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    Should a church give a reason when firing the pastor?

    Should a church give a reason when firing the pastor?

    Here is an interesting story.  A Wichita area pastor was fired last week from a fairly large (800 or so) church.  That's not the news.  The story here is that the church is not saying why.  In fact, they're not giving any reason at all.

    The local newspaper has picked up the story, and the church isn't commenting.

    The church, according to the newspaper report, really isn't telling the congregation much of anything either.

    Pastor Bryson Butts (unfortunate name) helped found GracePoint Church eight years ago.

    The news was delivered by Pastor Butts (sorry again... but that's a really unfortunate last name) on his Facebook page:

    "Last night, the GracePoint board voted 4-0 to sever my relationship as lead pastor."

    The word from the church:  "We view this as an internal matter, and we are busy making sure our congregation is understanding what's going on."

    No word on if the church is being more candid internally.

    I think the statement made publicly to the newspaper was unfortunate, for three reasons:

    1.  It looks like they're hiding something.  Whenever someone doesn't tell you the reason for something, it's because they don't want to.  They're protecting themselves or someone.  That doesn't look good when you're a church.  Better to say something generic like "we needed a different kind of leader to move us forward" or "we wish Pastor Bryson the best".

    2.  It seems impersonal and cold.  The pastor is never mentioned in the statement.

    3.  It isolates the church from the community.  Whenever you say that something is an 'internal matter', it means that everyone else is on the outside.  That's not the normal way a church wants to or should be seen in the community.

    Nor should the announcement have been made by the pastor on his Facebook page.  That's a horrible way to announce a staff person leaving.

    Perhaps I am being too hard here.  I don't know the situation...but I think it could have been handled much better.  

    It's been my observation in working at three different churches on staff, and working with literally hundreds of churches in the area of staffing and leadership, that most local churches are not prepared for a personnel situation of this type.

    Pre-planning is absolutely necessary.

    And don't 'pull the trigger' before you have a plan:

    1.  Why are we firing?  What is the private/public reason that we are giving?

    2.  How will this be communicated to the church?

    3.  How will the be communicated to the media?

    4.  How will we respond to the criticism we know we'll get for making this decision?

    5.  Who will say what?  and when? and how?

    Firings and terminations are never easy... especially when it's the senior leader.  But they sometimes need to happen.  Just make sure when they do, that you have a plan.

    UPDATE:  It appears further reasons have been given to the church family via email.  Perhaps they didn't anticipate the Facebook announcement before the official word got out.  Good lesson learned.  The newspaper article with the statement sure didn't help the standing in the community though.

    Todd

    Your thoughts?  Have you been fired?  Was it done well?  Have you had to fire a church staff person?  Did you have a plan?  Did it go well, or was it ugly?

     

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    1. Ronnie Burgess on Fri, January 07, 2011

      As a member (one of the founding members, actually…) of GracePoint, I thought I’d chime in. 

      Bryson had been on a board-mandated leave of absence for the last several of months after being given the opportunity to publically confess what had been going on and failing to do so.  The church was made aware that there were issues without going into much detail.  Bryson was given the opportunity to work on some issues and regain the board’s and staff’s trust during a paid leave of absence.

      It is my understanding that the board voted to fire him only after giving him many chances to fix the issues.  An email and letter was sent to all members with some of the details behind the firing.

      The newspaper article is unfortunate because it’s bad PR for all churches…  Interestingly, it appears that many of the quotes came from commments posted on Bryson’s facebook page…

      GracePoint has previously used the media for publicity.  I guess it bit us this time…

    2. Brian L. on Fri, January 07, 2011

      Thanks, Ronnie.

      I think the only people that really need to know is the congregation, and even then, they don’t need to know absolutely everything in most cases.

      Sounds like the church handled it correctly.

    3. Pastor Ian on Sat, January 08, 2011

      If you stick to the question Todd asked, “Should a church give a reason when firing the pastor” yes they absolutely should. I understood the question to be directed to giving a reason to the pastor for firing him. Anybody getting fired deserves to know why he’s being canned.

