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I was fired last Monday afternoon

I wish that title was there for shock-value only, but unfortunately it’s not. Last week at 4:00pm on November 22, 2010, my service as the youth pastor at Alexandria Covenant Church ended.

Here’s a note I posted on Facebook the next evening for people in our community (it’s accessible only by people in our town because I wanted the comments to be a place for us to talk without other chatter):

Wow, for a phone number that none of you knew at the beginning of today, it’s sure been ringing a lot! Thank you all for your phone calls, Facebook messages, prayers, support, and encouragement, even those who stopped by just to cry with us.

First, let me say that it’s been a tremendous joy for Dana and I to serve you guys at Alexandria Covenant Church the past four years. It truly has. We’ve seen tons of life-change take place, not only in you all, but in ourselves as well. Dana and I started our marriage here with you in 2007 and, more recently, our family! The support we’ve received from you all through that has been incredible. Thank you so much! I could go through countless memories of our times together and the spiritual influence we’ve mutually had on each other.

If you feel like you need some answers and justification for my termination, I encourage you to go talk with Pastor John. He loves you guys and this church. We’ve agreed that he will speak on the church’s behalf and that I will speak on mine so there’s no misinterpreting each other’s heart or intentions.

Ultimately, I am trusting God with the decision. Dana and I are looking forward to what God has next for us. I know God’s hand is on this because my conscience before the Lord is totally clear about how I served Him in ministry: with how I’ve used my time, with the values I set, the vision I pursued, the breadth and depth of the relationships we’ve built, everything.

Pray for our future and where God’s taking us. That’s something Dana and I have been praying about a lot and ask that you would join us in that. I don’t have another job lined up or anything, so we’ll be around Alexandria for the time being, although not at Alexandria Covenant Church. Pray also for our hearts and emotions through all of this, as well as our finances.

Of course, pray for the church. God loves it even more than any of us do and He has great things in mind for you all, but it comes to fruition best when it’s bathed in prayer and comes from hearts that are pure toward the organism (church) that He established.

We love you guys! Stay in touch! I don’t have my church cell phone, so if you call or text, I won’t get it. My personal cell number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. This may be the end of my time at Alexandria Covenant Church, but it’s not the end of our story together. God’s still working, even in ways that aren’t comfortable for us.

The transition has been difficult for me and Dana on many different levels. I’m not sure where God is taking us and why He’s choosing to do so at this time, but I trust He’s in control.

In the meantime, please pray for us. Pray for our hearts, for our attitudes, for me to have wisdom in talking with those in the church who are hurt by this, for the church’s leadership, the youth ministry’s future, and my family’s future. This will be tough for us financially, too, especially with all of Zeke’s baby delivery bills coming in now, so pray for that, as well.

We’ve begun interviewing with some churches, but with all my free time now I’m going to invest more into my family. I’m also going to learn more about the business side of blogging and see if Life In Student Ministry can become a source of income for us with advertising, paid writing gigs, and speaking engagements.

If you have a job for me, let me know! I’m open to youth ministry positions, speaking engagements, consulting and training gigs, and providing advertising opportunities here at Life In Student Ministry. Thanks!

UPDATE: It’s been a month since I was fired. Here’s some of what I’ve been learning, experiencing and thinking through since then.

UPDATE: It’s been 2 months since being fired and I’m volunteering in youth ministry now while doing other side-projects for work.

UPDATE: Here’s my 6-month update about where we’re at since being fired.


Posted on November 30, 2010

  • Mark

    That's an incredibly gracious and Christlike response. May God protect and provide for you as he's promised too.

  • Dale Tadlock

    Tim,
    I will drop you a more personal note when I get settled in my hotel tonight. PLEASE know that I am praying for and weeping alongside you. Just wanted you to know that I care and am here however I might be of assistance. Want to speak at youth retreat this spring?

  • Hey Bro, I saw the heaviness in your countenance yesterday, made me think something bad had happened. I know the hurt well. i will be praying for you man. Maybe I can use your mad skills in the future and bring you to Bama. Praying for you and your fam, let me know if I can do anything. Blessings.

  • Prayn for u brother.

  • Dude, been praying for you guys during the whole phase. Thanks for doing your best to handle it well. And, selfishly, move somewhere a little warmer. Would ya? All those videos with frozen ponds are kind of freaking me out.

    • haha! We're pretty open to anywhere right now, or even staying put. Not sure where God's leading next.

