Monday, August 09, 2010

A Fourth Option

At the Global Leadership Summit last week, pastor Bill Hybels set up a hypothetical situation and provided several possible responses. He suggested that the leaders present imagine that they were sitting there and received a text message that a staff member had just resigned. He suggested several possible responses. First, the leader might say, “Whew! That’s a relief.” Second, the leader’s reaction might be, “Ugh! That’s a real loss for us.” Third, the response might be, “Oh, no! This is an irreplaceable person. What are we going to do now?”

Let me suggest a fourth response. When receiving such a message, the leader might respond, “Well, this will be a loss, but it may be an opportunity for us to rethink some things.” In most churches and church-related organizations, we are reluctant to make staff changes. When tough economic times come, we struggle with budgets and will “lay off” staff members only as a last resort. In normal circumstances if a person is doing an adequate but not exceptional job, we will give the person a pass and look for the few good things that might come out of his or her ministry.

When a person chooses to leave voluntarily, however, we should see it as a gift and the opportunity to ask some questions. First, do we really need this position to accomplish our mission as a church? Second, is there some way to restructure the responsibilities of this position to give a new person the opportunity to be more effective? Third, are there responsibilities here that other staff members might pick up? These questions should be asked of staff members, church leaders, and constituents most impacted by the staff loss.

The most productive staff situations provide opportunity for regular reassessment and allow some fluidity in staff responsibilities. This is not always easy to do. There are always some tasks that no one wants to do, and these need to be shared equitably. On the other hand, staff members thrive on the opportunity to pursue their ministry passions as much as possible. A leader must be sensitive to this and find ways to allow this to happen. A “good vacancy” may provide the opportunity for evaluation, reassessment, and reorganization that is a true gift.

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