      That being said, the general public is not obligated to receive that information. There is nothing wrong with keeping that part private. However, the post indicated the church didn’t know the reason either. That part, whether the newspaper got it right or wrong is immaterial. The pastor needs to know why he is being fired and so does the membership. That doesn’t mean all the details need to be discussed.

      Lots of reason can be given that keep it private.
      -A loss of confidence.
      -A breach of integrity.
      -An inability to maintain biblical standards.

      These type of statements indicate the why of the situation while remaining vague enough to protect the privacy of the man and the church body.

    4. Leonard on Sat, January 08, 2011

      How people measure the job being done at a church differs. 

      For example, people measure a Youth Pastors Job in several ways depending on where you are measuring from

      Is he nice
      Do kids like him
      is the group growing larger
      what activities are happening

      We let a YP go and did not use any of these measurements.  It created quite a fuss in the church.

      If a pastor is terminated over performance - The performance must be agreed upon before hiring and clear.  There must be reviews and coaching as well.

      If a pastor is terminated over behavior - The behavior needs to be either dismissable immediately (moral failure) If it is patternistic (failure to be coached) then it should be documented as to coaching and process with clear reasons why a pastor is being dismissed.  I believe only the moral failure needs to be addressed with the church. 

      If it is chemistry then I think a warning, coaching and then dismissal is in order with no explanation publicly. 

      Here are a couple rules I live by…  People groups are not as mature and wise as they think they are, and do not process information well.  This is why Gossip is so easily spread. 

      Wanting the best for people whom you terminate should always be a high value.  TMI does not always bring the best. 

      There are also laws that govern what can and cannot be said, you should know them in your state.

    5. Benjer McVeigh on Sat, January 08, 2011

      In most situations, secrecy rarely helps in the termination of a pastor.  Many times, the exact details are kept quiet out of a desire not to embarrass the pastor (if the board is in the right to let the pastor go), but the uncertainty is a breeding ground for division.

    6. A. Amos Love on Sun, January 09, 2011

      Hmmm?

      Any “Pastor/Reverends” fired, or hired, in the Bible? wink

      Can anyone name one person, in the Bible,
      with the “Title” and “Position” of “Today’s” Pastor/Leader?

    7. Peter Hamm on Sun, January 09, 2011

      Amos writes

      [Can anyone name one person, in the Bible,
      with the “Title” and “Position” of “Today’s” Pastor/Leader?]

      Timothy. Titus.

      Your “title-of-pastor-is-easy” diatribe is really old… and unscriptural… and yet you go on…

    8. A. Amos Love on Sun, January 09, 2011

      Hi Peter

      And a happy New Year to you also. Missed ya.

      You gave an answer to the second question but not the first.
      How come?

      And, please help, where does it say, in the Bible, that Timothy and Titus…
      Had the “Title,” or were called, “Pastor/Reverend?”
      Were hired or fired?

      Just checked out the 28 times “Timotheus” and “Timothy” appear in the NT.

      And it seems Paul called Timothy” our brother,” when writing to others.
      and used son, when writing to Timothy. Paul NEVER called him Pastor.

      How do you know Timothy and Titus were “Pastors?”

      And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
      them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice;”
      and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
      John 10:16

      One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.

      {{{{{{  Jesus }}}}}}

    9. Peter Hamm on Sun, January 09, 2011

      Amos,

      There is such a plethora of evidence, especially in the Old Testament, of leaders of God’s people being removed for good reasons that I wisely (I think) ignored that rather ridiculous part of your comments.

      You and I have been here before. You have your own ideas about what Scripture says that I think are so off base that it’s almost embarrassing.

      The church has known (not believed, imho, but KNOWN) for all its history that the letters to Timothy and Titus were “pastoral letters”, letters written to pastors of churches. Only certain people on the extreme fringe like yourself ever question it. You will never change your mind on this, it seems, and will continue to believe that your ideas are scriptural when in reality, they are not. And I don’t think, based on our history here, that engaging you in this debate is really likely to be a good use of our time. (Again, you are not going to change your mind, and the basically the entirety of Christian history backs up my side of this discussion, which you choose, unwisely, to ignore.)

    10. Andy Titus on Mon, January 10, 2011

      Thanks for commenting Ronnie! I’m glad someone that is actually attending GP chimed in.  I have family that attend there and heard what was happening, scarily similar to the situation in the church I attend a few years ago.