  • Jake Manne

    Just prayed for you. I resigned out of a difficult situation in September and am still looking. Great book in the bridge time is, "The Land Between", by Jeff Manion. He shared a message on it at Willows Leadership Summit this year. Blessings.

  • Wow… Praying for you and your family, man. Not a fun situation at all. I applaud the humility in your response, and I pray that God would bless you abundantly in this really tough time.

  • Jonathan Wright

    I'm praying for you and your family. You are a great encouragement, leader, and champion of youth ministry to me down here in small town Texas. Thanks for following Christ and serving his people like you have.

    • Dude, thanks for the encouragement. I really do appreciate that right now. It's good to hear that LISM is a blessing to your ministry.

  • I'm very, very sorry Tim. I can't imagine the hurt and pain that you are facing right now. I know that you're first reaction would probably be, "It's OK.", but I mean it, I am sorry. This job can be difficult, painful, and thankless enough, let alone being let go in the middle of such huge life transitions. I obviously don't have any clue as to why this happened, and I know that you probably know anything that I can share with you, but if you would bare with me to share one thing that I had to cling to in the last year as I recovered from a deep, deep marriage wound that nearly cost me my ministry even though it wasn't my fault: Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." This verse was one of the very few reasons I made it. I looked at God and asked Him, "How could You ever turn this for good?!" Yet He remained true to His promise, and that promise has become life to me. I hope that it can (if it isn't already) life to you. I love your heart, and am praying for you and your family. Please keep us posted on needs that we can pray for and possibly help provide for. Blessings.

    • I know this is God's doing and that He's moving me and Dana on to something else, I just don't know what yet. The timing of all this is definitely not what I would've picked, but then I guess that's how God usually works. I'm encouraged by your story and hope that I'll have a similar one sometime… hopefully sooner than later.

  • Larry Darnell

    Tim, as having been in the pastor's office on Monday and then going home after having been canned…it was very disillusioning for me. I pray for you and your family and for discernment to see God in this…it was not easy for me and especially difficult on my family. I am not sure I have recovered and that was almost 20 years ago…we will be praying for you.

    • I'm curious: how was it disillusioning for you? Trying to think through some of that kinda stuff myself.

  • Praying for you Tim. You've ministered to many people through your blog and other ventures. I'm praying that God will use this to get you to a place where your gifts and ministry are appreciated and valued.

  • Rich Landosky

    Tim, so sorry to hear this. Praying for you and your family.

  • emergingyouth

    sorry to hear about that Tim
    transitions can be difficult
    being a part of a church "family" has its ups and downs
    it sounds like you and your wife made a real emotional investment there and should be commended
    I know that things will work out

    • I know people call the church a family, but is it really a family for pastors? If you can be kicked out on any moment's notice, asked to gather your things and return their things and leave, that feels more like a bad dating breakup. That doesn't feel like family, ya know?

  • Praise God the new season has begun! You have been faith, now time to reap. I care.

  • Praying for you Tim…we met in Chicago last year…i'm the guy from Alaska. Hope you find peace and comfort in this time of toruble and confusion. Cling to Him and your family! Shoot me an email at dnelson@ancbt.org i may know of some job opportunities for ya. Thanks again for serving God through it all!

  • Wow. I honestly thought the title was a metaphor or something, but no, you were serious. Sorry to hear that… Praying that God provides, especially with your young family.

    As far as future youth ministry, I know we are always looking for more partners here in New England! There is a huge need here, and I'm looking forward to see what God does in this area of the country! I don't know of any particular church off the top of my head that has an open (paid) staff position, but I'll let you know if I do find any.

  • jirvin

    So sorry to hear this Tim. We will be praying for you and your situation.

  • GeraldNC

    Wow man! How/why in the world would they get rid of someone so skilled, gifted in your ministry? We know God has plans for you, and that in the end you will prosper in His will, but wow, this is a shocker!

  • Bill Britton

    Praying for you Tim! I've never met you but have followed you on Life in Student Ministry and Facebook so I feel like I've come to know you. I've been down this same path recently and I know the pain and disillusionment it can bring. I'm not sure what is going on in the current culture of churches that feel staff, Youth Pastors especially, are disposable. I would expect to find these kinds of firings in corporate employment on the secular level. For all of our talk of being family in the church and in the Body of Christ, the church has become a very cold place to be employed. I am still recovering financially from the decision of an individual (the Pastor) three years ago that decided it was time for me to go. I pray that you find employment quickly and will find healing as well. You have helped many in you writings and I pray that you find the position that is going to help you to continue to develop as a leader. I do know if I hadn't been let go from my former position I would not have been looking or available to be in the incredible position God has placed me in now. God is on His throne and He IS in control!

