29 Dec 2020

3 Tips for the Hard Conversation

Matt Steen

3 Minute Read 

Over the last few weeks, I have heard stories of restructuring and layoffs at different churches around the country. Church leaders are helping people find new roles on the team that better fit their skill set, or are having the tough conversation about needing to part ways. One church I know of recently made the hard decision to let over 40% of their team go. These are difficult, heart-wrenching conversations to have. But they are conversations that we need to have if we are going to lead our church well in the coming season. 

In today's guest blog, you'll find out how to have these hard conversations and get access to download FREE resources for your ministry...

How to Handle the Difficult Conversation

Now that we have shifted into a mindset that recognizes that the pandemic will have a long term effect on how we do church, I am having more conversations with church leaders who are being forced to think through their staffing situation. These conversations can be difficult, as it is not uncommon to have people that have faithfully served on our teams for years, people that we love and cherish, but suddenly find themselves without the skill set needed to lead their ministries in the season ahead.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are forced to let some go, here are three tips to keep in mind:

1. Be Kind

This should be a no brainer, but it is easy to forget. We get so anxious about having difficult conversations that we can begin to steel ourselves, resulting in a conversation that feels cold, uncaring, and unintentionally brutal. I am not suggesting that you pull your punches (see the next point), but I am suggesting that when having these conversations, you remember that you are a pastor and care for the person in the process.

2. Be Honest

To be unclear is to be unkind. One of the more unfortunate things I have witnessed in this season is the "offloading" of staff members that church leadership had wanted to let go for quite some time but decided to use the pandemic as a convenient excuse. When you let someone go, let them go with integrity. You need to be honest about the reasons, whether it is pandemic related or not. A bonus thought on this: if you are letting them go for performance issues and they are surprised, you may have a bigger issue to deal with.

2. Be Generous

Our current season may make it difficult to give lavish severance packages, but we can still be generous. If you are able to extend health care benefits or give a small severance payment, do that. If it is appropriate to celebrate the service of your teammate, find a way to honor them well. Can you connect them with ministry leaders in the area to help them find a new role? Do that! We've begun partnering with churches to help their departing staff members prepare to enter the job search. You can learn more about our Transition Coaching here.

One final comment: don't belabor the point. The last thing that people want to do is be told that they are being fired through the course of a 4-hour meeting. I hate the analogy of ripping off the band-aid, but it fits here. Be concise in your conversation, and allow the conversation to end. 

FREE Resources for Churches and Ministries

 If you are wrestling through restructuring or pivoting your staff this season, the team at Chemistry Staffing is excited to provide you with a few FREE resources. 

Church leaders know that leading change can be treacherous in the church world and that the hardest part is often knowing where to start. That's why we have created Chemistry Staffing's Restructuring Playbook. This playbook will give you the tools you need to analyze your current ministry, determine what works and what doesn't, and develop a plan to shift your current ministry programming, budget, and staffing to a more effective structure for the season ahead. 

Please visit Chemistrystaffing.com/startchurch to download your FREE copy of the Restructuring Playbook!

In Every Season

Our team at StartCHURCH wants you to know we are here for you in every season of your organization. Whether we can help you with Bookkeeping services, moving your church online, or getting your taxes in order for the New Year, please reach out! It would be an honor to serve you and your organization.

You can give us a call at 877-494-4655 or click the link below to schedule a call.


Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

And receive our free eBook Sequence: A step-by-step guide to successfully launching your church.