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You’ve Been Fired from the Pastorate – What Now?

I’m at that point in my ministry where I feel like I’d rather cut grass for a living than serve Christ as a preacher of His gospel. That’s just not healthy. But that’s where I am.

Wow! I’ll never forget receiving this text from a young pastor. A few  deacons had asked him to “consider” resigning or they would bring a vote before the church.

In my opinion they didn’t have the guts to actually fire him. They know they probably didn’t have enough votes at the church level. But, he loves the church, and didn’t want to cause division, so he did what he felt was the right thing and stepped away gracefully.

Of course, there are always issues on both sides, but church can be brutal on a pastor at times. 

What do you do when the church fires you? Or, when the proverbial rug is pulled out from under you?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Assess how you got here.

What happened? You probably already know to a certain extent, but it’s good to evaluate. Where did you push too hard? Who did you cross you shouldn’t have? What was the actual line you crossed? You may not change anything if you had it do over, but this will help you as you move into another position at some point.

Own your mistakes.

If you can’t admit you made some, you may have bigger problems. There are always things you could’ve done better. Own your junk. Admit your failures. These are the best teaching tools you will ever have for future development.

Contact some friends.

You’ll be tempted to keep to yourself It may be embarrassing, but you need people around you. It’s easier to hide. You need people who will look deep into your heart and speak into your soul. Obviously, you should have these people developed before you get into the situation, but either way, you have to have an outlet for your current emotions.

Protect your family.

There will be rumors and half-truths and speculation and gossip. It’s what people do. As much as possible protect your spouse and children from it. Important caveat – don’t shelter your spouse from you. 

Rest and receive grace.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”(Hebrews 4:16) One of the worst things you could do is to step back into something immediately without giving your heart a chance to heal. 

Network while you figure out what’s next.

And, next may be taking a season to heal. Or simply finding a healthy church to be a part of for a while. (I have loved being a part of churches were dozens of pastors I have “hung out” while they prepared for the next season of ministry.) There are healthy churches, which will help you during this season. this is the time to contact your network of other pastors. Don’t be bashful, and don’t be too proud. Be honest with where you are and ask for help finding your next position. You may need to take a secular job for a while. Whatever you do, make sure you take adequate time to think through next steps.

Begin again – in God’s timing.

This is the great advantage of grace. There is an opportunity to begin again. Read the story of the prodigal son. Remind yourself of David’s failures. Read the reconciliation of Peter with Jesus. If God has called you He has not given up on His call. Your next season may look different, but He still has great work for you to do.

The ministry can be brutal. So can people in the church be. If you are a casualty in ministry, please know there are people who care, and your best days may be ahead of you yet.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Thanks for this, it is spot-on.  I hope many young pastors read it because countless numbers  of them are facing the same circumstances in varying forms. 25 years ago I was in my first pastorate facing the exact situation.  The deacons’ reasons for desiring my resignation were vague at best.  Apparently, I didn’t visit enough and I didn’t keep enough office hours, which by the way, are the golden oldies of church malcontents. There were also problems with the church bulletin (I could write volumes on problems church bulletins have created).

    In the previous year or so, the church had grown from about 40 people to upwards of 100 average attendance on Sunday morning, and that was the problem. The church was growing, new people coming in, and the old guard was not happy about it. Therefore, I had to go. I recall a conversation I had with a representative from that little group who offered me 3 months salary if I would just walk away. I can’t believe I did this, but I actually told him that I didn’t think they had the votes and they would need to bring it before the church. I’m not sure I would go through that again. It was bloody, brutal, and ugly. I was called filthy names, cursed to my face, I had nasty letters written to me, and had slanderous lies and rumors spread about me and my wife. I nearly had a nervous breakdown.

    In an ugly business meeting, the church voted and I won that vote by 40 to 20 give or take. The results were predictable; that group of 20 or so people left, but didn’t leave. They continued to have their own Sunday school class then leave before the worship service, and some of them kept attending business meetings.  They finally drifted away and the church enjoyed a period of growth, peace, and stability.  I left 2 years later and began another ministry in another state.

    I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy as it scarred me for life.  However, that particular experience was the fiery crucible that proved my calling and strengthened my faith.  There is a time to walk away and a time to stand and fight.  Be faithful and God will give discernment when the time comes.