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Things to Consider When Deciding to Terminate a Church Employee

Letting go of a church employee is never an easy decision, and it’s understandable if you choose to deal with the situation as a last resort. Our church employees are usually part of the church family which can make for a messy situation.  If the member has been part of the church organization for a long time, cutting their connection with the church could result in defeated spirits and your ministries losing their momentum.

However, thinking of your church as an organization that requires a sound network to work the way it’s supposed to effectively helps in making such a decision. You hire, train, evaluate, and supervise your church employees just like any other organization would, and sometimes, your administrative duties will involve firing certain workers.

Doing so may require a bit more tact, sensitivity, and care than usual, but ultimately, it’s for the greater good of your entire church organization that you terminate a staff member who is not adequately fulfilling their duties. Before finalizing such a decision, here are various things to consider to prevent confusion and miscommunication.

Is There a Justification?

The termination of your church employee should occur on valid grounds. There can be many justifiable reasons to let go of a worker, some examples being poor performance, breach of a policy, and even illegal activities. Especially in the instance that the termination became necessary as a consequence of a performance issue, you should support your decision using performance appraisal documents.

As the church is their employer, ensure church leadership has documented the employee’s file.  It is critical to have a paper trail, identifying all of the issues and how the church attempted to counsel the individual.  The church needs to build a solid case, in the event they end up in court, to show what steps were taken prior to terminating the church employee.

As a church is a nonprofit organization, they are required to have board members overseeing the church operations.  Before making a decision to terminate a church employee, obtain wise counsel from your church’s elder board.  A church’s board of directors can bring added experience that may be needed as part of the termination process.

Moreover, consult your state’s employment laws to ensure you’re not firing someone based on their age, gender, race, disability, or other factors on the basis of which discriminatory termination of employment can occur.

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Consider the Timing

Unless the worker committed a serious crime that would result in church liability issues, consider not terminating them from your organization immediately. If they are underperforming, take their personal circumstances or even the time of the year into account. For instance, if you fire your employee over the holidays or during an important period in their life, such as when they’re getting married, it could result in a lot of stress on them and their family.

Review the Churches Employee Handbook

Prior to firing a church employee, verify the employee handbook is up to date and signed by each employee.  This will help protect the church organization, in showing all of the appropriate expectations were clearly outlined and agreed upon by all employees.  Ensure your employee handbook is current and meets your individual state law requirements.

Communicating the Decision

Passing on the news of the termination to your employee will be a difficult situation, but one that will need to happen eventually. You should be mindful of the fact that losing your job is one of the most significant events that can happen to a person, so you’ll have to communicate the decision gently.

Remain open to any questions that your employee might have, and answer them to the employee’s satisfaction. Additionally, consider helping them with their employment transition by offering them outplacement services.

If your former church employee committed a serious crime on church premises, your church would need church liability insurance protection to cover the costs for the hurt and damage caused. It is important to have an employment practice liability insurance policy in place at all times.  If you’re looking for resources, contact us at Integrity Now Insurance to be connected to our church insurance brokers who will find the right church insurance company for you according to your coverage requirements.

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