6 months after being fired from our church

6 months after being fired from our churchLast week Doug Fields shared the story of a youth pastor who was recently fired from his church. It’s crazy how many of the comments are youth workers saying, “Dude, that sounds just like my situation when I was fired!” The comments on my own post about being fired indicate the same. Are churches really this hostile of an environment for youth workers or do we all have glaring issues that gets us fired?

Having been fired over 6 months ago from my former church, I can say a couple things to this guy and other youth workers who have been recently fired.

1. The hurt will last longer than you think. Here we are, 6 months later, and not a day goes by where I don’t think about the situations, how they were handled, and the people involved. Each time I have to catch myself, re-extend forgiveness, remember that it’s in the past and that God is using this to prepare us for something else, whatever that is. I figured I’d be dealing with the emotions of this for a while, but I never thought it would go on for 6 months. In some ways, the pain still continues to grow, as my wife talked about in her vlog a couple weeks ago. For me personally, most of the hurt doesn’t come from the fact that I was terminated, but from the injustice of it all… similar (but not really) to the injustice Christ experienced on the cross for my sin.

2. Take your time getting back into a church ministry position. As a guy, I know there’s the immediate feeling of, “I need to find a job and provide for my family!” but I’m doing that the best I can outside the church for a while. I love volunteering as a youth leader at our new church, which has helped re-energize me about youth ministry, but I know if I was the paid guy I’d respond to any negative situation emotionally and unfairly. I need to become emotionally and spiritually healthy myself before I can serve in that capacity again, for both my sake and the sake of the next church.

3. Use your free time for yourself for a while. For me, this was a perfect opportunity to really pray through, “God, what capacity exactly have you created me for service to you?” I always thought it was to serve teens and families in a church context, but after having served in a several churches, there’s several things about a typical church that doesn’t align with my values and priorities. (More about that in a later post.) But if not church, then what? Reading through books like, “48 Days to the Work You Love,” and, “No More Dreaded Mondays,” have helped me narrow that focus a bit.

4. Staying in town can be tough. We live in a small town where it’s easy to run into people from our old church whenever we go out shopping, to eat, or just to play at the park with the kids. Most people we’re excited to see because we don’t get to see them every week like we used to, but others can be awkward. And then there’s trying to make room for the new person the church hires while you’re in town and the kids still want you to be involved with them (and we want to be involved, too!). It just gets very complicated. It seems like it would be easier to move, but we’re still here because I feel strongly that I don’t want to just move away from something, I want to move to something else.

I’m just not sure what that is yet.

Posted on May 31, 2011

  • uthpastordave

    Tim, thanks for sharing this. I am not in this place right now, but have thought I would be many, MANY times! The day may come where I need this. If nothing else, it gives me some understanding in dealing with my friends in ministry who find themselves in this place (there have been many over the years. As someone who's coming up on finishing my 14th year of ministry at my current church, I've grieved with many brothers in ministry).

    • Wow man, 14 years is awesome! Keep up the amazing work! Glad you found a place where you fit.

      • uthpastordave

        Yes, it is awesome, but not without it's challenges. If you recall, I posted about it here:

        So – I have been under the threat of being fired many times over the years, and survived an underhanded smear campaign that he stirred up. I have done "the Christian thing" and forgiven and continued to follow my calling. Thankfully, yet sadly, the issue appears to now be resolved. 2 Deacons and 2 former Deacons who I go to for accountablility went and met with the Senior Pastor after talking with me and 7 other staff members (current and past), the anger issue was confirmed and addressed. He didn't take kindly to it and in lieu of changing the behavior, he quit. He announced his resignation last Sunday.

        In my case it appears that I got to see justice, but it was a LONG time coming for my predecessor who left here under HORRIBLE circumstances 16 or 17 years ago. I, however, suffered the mistreatment far longer than he did. It also is pretty sad to see. The Senior Pastor should be retiring, but he's making it a point to call it resignation. This is not the way I would want to see my ministry end, and for that I grieve for him.

        Despite of all of this, I haven't questioned or doubted my calling. I've argued with God many times about Him releasing me from the call I received here, but I continued in the calling and I've seen some awesome fruit in the last year or so, which makes it all worthwhile. It also makes me realize that maybe God has plans for me in helping with the healing process here as we search for a new Senior Pastor.

  • Hi Tim. Your feelings are not out of place as I went through this process at two different times. The fact is that pain really never goes away, but I try to refocus what I do so that I know I am still serving that way God has called me to do. I believe God calls us all to serve, in what capacity, though, may be different for each person, but we are called to serve. That's why I started the ministry I am now involved in.

    • Yeah, I've heard it doesn't go away. I've definitely been refocusing, as you call it, a lot, though. Looking forward to whatever capacity that is.

