Elders’ jobs are not easy, especially when it comes to letting go of a minister. Elders have the responsibility of caring for every soul in their congregation, and sometimes it is necessary for them to have that difficult conversation with a minister when he is leading these people astray through his teaching or conduct or when his work is simply not contributing to the members’ spiritual growth. There are justifiable reasons for an eldership to let go of their minister, and sometimes it is in the congregation’s best interest for them to do so.
What an eldership needs to be sure of, though, is that there actually is a good reason that it is not in the congregation’s best interest to keep their current minister. For the majority of the ministers who contact us after having their emplyment terminated, this is unfortunately not the case. From our experience, the most common reason for a minister’s termination, at least for pulpit ministers, is not unsound teaching, immorality, or even ineffectiveness. It is just that the elders decided on “a new direction” for the congregation. What does that even mean?
It is not like these ministers are incompetent at their jobs. Many of these ministers have a great track record with the congregations they’ve worked with, and their resumes are quite impressive. Many of them have been at their congregations for years and have brought many people to Christ. They have a good reputation throughout the brotherhood of being effective evangelists and being able to preach biblical and relevant sermons. The reason for the “new direction” is definitely not a matter of the minister’s ability to work effectively with a congregation, so why is it that a congregation would let go of a good minister?
In many cases, this happens when a new eldership is installed. Keeping the same position through multiple elderships is considered an accomplishment among ministers. They know that if the new eldership disagrees with something about their ministry, their positions could be in danger. I have even heard it suggested that the first thing a minister should do when a new eldership takes over is to resign and reapply.
With new leadership obviously comes a new vision, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is time to clean house with your ministry team. A minister understands that a new eldership is going to change some things about his or her ministry. No rational person goes into ministry thinking that they will agree with every decision an eldership makes. They go into it with the understanding that they will be subject to the elders’ decisions just as any other member of the congregation. They go into it knowing that they are part of a team and that they may have to find some common ground with the elders and other ministers so that they can work effectively together.
It seems many elderships skip the process of trying to work with the minister and jump to letting him go. What kind of message does it send to a congregation when the eldership suddenly lets go of their minister without any apparent cause? Wouldn’t it be better to see if there is any way the elders and minister can work together despite their differences? A group of elders has to do this even within themselves to decide on a new vision for the congregation since chances are they all have different opinions about it. We all have to set aside our differences and find some common ground in order to work together as one body in Christ.
If elderships would take some time to work with their ministers after deciding on a “new direction,” whatever it may be, I think they would find that most of their ministers are not incompatible with that new direction. Your ministers are there because they love the church, and if given the chance, they would be willing to see how they could work together under the new leadership to continue to further the overall mission of the church however they can.