I failed to mention in my previous post three other possible reasons for departure. These are more valid reasons why staff might leave, and gives a bigger picture of the array of reasons...
Economic Realities — As a church we are constantly dealing with economic realities, which can provide for staff growth, but can sometimes determine that we cut back on staff. As we entered the building program earlier this year, we looked at the finances and determined we needed to eliminate a few positions. This was a hard process in that we were forced to let go of some great people, but it also allowed us to re-purpose funds into the building program. On other occasions pastoral staff have received more lucrative offers with another church or non-church job. I fully understand and support staff members who accept such an offer.
Leaving the Ministry — I feel called to serve as the Pastor of Palm Valley Church for the rest of my life. Not everyone, rightfully so, shares that calling. Some staff have served faithfully during their time but feel led to leave a church job and go into another line or work. Again, I understand and support a staff member who feels led to make this decision.
Change In Structure — As a growing, changing church, sometimes a staff position that was vital in the past will no longer be necessary. As we grow and learn we often change structure, communication process and even seasons of focus. We staff accordingly. It doesn’t mean the staff member wasn’t doing a great job, or that they can’t be on staff in the future, there’s just seasons where we need certain positions and those when we don’t. As those who will answer for the finances of the church, it’s important we continually evaluate and ensure we’re investing resources for the greatest return.
If you’ve been around Palm Valley Church (or any growing church) you’ll notice that we often have additions to our pastoral staff, as well as times when staff leaves. Recently, with all of the excitement, anticipation, and stress of moving to the new building, we have gone through some more staff changes. Many times there are rumors, false quotes and gossip associated with a departure. With a church our size it just isn’t realistic, nor healthy, to mention/address each staff change, so we rarely do, only if it effects the entire church body. Here are some thoughts I have written for the people of Palm Valley Church to understand and embrace changes that occur…
I understand it can be troubling, disconcerting, and many other things when we go through transitions. This is especially true when we see a Pastoral staff member resign/be relieved of his duties. Change is never easy, especially when it involved people who have been helpful to us in particular. The call of every one of our leaders is to be Pastors FIRST, caring for , feeding and shepherding the body of Christ through the ups and downs of life.
I’m saddened that departures often effected people in such a personal way. In a perfect world we would never have to experience this. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and as a church we experience changing of staff for many different reasons…
1) A new calling…many times we see staff members sense that God is calling them to a new season of ministry. I experienced this when I was a youth pastor. I loved the church I was at, loved the people, but sensed that Lori and I were being called to start Palm Valley Church. Many in the church struggled with this and looked for the “hidden reason”, which simply didn’t exist. It was simply God moving me to His perfect place for me. I tell our staff all the time, if God is moving you we want to be your biggest cheerleaders! I don’t want them to leave, but I trust God’s plan for them, and for PVC. We have experienced this a number of times at Palm Valley. We have had Pastors who felt called to start a church, so we brought them on stage, celebrated, asked people to go with him and sent him off. Another Pastor came to me with the sense that God was moving him, I gave him months to pray it through. Then when he felt it was time, we brought him on stage, talked openly together about it, prayed over him and released him to God’s will for his life. This has been the occasion with a few other staff members as well. I wish everyone felt, as Lori and I do, that they should commit the rest of their ministry life to Palm Valley, but the fact is that God often moves staff on to the next thing in their ministry.
2) Moral Failure — on a few occasions (thankfully not more) we have had a staff member fail to live up to the Biblical qualifications of a Pastor. This is extremely painful for everyone involved. In this case we remove the staff member privately, seek to help them find restoration and healing with the Lord (and spouse or others involved) and set out a long-term plan for care and restoration. We almost always offer the staff member the opportunity to resign, making it easier for us to provide help and a reference in the future. Unfortunately, we have seen these individuals choose to leave Palm Valley Church and go their own way. As a Pastor and friend, these are painful. These exits often leave a wake of hurt and disillusionment in the people who were involved under the leader’s ministry. Trust me, this is never fun for me to deal with, but we must hold our Pastors to a Biblical standard of living, or we forfeit God’s blessing on our body. These exits are dealt with immediately and privately. Due to labor laws, we cannot discuss the exit of a staff member publically w/o their permission (which is never granted), or we expose the church to a lawsuit. Many churches have made this mistake and suffered dearly.
