How to handle the challenge of firing a staff member or volunteer. 

Hiring and firing people are the most important things you can do to maintain the health of your organization. In this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, hosts Mike Mage and Justin Price, founder of Vers Creative, discuss how to master the art of having those difficult conversations. 

On Instagram:  @Mikemage @techjustinrp @vers_creative


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. We’re so glad you’re here joining us today. Today, we are continuing a conversation that we started on our last podcast. In our last podcast, if you haven’t listened to it, I encourage you to go do it. Because it is a, it’s probably a lot more fun and happy than the one we’re talking about today. Today, we’re going to be talking about firing slash letting people go slash having really tough conversations. But before we do that, before we, you know, dive right into that, just want to really say thank you. Thank you so much for getting involved in this conversation. Thank you so much for getting involved in what healthy church growth looks like.

It’s been incredible to hear from you, the audience, to kind of hear what you think healthy church growth looks like as well. We want to continually make this a journey for all of us, because we know that God has called us to very unique places and unique locations and has gifted us all uniquely. So it’s an incredible thing to be able to talk about. But Justin, today, we are talking about letting people go or fire them, arguably one of the hardest topics, practically speaking, that we could probably cover and frankly at topic a lot of us do our absolute best at avoiding at all costs

especially within the church. And I haven’t had to have like a lot of these conversations over the years. But I know for you being sort of the leader of a creative agency, you have sort of had to have these conversations a good bit, right.

Justin Price
I would even say my challenge for this topic would be that I would say we did not want to fire anybody. Okay. And so my challenge to you is that healthy church growth looks a lot like not firing people. Now that’s going to resonate and feel a lot happier than the set-up you just gave us.

Mike Mage
I guess

I want to establish the groundwork that we’re about to go into. Yeah.

Justin Price
So I think there’s actually a ton of hope for anybody who’s in a particularly bad team. I really, you know, the one that my heart kind of breaks for is for a young worship leader who maybe has some volunteers who suck, who show up and don’t practice, who you know, really hurt the whole like dynamics of the team. And they need to somehow figure out how to let them go. And even the nuance of firing a volunteer is super relevant to the conversation I want to have today. So, Mike, I’m glad we’re doing this. We’re doing this speed lightning round, I’m gonna try to crank it up. It is early for us. Mike and I are both hiding from our families in our closets. And so bear with us this morning. If it takes us a couple minutes to get the blood pumping.

Try

Mike Mage
it

We’re trying, we’re trying.

Justin Price
but

But man, and also, I don’t think talking about firing is something that would really get the blood pumping. But

we’ve got we got three things I got to go first last time, Mike and I thought it would be only the polite thing to do to let you go first. So you’re gonna set the pace here. Hit us with the lightning round. We both have three things. We’re going to ping pong back and forth here. Get out your notepads. Challenge it. Before we actually jump into this. Can I say it’s been really encouraging to see you guys participating in the conversation of what healthy church growth looks like. It’s been really cool to hear other people who are working and serving inside of a church, whether it’s volunteer or staff, to say, finally, a conversation that is about a healthy culture, not about hype culture. A conversation that’s about what we believe is really good for the church and not necessarily just what will grow the church.

So thank you guys for jumping in. It’s been really encouraging. I think Mike and I are fed by getting the the feedback and the ideas and even just hearing your thoughts on that. So as Mike said, thank you, I just want to I want to echo my own thank you. It encourages me, it energizes me to keep doing this. I’m really, really grateful for how you all are jumping in on the conversation and to see, hopefully an impact of people feeling like we can actually make our church cultures healthier. And that that ultimately is, is the best thing that could come out of this podcast. So thank you guys for implementing some of these things, challenging some of the things we’re saying and finding what is the healthy church culture for you.

Mike Mage
Well, and sort of to tack on what you’re saying and sort of pivot us into this, you know, conversation, I think that you know, you and I like we’re not 100% experts on this topic. Like I do think, you know, over the past, however many five, six, ten years or so, like I have

Justin Price
Absolutely.

