There are all sorts of bad reasons churches let youth workers go – but there are some legitimately good ones as well. Here’s a few things that I think over time will cause youth workers to be shown the door, and some cautions before pulling the trigger on one of them if you’re the boss:
Incompetence - sometimes, it just doesn’t work out – the person you thought had the skills to do this job simply doesn’t. They were a great interview and not so great in the real world. Somewhere in the process the ball was dropped, and it is your fault. Be slow with this one, perhaps the learning curve is just steep, or it is The Dip before things get awesome. And please be a teaching/training church! If someone doesn’t have the skills, help them develop them on the job! Send them to a conference, a training event or build out their library. Even if things eventually don’t work out, you’ve made them MUCH more equipped for God’s work in the future.
“Fit” – this one is tough, because it can quickly become a catch all for whatever whim someone has that day. But there is something to be said for a genuine “fit” argument. I’d encourage you to investigate if you are a fit before you ever sign on. Maybe there’s something you need to change as the supervisor, or a particular reason/pattern why people are not fitting into your staff culture. You need to infinitely know your culture before you bring them on. I believe that having to let someone go because of fit is the church’s fault, despite it being incredibly hard/almost impossible to truly know a candidate after just 1-2 meetings or calls.
Character Issue – if the youth pastor has a character issue that cannot be addressed effectively and appropriately while they remain in a position of leadership, they need to be removed and take that season to concentrate on their personal life. Youth workers are not without sin, so please don’t be hunting for them to make a mistake so you can kick them in the butt on the way out. In fact, a great church would be prepared for their pastors to be imperfect, instead of being surprised or shocked by it. Be prepared to coach/counsel spiritual health in the youth worker on your staff.
Insubordination – the youth pastor is not the leader of the church. He/she is under the authority, vision and leadership of their supervisor/senior pastor. They must be willing to follow and lead from the position God has entrusted to them. When that doesn’t happen – there’s bound to be conflict and rarely does the person in 2nd place win. As an employer, make sure you’re not wrongfully identifying passion or naivety as insubordination. Please be genuinely open to new ideas and ways of doing things. But if there’s no resolution, they might have to be let go.
Divisive – I think this one is a lot like insubordination, but instead of directly to a boss/supervisor, it is within the staff or church body. There is nothing worse than a divisive person, unless it is a divisive pastor on the team. Again, be slow to jump to conclusions, quick to correct and coach before doing something drastic.
Here’s the crazy thing – I think that I could have been fired (or still could be, hey) for almost any of these today!
I still don’t always “fit”, I still sin and make mistakes, I sometimes err toward being divisive and do my own thing instead of listening to my manager’s direction. If you’re genuinely going to let a youth worker in your church go … please pray intensely about it. Make sure you’ve done everything you can to coach them toward health. Take a long look at yourself, your church and the host of outside factors that have led you to this moment of decision. Try to be impartial, maybe even consider a 3rd party or mediator.
And above all, if it has to happen … be graceful. God isn’t quite finished with them just yet.
Are there other good reasons to let a youth worker go? Or maybe give another caution in the comments, too!