fire church plant staff

How to Fire Church Plant Staff, part 1

I wish I could say this never comes up, but some of you planters are going to need to know how to fire church plant staff.

fire church plant staff

In my church planting circles there are legendary but true stories about this, like planters having to fire worship leaders 2 weeks before launch. And there are too many mundane stories of planters laying off staff shortly after launch due to lack of funding.

Whatever the reason, when this comes up, planters scramble to figure out how to fire church plant staff. Read these highlights and pray that you won’t need to know this stuff:

Know Why

There are 3 broad categories of why you might need to fire church plant staff:

  1. Gross Misconduct – your staff handbook or HR manual should specify that things like illegal acts, destructive moral failure and divisiveness/insubordination are grounds for immediate dismissal
  2. Poor Performance – this should never be immediate; follow a process to give the employee chances to grow and change
  3. Financial – you may have to decide between bankrupting the congregation and letting staff go

Having a clear ‘why’ will help you communicate that clearly to the staff member and help you keep your resolve when things get emotional.

Follow a Process

Being let go should not ever come as a surprise to the employee:

  • if there’s been gross misconduct, they should fully expect immediate dismissal (even if getting caught is a surprise)
  • for a performance issue, they will have had plenty of opportunity to fix it
  • when there’s a financial reason, you will have already given them a heads up about the financial trajectory (right?); at any rate, the handwriting is usually on the wall

Your processes may look a little different depending on the cause category above, but all 3 should have these things in common:

  • Supporting evidence is collected, documented and prayerfully discerned
  • The decision gets made by the appropriate decision-maker(s) and is bathed in prayer. Even if your Bylaws don’t require you to run this by your Management Team, you’d be foolish not to.
  • That decision is documented and secondary decisions are made (check out Vanderbloemen’s free sample termination form):
    • How much, if any, severance is appropriate (remembering that many churches don’t pay in to unemployment, so they won’t be eligible)
    • Whether or not to continue any other benefits, like health insurance
    • Whether or not to pay for 3rd-party counseling for the employee
  • You call the employee in and communicate the news directly and clearly. Don’t beat around the bush and remember that it’s a person there in front of you, so be full of grace and compassion
  • Collect keys and revoke access to church database, email, social media, etc as appropriate
  • Communicate the news to the church appropriately (more on that next week)

Hopefully your staff handbook/employee manual spells most of this out so, again, there are no surprises. If you don’t have a handbook yet, beg, borrow or steal one. Well, not steal, but make it urgent and important.

Document Everything

And did I say document everything? Get the employee’s signature on the termination/release agreement and keep copies of everything under lock & key for as many as 7 years.

Check back next week for part 2, and may you be spared from all of this.




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