Today I received a phone call from a church I work with to advise me that they are letting one of their staff members go. They asked if I had any suggestions. My first question - are you afraid of him? The response - they are concerned about him. This person is a firearms owner and talks about survival and has shown some anger issues in the past. And the list kept going. Okay you are concerned, however is there a threat? If there is a threat have someone there with you when you let him go. Be ready to call local law enforcement and if possible have one of your safety team members standing by for additional support. Make sure this safety member is there because they have a calmer head and not there as a show of force. After the phone call I had a moment to reflect on what just happened. My question to you is - are you prepared when you must let someone go from your church?
While working with the Norfolk Police Department I spent 12 years in support mainly working with computers. I was known around the Tidewater area for my computer expertise. During my last year with Norfolk I was courted by a private software company that developed public safety software. They were putting out a new product that would tie police computers together and police departments around the country would be able to share data. They were looking for a spokesperson for their new software and I fit the bill. They took Wendy and I out - wined and dined us and offered more money than I was making with the police department. I retired from NPD sold my house, bought a new one up in the DC area and took Wendy who was expecting our first daughter and moved. Three months into the new job I realized I had made a mistake.
The CEO of the company was (I am going to be nice here) a salesman who would do anything for the sale. Me, I was still a brother-in-arms to all police officers. When the CEO would ask me to do things that I thought were unethical I would voice my opinion and then be taken to the woodshed by the CEO and explained that this was the real world now and I needed to get with the program.
After 10 months, the CEO called me into the office and let me go. Here I was with a wife and 3-month-old daughter living in an area I really couldn’t afford and I was bitter. I am not going to say what I wanted to do in this post but if we have coffee some time I will let you in on some of my thoughts during those dark days. The thing I want to point out here is that the moment I was let go from that company I was cut off from that company - my logon to my computer was cancelled - my key to the backdoor was taken and I was never to put foot into that office again. My last paycheck was mailed to my home address and if I forgot something I could call them and they would have someone drop it off at my house. If they did see me on property they would have had me arrested for trespassing.
Now let’s talk about today and my phone call. What if the person you are letting go is also embedded in your church? What if the entire family goes to your church? What if their kids love your children’s ministry or the wife volunteers in an important role with the church? What do you do and what does that do to your church family? Don’t get me wrong, once this church told me the circumstances of the person they were letting go - I understood and know any church would have done the same. What if he and his family have been the faithful attendees to your church for the past several years? What do you do now?
You just terminated a staff member. Do you ask them not to come back into your church if they love the church? I remember the first day of being let go - I was in shock, I had not seen it coming. As it slowly sunk in the madder I got. The more time away from the office the worst it got and every time I got turned down for a new job the more I hated the CEO who had let me go. With a new baby and a house, I couldn't afford. I was angry - it was not a pretty picture.
So how do we handle a situation like this where the church doesn’t want to add insult to injury and tell that person that he and his family - that love your church, children’s ministry and that he can’t come back? The family – his wife that volunteers faithfully can still attend – but he can’t. Walk down that road for a minute and think about everything that is involved in that decision.
Now that I have your head spinning let me put it back into perspective. A lot of us don’t want to say this however running a church is like running a business. If you have an issue within a church, you deal with it the same as you do in any business. You cannot let someone or something that is disrupting your church continue; you must remove the problem. If you feel it is okay to allow that person and his family to continue to come to the church to worship, then do so. You need to advise your safety team of the situation and they need to be around that person whenever he is on campus; keeping an eye on his whereabouts. The bad thing about this is that person will probably know who is on your safety team.
If that person decides to come back to church, go over the way he is expected to act while on the church campus. There should be boundaries in place on where he can and cannot go. If at one time this person had the freedom to move anywhere in the buildings, that needs to stop. Certain areas are to be designated off-limits. You should also advise him that if he becomes disruptive while on campus then he will be trespassed and arrested if he violates that warning. It is not a pleasant thought but the safety of the campus is your responsibility and you cannot let the firing of one person put the innocent in harm’s way.
