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.
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.