    • Yeah, I dunno what's going on in churches lately. I seriously hear odd church stories almost every other day from youth workers being fired for seemingly trivial reasons. Glad your story has a happy ending. I know mine will, too, I just don't know where the story is going right now. Thanks for your prayers!

      • Bill Britton

        God totally knew my heart and the disillusionment I've come to from working in the local church. We're actually up in your neck of the woods now—I moved from Florida three months ago to Flandreau, South Dakota to be a campus Chaplain at the Indian School here. I am enjoying every minute and am enjoying the aspects of being able to do ministry outside of the walls of the church. Lots of healing that took place in me over the last three years to bring me to this point but I understand why Pastors seek secular employment. Sometimes it's just too hurtful to stay employed by the church. I've seen it happen more than it should…If I hear of any openings anywhere I'll let you know.

  • I'm sorry, Tim. I'll be praying hard for you and you family.

  • Wow Tim. Praying for you and your precious family. I am guessing this is because of some issues, that is usually what happens when referred to as 'fired'. Being let go because of money situations is hard enough when trying to understand others' decisions, much less over issues. It would be interesting to hear what this is about, though I know there is a time and a place for that. I am always curious in these things with others in ministry are 'fired' or 'let go'. I also know that you love that church and the people in it, so there are only so many things that can be said where it wouldn't be contentious or perceived as you "bashing the church". Thank you for your humble attitude, God is in control, a lot easier to say sometimes than others!

    • I have nothing to hide in all this. No shame or anything on my part. Like I said in the post, my conscience before God is totally clear. However, I don't think it's appropriate to share the reasons publicly online because I don't want to ever be the reason for causing division in the church. People from the church who want to hear my side of the story and then hear the church leadership's side just want to be placed in a position to decide who they're going to support, which is division. I'm more concerned about supporting God's reputation than trying to defend mine, even if it makes me look bad, even if rumors are started that I don't defend. God knows. That's good enough for me.

      • Theresa

        Wow, Tim. I feel compelled to tell you that I too am praying for you and my heart breaks with yours and your family's. Your earlier post regarding the church v. family is tough. As you can see, and you know, you are surrounded by the church and your family. We are all lifting you up and anxiously awaiting God's next work in your life. You've not been kicked out of the family; maybe just the house (?).

        Your post above is from God, and you are being used as a witness even in your crisis. Our church is just recovering from a major division that ripped my heart apart along with the church. You are very correct in minimizing people's ability to choose sides; by that you are demonstrating God's wisdom……..a house divided will surely fall.

        BTW, I was 'laid off' a couple of months ago, and am also seeking God's plan for my 'day job' so I truly feel your pain except that I am blessed to be able to lean on my husband's provision for now. I will continue to pray for your new journey.

        • Thanks for your story, Theresa. For some reason, it's helpful and reassuring hearing that.

  • Tim, when one door closes, God will open another. The hardest part about leaving are the relationship & connections you've made with your youth. I'm only a volunteer Director of Student Ministry and i realize we're not always appreciated, but because of our love for these young people we keep moving forward. You've been saying you want more time with your family, I believe God hears you and He has something special for you just around the corner. He knows your heart. Just continue to keep it true to Him and he'll guide your way. We appreciate your ministry. God Bless, my youth group will be praying for you.

  • James Halfhill

    Hey Tim I am praying for you! May God's hand of blessing be upon you and your family. I will be praying that God opens the appropriate doors for you.

  • Hey Tim. I'm sorry and shocked to hear that. I can commiserate because I was fired two days after Christmas last year. It has been a wild ride of trusting God with every last ounce of my being. I have been blessed to land with a great church but that was after nearly 10 months of wondering if I'd ever work in a church again. Its tough, and I will be praying for you and your family. Stay strong and keep going. God has a plan but like you said its hard to see what it is while we're still at the beginning of the journey.

  • Tim – I am sorry to hear your news. I have always appreciated your love and support for youth workers, and I pray that we may be that for you during this time. I'm praying for you and your family.

