“A change will do you good”
From the song by Sheryl Suzanne Crow, Sheryl Crow, Jeffrey Trott and Brian Mcleod
“…dig up your unplowed ground…”
From Jeremiah 4:3 and Hosea 10:12
I’ve written two posts now on the subject of ill-fitting staff members: church employees who – however gifted and dedicated – never were or no longer are the right persons for their congregation’s needs. See: The Ill-Fitting Staff Member: How This Happens and The Ill-Fitting Staff Member: Four Possible Solutions.
Here’s something I want to emphasize before we go further: It’s not something punitive or cruel to help these folks to see that they are the right people in the wrong positions. It is not abusive to help them move on to positions where they are well-deployed. Walking them to the door can, of course, be done cruelly or crudely, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
While they typically are eased out of their positions amid bitter protestations, they often come to eventually see their “redeployment” (by whatever term it’s called) as a blessing in disguise.
This is review, but here are a few factors these scenarios have in common:
- They develop over time. The increase of the dysfunction, in some cases, is so gradual as to be almost imperceptible.
- Most of these scenarios – to some extent – are the fault of senior pastors who allow them to develop. Some are the result of church boards/councils which will not allow the senior pastor to do what needs to be done.
- Ill-fitting staff member situations are often complicated by the family-functioning of small churches; close ties between these staff members and their church families make it excruciatingly difficult for pastors or boards to take the needed corrective actions.
- Each of them results in financial waste for their churches. (Fear of conflict and pity are poor reasons to retain staff members.)
- Many of these scenarios become painful dilemmas for new leaders who inherit them from former leaders.
Last week I shared four possible solutions to the problem of the ill-fitting staff member:
(1) In the best-case scenario, the ill-fitting staff member realizes – all by himself (or because somebody slipped him these posts) – that he’s a poor fit for the church’s needs. Chances are, this brother or sister has not been having a good time for a while anyway, so with this resignation, everyone wins.
(2) Somebody goes to his brother – as in Matthew 18 or Galatians 6 – and gently confronts him with the fact that his position is wasting the church’s funds and the staff member’s life. Some godly but confused or weak staff members just need a bit of a “shove in the right direction,” or someone to point out what they’ve long suspected. Some staff members labor under the delusion that it’s always wrong to “quit” a position, even if it isn’t working out well for anyone. Some may fear what mom or dad might say.
(3) The staff member is dismissed – “fired” is the non-euphemistic term. In our largest churches this is not scandalous; members expect their churches to be run like businesses, and they are. I think we can safely say that the smaller the congregation the more dangerous it is to the church’s unity to actually dismiss an employee.
(4) Do nothing and hope that these brothers and sisters eventually come around to #1, all by themselves. This is the irresponsible and cowardly approach taken by too many congregations.
Since the ideal solution above, #1, rarely occurs, the best possible solution for many situations looks something like the following:
(5) The ill-fitting staff member is given a fair and realistic “fighting chance” to keep his position. It is left to the employee herself to re-invent or re-deploy herself. Here’s what this can look like:
- The congregation’s leaders agree on their plan in advance, and vow to not “break ranks” when resistance is faced.
- A new job description is drawn up by the senior pastor or some other church leader. The plan is a clear departure from the way in which the staff member is currently serving, but is sufficiently realistic to allow the individual to adapt himself (with the help of God).
- The ill-fitting staff member is presented with the new job description and encouraged to take up to one month to choose whether she wants to go to work at adapting herself or to redeploy herself by resigning and seeking a new position elsewhere.
- Should she take up the challenge of staying and changing, she is promised that she’ll be given several months – a time period agreed upon by the senior pastor and church board/council – to work at adaptation. Every effort will be made by the church to help her succeed. The senior pastor – or other individual to whom she reports – will monitor her progress closely during this probationary period. The ill-fitting staff member is told that she may be asked to resign if she doesn’t display a good attitude or make reasonable progress during this time.
I’ll say it again: For everyone’s sake, for the sake of our churches, for the sake of God’s wonderful Kingdom, we need to deal lovingly and wisely with our ill-fitting staff members.