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5 Suggestions When Firing Someone in Ministry

By August 25, 2016Church, Leadership

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, 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 THE 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.

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 5 suggestions when you have to fire someone in ministry:

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 sure – ask. 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.

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.

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 which 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.

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.

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?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Lane says:

    Excellent! Ron.
    As part of suggestion 1, I always ask myself, "will this person be surprised?" If the answer is yes, I have not done my job as a manager.
    You mention this in 4th suggestion. I also add this; get to the point. Once the conversation starts, move quickly to the purpose. Beating around the bush causes more stress and adds uncertainty. That's my 2 cents. Thanks for addressing this subject.

  • John says:


    I like your boldness in discussing this issue. Many preachers would dare go there. God bless you for being frank in attending to this. I have seen many Pastors and members really mess up when dealing with this issue. Your points are very useful and if every Pastor would learn to do them, the level of animosity we are experiencing in Christiandom when Pastors have to separate for different ministries/call will not have been there.

    Once again, I am happy you have given me an insight.Be blessed!

  • Britton Wesson says:

    Recently was on the other end of getting fired. Wasn’t done well at all.

  • Jaleel Hamid says:

    Great follow up article. Two thumbs up!

  • Sam Shaw says:

    A future post on what to announce to the church might be very helpful. What to say, what not to say, how much to disclose, etc. The announcement to the church may differ, depending on the circumstances of the termination. I believe immorality and incompetence and belligerence can be addressed differently.

    I would add –

    Be prepared – have your facts in place, speak to the right people beforehand, get your story straight.

    Don't let it be a surprise – worst mistake – a performance review results in termination, and the person being fired is blindsided. There should be no surprise to anyone.

    Be quick – once the decision is made, no need to linger. I once heard Jim Collins challenge a group of pastors, "you guys believe in love. It is not loving to know you will have to terminate someone and put it off."

  • optimisticgladness says:

    This post is full of grace to those who could feel disgraced. Great post.