I hear a ton of stories from youth workers by overseeing Texas and New Mexico for the National Network of Youth Ministries and leading Simply Soul Care, the nationwide pastoral care service for youth workers.
I’m amazed at some of the stories I hear. I know all about churches, at times, not being ideal work situations and We Love Our Youth Worker is trying to help remedy that. Nobody is perfect and neither are any churches. We all have our quirks, personally and organizationally. We are all still broken and we are not where we need to be.
There are times that a church and a youth worker need to part ways. It’s just not working out, it’s a bad fit and neither side is going to adjust to accommodate the others values. Fine. But you can part ways and still honor Christ through the process.
We are commanded to live at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on us, whenever it’s possible. (Romans 12:18). If you are youth worker, leave with grace even if it wasn’t your choice. It’s not easy, but take the proverbial high road.
Churches, please honor Christ as you part ways with your youth worker. Keep your word regarding the severance package you promised, the time allowed to stay in the parsonage, vacation time they’ve earned, etc. Don’t assassinate their character or let others do it in your presence. Don’t lie and tell your congregation, “The Lord is leading elsewhere.” when the issue is really they made the wrong family mad and you got tired of hearing from them. Treat them as you’d want to be treated if you were the one being fired or asked to leave.
The stories I hear from youth workers that still shock me include:
1. “It’ll be easier to provide some severance for you, if you resign instead of forcing us to fire you.”
2. Instead of talking to the staff, sending them a certified letter notifying them of the conditions of their leaving.
3. Forcing someone out so the committee can hire a pre-chosen replacement, who happens to be a family member of an “influential person” in the church.
Ministry positions, in most states, don’t qualify for unemployment, so please don’t give someone a two week check and wave at them as you tell them, “Stay warm and well fed.”
Honor Christ in how you end your staff relationships. Go the extra mile or at least the first mile in caring for the staff and family that relocated to serve in your church.
I dare any church to look at the staff history of their church. If the average stay of your staff members is less than five years, over the last ten to twenty years, please don’t hire anyone else until you properly evaluate your own organizational issues and faults.
You prayed for weeks and possibly months before you hired someone, you should bathe the leaving process with as much intense prayer and treat them in such a way that Christ is honored through the entire process, even in the behind closed doors meetings.