The Best Day to Fire Your Preacher

How Not to Distract a Preacher Immediately Before Worship Begins

It was Sunday, December 19, 1976, 10:20 a.m.  I had just taught a Sunday School Class.  An elder gently asked me to step into the elders’ office.  When the door was closed, he said, “Brother Jerrie, I think you ought to think about resigning today.”  What a shock!  That had never entered my mind.  After a few words I don’t remember, I walked into the auditorium, sang with the congregation Anywhere Is Home, and after a prayer, and a few more songs, I preached, somewhat distracted by the conversation during the intermission.

Since that day, I have always recommended firing preachers (if it has to be done) on a Monday night.  It gives two days for the preacher to recuperate before Wednesday night and six days before preaching the next Sunday.

What could have improved this and similar exchanges?

1. Talk to the other elder or elders before telling the preacher to resign.   The other elder was nearly as surprised as I was when he heard it.  One elder should not take this acton.
2. Think:  is it critical to do this quickly?  There are times when immediate action is necessary.  From my experience, there are very few times when it needs to be this abrupt.
3. Had the person or persons who suggested this action talked to the preacher being released?  Years later, I learned the elder had visited a member on Saturday night.  He asked the man what he thought would help some people to quit complaining and get happy.  He said, “I think if Jerrie would resign and find another place to preach, people would settle down.”  The man he asked told me years later with tears he never meant for the elders to take this action.  A good response from the elder to this man could have been, “You know Jerrie and appreciate him.  You have encouraged him since he has been here.  Have you talked with him and shared your concern?”.
4. Is there a skill that could be improved by study and practice?  I once talked with a group of elders who were ready to release their preacher because his preaching was not interesting and was not improving.  He was good with people but had never been trained as a preacher.  They lived in a city where a school taught homiletics and other ministerial subjects.  They encouraged him to take classes.  When I was with them in a gospel meeting about three years later, everyone seemed happy and well adjusted.
5. Have you approached the preacher on his shortcomings and warned that corrective action must be taken to continue the relationship?  Rarely, rarely, should dismissal be a surprise.
6. Have you checked with other people and tried to explore how this could be done with less shock and damage to the preacher, his family, and the congregation?  Shepherds need counselors who are mature, honest, reliable, and able to keep a confidence.  Often before major surgery, it is good to get a second opinion.
7. Have you spent considerable time meditating on the Golden Rule and how you would like to be treated if your roles were reversed?

As I said before, so say I now again, from my experience the best day of the week to fire a preacher is Monday.

The best day of the week to fire a preacher is Monday. — Jerrie Barber Click To Tweet

After several years, I realized I was not guiltless in this. Read: 3 Ways I Helped Myself Get Fired.

What have you learned from experience and observation about how to deal with this difficult task?

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11 thoughts on “The Best Day to Fire Your Preacher

  1. This can be such a delicate and difficult situation to deal with. It is my experience that when elders see themselves as the preacher’s bosses, then there is the secular employee/employer relationship. The elders are over the preacher as shepherds, but how often to these men seek to bond with the preacher and vice versa? The work of the church is more important than friendship, but men who love one another and seek to work together, both preachers and elders making that effort, can grow together and help the church to mature. If men cannot work together after much prayer, time and effort have been applied, then the preacher should also be able to see the need tor a change. Regarding the preacher who needed some training, elders/shepherds should seek to get shepherd training as well. After all, their role requires as much skill as that of gospel preacher. Thanks for the article.You are doing a good work, brother Jerrie. Keep it up! ~ Roger Leonard

    • Roger,

      Thank you for sharing your observations. I hope to write more on what can be done months and years before a relationship gets to this point.

      What can we do to prevent it or make it easier when it happens?

      I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement.

  2. I like your statement that “Rarely, rarely should dismissal be a surprise.” I think that if you have good communication & love for each other that there should be a lot of prayer, discussion and more prayer before this is done.

    • Lanie,

      I think you have the right idea. I often think of what James Jones often, “I dream of a time, place, and circumstance where Christians can get together and tell the truth.” I felt I have had that relationship with many elders with whom I worked, including those at Central.

      This relationship has to be cultivated before termination time.

      • Hi… Same thing happened to me. The sad part is that I had no idea they wanted a change. They even told me how much they liked the preaching/teaching and they wanted a change. As a preacher I and my wife must be prepared for such an event .

        • Dave,
          Good point. We need to be prepared. We will have trouble. If your mother was a woman, you will have trouble, full of trouble (Job 14:1).
          Jesus taught his disciples that trouble was coming and gave suggestions on how to handle it.

          • Brother Jerrie:

            Good, thoughtful article…I, sadly, have observed that “professed” Christians do some really harmful things to fellow Christians in their employ.

  3. I’ve been fired, but the brethren wished to call it a resignation. Aside from the dishonesty of the situation those several months I preached until my “resignation” was some of the better preaching I did at that congregation. Meanwhile, I’ve fired two congregations. In both cases we ended well, with time for both to adjust and say goodbye. To this day I maintain a good relationship with the congregations I fired. I have an even better relationship with the congregation from which I “resigned”. The truth of the matter is that they are not the same congregations they were then, I am not the same preacher I was then. Oh the humanity of it all!!!!

    • Jeff,
      Thank you for the reflections.
      It has been my observation that some of the best work (or worst) is done after you know you are going to leave. Without that tie and compulsion, you are freer to be the person your really are. That can be good when we share our pain of loss, count our blessings, and bless the people we are leaving — whether friends or enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

  4. I am a bit confused though about your comment as to why Monday is the best day to fire a preacher because “It gives two days for the preacher to recuperate before Wednesday night and six days before preaching the next Sunday.” Am I understanding it correctly that the preacher was fired but still expected to preach? In what situation is it appropriate to say, “You’re fired, but you are still expected to preach.”?? That sounds unhealthy all the way around…sounds like the eldership is not willing to own up to a leadership decision and like the preacher is willing to let himself be kicked.

    I do agree that Monday would be the best day, but for different reasons. It allows the minister a couple days to get over shock or take a couple days out of town before he gets all kinds of questions and two it gives the ELDERSHIP two days before Wednesday and six before Sunday to figure out what to do.

    • You are correct that there was confusion all around. The elder who suggested that I resign had not talked with the other elder. You are correct that the preacher (me) was willing to let himself be kicked. I didn’t know what to do except start looking for another place to preach. I loved my family, the Lord, preaching, and the church where I was preaching. I went to the next service, preached, went home, told my wife, went to a deacon’s house and cried that afternoon, preached that night, then started making calls to contacts to find another place. As I explained in yesterday’s post, http://newshepherdsorientation.com/?p=679 , I was not blameless. Earlier in the year, we had a great elder to die and had not grieved his death well. I was not a good listener. We didn’t cover this situation in my “Preacher and His Work” class. But by thinking about this over the next several years, I learned some valuable lessons. The Lord was good to me and my family. Within four months we had relocated to another congregation where we worked for eleven years and had another great ministry. We still love the people in the congregation where this happened and communicate with them often.