Six Considerations Before You Fire Your Pastor This Christmas

December 10, 2018

Am I the Grinch trying to steal Christmas?

No way. Bah. Humbug.

I simply want to uncover a dark reality of which many church members have little knowledge: many pastors are being fired this Christmas season.

I know. I see it every year. I deal with it every year.

To be clear, I cannot be certain pastor terminations accelerate at Christmas. Perhaps the numbers seem high since the timing is so insidious. Regardless, these considerations apply regardless of the time of year.

  1. Many pastor firings occur because one or a few malcontents are spreading rumors. Please check the sources of these rumors. Please ask people other than the malcontents and bullies.
  2. A number of pastor firings occur due to underhanded actions by other staff. I know of one situation where the executive pastor did not like the leadership of the pastor, so he worked in darkness with the personnel committee to get the pastor fired. The personnel committee never asked for the pastor’s side of the conflict.
  3. Many pastors are fired without any explanation. I am surprised how often this reality transpires. Typically, the personnel committee or similar group tells the pastors they will not get a severance if they challenge them or question them.
  4. Very few pastors get adequate severance when they are fired. It typically takes several months for a pastor to find a job. Severance often runs out before then.
  5. Your church is labeled as a “preacher-eating” church. Your church’s reputation and witness are hurt in the community. You will wonder why other pastors decline to interview for the open position. They know. They’ve heard what you did.
  6. If you had been willing to be patient and Christ-like, pastors would likely seek another job without your firing them. If you let pastors know their job is in jeopardy and give them six to nine months to find another position, many will do so. Pastors can always find another church much easier if they have a church. And the church avoids the pain, conflict, and dirtied reputation that comes with firing a pastor.

So why did I write this article in the midst of the Christmas season? The answer is simple. I am working with three pastors who have been terminated almost identically as the points I noted above. I don’t want to rain on your Christmas parade, but these three families are already hurting deeply. I wanted you to hear the other side of the story.

Let me hear from you.

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  • Jeff Jones says on

    Thom, you are right on point. I have experienced all of that and yes most of the time it boils down to rumors, lies and what “they” are saying (who ever they are). I feel like these problems mostly come from just religious church people who are often the majority not born again believers. There is a huge difference between the two groups!

    • Jeff Jones

      You say it all when you say, “…these problems mostly come from just religious church people who are often the majority not born again believers.”

      It’s a fact

  • I am grateful for people like you Thom and organizations like the one you have that help pastors work through these problems. God bless you and the people you work with!

  • How can I have an offline conversation with Dr Rainer about this article and the previous one about Warning Signs Of Spiritual Abuse?

  • Hello … I’m Anderson. I am still a Reverend but not a pastor, I lost the post but not yet the patent. I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church here in Brazil.
    I have seen many cases like this here. The ‘churchowners’ make the shepherds as the floor cloth. Many pastors have gone to the point of committing suicide. 15 days ago one took his own life here. It was from the Assembly of God, but this also happens with Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc …
    Unfortunately, both here and in the US pastors are being discarded as old Christmas decorations.
    I have been without effective work for 2 years. All because of these things said in the text in question.
    They are submerged rocks, people who act like pastors or anyone else are not Christians, they are wicked, their evil fruits prove it.
    Unfortunately, even other pastors do not take care of one another. They omit themselves, they see the face. But omission is also sin.
    I am no longer able to return to full-time work. Maybe as a part-time helper.
    We are trying to implement a chaplaincy work in the State Police where we live (among them there are also many cases of suicide).
    We are abandoned by our denomination and for 2 years we have waited for justice. Both of God and men.
    O We were defrauded by the church and the presbytery in a large sum, something around $ 22,000.
    We are in a very bad situation today. And the denomination does not care, with nothing, nor with anyone, only in maintaining the current status.
    I’m afraid. Pray for me. Depression on the rise.
    Embrace all, God bless and care for each of the brothers.
    Rev. Anderson / Brazil

  • Everyone needs to be reminded as to whose church it is. One day we will all stand before the Lord and Head of His church. Do we really want Him to say to us, “and you did what to my church?”

  • I’ve lived through this. Im praying that these pastors transition quickly to healthy and loving churches quickly!!

  • Philip Holmes says on

    I’ve been “pressured to resign” in the past. It was the most heart-wrenching experience for my children, my wife, and for me! The body of Christ was hijacked by a few people, but the body didn’t stand up to refuse their behavior. However, the Lord was faithful in His care over us. It took my children a long time to attend church again (they were in college at the time). Although Jesus healed our wounds, the scars are still there after 9 years.

  • Timothy Ferguson says on

    This is the beauty of Presbyterianism; your church can’t fire you. The matter must go to your presbytery and any issues are properly addressed along with the malcontents.

    • Hello Timothy Ferguson

      In fact, in Presbyterianism they can not deminer (although this is happening in Brazil, through coercion and pressure to the pastors, so that they apply for a valid license for two years and at the end of it, be exonerated if they do not find a church , All giving an appearance that the guilt is of the exonerate, when in reality in many cases it is not, since presbyterian president and other pastors persecute them and spread lies making it impossible for him to get a placement.
      In the presbyterian, they can still kill us by segregation, by the lethargy of ecclesiastical processes (late justice is not justice, it is punishment), ecclesiastical segregation, nonpayment of values ​​due to marriages ruin and suicide. And finally we starve ourselves, because many steal us final damages and stay for it.
      My case is 2 years old, and nothing has been done. I was assaulted and slandered by those who were to water to curb such acts of ‘local churchowners’ against the pastor.
      Anyway, I’m a Presbyterian and this comes from my great-grandparents.
      Resign not, but execrate it and torture them until you do something or say something after hours of torture, this happens yes.
      God bless…

      Rev. Anderson / Brazil

    • Never say never; never say can’t. There are ways to effectively fire a pastor in the Presbyterian, as well as Episcopal Church (my denomination). Please don’t think for one moment that, given the desire, your church could not fire you. They can, and in the process make your life a mess.

