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The Right Way to Let Someone Go

I have a friend who spent eight years here in Austin on part-time staff with a church in their youth program. He invested himself in caring for students and worked with the church’s three full time student pastors helping them with the transitions and creating balance for the kids in the interim. He was the program and relational glue in ways that can’t be expressed in words.

They asked him to stay on one more year until they could find another youth leader for their program. Once they settled in on a candidate they gave him leave and chose to let go of him. Before he left they told him that they wanted to celebrate his ministry and throw a party for him with the leaders and kids. On his last night there nothing happened. They didn’t even say goodbye. He executed the event and then just got in his ride and left. No thank you, no prayer, nothing. 

It’s not that he needed the blessing or acknowledgment. He never pushed through all of the changes for anything in return. I’m not even writing this because he is upset about it. I just feel, from the outside looking in, a sense of obligation to recognize the injustice and influence the culture so that if you’re reading this you come to absorb how destructive this is to your organization’s integrity and pause to think. 

This kind of misstep communicates that you see people as cogs in a system and when they have served their purpose they are simply replaced. The machine moves on and everyone internally realizes that their value is marginal. For the hundreds of students who connected with this leader and experienced life giving relational growth because of God working through him, they will now be scratching their heads next week asking themselves where he is. 

Through conversations, calls, and Facebook posts they will eventually get the idea that, “Oh, he’s gone. What? We won’t see him in the program anymore. We didn’t even say goodbye.” Of the current students some will be upset while others are indifferent. But for those who really care like the families and leaders who served with him it will be seen as an unhealthy way to end an extremely life giving healthy experience. 

If you find yourself in this kind of moment please do the right thing. Stop just long enough to ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated? What message do I want to send the community I care for? How might this moment be used to pave the right message to the future of the program and to those who have been a part of it?” 

At the present, unless someone does something, it simply looks like an organization that used this person until they were finished and then strung them along so they wouldn’t have to deal with the effects of the void. This is old school bush league leadership. 

Don’t do this as a leader. No more amateur hour. Please.

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Chad Swanzy has served in youth ministry for 15 years and currently works as the student ministry director at Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas. Learn more from Chad and ask him your questions at ChadSwanzy.com.