Tim is a preacher and has been working with a congregation for a few months. Things seem a little bumpy so the elders call him in for a meeting. They lay out things they would like to see improved. Tim ignores them and continues doing what he's been doing. Tim is later fired.
Ryan is a youth minister and has been working with a congregation for years. One day Ryan does something incredibly dangerous and irresponsible with the youth. The elders fire Ryan.
George has been working with a congregation and has been one of their ministers for a few months. Things seem to be going well until one day the elders meet with him and tell him "things aren't working out". George is without a job.
Aaron has been working with a congregation and has been one of the ministers for years. One day the elders meet with him and say, "We're taking this congregation in a different direction that doesn't involve you". Aaron is now looking for a new job.
You've been fired. It can happen to anyone. Whether it is because of unfulfilled responsibilities, bad mistakes, or even a complete blindside, you now find yourself in a difficult situation. How are you suppose to react? What should you say? What should you do? Whether you feel mistreated or understand the legitimacy of the firing, the response should be the same.
Remember Who You Represent
You are a Christian first. You represent Christ and His church. Do not act in a way that will reflect poorly on Christ or His church. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children”. After being fired, it is easy to become self focused. It is easy to become bitter and angry. Christ suffered more than we can ever imagine, but he always did the will of the Father. We must do the same. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
Don't Stop Serving the Flock
One of your primary jobs as a minister is to serve the church. We are a minister of the Lord and His church, after all. Serving the church means serving people. 1 Peter 2:21 tells us we should follow in the footsteps of Christ. Christ said that he came to serve, not be served (Mark 10:45). We must do the same. No matter how hurt we may be, we must continue to serve.
Work In A Way So That When You Leave They Wish They Never Asked You To Leave
When I was fired, I was hurt. I luckily have surrounded myself with mentors who are much wiser than myself. One of them told me this. Too often, after being given a time frame to find other employment (often fulfilling terms specified in a contract) the minister will throw his hands in the air and say, "Forget this". He will begin to ignore most if not all his responsibilities, further damaging his relationship with the leadership and the congregation. Instead, strive to fulfill ALL responsibilities showing them what kind of man you are--a man of God. When it comes time for you to leave, you will leave on a positive note.
Evaluate All Criticism
Listening to criticism without being defensive can be very difficult. Sometimes it isn’t until after we are fired that we evaluate “were they really right?” or “was there anything I could have done differently?”. Assuming we were given criticism, evaluate all criticism. Solomon once wisely wrote, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). We will always have areas in which we can grow. It is up to us if we chose to use our situation to grow and become a more effective servant or to be stubborn and become a more ineffective servant.
While we must be able to improve our weaknesses, some criticism will be just that—criticism. Some will be untruthful, some will be personality preferences, some will be things we should not change (doctrinal, ethical, and moral convictions). We must have the maturity to determine which criticisms fit under this category. Once we have determined those, we must ignore them. If we focus on things we cannot change, if we focus on the “noise” it will just make us more miserable, bitter, and angry.
Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Joy
Being a minister is the best job in the world. The joy we have from being a minister of the Lord is indescribable. With that being said, burn out is a real obstacle for many ministers. When a minister has been fired the road to burn out becomes much easier. I remember when I was fired, I was on the verge of burn out. I was hurt, scared, and knew moving would be difficult on my family. My father told me over and over, “Don’t let anyone steal your joy”. He reminded me to hold on to the joy I found in ministry, to hold on to the joy I found serving the kingdom. I am reminded of the wise words found in Nehemiah 8 “…the joy of the LORD will be your strength”. James said for us to "count it all joy, my brothers, when we meet trials of various kinds". I know he wasn't referring to being fired, but no one can know the pain that comes from being fired until they are fired. It is truly a difficult trial. I am also reminded that no matter what we are to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). If we can do this, our faith in God and dependence on Him will be strengthened like never before.
When I was fired it meant moving away from a town my wife and I had grown to call home. It meant moving away from friends we had grown to love. We were scared. We didn’t know what would happen next. We didn’t know where we would go. We didn’t know what the future would hold. This is what is different about being fired as a minister. We are almost always forced to move away, pick up all roots we had put down, and try to find a new place to call home. It was a whirlwind, at least, until I remembered the words in Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding”. I remembered that God was in control. I remembered that with one door closing, another door would open. Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34 provide comfort when He tells us to not be anxious about our life because God will take care of us. Nothing was more comforting than knowing the God of the universe loves me and will always take care of me.
In closing, no one enjoys what surrounds a firing. Don’t contribute to drama that will likely follow. Instead, exemplify Christ.
Being fired is never something I would wish on anyone. However, if you are fired in the future or have been fired (currently or in the past) I hope these are things you keep in mind. These are things I had to learn. I’m not claiming to have done these things perfectly. In fact, I’m pretty sure I did not do these things perfectly. What I can say is, once I started focusing on God and not “how terrible of a thing I was going through” it became a lot easier to work through.
If you are a member at a congregation where a minister has been fired, please know he is hurting. Be patient with him. His world has just been turned upside down. He will need prayers. He will need a friend. He will need encouragement.
With the love of Christ,
A Minister of the Lord.
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