I was talking with a pastor recently regarding the need to end the employment of his youth pastor. The senior pastor had inherited the youth guy when he started at the church and had done everything he could to coach and mentor him toward ministry success. Unfortunately, it became clear to everybody except the youth pastor that it was not the right fit. A transition needed to take place.
The senior had carefully documented his conversations with the youth pastor. In a variety of ways he had tried to help him understand and take the steps necessary to build a strong volunteer team and a disciple making youth group. Nevertheless, after more than a year, the ministry was losing ground and volunteers were discouraged and dwindling. The pastor had on a couple of occasions asked the youth pastor directly if he thought this was his calling and had said that it might not work out with the church. But the youth pastor could not see it.
The elders were in agreement that it was time to make a change. A question the pastor asked me was, if they were asking the guy to leave, would it be playing games to ask for a resignation and call it a resignation, or should they just call it what it was and fire the guy? I don’t know the Greek word for firing, but if that’s what it was going to be, that’s what it should be called, and I appreciated the pastor’s desire for integrity and not trying to dress up an ugly picture in dishonest words.
My encouragement was that they did not need to fire the guy. Yes, a transition was needed. No question the guy had to be removed from his role. However, before firing, I suggested that the conversation about ministry fit and gifting get very direct. With the youth pastor’s lack of self-awareness, he was unable to see the ministry crumbling around him and assumed that it was God’s will for him to be there simply because he was.
The time for asking whether the youth pastor thought he was called was past. It was time to speak the truth clearly. It was time to communicate that the elders were in agreement that the youth pastor’s gifts were not a good fit for the role that he held. It was time to shepherd him with the rod and staff that give clear direction. The hope would be that this clear and direct communication would allow this well-meaning but wrongly placed brother to see that he was not being effective and needed to step away from his role.
If this direct but kind shepherding was done well, perhaps the youth minister’s eyes would open and he would choose to hand in his resignation. In that situation, the resignation would be legitimate and the transition could be communicated to the congregation as a resignation. However, if the youth pastor refused to accept this direction, he would still need to be dismissed – yes, fired.
Firing is sometimes necessary, and when it is, it should not be presented as something different. On the other hand, if the need for change is the result of a good person being in the wrong position, leading them to see that reality and guiding them to a mutually agreeable resignation and transition is best for all and honors the staff person and the Lord.