Mike Mage
Okay, so diving face first in here.

gotten to understand more and more about what it looks like to hire, to bring on people well, what does it look like to maybe fire or let people go well in a way that’s healthy, and productive, and hopeful, kind of like you were saying, however, you know, like hearing from other people, also helps all of us grow. So we need each other in this in not just this topic, but in all the things that we’re talking about. So,

Justin Price
absolutely.

Mike Mage
Okay, so hidden diamond face verse in here,

Justin Price
Number one from Mike Mage is…

Mike Mage
So, first thing you and I were talking about here is I’m a nine on the Enneagram, which means I’m a peacemaker, and which just even thinking about the topic of either firing people or letting people go, what terminate however you want to word, it fills me with the utmost terror. I naturally want to never talk about this topic. And I creating conflict is one thing that I just genuinely want to avoid. It’s just part of who I am as a person. So knowing that however, this is this is something that I’ve begun to learn is not one, like giant moment, in either my life or someone’s life, like this is a constant thing that is happening over time. And so you know, I think when I when I, when I opened myself up to the idea, that firing slash letting people go slash terminating them, whatever, when I opened myself up to the idea that like, this is an ongoing thing, and isn’t just like one like nuclear explosion that happens out of nowhere, it sort of gave me a lot more peace in in all of this to like, begin to build guardrails and pathways for not just myself, but also my team. So that’s sort of my preamble from a number one here. So my number one is, you must set expectations. So just like every good parent, just like every good leader, whatever, you know, you must set expectations. And then once you set your expectations, you have to do it again. And then you have to reinforce it. And then you have to reinforce it again, and then reinforce it some more like this is the top priority, anywhere you go as a leader. And if you didn’t do it, when you first got into your role as the leader, then the best time for you to do that is right now. So you got to start now if you haven’t done it. And then yeah, like I said, when you set those expectations, you must over communicate them. You can even preach them to your team and figure out a way

Justin Price
to do that. Because the moment that when you set those signposts in the ground, and then you continually come back to them, people will understand what your culture is supposed to be about, they will understand,

even maybe before they mistake when they make a mistake, or when they make a mistake, you know that like, oh, we’re always pointing back to these things, these expectations were already setting. You know,

Mike Mage
writing them down, there’s another practical thing. I mean, Justin, I know for you, you guys at Vers, you guys have probably written down your expectations somewhere. I know that’s not mind exploding, or whatever. But you got to write them down. If anything, just so your team has actual access to the exact wording of your expectations and all that kind of stuff, you have something physical to point back to. And then you know, just in writing in creating your expectations.

One thing I really tried to do, Justin, is I always try from the very beginning, it should be a privilege to be on the team that you’re leading, whether you’re working on it, whether you’re volunteering, it should never feel like an obligation to people. I think if you can make those if you can make those subtle shifts, if and when you’re setting your expectations, that is the start, that’s the the groundwork, that’s the foundation for you know, for a really healthy team. But also, it can help lead you into whenever you have difficult conversations, it can sort of help you in guiding you through that. So I know that it’s not like specifically having to deal with firing or letting people go like in that moment. But like I said, as as an Enneagram nine, like I have to view it as sort of this long term arc that happens. And it sort of helps to reinforce the relational aspect of it.

And you know, like you and I were talking beforehand, I know when I was the leader of a small church, man, I feel like my primary job even not even just as an Enneagram nine, but my primary job was to avoid conflict at all costs to try and keep my team happy, as opposed to try and keep my team like moving in a forward direction, continuing to do great work. So

Justin Price
I like that Mike, maybe a response to that is the the stat that runs around is somewhere in the 40 to 45% more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down. So writing down expectations if you’re going if you’re going, you know, ‘hey, we set these expectations and people just aren’t meeting them.’ My first question is always, ‘Hey, have you written it down?’

Mike Mage
Totally.