    • It happened to me in a Presbyterian context. There might be a few more safety nets, but it still happens. I think it has more to do with healthy leadership than denominational safeguards and polity.

  • The problems with the powerful family I was dealing with as pastor had been building for nearly 2 years in secret – and we had been in Christian mediation earlier that year – but it had grown quiet in the fall.

    With the beginning of December, a new onslaught started, including threats if I did not “repent” of my behavior (our refusal to let this family have access to our underage children who were friends with their grandchild) and the demand for a personal inventory of my own job performance that would be discussed in a meeting on December 21.

    I chose to resign without having another position rather than put the church through the ringer… and ending up not returning to full-time ministry. (That was six years ago.)

    I believe God was and is watching over myself & my family – but I resonate with this article more than I can express.

    Lay leadership of churches… please be aware that the most powerful families in your churches can do much good – but by allowing them to occupy a number key leadership positions, it can become a toxic situation if they choose an unwise and/or un-Biblical course of action. Your role is to speak truth to power – and to make sure that pastors and other leaders are not pushed aside in power struggles.

  • Lorie Keene says on

    Dear Dr. Rainer,
    As the wife of a current Senior Pastor who was in other staff positions for years, I have had a unique perspective to which view some “senior pastors who have issues.”
    I, personally, also hold two separate seminary degrees. This is mentioned, only to say, that beyond personal ministry experience, I also have the same theological training as most senior pastors.
    Although, I do realize that there are some truly legitimate cases where a church body simply, cruelt “eats a pastor”. This is a sad phenomenon that I most recently witnessed through the disturbing actions of my home church (childhood church).
    However, I have also witnessed….both personally witnessed and through the experience of other seminary friends in second level chair staff positions…multiple episodes of a senior pastor “eating staff.” Typically, this occurs from a senior pastor who has never held any other staff position and therefore has never had to be subject to a sr pastor before.
    Yes, they (and I am clearly stating the senior pastor here) will be the very ones who start degrading their own staff in the eyes of their deacon body or church members.
    I’ve had one senior pastor tell me very clearly that he “only has to keep a couple of his key leaders in the loop of what he wants and they will allow him to do whatever he desires because that’s how much they trust his leadership.” I have been directly impacted by a senior pastor who admitted to his staff that he had severe anger issues and “needed therapy.” Yet, due to his insecurity, he systematically collected whom he valued as the “deep pockets” of the church and told staff that if they do not leave without causing him any problems on the way out that these alleged “deep pockets” would leave the church and thus, these staff members would be responsible for the financial decline of the church budget.
    I could go on and on. And if you ever need/want first hand experience of what it is unfortunately like at times to be a staff in our SBC churches, I am willing to answer your questions.
    One of the most important decisions that my husband and i both made upon his entrance into a senior pastorate was not to replicate the path paved behind us. Although we would never wish it upon others, through varied conversations with trusted and trained friends, we know that we are sadly not unique. However, we will, by Gods grace, be a pastor and wife, who does not repeat such actions. How? By simply valuing those who serve among you and respecting all staff as not only “your staff” but more so as your brothers or sisters in Christ.

    • Yes, Lorie. You are right. I have also written about these toxic leaders. This article, however, focuses on pastors who were fired without a biblical process.

      • Dr. Rainer, I wrote a DMIN through SWBTS in 2016 that surveyed the entire SBC. We received over 300 surveys from Staff, Deacons, AMDs and Congregation members.

        The issue of what I call “unbiblical termination” is an epidemic in our convention and in my opinion is one of the primary reasons for our decline.

        What we discovered was that the office of deacon was primarily responsible for violating 2 Timothy 5:19 repeatedly and that most of the firings were done under the guise of “autonomy.”

        It is very, very hard to get anyone interested in helping to curve this epidemic because most people only want to focus on the “positive aspect of ministry,” which is interesting to me because most of the NT epistles were corrective in nature.

      • Great thoughts, Shelby.

      • Shelby,

        Is your project available to be shared? I would be very interested in reading it!

      • Shelby I am so thankful that you brought up autonomy. I am a SBC pastor and I believe autonomy was taken to extremes that may have not been biblical. Paul still had a voice of edification and correction in the churches he was affiliated with. Even the ones that financially supported him. Our SBC leaders will not even begin to step in to help with a sinful leadership issue. Because they have been taught autonomy to the tenth degree and most know that the pastor want last long and the money givers will.

  • Doug Crawford says on

    While this hasn’t been something I’ve experienced, do many pastors get fired this time of year because of budget constraints? Looking at the year-end numbers and making a budget-driven decision. The largest parts of a budget are staff, missions, and building. And budget cuts usually work in that order.

  • Ralph Wooten says on

    Sad. Been in a similar situation before. Pastors, y’all take care of yourself and each other.

      • Larry Pruitt says on

        The smoother the transition the better for all concerned. We all need to be Christ like in every aspect of our lives.

    • Stan Guess says on

      Firing God’s anointed for anything other than ethics or morality is a very very very dangerous thing to do. I have witnessed it and I seen very bad things happen to lay people who pushed or led efforts to remove pastors.

    • Terry Young says on

      I am working right now with a recently fired Pastor and #1 to #3 are in play. Very sad!

    • Pastor David G. Hill says on

      Maybe our focus in the next article should be on the fired pastor’s reaction to an unjust dismissal. Forgiveness, anger, remorse, revenge, self-pity, etc are serious concerns. There is a good ministry to be enjoyed for those who respond biblically. Even through this we are to be examples of the believer.

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