Seven Learnings from Lousy Leavings

Seven Learnings from Lousy Leavings
Thomas Thompson
April 12, 2022
min read

Moving someone off church staff stinks.  And yet all pastors have to face it.  I’ve written about ways to make this experience as good as it can be before you fire someone, and once you are actually about to fire someone.  But the challenging truth is this:

You can do everything right, and the leaving can still be lousy.  

Of course, none of us do everything right when someone leaves.  And it is always appropriate to do an After Action Report to honestly assess what you could have done better.  But at the same time, you can move from assessing to obsessing, allowing their lousy leaving to override your trust in the process and your leadership.

If this has ever happened to you, you are not alone.  You are not the only leader who has had to face lousy leavings.  Here are Seven Learnings from Lousy Leavings that help me move forward.

1. When you, the Leader, are closing in on what God has asked you to do, opposition will rise from unexpected places–sometimes from within your own staff.

This does not mean they are wrong, or they are bad. But it does mean you may have to choose between them and the path set before your organization. Remember, having staff leave over philosophical differences is not necessarily a failure, though it may be perceived as such by the congregation.

2. Having a husband and wife on the same staff compromises your ability to lead either one.

When it works, it is fantastic. When it doesn’t, it is fatal. The benefits can blur this reality. Tread lightly before you hire spouses.

3. Deal with staff that have problems with your vision sooner rather than later.

Don't assume they will come around or get on board. You must mine for disagreement with values or vision early.

4. Whenever reducing hours, salary, or even transitioning someone off the team is your idea and not theirs, there will be resentment and challenge.

Even if they seem “fine with it.” Don’t fool yourself that this will go smoothly.

5. How you communicate the decision to terminate is as important as the decision itself.

Consistent with values and your mission, as authentic as possible, and as discreet as needed will be key. Don’t let the story shift and fight the always present “what’s the REAL story” mentality.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” –George Bernard Shaw.

6. Sometimes (often?) your best efforts to be gracious and generous to those departing may be misinterpreted and even used against you—but they are still right to do.

You do the graceful thing because it is who you are and what you value–not for the goodwill it will get you (it will never get you as much as you think).

7. Finally, when all else fails, hold on to this:  People of integrity act, expecting to be believed. When they are not, they trust that time and truth will win the day. Sometimes the only way to endure lousy leavings is to continue to act with integrity, honesty, and openness, and let the chips fall where they may. Learn what you can, change what you must, keep your eyes on the prize and keep moving forward.

Hang in there, pastor. Your church will be better off without them, and they will be better off being in a place where they can joyfully serve the vision and leadership.

I'd love to talk with you more about this. Shoot me an email and let's navigate some of your lousy leavings today.

I founded Thompson Leadership to come alongside leaders like you. Together, we will unpack your unique leadership, unearth your biggest challenge, and create an action plan to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
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