How Ministers Get Fired


Actually ministers seldom get a pink slip.  The church is not like a large company that lays off 10% of its people one Friday to balance their budget.  Working for the church is more like being in a family.  Since it is more like a family “getting fired” is more like a divorce than a job action. It is a far more personal.    So how do ministers and church leaders get fired?


1. They get “voted out.”

Churches with congregational forms of government “vote” on their ministers.   Sometimes it is the entire congregation, or sometimes the local church board votes.  Ministers in churches with voting systems like this have a lot in common with politicians—the constituents they lead can fire them with a “bad vote.”  Denominational and seminary leaders can face similar votes too every several years, plus sometimes they face “votes of no-confidence” between these terms or a crisis can arise as a result of an “annual evaluation” that goes south.


2. Sometimes they are pressured out.

While a 51% vote may be all it takes to survive in a church or board vote, for all practical purposes a minister or leader can be pressured out by getting anything less than a 75% majority.  IN some institutions a dedicated 10% group can get rid of a leader. When division comes people say, “Woahthat many people want to get rid of our leader?” 


3. Staff level people are often “asked to resign.”

If you are not the top leader you may not face a vote or firing but might be asked to resign. This is a way to get fired quietly—through pressuring you to submit a resignation letter that saves everyone else being labeled bad for firing you.  Most staff pastors lose their job in a predictable sequence:


Staff people often claim “I was blind-sided completely” when asked to resign.  They just can’t believe it!  They often say something like, “Things were going great and I was doing great—sure there were a few little things, but over all I was doing a great job.”   However, the church leaders and senior pastor will claim in those same situations, “I tried to signal them but they just wouldn’t listen.”  Veteran ministers know how this happens, of course—communication in the church is so obtuse and oblique that seldom is correction given to staff people in the blunt or direct formats a younger staff person “counts” as a warning.  Most staff ministers don’t get fired outright—they are asked to resign.


So, how to leave when they fire you? {click for article}



Originally published 2002; updated October 24, 2006 Keith Drury