Posts Tagged ‘termination and confidentiality’

Someone recently told me about the time her pastor was fired.

After the church board met with the pastor to proclaim his termination, the chairman stood up at the next Sunday service, announced the pastor’s departure, and told the congregation not to contact him at all.

I can understand why a board might feel that way.  After dismissing their pastor, they’d probably be concerned that the pastor might:

*criticize the board’s decision to others.

*undermine the board’s authority.

*encourage members to leave the church.

*start a new church nearby composed of people from his former church.

But if I was a church member and I was publicly told, “Don’t contact the pastor at all,” I’d contact that pastor immediately.


Because I’d assume that the board was trying to cover up something … like how badly they bungled the pastor’s termination.

Let me tell you why this concerns me.

It is becoming increasingly prevalent for church leaders to try and destroy the reputation of their pastor after he leaves their church.


Because they’re afraid that the pastor may tell his side of the story to church attendees … and they don’t want that to happen.

Church leaders only want one version of events to become public: their version.

And if the pastor tells his version to even a few people, it may get around and contradict the “official” board version … and this could cause some people to turn against the church board and leave the church … taking their friends and money with them.

But once a church board terminates their pastor – rightly or wrongly:

*Most churchgoers are going to talk about it.

*Some churchgoers will seek to hear the board’s side.

*Some churchgoers will contact the pastor to hear his side.

*All churchgoers will make up their own minds as to what happened.

In my book Church Coup: A Cautionary Tale of Congregational Conflict, I made this statement:

“When leaders make people promise blanket confidentiality during a conflict, they are trying to control the flow of information … as well as their opponents.”

Sometimes after a termination, the church board is saying:

“We believe that we’ve terminated the pastor for just cause.  If you possessed the information that we have, you’d agree with our decision.”

But sometimes, they’re saying this instead:

“We felt that the pastor was acquiring too much power, which would minimize our authority.  So we trumped up some charges to take him out.  Nobody can contradict our version of events except the pastor, so we’re going to discredit him before anybody contacts him.  Whatever he says, he’s trying to hurt the church.”

In my mind, such an attitude indicates a spirit of control … which is why I’d contact the pastor right away to hear his version.

As Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

People don’t like to be controlled.  And nobody likes a gag order.

But if the board did what was right in God’s eyes, why would they need to try and control anyone or anything?

Shouldn’t they relinquish control of the situation to God instead?

Once a board forces out the pastor, they can no longer control the consequences.

And once the pastor has left the church, how can the board continue to control him?  They’ve severed the relationship.

When I was a pastor, occasionally people would leave the church angrily.

A Sunday or two later, somebody would invariably approach me and say, “I heard Joe and Betty left the church.”

Was it my place to speculate as to why they left?

I didn’t want to misrepresent them.  So I’d say, “If you’re concerned about them, why don’t you call them and speak with them?”

Was that risky?  Of course.  But any other answer would indicate that I was trying to control people and circumstances.

And that’s not the job of a church leader.

That’s God’s job.

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