Before You Fire Your Pastor
8 guidelines to consider.
Before You Fire Your Pastor

Recently, a pastor told me his deacons asked for his resignation, and they weren't clear on their reason for asking for it. The best I can discern the issue was change, or the pace of change.

The church is known in the area unflatteringly as a “preacher-eater church.” They figuratively eat pastors and spit them out. And it is happening again.

I understand. The fault does not always reside with the church. Pastors aren’t perfect, and many of them have done some things that may deserve firing. But that is not the case with the vast majority of churches where I have details and good familiarity.

Stated simply, too many pastors are getting fired. It feels like an epidemic.

So, please, church leader, consider these words before you fire your pastor. Please take a breath and see if any of my admonitions hit home.

  1. Pray more fervently. You are about to make a decision that will shape your church, the pastor, and the pastor’s family for years to come. Make certain you have prayed and prayed and prayed about this decision.
  2. Understand fully the consequence to your congregation. A church is marked once it fires a pastor. Members leave. Potential guests stay away. Morale is decimated. The church has to go through a prolonged period of healing where it cannot have much of an outward focus.
  3. Listen to other voices. Many times personnel committees, deacons, or elders decide to fire a pastor because they listen to a few malcontents. I know one church with a weak personnel committee that fired a pastor after listening to an executive pastor and a bully deacon. And they never asked to hear the pastor’s side of the story.
  4. Consider the church’s reputation in the community. You are about to receive the label “the church that fired their pastor.” That will be your identity for some time.
  5. Seek mediation. There are some very good mediation sources available. Why not at least give it a shot before you make a rash and often uninformed decision?
  6. Let your pastor know why. Look at number three again. That church never told the pastor why he was being fired. Seriously. I guess it’s hard to explain that the deacon and the executive pastor have orchestrated a successful coup. I am amazed how many pastors have no idea why they are being let go. That is cowardly. That is not Christ-like.
  7. Consider a transition plan. Another church approached their situation with greater wisdom and Christian action. They shared sadly with the pastor that the chemistry was just not working between him and many parts of the congregation. But, instead of firing him, they let him stay on for up to one year to find another church. It’s always easier to find a church if you have a church.
  8. Be generous. If your church does make the decision to fire your pastor, please be generous with severance and benefits. Don’t treat your pastor like a secular organization might treat an employee. Show the world Christian compassion and generosity.

For more information on this topic, see the downloadable resource Dismissing Employees and Volunteers.

This post was adapted from an article that first appeared at ThomRainer.com on August 23, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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