I sympathize with pastors who are faced with the issue of a difficult employee. On the one hand, parishioners often have affection towards the difficult employee who is in question. On the other hand, however, many parishioners do not always see the interworking of the staff and how an employee’s difficult and negative presence can be detrimental to the organization.
In the church, it is important for the pastor and leadership team to develop strength of character. Strength of character is especially necessary for the tough personnel decisions that often need to be made in order to strengthen the entire church. Far too often, a church keeps an employee on staff because it believes it’s easier to tolerate his or her presence. The church would prefer to suffer the damage until a dismissal is inevitable. In my experience, many church leaders have made the choice to tolerate the negative behavior of a staff member in the short run rather than endure the wrath of the church members they believe will lament the staff member’s departure in the long run.
Here an important concept to remember: low-performing employees affect new growth. I like to think of it as a variation of “opportunity cost.” While the retention of a low-performing church employee may not prompt many people to leave, the function of a low-performing employee is bound to prevent some first-time visitors from ever coming back.
Longtime members aren’t likely to pick up and leave just because the children’s area is a mess, for example; but someone who’s on the hunt for a new church home isn’t likely to choose yours if something as “minor” as the state of the nursery fails to meet their expectations. Fewer people quit the church because the worship is lame than don’t return for the same reason. Always remember to count the people who visited and didn’t return when you think about the “lots of people” who might leave due to the dismissal of an ineffective church employee.
Here is a truth for all church leaders to keep in mind: No matter what you do or how well you do it, some people are going to leave at some point. Don’t allow your desire to avoid the pain of “a lot of people” leaving to outweigh the wise decision to nip it in the bud. Your job is to be the voice of reason and focus on the vision as well as how your team is practically executing on that vision.