How to Ask a Church Leader to Step Down

Competent and consistent church leaders are the backbone of any ministry. They lead volunteers and other church workers closely, so setting a good example is essential. That is why churches must ensure the quality of their church leadership and not be afraid to ask someone to step down when needed.

Chris Holland
May 25, 2022
Kids Ministry Leadership

Unlike many of us would believe, serving is not a right. Serving is a privilege, and if they no longer fit the role, you must take action. The church is like a living organism. It consists of each member who greatly influences how things are run in your church. Remember that the overall success of your ministry is far more important than one individual's journey.

Noticing the signs of bad leadership can be challenging, especially when that person has been a part of your ministry for a while. That’s why asking them to step down should only happen after you have tried other methods to solve the problem. Not sure how to handle the situation at your church? 

Keep reading for more details on when to take action and how to do it. 

How to Know When to Take Action

Serious conversation with employee

One slip-up is not grounds to ask someone to step down. Similarly, two mistakes over six months could simply be due to a few bad days. When the problems are consistent, or the leader is doing more harm than good, it's time to take action.

Signs of bad leadership in the church.

Keeping an eye out for signs of bad church leadership is crucial. Problems can come from different sources, from a leader attempting to abuse their position of power to a person not being sufficiently trained for their role. Typical signs of potential issues include increased friction or tension in the church ministry. 

If they have an excessive drive to rivalry or competition or believe they have superior status, conflicts will likely arise between the church leaders. Maybe they are manipulating church resources for their own personal gain or pushing an agenda within the ministry. More often than not, others will notice the issue too.

Church leadership training.

To avoid competency problems, offer standardized church leadership training programs to all of your church leaders before they are given a new position. But don’t worry, good training doesn't have to break the bank! Check out these free church development resources.

Offering this will ensure that each person knows their church leadership roles and responsibilities as well as what will is not acceptable. Plus, it will help other leaders be more attuned to noticing issues.

How to Handle the Situation Tactfully

Chatting with employee

It takes a lot of skill to handle sensitive situations, so make sure you're prepared to navigate it in a professional manner. In order to be respectful of them as a member of your church, be as direct as possible and show them that letting them go was not an easy decision.

Approach the problem directly.

Instead of letting the problem brew and emotions rise high, tackle the situation head-on. Start with a conversation that clearly and concisely lays out the problems and ways for them to change. If the problem is that they are not equipped for this role, why not offer them additional training?

Investing in your enthusiastic and hardworking volunteer or church worker will pay off in the long run. If they just need a little help fine tuning their skills, offer a helping hand. It will almost certainly be worth it.

Offer them a different role.

If the training doesn’t achieve what you were hoping for, they might be better suited to a different role. Ask yourself (and ask them too) what gifts or skills they have. Are they using them in this role? If the answer is no, their role in the church is not fulfilling what God has intended for them.

If this new position is a downgrade, they might feel unhappy about the demotion. Remind them that you value their hard work and that the church appreciates them. However, sometimes church workers need to be let go for good. Assess the situation to decide if you want that person to be a part of your ministry.

Step-by-Step Actions to Take

Having the initial conversation

Have the initial conversation: 

Tell them your thoughts and concerns, hear their input and make a clear plan for how to proceed. Remind them of the standard procedures of leadership in the church.

Make time for a follow-up evaluation.

After a few weeks have passed, have another meeting to discuss their progression. Has progress been made? Has anything changed? If the answer is no, it is time to try something new.

Refer them to additional training.

If their mindset skill seems enthusiastic, but their skills are lacking, offer them extra training to get them up to scratch.

Hold a third and final evaluation.

After their training is complete, have another meeting to discuss their progression. If the improvement has been insufficient, it’s time to let them go.

Support them in their future endeavors. 

You may have asked them to step down from their role, but try to ensure there’s no bad blood following this. They are still a part of your community, so make it clear that they are still welcome.

No one likes having awkward conversations, but sometimes they are the most important ones to have. As a member of the church, you are doing God’s duty, so putting your ministry first is essential. And, sometimes, saying goodbye is what He intended for their journey.

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