Fired. Separation. Forced resignation. Regardless of how you say it, it means the same thing. You once worked at a church. Now, suddenly, you don’t.
If you find yourself in your supervisor’s office and the HR director unexpectedly joins you, your heart will start to pound, you’ll feel flushed, and you’ll soon realize your time at the church has come to an end.
Typically, reasons are given. You’ll probably disagree with most of them. Other times the much more ambiguous “no longer a good fit” explanation is offered. That’s just confusing.
Being let go from a church is probably one of the most traumatic and painful things a Pastor can go through. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll undoubtedly wrestle with the financial strain of losing your job. You’ll physically feel the added stress on your marriage. You’ll undoubtedly question your role as a Pastor and your call to ministry.
These things probably will happen. I’ve wrestled with them all. More than I want to admit. Countless hours of therapy and seasons of self-reflection have helped, but by no means are a quick answer. It’s a long process. Real long. And it’s painful. Real painful.
Typically, there are no easy answers. I hope you never have to go through it, but if you do, here are three questions you may need to contemplate, but will not likely find answers for.
Is this ultimately a good thing?
Determining the “goodness” or “badness” of being let go from a church often depends on one’s perspective. For the one being fired, it’s most likely a bad thing. You lost your job and your ministry. However, for the church, it’s probably a good thing. Now they can move on and accomplish their mission more effectively.
But here’s where it gets tricky. What seems bad from one person’s viewpoint can be good from another’s perspective. The bad experience of losing your job is often directly tied to the good experience of your replacement getting a new job. The heartbreak of you not being around at church anymore may be a joyful reality for your spouse and children who now get to spend more time with you.
God is all seeing. We are not. We don’t understand the big picture. God does. That’s why asking, “Is this ultimately good?” is a non-answerable question.
Is this God’s will?
Again, this is a tough one. When your supervisor and HR Director use language like, “We’ve really prayed and feel God is guiding us in the decision to release you,” or “We believe this is God’s plan and it will ultimately work out for good,” and then quote Jeremiah 29:11, it messes with your mind.
You’ll most likely think it was God’s will for you to minister at the church. Your supervisor has determined God’s will to be the exact opposite. Did God’s will change? Does the person higher up in authority on the organizational chart always interpret God’s will better than their subordinates? Are you less spiritually attuned than your supervisor?
Again, go ahead and think about these questions, but you won’t find satisfying answers. You’ll need to learn to live in that tension.
What’s the appropriate response?
How you feel like reacting and how you actually react may be very different. Your emotions will probably waver from trust, acceptance and reliance, to anger, fear and vengefulness. These feelings may shift from one side of the spectrum to the other quickly, and without warning.
If you hold back your true emotions, is that being inauthentic? Is it ok to express your real feelings? To whom?
Determining the “appropriate” response to being fired is another perplexing predicament without a clear resolution. Just be honest with God and acknowledge your genuine feelings. God knows. And He still loves you.
Even though these three questions will likely not yield satisfying answers, wrestling with them is part of the “moving on” process. Don’t expect to get clear answers or figure it all out. You probably won’t. Nevertheless, maintain your integrity. Lean in to God. And remember, “God is closely watching you, and he weighs carefully everything you do.” (Proverbs 5:21 LB). Nothing that happens to you, even being fired, is outside of God’s loving and watchful eyes.