Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

How to dismiss a worker
in church?

QUESTION:

How do you biblically dismiss a worker from service not church, just his/her position in a department and should it be in front of others or behind closed doors.  How do you avoid humiliation or embarrassment if the problem is a commitment issue?

RC, United States

ANSWER:

RC:

Thanks for stopping by the site. You ask a good question. I don’t know if I can answer it with precision, because I don’t know all the details. Even if I had all the details, I am not sure I could come up with the best answer. Consequently, let me suggest some principles you may want to follow. You say the problem is a “commitment” problem. That must mean it is something other than a sin problem. They just don’t want to show up on a regular basis to teach their Sunday school class – or something like that.

1. Your question deals more with how to resolve conflict. I am probably too bold here, but I would suggest that you get my book on conflict management. You can get the paperback edition at Amazon.com, or the ebook edition on this website. Just go to the ebook section on the Bible teaching about.com website.

2. God has given us all spiritual gifts to serve Him, and we are expected to serve. Therefore, the person you refer to also has a gift and an expectation to serve. However, they might be in the wrong place with the wrong position, and that brings out minimal commitment. If this is the case, the leader can talk to them, privately, and try to find out what excites them, and what they would rather do. In other words, promote them to a position that better fits their talents and interests. 

3. You (or, the leader) can make the person feel special and important in their role. For example, go to the person and communicate that their position is vital and valuable to the program, and they have an important responsibility. You are all working for God. Then, the leader could ask them how they (the leader) can help the person do an even better job by being on time, preparing better, etc. This speaks to motivation.

4. Give people an opportunity to save face. You are very sensitive, and I applaud you in not wanting to humiliate the person.  You are correct in keeping the issue private. Otherwise, you may stir up a hornet’s nest in the congregation by making a public issue of it. People will take sides and conflict will rise. That distracts from the work of Christ.

5. Here is another part of the balancing act. In the church you want excellence. Quality attracts people, and it shows how much people are committed to Christ. On the other hand, church programs are made for people; people are not made for programs in the church. What I mean is that sometimes leaders think that having a great program is the most important thing. However, church programs are vehicles to develop the gifts and talents of people. Consequently, we have to give people a chance to make mistakes and learn. In other words, people are more important than programs.

6. To expand on what I have just said, don’t just let the person dangle there in failure and be the subject of gossip. Move in and help them; teach them to do an even better job. If in the process, they don’t improve, or show any more interest, then they may decide on themselves to quit the position.  That is better than having to push them out. Genuinely help them find their niche. Another thing is to provide a training experience for them. Send, or take them to a seminar.

7. There are so many variables to consider. Here is another. It depends on who the person is, and their relationship to important others in the church. For example, if the program is the public music program, and the problem person is the daughter of the pastor or a powerful leader in the church, then it will make it very difficult to deal with. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we cannot do much about it. In those cases, we can either quit, or do our own part with a good attitude.

8. Here is something else to consider. The problem might not be a character fault in the person, but the life circumstances the person is experiencing. Perhaps they are working two jobs which drain them of energy. Maybe there are family problems or health problems that distract the person.  There may be something that has them terribly discouraged. Try to see the world from their point of view, and that will help you better approach the problem. 

9. Another principle is this. If you want to bring out the best in people, then praise and recognize those good things you see in a person. If you want to bring out the worst in people, then constantly point out the faults of the person. In your case, look for, point out, and praise those good qualities and abilities you see in the person. That encouragement may cause them to blossom and become energized. By doing this, you are also helping the person discover their own gifts and abilities, which may be something other than the position they presently have.

10. Here is another consideration. If it is a real sin problem, then the formula of Matthew 18:15-20) will work. In this case, make sure that it is a genuine sin that is involved, and make sure the case is well documented.

11. Another idea is to be sure give due diligence to investigating a person before you put them in a position of important leadership. Do the background checks. Look at the track record. If it is not a major leadership position, then try a trial period. Have the person try out the position with the agreement that after six months or so, there would be an evaluation to see if they are a good fit. Let all parties know the rules. But, let the emphasis be positive. Be sure you are helping the person find their true niche, and that they know it. It would not be good to portray the impression that if the person doesn’t perform you are going to fire them. (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7).

12. Here is another principle that helps success in selecting the correct people. Look for FAT Christians. By this I mean faithful, available, and teachable. Look for those and disciple them into greater and greater places of responsibility. 

13. Beyond these suggestions, remember to love the person. Strive for harmony. Pray for and with the person. Don’t nurture bitterness and strife. Tend to and mend any frayed relationships. Focus on common ground, not fighting ground. Preserve unity (Ephesians 4:1-3). Paul taught us to speak the truth in love (Ephesian 4:15), “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:33). Another good section to meditate on is Philippians 1:27-2:1-8).

Finally, help everyone in the team find their niche in service, then teach, encourage, and help them to excel all to the glory of Christ. Remember that finding our niche in service is a matter of trial and error, the desire God puts into our heart, and the opportunities He gives us.

Rhonda, again I thank you for the question. I hope this helps. There is much more to be said, and I have written it down in a little book that I mentioned above. I encourage you to get it.

All the best, and God bless,

Dr. Newman

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