3) Job Performance — Because we are stewards of the money the Lord has entrusted us with, we feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that a paid staff member is the best investment of our resources. We have high expectations for our staff, especially our pastors. This does begin and end with caring for our people. Our Pastors follow up with all prayer requests, perform Pastoral duties (hospital visits, weddings, funerals) and are always available to pray with people. We do twice yearly reviews with staff members based on their job description. Every staff member clearly knows the expectations laid out before them. There are times when we discover that a staff member is in a position where his giftedness/talents/abilities don’t match the expectations we have for them. In this case we always seek over a period of time to develop and encourage the staff member in this area. If that fails, we will seek to reassign to another position and see how they do. There are times however when a staff member simply doesn’t have the giftedness, or work ethic, or leaderships abilities required. In this case the honoring thing to do before the Lord is to ask for the resignation/release that staff member. We always do this privately, and provide financial help through the transition as well as seeking to help them find a ministry fit.
4) Burnout — this is very common amongst pastors. This is no easy gig Many pastors simply can’t handle the stress/hours/pressure of this position, and end up needing to step down. We seek to create a healthy environment and expectation level for our staff, because we want them to last the long haul. On occasion though, we have seen staff members who could not continue and were required to step down. We also handle this privately and provide assistance to the staff member.
Our desire to protect the staff members who step away, combined with current laws, leave us very restricted about addressing the exit of a staff member/Pastor. Regardless the reason, every change is healthy because it forces us to look to the Lord, trust Him for His provision, and pray and seek Him for wisdom moving forward. I understand that a particular staff member’s exit may hit home with you, and I hope you know that this matters to me. I love each of our staff (that’s one reason they’re on staff), and it’s always very painful personally to part ways with a friend/co-worker. The fact that we don’t bring it to the church doesn’t mean we don’t care, it’s simply the most tactful, honoring way to move forward even when we’re hurting. However, the best thing I can do for Palm Valley is to continue to lead the church forward. I assure you that there are many times I’m “playing hurt”; but the church still needs a leader.
I would also point out that just because somebody is no longer a paid staff member doesn’t mean they can’t still lead at Palm Valley. I have expressed to every staff member that exits that I hope they would continue to participate at PVC as they seek where the Lord is leading them next.
All of our staff were first volunteers in our church who were developed in their pastoral skills, invited onto the staff, and equipped to lead. While any departure certainly leaves a hole, it is an opportunity for many others in our church to step up and do the same. I’m excited about the next wave of leaders being developed at PVC. There are men and women in our church who have incredible giftedness in shepherding the flock, and they’re being developed and challenged to be Pastors in our church. We are also equipping them and asking them to function at a Pastoral level.
When Lori and I started Palm Valley Church, the phrase that came to our heart is “where people matter”. This has always been our heart, and will always be. I see this in the current pastors, I see their involvement in the lives of people in our church. The heart and vision of Palm Valley were not birthed by any one staff member, nor has it changed with their leaving staff. We wish them the best, but we will continue to strive to provide the greatest of care for every person in our church. I have committed my life’s work to this, and feel confident in the Lord’s provision for all we will need as a church in the future.
Can you believe we’re only a few days away from the opening of our new building? I’m so excited to worship with you in our new home, and to celebrate this milestone weekend in the history of Palm Valley Church. To make the most of this weekend, I’m asking for your help in a few ways…
1) Invite, invite, invite. Jesus said “go out to the highways and urge everyone you find to come in, so that my house will be full”. Let’s fill his house this weekend to capacity. With these last few days who could you invite to come hear about how much Jesus loves them? Let’s fill the house this weekend for our 3 services: Saturday at 5:00 pm, Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00 am.
2) Arrive early. Please plan to arrive 30 minutes before service starts, so that you can park, find your way around the building, check in your children, and get to the worship center early. Trust me, you don’t want to miss the opening of the service, it’s going to be “off the hook”! I would encourage you, if you can, to attend Saturday night at 5:00 pm. This will be our first service ever in the building and a special way to kick it off.
3) Greet those around you. As always, we want every person who attends Palm Valley Church to feel warmly welcomed. Let’s all join together to welcome each other, and make new friends in the process.
4) If you have a middle school or high school student, this weekend’s going to be incredible for them. First, I’m excited to have every student in one of our main weekend services. I’m inviting every student to come down front and bring their energy to our worship. Then, every student needs to be at “The Spot”, our youth service on Sunday night at 5:30 pm. It’s going to be awesome!!
I encourage you to go to www.twitter.com and register, then you can follow me at twitter.com/gregrohlinger. This will help you stay up to date as I share personal thoughts, church info, and other helpful thoughts.
There’s so much happening at Palm Valley Church, and I believe God’s about to do even “Greater Things” than we’ve ever seen. I’ll see you this weekend!