As you continue to work through how to fire church plant staff, be sure to keep it a very human process by communicating well.
Letting someone go from your church staff isn’t going to be easy. And how you communicate it will have a huge impact on how it goes with the employee and on the culture you’ll create in your church.
The timing isn’t always under your control, but sometimes you can take when to let the employee go into consideration. Patricia Lotich reminds us on her blog to take the timing into consideration:
…most organizations avoid terminating employees during the holidays because of how it will be perceived by the employee, the employee’s family and other staff members.”
Break the News
To the Employee
Handle the meeting with a strong dose of both grace and truth. You need tons of grace and compassion because this news is going to have a profound impact on the employee and his/her family. Imagine how you would want to hear the news if the roles were reversed.
And because you’ve followed a process and top leadership has made the decision, don’t be tempted to back down or make spontaneous accommodations. There is a way to communicate that holds the line and holds sincere respect and concern for the other person.
To the Staff
If there are any other staff at this point, be sure to let them in the loop quickly, yet appropriately. Decide ahead how much you’re going to tell them, especially in the case of misconduct or poor performance.
To the Launch Team or Congregation
This is where things can get dicey. And I’ve found polarized opinions on if and how much to tell a congregation about having let the employee go. Of course, if you haven’t launched yet you’ll just be breaking it to your Launch Team, but same difference.
On the one side, saying nothing at all will foster a culture of suspicion and distrust. People are going to notice that the staff person isn’t around any more. So you have to say something. I read some who advocate for having an ambiguous party line.
Toward the other extreme would be making an announcement at a gathering. There’s precedent for that if you’re following Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18.
The pastor of a congregation my family participated in won my profound respect when he broke the news of a staff member’s moral failure from the stage on a Sunday morning. Not specific details, but not sugar-coated either. And he delivered truth and grace: the situation was not OK, the employee was already let go and both parties were being provided counseling so that they would get the help and healing they needed.
But you also have to consider local employment laws and such. Defamation of character may be grounds for a lawsuit. Ron Edmondson advises, “I have always consulted an attorney before anyone is released. Always.” And I would add, make sure that you have an Employment Practices rider on your church insurance policy.
Rainer’s 4 Principles:
As a last thought on how to fire church plant staff, I found this advice from Thom Rainer incredibly helpful:
- Fire with Christlike compassion
- Fire with Christlike generosity
- Fire with Christlike clarity
- Fire with Christlike communication