The guy was really nice and had been on the church staff part time for nine years. However, as the church grew, it was outgrowing his skills and he was no longer effective in his role. It was time for a change. The pastor knew it. The congregation knew it. In his heart, the employee even knew it.
How do you let a faithful employee go? In this case, the issue was complicated by the fact that he had had some personal difficulties over the past year. It would be heartless to kick him while he is down.
Typically, a situation like this is not sudden. It is gradual. You start to get a sense that change is going to be needed but things are not terrible and there are no moral issues so there is not an urgency about things. However, the feeling grows and the longer it takes to address the issue, the more difficult it becomes.
Consider two things when you face a situation like this. First, make it a transition and not a firing. Second, implement a performance review process that keeps skills assessment and ministry needs in front of you on a regular basis.
This issue came on gradually, you can probably gradually take care of it. That is not to say let it go and it will eventually go away. No, you need to address it. But you don’t need to “let the person go.” Most likely you can transition them out over some months. In fact, most likely you have a responsibility to transition them out. It would not honor the person for their faithful service or honor the Lord to simply decide one day that the time has come and terminate the person the next day.
This is a situation that highlights the importance of honest annual reviews and up-to-date job descriptions. The annual review should look at both the past year’s performance and the needs for the coming year. In a growing congregation, needs will change and jobs will grow. The review should address whether the person in the role now is able to grow as the job requirements grow. When the answer is no, an exit strategy should be discussed.
The exit strategy may be implemented over time and does not have to mean terminating employment. If the church is growing, maybe there is another role that would be a better fit. Maybe it does mean termination but with severance and help finding a new job. There are creative and compassionate ways to do this. Don’t wait until a year after you knew it was an issue before you start talking about it.