Monday, August 2, 2010

Forced Terminations

by Rowland Croucher and others July 2, 2003
"It was to have been a prayer service and routine business meeting at the church in North Carolina where John (not his real name) served as pastor. But no sooner had the business meeting been called to order than a member of the congregation asked the pastor and his wife to leave the sanctuary while a sensitive matter was discussed.
Two hours later, John was informed that his tenure as pastor had been terminated, effective immediately. No charges had been brought against John’s character or doctrine, but he was not to go on the church property unless accompanied by one of the trustees. He would be given one month’s salary. The action by which John was terminated ignored the church’s constitution and bylaws.
Mark (Not his real name) endured the trauma of a volatile quarterly business meeting which focused on his effectiveness as pastor of the Virginia church he had served for five years. He and his wife were asked to leave the meeting and they waited in his study for two hours without an opportunity to respond to any statements made against his ministry.
Although he was not fired that night. Mark was told to look for another position immediately. The opposition, though a minority, let him know they would not give him long. The future of his ministry was thrust into uncertainty.
In an ideal world, the ‘marriage’ of church and pastor ought to be ‘for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer’. But we do not live in an ideal world. Sometimes divorce is the only option when this important relationship breaks down.
Today, it’s both easier and harder to be a pastor – and indeed any sort of church leader. It is easier for pastors because there are so many resources available to help him/her do a professional job. (See for example, ‘The Professional Pastor’ in Paul Beasley-Murray’s ‘A Call to Excellence’ , Hodder & Stoughton, 1995). But it’s harder for both pastors and church leaders primarily because churches are becoming more specific in their performance-expectations of their pastor, and more likely to initiate a termination if the pastor doesn’t meet those expectations. In a world of ‘performance standards’ or even ‘downsizing’, executives these days are disposable.
The key question we want to look at here is not whether that ought or ought not to happen, but _how_, given that the church is, theoretically, a Christian not-for-profit organization of volunteers. These factors add dimensions which make the whole issue very complex.
Of course, it’s very painful for both church and pastor – and the pastor’s family – when a pastor is ‘fired’, or ‘let go’. No one wins when a church feels forced to terminate the services of a minister or staff member. In many instances, not all church members favor the action or the process and tempers flare and often times a church split results. If forced terminations become the “norm” for a church, there is negative witness in the community, and sometimes that church gets a ‘name’ for crucifying its pastors. Pastoral associations have been known to formally or informally ‘black-list’ a church that gets this kind of reputation, and that church may find it difficult to find a suitable pastor."

No comments: