More Things to Consider Before Firing Your Pastor

My good friend and mentor, Dr. Thom Rainer, recently wrote an excellent article entitled Before You Fire Your Pastor. You can find that article here:
You are likely aware of the research that Dr. Tom Crites and I conducted on what keeps your kids connected to a church into their adult lives. We discovered some issues that overlap with Dr. Rainer’s wisdom that you can find in the book Why They Stay.

It may be that your church is in an avoidable circumstance and that the firing of the pastor is necessary and imminent. You would do well not only to consider if the termination is critically necessary, but also the way you go about it when you take the additional pains to measure the effect on the teens and children in your church. Here are some lessons we learned from our research that should inform your church’s decision and the process:

1. Those who grow up in church and stay as adults are almost twice as likely to be there if they “loved their pastor when they were growing up.” Two issues come to mind as we integrate these subjects. First, if children sincerely love their pastor and he is released without good cause, in their mind, how will it impact their view of the church in the future? Second, if the pastor did make an egregious error that deserves termination and it undermines the respect that the children in the church have for the pastor, how does that affect their view of pastor’s in the future? Bear in mind that a child’s experience with “a pastor” greatly influences their view of “pastors” as they move forward.

2. The more pastors a child has growing up, the more likely they are to be out of church as an adult. The reference here is to senior pastors and not staff members. Our research found no correlation between having one or two (senior) pastors while growing up and the likelihood that that stayed or strayed from church. However, the research indicated that the more pastors one had while growing up (three or more) the more likely they were to be out of church as adults. That indicates a good reason to treat pastors well, coach them up when mistakes are made if they are not issues related to severe moral failure, to stay planted in one church as you raise your children if possible, and to vet pastors well on the front end of the process.

3. The number one self-described reason for dropping out by those who grew up in church was “I had a bad church experience.” I believe we can agree that even when a pastor deserves to be terminated that it causes pain, disillusionment, and likely some turmoil. When you add the uncertainties of adolescence or the lack of perspective of childhood to the equation, the spiritual damage can cut deeply and stifle the spiritual advancement of kids who grow up in church.

For the sake of the kids who grow up in your church:

1. Love your pastor and treat him well.

2. Deal with problems, difficulties, and disagreements head on but as privately as possible.
3. Be cautious of the way you refer to your pastor or pastors in general in front of your children. When you undermine them verbally you may be inadvertently undermining the faith of your children. Please note that I am not suggesting that pastors are above criticism or that issues should not be confronted. However, adult conversations and actions belong in the adult realm. Be cautious with the kids.

4. When and if the termination is unavoidable, think about process, healing, grace, and context as well as the actual immediate action.

Help your children learn to love pastors, to love their pastor, and they are much more likely to be serving Christ into their adult lives. I hope you will check out Why They Stay to learn a whole lot more about what keeps kids connected to a church. If you do, it will help you to maximize your leadership!