Justin Price
If you if you want a really quick lift on achieving goals, write them down. Absolutely. So my first point that I would like to just kind of get the elephant in the room out of the way out of the room, so we could focus on some healthy things is moral failure. So my lightning round thought to get off of the table is moral failure. Mike was talking about, so moral failures can be really big, and they can be really small.

I’ve often said that, hey, don’t, you can’t, you really can’t trust somebody on your team

if they’re, if they’re doing something small, wrong, they’re gonna, they’re gonna do something big wrong. The way we do one thing is the way we do everything in the sense of moral grounds. And so one of the peacemakers biggest issues is to try to say, ‘well, that smaller moral failure is okay with me, and I’m just going to look the other way,’ and not realize that you’re setting yourself up for potential cancer that can grow really quickly, or could infiltrate your whole team. And so the hopeful, helpful tip here is that, if you can think about the whole team, think about the whole congregation, think about your whole organization. And even if this is, even if you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m like third or fourth on the totem pole here, but I’m leading worship.’ You’re 21, you’re leading worship at a church, a larger church, and you see some moral failure. And you could look the other way and say, I don’t really want to ruffle feathers, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s so and so is maybe misusing some funds, maybe so and so’s misusing some equipment, maybe so and so’s misusing doing this. Or maybe there’s a lot of flirting happening in the green room. It just doesn’t feel right.

You guys, the the best thing I can say is, is to, to stand up for it, to to confront it while it’s small, and either get rid of it at that point, try to help that be removed before it turns into something bigger. Because if it does turn into something bigger, say that flirting turned into to an affair

that you guys that ends up hurting so much. Those affairs hurt churches, we’ve seen that for the last 10 years, almost every major leader in the church get taken down with affairs. And so I think just as a as a culture,

looking for those, like weak spots where people kind of come in, and I’m not judging people who are flirting or having an affair. I’m not, this isn’t a statement against those people being bad people or saying that, hey, but but the idea that you can say like, well, it’s not that bad, I really shouldn’t confront I really shouldn’t, shouldn’t do it, shouldn’t handle it. If even if you’re not the the shot caller, if you’re not the executive pastor, if you’re not at a high level feeling like well, that’s their problem, guys, you should you should confront the person, you know, if you’re seeing those issues, and it’s in the same way of firing, if you are in a leadership position

in a smaller organization, and you’re going Hey, well, I need that person that’s not that big of a deal. That that that small moral failure, when it turns into something big, it will take out a lot more than just that one person. So take that person out, now, address it and get it in. And the rest of the thoughts are, you know, just the the idea that

the it’s just you just never win by trying to push something away, no matter how big or justifying it no matter how big or how small. So when it comes to firing, the moral failure part of it for me is more of a non negotiable. Dave Ramsey has some really great stuff in the Entree Leadership book about his philosophy on he even says that he if you cheat on your spouse, if you have an affair, he says I won’t, I will, I will immediately let that person go. Because if they’re willing to cheat on the person they committed their whole life to, then they will definitely cheat on me. You know, they will definitely not follow through. And some of you guys may hear this, you may say, I totally disagree. I embrace that conversation. But for me, I haven’t seen a scenario where this is has has gone wrong. And so it doesn’t mean that you have to excommunicate somebody, it means that you can lovingly come around them and help them and support them through working through a moral failure.

the whole rest of the team is still going to feel that conflict every time you guys jump on stage and that bass player who doesn’t ever practice plays the wrong baseline and Mike, you know, you’re just like, hey, just turn them down in the mix. You talk to that keyboard player, you’re like, hey, just cover the baseline. It’s gonna be…

Mike Mage
We got it in the tracks. Yeah, and we got in the track.

