, as an Ancient Hebrew Prophet declared would come upon the earth before the King's return. Congregations now, attempt to pattern themselves properly, but, they are not, and thus, they operate separate from one another, sitting on corner after corner across town and city, all competing for their share of Members and their money, so they can build the fanciest and best building they can, forgetting all of what First Century Christian Ministry truly was. Pastors sit now as hirelings; having invested their youths, hard efforts, hard earned monies in much education, with many personal sacrifices; As they must play politics and placate laymen whom have set themselves up as, quoting Holy Scripture; "Someone believing themselves to be something when they are nothing." as the Apostle Paul declared would come upon the "Church" one day. And all the while, the Lost Sheep, the Baby Believers, the Sick & Dieing, and a World gone mad, slides right on by the "Chruch Building" doors, wagging their heads in sorrow, saying; "They say they have the answers for what ails me, but, why won't they come out to rescue me?" As self righteous lay christians snub their noses at the "Lost" believing they have more than they really have. So, as Yeshua-Jesus declared saying; "Those believing they have, yet having little, it will be taken from them..." They quible about words of doctrine, attempting to placate members and the world, about the Sin in their lives, hoping that they won't qit attending services, or, else they might have to close their pretty buildings down and loose their SEAT of rebellious Athority.

These are hard words I realize. As it was written, saying; "In the Last Days, Men will not heed to the Truth, rather, they will heep unto themselves false Teachers who will preach only what tickles their itching ears!" Sadly, the "Body of Yeshua-Jesus Christ" is now there. Thus, as it was prophesied; It is now being fulfilled in our Day. And sadly, as each truly dedicated, loving, sacrificing, anointed Minister of the Gospel stands outside the "Church Buildings" crying, saying "Here I am! Hire me to lead you silly sheep into strong tender grassy pastures of Heavenly food, down to still, quiet flowing, clear streams of water of the Living Word".... THe silly rebelleous sheep sit smuggly inside, saying to one another, "We like it this way! We can tell our "Pastor" What to say - When to say it - How to say it - When to jump - How high to jump - Where to jump - When to bend over!" We are in control! But by golly! No minister better tell us that we aren't Biblical! If he/she does, we'll FIRE THEM faster than their heads can spin!" So, the World and all her inhabitants are sadly marching blindly to utter destruction, outer darkness, and separation from a tender, loving, merciful, Saviouyr who says; "Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden! I know your downsitting, your up-rising,your going out and your coming in! If you come unto me on my terms, I will give you rest!" And there is no little rest for the weary sheep. How many Believers who served as "Deacons & Elders" will be surprised upon reaching the Heavenly Seat of Jesus, when he says unto them; "I declared that he who desired a leadership position in my Body would be judged harsher than those who did not!" Why? Because their lives, more than most, affected untold hundreds of lives, ever lost, because they were so busy controlling - rebelling - competing, with those in the True Biblical OFfices, that those having made a Vow unto the Lord to preach - Teach - Shepherd & Save the Lost Sheep, simply couldn't fulfill their Vows. Thus, the curse promised falls upon their heads, which declares, saying; "Do not make a Vow unto the Lord, for the Angel of the Lord will require it of thee! Do not say, I'm sorry, I can't fulfill my Vow unto thee! For the Angel of the Lord will force thee to." [Paraphrased]

Posted by: long time Ordained Minister | Dec 6, 2005 4:17:09 PM

It's interesting that I received this information in my inbox today. I relocated to take a position as a Children's Pastor about 6 months ago. I was asked by the program Director to consider a separation, i.e. leaving. He wants my decision by 10am tomorrow. I feel hurt, wounded, and disrespected. Much of what he said was true about me is very far from the truth. It is a classic case of "my way or the highway." The history of this ministry is that EVERY CP that has been hired has not been able to stay for very long due to the leadership that is in place. It is an atmosphere of dictatorship and control, an environment of "we've always done it this way," therefore creativity is greatly stifled.

Before I came I wasn't told that this ministry had 200 kids, only to arrive and discover that they have been in great decline for the last year or more (fewer and fewer kids coming). I guess I was supposed to arrive and immediately resurrect things...

Needless to say, I am hurt and don't really know what to do or how to respond. I cannot fathom just walking away from kids without saying any good-byes??? However that is what I am being asked to do. I have been accused of having a negative attitude, an uncheerful spirit, and a lack of humility. This is not the person I see when I look in the mirror, this is not the person other collegues see when they look at me, this is not the person long-term employers and co-workers know. So I know that this is just one person's assessment of me. The struggle is this - how do I not allow this Director's opinion of me to cause me to doubt myself, my capabilities and valueself worth?????

Posted by: D | Dec 6, 2005 4:57:31 PM

long winded ordained minister


I agree with you that a senior minister need accountability. I'm not sure anyone on this blog will disagree with that actually. But are you saying that a church that is not part of a larger organization/denomination is not biblically sound?

come on.

Accountability is ten times as effective when the people holding you accountable are your peers/fellow ministers...not some committee a couple towns over.

Posted by: Matt | Dec 6, 2005 5:53:34 PM

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