  • Tim. I'll be praying for you and your family.

  • Michelle

    Tim, I guess I don't have anything new to add to these comments. I'm so sorry, and I will be praying for you. Your blog has been a great source of help to me, and I appreciate it very much. Please do explore the option of making it work for you financially. I pray God's peace and comfort to you and your wife during this time.

    • That's the direction I'm pursing right now — seeing if LISM can support my family. I have such a big vision for LISM and youth ministry, maybe this is the time to start going that direction. I'm just not sure how to make it work financially. However, my heart is still in a local church context, so maybe I'll find a place that needs a youth pastor but can't afford to hire one that'll let me work for free while doing LISM on the side. Who knows. Thanks for your support to move LISM to something more!

  • Jason

    Tim – much love and prayers! I am sorry you guys are having to weather such a difficult storm but I'm confident that with your skills and heart for ministry ANY church in America would be blessed to have you on staff!

  • Tim , praying for you and your family. We all know in this world of youth ministry that this can happen any day to any of us even when things seem to be going well. Thank you for being an example of leaving well not just blogging about it. God is in control and HE knows your every step.

  • GG HB

    Well stated
    God's ways are so far above our ways.. we won't understand it all til we see Him.. But it will be unfolding gradually.. which tests our faith !! AND when He closes a door… another opens !! By staying yielded to Him.. is great Success !
    luv and blessings and hugs and kisses..

  • Jason

    Tim,

    I am so sorry for you. I know firsthand how painful this is. You are in my prayers. Your site has been an encouragement to me, and I hope that you will find encouragement an support through this painful time.

  • George

    Seems very mean-spirited in regards to the timing: right after the birth of your son, just before Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays. Sheesh!

    • I'm sure it wasn't mean spirited. The timing is rough, but I strongly doubt anyone sat around and was like, "When's the worst possible time we could fire Tim?"

  • Tim,
    I'm sorry for you man. I was in a similar situation (it's amazing how many of us there are…). Based on what you wrote you seem to be handling things better than I did. I had a lot of anger and bitterness afterward. Someone gave me the book A Tale of Three Kings. It helped me start to process through forgiveness. I'm not sure if you are experiencing any of that but I thought I would toss that out there in case.

    Praying for you and your family.

    • Someone recommended, "A Tale of Three Kings," for me, too. I read it a couple weeks ago.

      And yeah, I was thinking how many there are of us that seem to have gone through something similar before. Are churches really that hostile of an environment for youth workers? Are we all just screwing up somehow? Ministry bites… hard!

      • jmgreenhill

        Whenever I hear about someone going through this I wonder the same thing. Maybe it's because we spilled kool-aid on the Jones Memorial Carpet. Maybe it's because we don't typically like to dress up. Maybe it's because we dare to take risks on the population of the church that no one else will. Or perhaps they are just jealous because we get to do things like flamingo the pastor's yard and get paid for it.

        someone should really look into why youth pastor's see this the most. (although senior pastor's do too I'm guessing) Maybe that could be your "door"..ok maybe not. Take care.

  • Tim- Been there before. It's hard but in this case I think God is bigger. Follow God and show mercy in all situations while you give thanks for all things.

  • Adam Lehman

    Wow brother. I'd give ya a hug if I could.

  • Thanks, I'll check it out.

  • Ann Pursche

    Tim,
    I'm so sorry to hear about this -getting fired really stinks. It's hard to leave the kids behind particularly, but I know that you have built into them a love for Christ and a commitment to serving Him no matter who's their youth pastor. I'll be praying for you and your family as you begin to look for new opportunities. I trust that God has something even better that He is already preparing for you.

  • I have been fired before as well. It is incredibly deflating, and yet for me it was one of the greatest times in my life. Praying you have a similar experience.

  • roy

    Tim, trusting for God's best in this next stage of life and ministry. With all that is going on around you, may God's peace be ever so apparent

  • David Teem

    You don't know me but I have been where you are, new baby and all. I will pray for you. I know the things we say don't help much right now. Fear and anger can be overwhelming in this type of situation. Hang on, it gets better.

  • Jono

    Tim, deeply sorry for what has happened. I remember when I first found LISM about four years ago I was amazed with all the fantastic content. Since then I have regularly visited and suggest the site to all my youth ministry friends in New Zealand. In fact once I reposted an article and you were kind enough to tell me how to do that properly. I just want to encourage you, your ministrry has helped mine so much and I'm sure many around the world.

