How to Fire Your Preacher

Interim Ministry Workshop, Tuesday-Thursday March 14–16, 2023, Heritage Christian University, Florence, Alabama

I’ve had some elderships ask for my coaching before they fired their preacher. Here are some suggestions.

  • Fire some preachers before you get them. Some you don’t need to start with. They don’t fit, or they aren’t qualified. Search for a fit. Don’t select a preacher after a beauty contest of a parade of 10-12 preachers and pick the one with the best sermon, the wife whose hair was well-combed, and whose children acted well during the services. Bring someone for the church to hear who’s been vetted and found credible with many reference checks and found effective after watching several sermons or hearing him personally.
  • Let the church help you fire him. Refer critics to him — all of them. Don’t encourage anonymous criticism. Matthew 18:15-17 applies to preachers as well as real members. Letting someone talk to you about someone else without talking to the other person first, unless you’re helping the talking person develop the skill and courage to do what Jesus said to do to a person who “misses the mark” (sins), is gossip.
  • Fire the unequipped and ineffective by helping him become effective. Years ago, elders talked to me about working with them as an interim because their preacher was not presenting good sermons. He loved people. He related well to different ages. He was liked. They lived in a town with a Bible college led by our brethren. I encouraged them to help him develop and deliver better sermons. A few years later, I was with them in a meeting, and they were working happily together.
  • Fire him at an appropriate time and place. By experience, I learned that between Bible study and worship isn’t the best time to release your preacher. The Best Day to Fire Your Preacher Be sure no one is in the building listening. An elder’s son told me about his negative feelings toward preachers because he was in the building one night when the preacher was unkind in his speech toward the elders.
  • Fire him with help to move smoothly to his next place. If he just didn’t fit, help and encourage him to transition to another location.
  • Fire him, taking his family into consideration. Unless his wife and children were driving the get-away car for the father to commit bank robbery, you need to have compassion on them and minister to them for the pain brought on by the husband-father-preacher.
  • Fire him, recognize the part you played in his failure, confess that, apologize for the pain you’ve caused or allowed, learn from it, and be a better shepherd and person because of what you learned. If you secured a preacher without checking references. If the preacher has been on your nerves for years and you never talked with him. If for months or years you have talked ABOUT your preacher in the elders’ meetings and how you’re unhappy with him but have never talked TO him to correct him, that’s called gossip.
  • Fire him with the guideline of the Golden Rule. I’ve talked to elders who called their preacher to the building to release him abruptly. He had taught no error. He had no moral indiscretions. He’d not cooperated as they would’ve liked for the past few years. Yet they never talked with him about this. As I went around the table discussing this, not one elder said he would like to be treated like that on his job. He would have appreciated being told and given the opportunity to correct his weaknesses.
  • Preachers should also be considerate when they fire a church: When a Preacher Fires the Church

    Interim Ministry Workshop, Tuesday-Thursday March 14–16, 2023, Heritage Christian University, Florence, Alabama

    What suggestions do you have, or what have experienced when it’s time to part ways? Please comment below.

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Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

8 Responses to “How to Fire Your Preacher

    1 year ago

    Jerrie, You know I have read your material had conversations with you for years (over 30!) and almost always learn something new or am reminded of something I had forgotten. This is a well-stated article with broad coverage. One thing I hear often from elders about the preacher is, “We’ve tried to help him but he won’t listen.” The way we approach and address one another can depend on whether we listen or not. You know what Paul wrote in Eph. 4:29: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (NASB). Mounce says that word unwholesome is σαπρός sapros 8x pr. rotten, putrid; hence, bad, of a bad quality, Mt. 7:17, 18; 12,33; Lk. 6:43; refuse, Mt. 13:48; met. corrupt, depraved, vicious, foul, impure, Eph. 4:29. (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Another Greek dictionary (Olive tree) says the one meaning of the word is “unfit for use.” (Olive Tree). Most of us will not listen to brash, harsh statements and accept them, even if they are true. We all have to learn better how to speak to one another and be willing to listen. But, even if someone approaches us about an issue that needs to be adjusted or corrected, then we should try to do better at listening. “…Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19b NASB). The word “must” is eimi and is a present, active, imperative verb. (Mounce) That’s a command! Thank you for sharing this.

    • Roger, Good observations. Both parties have responsibilities. It takes both to make it work. It take one to mess it up.

  • I kinda liked the comment I once heard, “Me and the elders came to a mutual understanding…. they wanted another preacher and I understood it”…… as always a good article brother….

  • Jerrie — I like your comment, “recognize the part you played in his failure.” Since the elders oversee everything all the time, they have no excuse when strained relations with the preacher begin. All problems belong to the elders, and no problem was ever solved by less communication.

    • Doug, Thank you for you comment. All parties should start with the intention of building a good relationship. It takes work. When something starts going in the wrong direction, adjustments should be made.

  • David Courington
    1 year ago

    Great thoughts as usual brother Jerrie. To fail to deal considerately, kindly, and honestly with the preacher is a serious fault. Just as bad as when a preacher deals with the elders this way. All of our relationships are made better with genuine love. How would I want to be treated?

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