Justin Price
Yeah, we got it in the track, just just don’t have what everybody else who’s hearing that base, you know, in the mix anywhere else they’re feeling and it’s like, Whoa, it’s okay to show up and not practice. It’s okay. It’s, there’s never any, like, the expectation was written. Mike wrote had us all write down that we’re gonna practice we’re gonna show up and know our stuff. And I’m not talking about having a bad day, talking about consistently bad pattern expectations. Yeah, we all have bad days. But when we start to see those patterns, you are missing out on the opportunity, you are creating conflict for a whole team, because you are trying to avoid it for one person. So that’s the cancer kind of get it out early. Get it out while it’s small. Address conflicts when they’re small, they only grow. They never get better. It’s just like cancer, it’ll feed it’ll attract more bad things. And next thing you know, you know, you’re you’re losing organs instead of just chopping off a finger.

Mike Mage
Totally. Well, yeah. So Justin, you’re not pulling any punches here in the beginning.

Just opening, opening lightning round with a haymaker here. I think that I think that what he said, it’s, it’s a really great thing to tackle right up front. And like, I also think that integrity is never something that you shouldn’t fight for. That should be always something that needs to be the backbone of your ministry of your organization. Because it’s bigger than what you’re doing. It’s who you are. And you as a person, and as a culture as an organization, need to be, you know, like, there needs to be something bigger there. And so, yeah, I think that’s incredible. And really dovetails sort of nicely into what my second point here is, is. So when a team member is underperforming, failing to meet expectations, moral failures, all that kind of stuff, you as a leader, you must address it. So. So you set your expectations, somebody does not meet those expectations, moral failures, whatever. You have to talk about it, do not let it go on. And, you know, like, there’s the this, if you get it in the beginning, if you try if you nip it in the bud, this, this has the potential to grow into a much larger problem. And kind of like you were just saying, Justin is, you know, this could grow into a cancer and you start to lose way more than you even thought was possible. And on the flip side, if you actually have these tough conversations at the very beginning, you can actually potentially gain way more than you could ever dream or imagine. So even when you think it might be too difficult a conversation to have whatever it may be, what you are doing is bigger than the problem you are facing, you have to remember that your your job as the leader of it, volunteer team, or staff or some combination, or the both is to set the culture. My pastor always has this really great line that he uses all the time. But he says that we are to be thermostats, not thermometers, because as leaders, we designate what the room feels like, what the team feels like. And the biggest culture drain is having someone on your team, underperform, or worse, someone who’s failing to meet those expectations, and not addressing it. The worst thing is not having someone underperform or not meet those expectations, the worst thing is them doing it and you as the leader not coming to terms with it, you start to lose…

Justin Price
Absolutely.

Mike Mage
You start to lose the trust of the team around you. And that’s where the cracks start to really settle in. It’s not when people don’t do the things that they’re supposed to do. It’s when you let them go unnoticed or untalked about.

I’ve been in some…

Justin Price
Preach.

Mike Mage
I’ve been in so many situations where leaders try to create team culture, or they really force team building or, you know, you have some sort of staff retreat or some sort of stupid, you know, game that you do at staff meeting or, you know, whatever, or we go to lunch and you go go ahead and sit next to someone, you don’t talk to or whatever, as a way to like build team culture. But the things that that really build team culture is when you address elephants in the room, like that’s the, that’s the thing that builds team culture, it allows us to know that we’re all held accountable for something that’s bigger than just your tiny mistake. And like, and I know you said on the last podcast, and I’ve heard you say before, and I’ve heard other people say, but it is so true that we’re only as strong as our weakest member. And I’m not saying that you must address it amongst the rest of your team and like in fact, like 95 to 98% of the time, these are private conversations that you have.

Justin Price
Absolutely.

