So if the hire/fire system in churches has so many flaws, is there ever a time when someone should be fired?
Unfortunately, yes. In the system we have, there are times when guys need to be fired. Yet, there’s a way to do so that shows grace, compassion, and gives hope for restoration. So what scenarios may necessitate a firing?
- When sexual sin occurs. Church staff are very susceptible to sexual sin because professional ministry is lonely (a result of the way it has evolved). I do not think sexual sin necessitates a firing in all cases. More on that below.
- When financial fraud occurs. Fortunately, more and more churches are taking steps to make sure staff can’t embezzle funds. But when it happens, not only would this necessitate a firing, but also criminal investigation.
- A pattern of poor work ethic. Some guys get into professional ministry because they think it is an easy paycheck. When a staff person is repeatedly approached about their slackness and nothing changes, it may necessitate a firing.
Some would say a person needs to be fired when they’re not a “fit” for the church, or when too many people complain about how the staff person does ministry (we’re not talking about accusations of sin, but just a “we don’t like the guy” mindset). I think reasons like this, more often than not, show serious flaws with the congregation. I also realize that it may show a personality conflict with the staff member, but if enough effort is put in, many such situation could be worked out. At least to the point that someone isn’t thrown out on their ear immediately.
Too often, guys are fired immediately with no severance pay. They’re left emotionally and spiritually broken, with the real possibility of being financially broke. Their family, sometimes already broken because of sin revelation, is punished for the sins of the staff member.
Is there a better way? I think so…
- Churches need to give guys a contract. This should outline salary, benefits, vacation time, job expectations, situations that would lead to a firing, a plan for restoration if that occurs (at least to the church body, in some situations to their position), and severance pay if the person is fired or if they resign. It may also outline a plan for helping the person find employment should they be fired for moral failure.
- Churches need to focus on restoration instead of damage control. I’ve heard of churches firing guys and going to great lengths to cover things up in the name of momentum or damage control. If a church feels like a staff member needs to be fired, would “administrative leave with pay” sometimes be a better option? In the case of sexual sin, why not work to find the guy some professional help, put in even stricter accountability, and give him six months (or whatever amount of time) to work toward restoration with his family, with his church, and maybe even toward his position? Too many guys are fired and left with the damage they’ve done with no help to figure it out. What shows the grace and restoration of Christ better–firing a guy in the name of momentum, or taking the time and effort to restore a guy?
- When a firing is deemed necessary, honor the contract or offer a severance package. Guys have families to support and bills to pay. And just because the income stops doesn’t mean the bills do, too. Churches can show grace and compassion for a guy and his family by helping them through the next several months while they seek gainful employment.
- Guys need to do their homework. Too many guys take a staff position without checking out the history of a church. Do they go through preachers in quick order? How many staffers have they gone through in the past ten years? Do they offer contracts? Do they help a staffer with his taxes, paying half his FICA? Unfortunately, you can’t always believe everything a church’s leadership tells you.
As I wrap up this series, I wish the entire structure could be scrapped. I wish guys would take “secular” jobs to pay the bills and gain credibility with people outside the church. but I know that isn’t going to happen. Can we at least look at the system and overhaul it so that churches and staff members can be more Christlike?
I hope so.
What are your thoughts?