Though the topic of this blog may be perceived by some as cold, I am posting this because leaders frequently ask me questions related to moving people off the team. Ministry leaders are responsible for the flock while also loving and caring for individual sheep. Tension arises when a ministry leader is confronted with a decision that is best for the overall ministry (the flock) but will be hurtful to an individual. Moving someone off the team is painful. Even in the moments when the Lord gives grace and understanding to all involved, the discussion and the situation are difficult.
Leaders often use the “C” words when evaluating if people should be invited to join the team. Wise leaders do all they can to ensure the person being brought on the team is a man or woman of character, is competent for the role, and fits with the values of the team (chemistry). But how should you consider the “C” words when the painful discussion comes about removing someone from the team? And how long should someone be given to correct a problem that fits into each of these “C” buckets? These are questions I have wrestled with in community with leaders I respect. And below are my current thoughts:
As believers, our character should be continually in the process of being sanctified, of becoming more and more like Jesus. So in some sense we all still have character issues. But there are some character issues that immediately disqualify someone from a ministry leadership role. The loss of credibility due to the lack of integrity with an issue, such as adultery or stealing, should result in the removal of someone from his/her role.
A chemistry problem is much bigger than personality differences or differences in opinions. A chemistry problem occurs when someone continually undermines the values of the team, either overtly or in a passive-aggressive manner. Unity on a ministry team is absolutely essential, so someone with a consistently divisive and sour attitude threatens to disrupt what the Lord desires to do through the team. I believe the person should be confronted immediately and given an opportunity to repent, and then if the problem continues, the person should be removed from the team.
How long should this process last? Well, how long does it take to repent? I believe in many organizations/ministries these problems fester way too long. I say so with confidence because every time a leader I know has made the difficult call to move a person with a chemistry problem off the team, he or she immediately notices the difference on the team and wishes the move had been made months earlier.
There is no such thing as a “neutral” player on a ministry team. If the person is not contributing, he/she is actually hurting the others by creating extra work and conversations. Ministries are notorious for allowing incompetence to remain under the guise of grace and mercy. But it is not merciful to the person; he or she could be so much more productive somewhere else. And it is not merciful to the people being served by the ministry.
As you consider dealing with a competence problem, consider these questions:
- Has the person been given specific feedback and ample opportunity to change and develop with clear timelines and expectations for improvement?
- If character and chemistry are great, is there another role (without creating a role that is not necessary) in which the person would be more competent?
When a ministry outgrows the capacity of leaders, the influence of the ministry will be hampered. Some leaders scale their leadership as the ministry grows. Others fail to do so. So what do you do when someone who has been faithful to the ministry is no longer able to lead effectively, not because he has done anything wrong or because he has become less competent but only because the Lord has grown and expanded the ministry? In my view, you have honest discussions and give the person as long as possible to move to a different role that fits their capacity level. Be as gracious and generous as you can while also weighing the responsibility for the whole. Honor them with respect and gratitude for their faithfulness.
The health of the ministry will be deeply impacted by the health (or the lack of health) of the team that leads her. Because of this, leaders must be deeply concerned with the character, chemistry, competence, and capacity of the people on their teams.