Mike Mage
And their private conversations that you constantly have and

Justin Price
you know, like, it’s it again, like micromanaging, is not holding people accountable. So I feel like so many people go well, I don’t want to micromanage people like no, the primary area where most leaders fail is the greatest opportunity for growth is constant accountability, like it’s not micromanagement you have to engage with these problems. And so the last thing here, too, just to sort of finish up this big lightning round, from this point to is addressing problems when you see them. At the very first one, when you first see them, it does three things that allows you as a leader to thrive, but it allows your organization to thrive and your culture to thrive. A- it shows that you care, it shows that you are invested in what your people are doing. And that is such a great gift, it shows that you see what’s happening. Second, it allows you to stop potentially large problems when they are small. If things start off is like a golf ball, then it’s so much easier to deal with a golf ball than when it like blows up into a giant beach ball. Third thing, it strengthens your resolve to have hard conversations, not just as a leader, but with your team members specifically. So this hard conversation might be hard, but it’s going to prepare you for the next hard conversation, whether it be with that person or with another person. And it continues. It’s just like creativity. It is a muscle that you need to build as a leader to walk into a walk into your office to bring in somebody and have a tough, engage in a tough conversation with them.

So my first point was a moral failure is really the only grounds to eliminate quickly. And you were saying on any grounds, address conflict quickly. So great, yeah, great dovetail there. So my next point would then be to set checkpoints. So my point number two is now getting back on the the main path I’d like to be on which is not firing. And so kind of you’ve already set the path for this a little bit. But it is that as a leader, if if you can set a three month or a six month regular check in to check in on the goals and the expectations. To use your analogy with the thermometer. You to set the temperature you have to be able to communicate and

Understanding everybody is going to be in a little bit different place on your team. Volunteer or paid, they’re all going to be a little bit different place. Now you can still talk about the temperature, you can still talk about expectations to everybody. But understanding where to help people truly grow, to help your team achieve their expectations and to find the spots that they’d need the most focus on, it should be done individually. And so setting those regular check ins and setting an expectation of check ins is super, super valuable. This is what this is this is so important if you can set that that expectation that that’s happening every at least every six months of just making sure you know that you tell people, ‘Hey, you’re meeting the expectations. And I’m really glad to have you on the team.’ Instead of just thanks for being here this week, instead of just thank you guys. Hey, great Sunday.

To say the expectation was that you always show up and know the music, the expectation was that you, you know, you’re talking to your video guy or your graphics person, or however the team is all structured out. But saying like, ‘hey, you’ve you’ve been meeting these expectations that we wrote down. Great job, thank you. What’s next?’ That not only fuels them to continue to grow and to be better. It gives them a point of connection to say, hey, yep, I’m hitting the mark. And as as people underperform, you need more checkpoints. So immediately, if you see a lot of red flags on a on a review, you know, some people call these performance reviews. And that may feel really weird. Again, I keep trying to think back, you’re 21 year old worship pastor, you’re leading a volunteer team, and you want to see growth in your church, you believe that you are being placed in this church, and you might even be a volunteer yourself.

And you’re like, yeah, I’m not doing performance reviews for the 45 year old keyboard player I have, you know, he’s not gonna do it. But I’ll tell you what, you can still meet with them. And you can tailor a performance review to feel like coffee. Like, hey, what what are your goals? Like? What are you doing playing keyboard at our church? Like, why are you Why are you here? Why do you show up every week? Why are you showing up every once a month to play whatever the schedule is, but talking about that you can talk about in framing in a way to be a good leader does not mean to have a formal structure. To be a good leader means to truly communicate expectations. And so sometimes you just have to think about spinning it a little bit depending on the scenario that you’re in. So I want to challenge you, no matter where you’re at what you’re doing. My second point is to have regular

check ins where we’re writing down the goals, we’re reviewing the goals and we’re setting new expectations. So call them goals, you can call them expectations, to meet the culture. And that’s how you set the temperature, you cannot set it by just thinking about it and hoping that everybody else somehow figures out what is inside of your brain, or by just modeling it and figuring out that everybody else is smart enough to see what you’re doing. And that that’s the the expectation. No, you have to communicate it with them, like Mike said, over communicate over communicate over communicate. And why does that mean you don’t have to fire people. Because the the second or third meeting you have and this is why I said if you’re starting to see red flags, you need to have more meetings more often. Don’t let it go six months. By the second and third meeting, we’re just like, ‘hey, the expectation was for you to know your music. Hey, the expectation was that we’re not doing Facebook posts once a month, what we’re doing Facebook posts everyday. The expectation was that, that the graphics are done on Thursday, not Sunday morning, as the sermon is getting ready to go up.’