  • Dr. Headly

    I admit to some surprise as well at how long the pain lasts. While not technically fired from a position over 4 years ago (I was forced out), I still find myself wondering and replaying conversations in my head. We have had a great run here in Corry for these last 4 years, and the pain still pops up every now and then. But I have finally healed enough that it is not a distraction, nor does it hinder my ability to minister effectively here in town.

  • Thank you for your post! As you may remember, my paid position of Youth Director was eliminated for 'financial' reasons. It's been 15 months and some days I was my husband and had just left town. But God opened a door not expected and I am finally finishing my bachelor degree at Spring Arbor University. The pain took a long time to heal and is still tough some days when I run into friends from that church. I appreciate and enjoy your words of wisdom! Thank you for you commitment – I know that God had great plans for you (Jere 29:11).

    • Yeah, God is using this to help me evaluate some future direction, as well. Still listening for where that is, though.

  • Tim,

    While I am unsure at times why I follow this blog, I still hold on for some reason. Personally, I would advise you to reexamine your "call" to ministry. You can tell you put a lot into youth ministry (or youth ministry media/resources) but it often looks like you are trying too hard or striving to be something you're not. It sounds like God may be leading you to another location, position, direction, or even another church but there is hesitancy on your part.

    You claim that you were "fired" from "our church". I would say, reading between the lines, that there are still conversations within the church that "fired" you that need to take place (even if they are unofficial) so that healing can begin. You still sound upset and internally bothered that "justice" hasn't occurred. If you feel that the call to youth ministry is still evident then move on and be great for the Lord elsewhere. Great Godly men have chosen to part ways to work for the Lord in different locations. It sounds like you staked your identity for the longest time in being a "Youth Pastor" in one certain location (church) and when it was removed you are grasping at ways to still validate your position. Example, you claim that you were "fired" from "our church". It was never "your church" in the first place and you were never "fired" from ministry. It's God's church and He has equipped you for every perfect work.

    You ask if churches are a "hostile environment for youth workers". I would argue that they are the opposite. Instead I would say that churches desire youth staff (pastors, super-volunteers, or whatever) to take seriously the position in which they were placed to lead young people into a mature relationship with Christ. Parents want the best for their children and they want to see them mature in Christ. If the youth worker is unable to do this then the student will mimic the mentor and stay a child. I'll fire immediately any youth staff who fails to take acknowledge and take seriously youth ministry and the spiritual disciplines of Christ. The desire is for students to mimic those who are like Christ, not those who are like fully grown adult children.

    In other words, maybe it's time to throw out the adidas hat, own up to any wrong (or right) that was done on your part, grow up, evaluate the call, and move on. Open up and broaden your horizons a little. Ask God to give you clarity and work for His kingdom according to your gift set. I can name lots of churches that need internet and IT work. It sounds like maybe your services would be better used behind a screen instead of in front of a camera. God may have "fired" you for a reason.


    • Hey Jordan! You definitely are reading between a lot of lines here, but that's okay because I haven't shared a lot of my heart and my former ministry because the Internet is not always an appropriate place to do so.

      But just to clarify, I know for certain that my heart and passion is in youth ministry. That's not even a question in my mind. So much so that I started volunteering with a youth group at another church in town shortly after being fired and actually get to start teaching again this Sunday, which I'm really excited about! The question is not if I should be serving teens and families but rather in what capacity God wants me to serve.

      However, your assessment about having wrapped my identity in being a "youth pastor" is true. I've actually blogged about that and is something that I didn't see while I was still serving in the church.

      Yes, churches do desire youth staff to take seriously their call to serve teenagers, and sometimes youth workers want churches who will take that call just as seriously as they do. I'm not saying that was true in my case, just that, as you know, these situations are not usually that black and white.

    • This comment is written by someone who
      1. probably has never been laid off from the church and left the children/families he loves.
      2. strikes me as a recent seminary graduate
      3. thinks they have the best understanding of this "calling" we talk so much about in the church and I think it is a little more grey area than black and white!

      If I am wrong sorry Jordan.

      • Josh

        Jordan, the comment is inappropriate in a public forum like this. While Tim may learn from you, and even grow because of what you've said, this really isn't the place to do it. He's included his email, skype, and facebook information if you wanted to talk to him about this stuff privately.

        Thank you. Tim, I appreciate your honesty. You haven't slandered your old church but shared the hurt and injustice you felt about the situation. It's never easy, but I know God will continue to give you the strength you need as you get prepared for where God is placing you next!

  • You're second point; taking time away from church ministry is one reason why I spent four years serving full-time at youth missions camp.

