I don’t care what you call it: “Asked to resign,” “not renewing your contract,” “not invited back,” “you no longer fit our needs.” You can dress it up with ruffles and lipstick, but if its on a pig – its still a pig. Whatever the church or organization names it – it still FEELS like getting fired. It usually hurts, even to the point of being broken-hearted or devastated.
The heart investment isn’t like you were working for McDonald’s or Walmart (both fine jobs, btw). The level of “total heart, soul and joy” put into “would you like fries with that” probably isn’t the same as a youth pastor who gets blindsided with being “let go” from a church youth ministry where he felt love and accepted. Now what’s he supposed to do? Who does he turn to for support through this dark time? His church? Nope, now he doesn’t have one.
So Church Leaders, when you tell someone they’re no longer wanted as part of you organization, think about these things first and do your best to make it Christ-like:
1) Remember the heart is involved: People’s hearts are connected to their ministry at your church. They’ve served, cried, prayed, eaten, fellowshipped, sung with you and in the blink of an eye – its gone? It can literally break someone’s heart and that’s just not what the Church is about. If they must leave the position, explore every way you can to guard their hearts in Christ Jesus. Assure them of their gifts, value their service, help them find other ways to serve within your organization when appropriate. Don’t just leave them bereft of not only a job but their circle of care, too. “Bear one another’s burdens.”
2) Don’t do it over the phone: Depending on the tenure, involvement, length of job – “that’s just some weak tea, dude.” (A quote from Raj in Big Bang Theory) If someone has worked for you for a number of years, it deserves more than a call or email. It especially DOESN’T deserve an ambush meeting in the SP’s office.
3) Celebrate their contribution: Maybe a party is or isn’t called for, depending on the circumstances. But there are other ways to say, “We appreciate what you did for us these past 5 years.” A really great gift card, thank you flowers, letters from others in the ministry organization. Something that tells the person being asked to leave, “My time here wasn’t wasted. I do have worth.” Without reminding them of the good they did do, it can leave the employee or volunteer with brokenness that no one intended.
4) Make sure it doesn’t come as a complete surprise: No church politics or financial bottom line is worth the sudden surprise and resulting heart break. Fair warning should always be given. Evaluations showing the concerns should have happened long before the firing point. Even Jesus gave second chances. The eval’s of the thief on His right weren’t so good, but Jesus gave the guy paradise anyway.
5) Follow-up after the fact: Show the love and care of Jesus by checking up on the person a few days later and again in a few weeks after the deed is done. Give them the chance to ask the questions they couldn’t think of when the surprise hit them.
Friends, I know all this is easier said than done. I know its fraught with politics. I know that pulling the bandaid quickly is better in the long run…I’m just asking ministry leaders to use more love in the process and care for the person who’s left behind wondering what to do next with their life.