      My first thought is that it IS tragic that the paper got involved. The Wichita Eagle is notorious for misquotes, and slanting the story against religious institutions. One reason that I will not subscribe to this paper.

      I find it unfortunate that this was pushed into the open to begin with. GP tried to handle the situation quietly, Biblically, and without harming the church or its reputation in the community (a great reputation by the way). However now that it is out in the open and having been through so many similar things I wish that my church leaders had been more open with what had transpired. It sure would have saved us a lot of HUGE headaches, and helped heal our reputation in the community.

      I’ve personally not been fired from a Church, but I have left churches that I did not agree with the leadership of.  In both cases, I resigned before a real stink was made. I place the church at a higher position than I do my own feelings or need for being right. It is sad that Bryson couldn’t think this in his situation.

      Unfortunately being completely open is neither prudent, or beneficial in most churches. Remember that churches are made of people of varying degrees of spiritual maturity and that there are laws that govern personnel matters so much damage can be done with everyone knowing everything.

      Gracepoint is a good church and I pray that they are able to overcome this situation and keep impacting the Kingdom.

    11. Joshua Sklar on Mon, January 10, 2011

      After moving to a new community and watching the decline of attendance in the church, I knew it was coming.  The numbers were down, the money was down, and the financial lay off was inevitable.  Last guy in, first guy out.  I was laid off over breakfast Monday, packed my office on Thursday, and gone on Sunday.  My wife and I were standing on the platform when the announcement was made. “Josh and his wife are leaving us today.  God is leading them to minister elsewhere…” and so it went.  The announcement made it seem as if we were the ones who had resigned.  I almost got whip lash my head came around so fast when the announcement was phrased that way.  All we could was walk away with our heads held high…

    12. Phillip Maine on Mon, January 10, 2011

      There are only two reasons for firing a pastor.
      1.  Immorality/infidelity
      2.  Doctrinal Heresy
      Any other reason is immoral and a heresy in its action and intent.
      When Jesus brings a man to the “Pulpit,” (my church does not have one) He knows the personality and delivery of the message of this pastor.  When a church dismisses a pastor for other then the two reasons stated above the church is putting itself above Jesus.
      As is the case of my last two churches, most of the time it is because one or two people do not like the pastor and start a gossip rummer mill that brings people to church that had not been in the church in years and sometimes decades to make sure the pastor is gone.  I have a friend of mine that preached in a big church in Texas who was fired.  The controlling board came to him and said, ” We like your sermons, we like your personality, we love the way you serve the people, but you have to go.”  This kind of action is pure evil and comes from the evil one!
      When are we going to start living the Bible and not our selfish desires?

    13. Todd Rhoades on Mon, January 10, 2011

      Phillip,

      I think there are many more reasons to fire a pastor than just Immorality or Heresy.

      Laziness and/or incompetence come to mind to start with.

      Todd

    14. Mark Simpson on Mon, January 10, 2011

      Yes Brent, you are right, the churches I have seen and worked with for over 30 years are horrible at handling these things. My understanding is that a pastor should be dismissed for three reasons: heresy, immorality or negligence.  If they can’t “ante up” and tell this public servant, in public, why he is dismissed, then perhaps they have no Biblical reason for doing it in the first place and they and their church will not prosper.  “He who receives whomever I send, receives Me.” (John 13:20)  Did God send him?  Do we see in how serious danger we are when shipping off someone that God sent?

    15. Phillip Maine on Mon, January 10, 2011

      I am sorry, God already knew the man when he came.  your two reasons are from the Secular mind set.  If a pastor was lazy he would not be a pastor.  As far as incompetence goes, again this is man’s standards not God’s!  To say that God did not know the man when the call was extended is to limit God.
      I have an uncle that was pastor (for the one who does not think pastor is a legit title, Bishop)  He was also bi-vo and worked as a carpenter.  The church hired him to work on the church.  He fell off a ladder and cracked two vertebrae in his back, taking traction and six months to heal.  The church fired him and stopped his insurance.  This is the kind of Bull that goes on inside our churches.  I am sorry the two reasons I stated are the only two that will stand the biblical and therefore Jesus’ test!

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