Any of these expectations that often get unmet, if you if you set those by the third time, these people will start to understand that that they’re not able to meet the the need. And so people do not like to stay in an environment where they do not thrive. They also do not like to stay it’s uncomfortable to, when we know like we’re not hitting the mark, and when we’re reminded that we’re not hitting the mark, in a lovingly loving way, and loving communication, we want to remove ourselves rather than wait to be removed. And most people who suck in their job at their job, don’t have a leader who is communicating well that they suck. And it’s just letting them kind of do it. But in they just kind of know that they’re not really all that great, but they’re just kind of doing because like, well, no one’s ever told me I suck. So I’m just gonna keep doing it. Keep doing what I’ve been doing until you know, something else comes along. So that’s it. Set regular things, this doesn’t just happen naturally. It can, you can make it feel like to other people, like it’s just coffee, or if it’s with staff, you can set very formal, very regulated performance reviews. I know for me, and for our team, that it has been huge, it’s been a great time to even call out opportunities to shift positions to sometimes say, hey, you’re killing it over here, you’re not killing it over here. Your your position would look better if we transform it, if we don’t schedule those meetings and we don’t make that a priority because it’s hard to do, you know, we don’t have enough time in the day, we’re missing out on the opportunity to help our team be the very best that they can be.

Mike Mage
Well, I think too man, if if you don’t make it a priority, and you let the only time that you actually have conversations with your team members, be the times when they’re doing something wrong. Or, you know, when they have failed to meet expectations. Rather than having like a set time that you know that you’re going to talk about it, it starts to really eradicate sort of a trusting relationship from you know, like your, from your leader to the rest of your team members. Because like crap, well, the only time that we’re going to talk is when I’ve done something wrong, or I’ve done something bad. You know, that’s the if that’s the general mood that’s going on with your team, like that’s not a great place to be. Right, you want to be able to communicate with them when it’s good, and when it’s bad. And

my third one, the lightning round here is, is probably the most practical I’ll get. And this comes with the the actual conversation, when you actually have to let someone go, fire them, not have them back on the volunteer team, whatever that may be. That actual conversation should never be a surprise. So I’m gonna say that again. If and when you actually have that conversation to let someone go fire them or not having them back in your volunteer team. It should and will never be a surprise. That’s because you’re doing what Justin just talked about. And that’s having conversations with them. That’s because my point previously before Justin’s, you have actually engaged in those difficult conversations you have set your expectations. You have, you have kept your integrity as an organization. And you get to this final moment. And it is not a surprise to anybody. And it shouldn’t be. You know, just recently in our church, we actually had to let someone go on our team who actually had some sort of moral failure, I’m not going to get into it super big. But you know, there was some sort of failing in some way, shape or form. And because the leader didn’t talk to them once didn’t talk to them twice. But he talked to them three or four times. By the time he actually got to the actually got to that conversation. It was not a surprise to anybody. And because it’s not a surprise, that means that this conversation does not have to be long and drawn out. The time for questions is over. Like there is no time for questions like it is it’s pretty apparent for everybody that this is going to happen.

Justin Price
Yeah.