    Thank you Tim and God bless in this time of unknowing, J.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Jono! And thanks for being a reader for such a long time. That's so encouraging! :)

  • pastorjoe2

    Take the high road (which it appears you are doing) and trust God (which you have already said you do) and you will walk away in God's grace and his richest blessings!

    Prayed for you brother,

    Joe

  • Will

    Tim, You have been a guide for youth workers across the country through your posts, videos, resources and podcast. I know that if I am feeling discouraged, frustrated and that no one else understands whats happening I have been able to come to your website and find encouragement. I will be lifting you up for God's grace, peace and vision to come down like a flood for clear direction.

  • Mark Walz

    Praying for ya, man, I started being a youth pastor in March 2008 and the day that I started I started looking to your website for help and really look to you as a role model in my ministry!

  • Tim, you are a blessing to so many of us. Appreciate you brother, thinking and praying for you often in this time of transition. May your heart remain confident in the calling God has place within you and open and forgiving in every way, and your family be drawn together as you encounter this new adventure together.
    Matt

  • Tim,

    I'm sorry, I'm a little late hearing the news. I really hate this for you. You've had my
    prayers (and will continue to get them) during this difficult time.

  • Phil

    Tim,

    No wisdom, just my prayers for you Dana and the kids. I pray that the God of comfort and wisdom will give you all that you need in the coming days and weeks…

    Phil <><

  • Mike

    I feel for you, brother. I served 7 years in a small church where the pastor and I called each other friend as well as brothers in the ministry. The church began having severe budget problems and before I knew it, my ministry was "the reason" for all the budget shortfalls. I discerned an agenda at work and I excused myself from the meeting. After spending the night in prayer, I resigned the next morning. Six months later I am still baffled as to what happened and have only heard from the man who I thought was a friend once in that time.

    However, God does make good of all things. The trials of this season have helped me grow my relationship with God. It has also helped me discover how to be a child of God without having all the titles and duties of serving on a staff. I had the realization one day as I was washing dishes that God loved me just as much then as he did when I was leading teens to the Lord. That was something I knew in my heart but still needed to experience.

    The coming months will be challenging. I still struggle with the hurt and feelings of betrayal. However, God will heal things given enough time and distance. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  • Mary

    I would like to use Mik's comment: I feel for you, brother. I served 7 years in a small church where the pastor and I called each other friend as well as brothers in the ministry. The church began having severe budget problems and before I knew it, my ministry was "the reason" for all the budget shortfalls. I discerned an agenda at work and I excused myself from the meeting. After spending the night in prayer, I resigned the next morning. Six months later I am still baffled as to what happened and have only heard from the man who I thought was a friend once in that time.

    This is exactly what just happened to me a couple of weeks ago, I am stunned, heart, bewildered and hurt. I was at my church for over 23 years. The worst part, not one member called me. I am at a complete and utter loss.

    • Bill Britton

      Just reading through your post. Have experienced similar to above and can especially relate to the comment "not one member called me." I was able to walk with another brother who has gone through the same thing and that was also his greatest disappointment—no one called as if no one cared.

      I actually saw on FB a few weeks ago "I miss….(Name of person)" posted by one of the students in this person's former ministry. I thought–gosh, this person isn't dead–they were fired. Call them up for goodness sake and tell them how much they are missed. It's as if the only relationship was based on working at the church.

      Strange times we're in…

  • Des

    God bless you and he will make a way

  • Sorry Tim. Praying for you.

  • Shocking. I can't believe it. You are like the Don of youth ministry. Strongs and I'll be PM'ing you on an ideas I've got.

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  • mattmo865

    Nov. 17th was the 2-year anniversary of the same situation in my ministry: after 7-1/2 years it came out-of-the-blue, no warning or conflict, total shock, just before the holidays, etc. I know a lot of what it's like for you. Two years later, I'm back in full-time Student Ministry at a wonderful church, and looking back at God's gracious faithfulness and provision. I know that, soon, you also will be able to do the same. I'll be praying for you all.

  • Nikki

    I hav no idea who u r but this must b really hard. Praying for u!!! Remember Isaiah 54:10 no matter what u lose He is still there!!!

  • Hey Bro,
    How's it going? Still in my thoughts and prayers.

    • I'm actually publishing a blog post about this today. :) Stay tuned…

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