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Too Toxic to Keep, Too Popular to Fire: What to Do About That Difficult Staff Member

Make sure you do all you can to give the targeted staff member guidance, support, and room to do his job.

Document each step you take, each conversation you have, every attempt you make to salvage the relationship and redeem the ministry.

When conditions become so critical you dare not allow the status quo to continue—you make the decision.  You are the pastor.

To make the decision, you will have to consider all your options and weigh the cost of each one.  For that, you need good advisors, competent assistants, and responsible team members.

Do not blame anyone for the decision you alone are making.  I cannot tell you the times terminated staffers have told me that in firing them, the  pastor said, “I didn’t want to do this, but the leaders are headstrong.”  That is so cowardly.  If you are being pressured to terminate a staff member but you disagree, hold your ground.

There will be a cost, no matter what you do. 

If you terminate a popular staff member, even if you explain the reasons and document the dysfunctionality of his work, to a large segment of the congregation nothing will matter other than their devotion to the man.  So, do not be surprised when a portion of the membership does unreasonable and unthinking things.  (My wife said to me after just such an event, “Joe, get real.  You want to fire a man and have him like it.” I had to admit she was right.  Thereafter, the ousted staff member’s anger did not bother me so much.)

There is always a price to be paid for leadership, the cost of being the episcopos, the overseer.  The good shepherd gives his life—if necessary—for the sheep.  The hireling flees, because he does not care about the sheep.  (John 10)

Be courageous, friend.  Go back and reread Matthew 10:16-42 and remind yourself why the Lord has to draft people into the ministry.  Be strong.

Do the right thing, then love your enemies (that would be Luke 6:27), and leave the rest to the Lord.

This article originally appeared here.

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.