  • G'parents HB

    It's so good to have friends to help you think and pray things through.. so you can re-fire with new horizons.. We'll always be open to hurts.. but God teaches us how to handle them, and helps us to consider the source.. Remember His great love, compassion, forgiveness, direction, healing, and victory !! Sure.. we've been hurt.. but life is so sweet with Jesus as the ONE we're following..
    and "He is able to keep that which I've committed unto HIM !"
    G'parents HB

  • Hey Tim, I started reading your stuff right around the time that you were terminated, as i was fairly new in my position at my first church as head youth minister. I was really seeking guidance and networking, and I really appreciate finding that in you and the things you share. I remember reading you were terminated, and going, "This doesn't mean that what he has to say isn't relevant." It's blessed me to see you go through this and be able to read it, knowing the feelings you have (which I experience after quitting my volunteer job for my current job. I'm in a small town too!). Anywho, I hope to continue learning from experienced ministers like yourself. Thanks!

    • Thanks for that encouragement, Heather. I really appreciate that. Hopefully we can all learn from each other here. That's why I appreciate comments people leave that challenge me and provide other perspectives.

  • Finally taking the time to write in response as I had said I would do through twitter.
    1. The hurt will last longer than you think. [I would agree and I am 1.5 years removed from being laid off. It still hurts and is hard to interact with people from the old church. Although a few people inside and outside of the youth ministry people have said to me that they think things were handled "wrong"

    2. Take your time getting back into a church ministry position. [ I have not found a place to start serving yet. I was asked to help with middle school at the current church but struggled to be ready to jump back into ministry. Especially after giving so much of my heart, passion, life to a ministry to have it ripped away, out of the blue i just didn't. I tried to work with a guy with the mens ministry but it has fallen short and "taking a break"

    3. Use your free time for yourself for a while. { I have also tried to start reading 48 days and unfortunately it was on loan from the library and had to be turned back in. So I did not finish that book. I think I know what it would say and I am just not sure I have the heart to get back into vocational ministry. I have enjoyed working out and getting in better shape and riding my bikes more.}

    4. Staying in town can be tough [This is so true… I hung out last night with friends of mine from the old church with their children still involved in the ministry. the church is now on the second interim part time youth pastor since laying me off. The church has completely reversed the directions of working with the family that I had worked towards. When I hang out with their family it is so different. he and I used to be best buds and now we hardly have anything to talk about. I feel like i have failed him as a friend.

    I am not sure why we are still in the area and what God is trying to teach us through this time. I am not sure if I want to put my heart out there and be on staff at another church. I know that my wife is definitely not interested in that for our family, at least any time soon in the near future.

    • Sounds like your experience has been pretty similar to mine. Sorry to hear that, man. I totally get the hesitation about going back to serve in a church setting. I feel that myself, although I hope that I'll be able to move past that soon.

  • Coming up on nine months. Seems a lot shorter than that! Still praying for you guys. Seems like your making some sense of some stuff, getting your best foot forward. Being a pro blogger now and all. (don't worry I'm not hunting for your job LOL). Thanks for keeping it real.

  • Hey there! I’ve been following your site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good work!

  • I know I’m REALLY late to this conversation, but I just came across this blog post through Doug’s post of several months ago, as well. I, too, have been fired from youth ministry. In the past five years this has happened not once, not twice, but THREE times! Serious red flags, here–I know. Of course, every situation is different and there were definitely things that I could have done better in those ministries and there were definitely things those churches could have done better. I don’t have any better wisdom to share, in general, than those who have already posted, but I would like to make myself available to any guys or gals who find themselves in this position and just need a listening ear of someone who has been there a time or two (or three).

    I did read the Tale of Three Kings book between firing #2 and #3. It was a good book.

    My main encouragement for those in this situation is that you don’t have to look to the Church to rescue you from the dark place you might find yourself in–look to the LORD of the Church. He has faithfully taken care of my family (wife & 4 kids) and I through each dark season we have had to walk through. I’m not back in ministry, yet, but I am starting to have those conversations, again, after another 18-month time of healing. It has felt like a LONG time to be out of ministry, but I know that if/when God decides to place me back in such a role, I will be SO much better prepared and with an even greater faith in the One who I am called to point people to.

    Hang in there!

    • JR

      Ben, what job did you do after being fired? I’m also curious what everyone else did to provide for your family?

      • Ben McClary

        I just came back across this post doing a little “rep check” googling of my own name. I’m not sure why I didn’t get any kind of notification of this reply a year ago!

        Anyway, 100% commission sales was all that was available to me during that season that would allow me to continue to support my family, so that’s what I ended up doing. It was awful, but we made it.

        Now, we’re on the other side of that dark season! Three years ago, I was hired to plant a new church in a small town in another state. We launched that church almost 2-1/2 years ago, and now I’m back on the learning curve as a lead pastor! Sometimes I wonder if God wasn’t trying to move me into planting earlier in my life and I kept clinging to student ministry, and that is why they kept not working out. In any case, God has taken care of us and we are back in a healthy, loving church family and doing our best to be faithful with the opportunity and help the people of our church and all those who visit to discover and live out God’s purpose for their life!

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