In the situation at the church earlier this week, the person that was let go lives around 25 minutes away and has no real ties to that church other than working for them. I was advised they took care of him so he could have time to look for a job and not have to worry about Christmas. To most of those involved they all knew that this was going to happen so it didn’t come as a surprise. It is still sad but I will say it again, you must run your church like a business at times, as unpleasant as it seems when these things happen.
Now going back and finishing my story. I hope and pray that one day I might run into (not physically) that CEO again. I am going to walk right up to him and tell him that him letting me go was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I want to tell him that God had this wonderful plan for me and that staying in DC was not going to fulfill that mission. It took this CEO firing me to motivate me to move where I am today. I didn’t see it at the time but I really see it now. Get up with me someday and I will tell you how.
You get a phone call from you Pastor, “Jim, we are going to have to suspend our church services due to a terrorist bomb threat”. Crazy you say? UCANews out of Asia reported that the “Philippine bishops vow to put public safety first after foiled plot targeting the US embassy. Masses and other liturgical services in the Philippine capital Manila would be suspended if there is an imminent threat to people’s safety, a Philippine bishops’ conference official said Nov. 29”.
But Jim, that is way over across the water, nothing like that would ever happen here in the United States. Really? It almost did in Memphis last Easter Sunday. In October we saw an extreme Islamic suspect, again in Tennessee, driving around shooting up churches in the Bedford County area. The suspect had shot at least three separate churches in the region only to be caught later by the police in the area of one of the shootings. This suspect stated on his Facebook page “I’m just doing my job as a messenger for my Lord, I owe absolutely everything to Allah because he has set me free from my spiritual cage.”
And if extreme Islamic terrorism is not enough to get your attention, how about the mentally ill, domestic violence or just plain evil. Just this last week a “Florida man was arrested for making Pulse-style massacre threats against church that welcomes ‘sick homosexuals’”. The scary part about this suspect is that he attended the church he threatened to shoot up. This church gave him food and took him to the hospital when he got sick. He even marched with this church in a gay pride parade. Once again, this subject made threats on his Facebook page (noticing a pattern here)? “The Miami Beach Community Church is filled with a bunch of sick homosexuals. Orlando will look small to what is coming to Miami Beach”. He even went on to say that he had found a person that was going to sell him an assault rifle. Now here is the part of the article that I find interesting and I bring it up all the time, when do we say “enough is enough”? This is not the first time they had an issue with this subject. Last year he created a disturbance in the church; as the police were taking him out of the church he threatened the minister, his family and a church staff member. Why was that person allowed back in the church? Understand, I would like to believe everyone we encounter gets saved and is promised the opportunity to go to the Promise Land. I wish I could believe all will go there but even the Bible tells us that is not the case. When are we as a church going to understand this and stop trying to save those that will not listen and those that do not see? We are in changing times brother and sisters and it only takes one incident to bring your church to its knees.
And if this isn’t enough to bring your church leaders together and talk about the safety of your church, I will say this one more time, we are under attack. Churches across the United States are seeing more and more vandalisms against their buildings. Whatever your stance is on same sex marriages, abortion and even your political views, you are a target. One church in Evansville, IN found it members being intimidated by graffiti and threats made to those that attend. This church feeds the needy which requires a multitude of volunteers. What happens if your church members and volunteers don’t feel safe anymore? Will you get that phone call from your church leader saying “we won’t be having church services this weekend because the volunteers and staff are afraid to come to church”?
This last month I was contacted by one of my favorite minister from another church. He told me that recently at a Sunday service they had a situation where a domestic issued happened during their church service. A young woman who had a child with her ex-boyfriend was now afraid of him and didn’t want to be around him. This young man showed up at church and started a scene and was escorted off the property. This minister called me and asked me what they should do and I advised of how they should handle the situation. They were afraid; they were afraid that he might come back with a gun. They have talked to me on several occasions about church safety. At times, I feel like some of the church leaders just don’t get it. My friend does. I could tell he was physically upset over this incident because he no protection during this scary time. What does it take a boyfriend that waits for his ex-girlfriend in the parking lot and then he hurts or even worse kills her? What does it take to get serious about protecting the flock? Are your leader of your church listening, or will I turn on the TV one day and see your church on Fox News? It is not a matter of if it is going to happen it is only a matter of when.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.