Ten Common Responses from Fired Pastors

In over 30 years of vocational ministry, I have had conversations with hundreds of fired pastors. I have listened to them. I have prayed with them. On occasion, I have wept with them.

While every situation has its unique elements, I see many commonalities in pastoral terminations. Without getting into the specifics of the dismissal and the reasons these pastors were fired, look at these common responses we hear from them. Indeed, these comments and patterns are sadly predictable.

  1. “I didn’t see it coming.” Not only do many of the pastors comment they received no reviews or anything in writing, many of them tell us they never heard any hint their job was in jeopardy.
  2. “No one gave me a reason for my firing.” Though this comment may seem unfathomable, it is commonly true. Pastors are often dismissed without any reasons. They are then told not to say a word if they want a severance.
  3. “No one asked for my perspective.” Countless personnel committees and similar groups fire someone because of comments they hear from others. They have no desire to hear the other side of the story.
  4. “A power group pushed me out.” This reason often explains the third response. The perspective of the power group or the bully is the only one they hear.
  5. “A staff member (or members) pushed me out.” In one case, the executive pastor was actually on the personnel committee and conspired to force the pastor out. Of course, the personnel committee did not hear the other side of the story, or they would have likely fired the executive pastor.
  6. “My family is devastated.” Many spouses and children are scarred for life from these experiences. And many never return to church.
  7. “The severance was small.” Unfortunately, these types of churches are not typically known for their grace or generosity.
  8. “I can never return to pastoral ministry.” Some pastors do change their minds years later and return. Many never do. Many will not return because their families are unable to move back into the fish bowl.
  9. “I should have never followed a long-term pastor.” The unfortunate label of “unintentional interim” falls on a number of pastors who follow a long-term pastor. The successor just can’t measure up.
  10. “Secular employers are kinder and show more grace.” In too many cases, this reality is sadly true.

I recently spoke with a pastor who said six of these comments within ten minutes of our conversation. Pastoral termination is far too common today. Pastoral termination without cause, explanation, and grace is simply not acceptable and not the path Christ would have us walk.

Posted on June 5, 2019


With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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153 Comments

  • Thank you so much for this information, this really helped my husband who was let go from his job as an assistant pastor, and is grieving about it. says on

    Thank you so much for this information, this really helped my husband who was let go from his job as an assistant pastor, and is grieving about it.

  • Maybelline sturdivant says on

    I thought I could bring in a campus pastor as I prepare to retire. The person isn’t a fit for the ministry. How do I relay that to the pastor their service is not needed any longer? It’s only been 90 days but communication is bad between the two of us.

  • I have a been Southern Baptist Pastor for the past 36 years. I am the president of a new ministry entitled Still Waters Renewal. We operate out of Moro Bay State Park in Southern Arkansas. We provide an opportunity for pastors (present and former) along with church leaders to spend 6 days and 5 nights at Moro Bay. We have a workbook called, “Wounded Church Leaders and the Path to Recovery.” This is a faith ministry which means we offer this ministry at no cost to the participants. However, space is limited to four families each month. Stillwatersrenewal.com

  • Have any scripture to back up your rhetoric?

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