Mike Mage
So, yeah, I learned this from one of one of the guys at our church who was really high up in like a very, I can’t remember, an accounting firm or something like he was in HR, and, you know, had been doing HR for decades. And he basically said that, like, you know, when you have this conversation, it needs to be like, five, maybe 10 minutes at the most, and at the end, and even label it as a conversation, you know, you put conversation in air quotes, because it’s not much of a back and forth. And, you know, I just, I think that the, it, there needs to be some sort of finality to it. And then, you know, moving back to, especially in like a ministry way, these are not things that that need to be, that need to be like relationship killers, you know, I think in some way, shape or form, like the relationship does change, because it has to, but again, to your first point, Justin, if someone you know, has to be let go because of a moral failing in some way, shape, or form, this is our job as it as a church, as a worship leader, as someone who is involved in ministry, this is our job to say, hey, our professional relationship must change here. But it does not alleviate you, as a leader in the church to also help offer counseling in some way, shape or form. You know, I don’t know some sort of some sort of, of moral support, if there’s especially there’s a moral failing, obviously, you need to set specific and appropriate boundaries for that. You know, you can’t get involved in someone’s, you know, addictions in the sense that, you know, like, it has the potential to really drag you down. However, there is a lot of things, creative things that we can do to actually help people out. Because we care about them more than just the job that they do. That should be the overall culture, the overall feeling of your ministry of your organization is you want people to be the best that they can be not just the best at what they do. So final final point here is even when you have that conversation, it’s a conversation that air quotes and should not last long, nor should it be a surprise at all.

Justin Price
I love that point. Mike. My third point was actually going to be a kind of a weird point. And that was actually to talk about a time where I failed at firing.

I worked with somebody who I love very much. Who I poured a lot of time into, had a long working relationship with them.

You know, and seasons change, you know, people go through different times different seasons, and we had multiple reviews, we even went on to a probationary period. To me, I felt like it was crystal clear. You’re on probation. Performance is not where it needs to be. Here are the problems that I’m seeing, and I need to see these things change during this period. Or else we cannot continue to work together. I thought that was clear enough.

I think that it was kind of clear that performance didn’t change. And then when we sat down to have that conversation to end it quickly, that person was surprised that they were being let go. And so I think one of the issues when we’re working with with people in church is that we feel like well, I’m not, I mean, the church can’t like fire me cause, it’s a church. And so some people

come into these relationships and feel like the relationship is job security. And the reality is is that it’s not.

Mike Mage
Yeah, that’s so good.

Justin Price
And so the point for me that I took away from this is that I have to over communicate.

When I feel like we’re at a point where that person’s job might be on the line. Because I do care about the people that I work with, I do care about their livelihood, I do realize that this is going to affect their family. Yeah. And so if I love them, if I care about them, if I really do want what’s best for them, I need to work as hard as I possibly can to communicate clearly how severe the situation is, and I cannot use my dislike for conflict or my desire to like protect them from hurting their feelings, to make it end up them not understand the severity of the situation. So now I’m probably over overly communicative when I see a red flag. When I’m like, oh, man, things are not going good.

I’m also I’m also much slower to hire now, after going through a couple of like hard, hard fires. Now it’s like, oh, man, I’ll just I’m gonna definitely ease into any new hire because like, I don’t want to have to go through that again. I don’t want to. I don’t wanna have to have that that situation and to lose that relationship because I didn’t

communicate clear enough. And so on a very on a very personal level, I’ve been fired out of the blue, when my performance reviews have been through the roof. That changed my life.

I was working for a church, we had doubled the church, the attendance had almost doubled. I was in Tennessee, I loved the area, I built a house, a block from the church, in a small town in Tennessee, where like if, if I was not creative directing at that church, I would definitely not stay in Tennessee. And I walk in one day, and I had even I my wife was, was sick. And she had been off of work for a while. And we had even gotten word from the executive pastor that, hey, we’re, you know, we just want you to know, you’re good. We’re gonna take you like you guys have a job here you have job security. All this we were we were like, we were cruising along. And I walked in one day, and they were like, Hey, we want to talk. And they said, we’re changing directions. It wasn’t a moral failure, it wasn’t a performance thing. And if it was a performance thing, they had never communicated it previously, and they had not communicated it then. And they they took the opportunity to give us a great severance, they did treat us lovingly in the in the way that they let us go. And it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me because it caused me to move back to Florida with where my family was at. And it changed my life. It’s why I own an agency now and why I’m not still working. I did end up working for another church. But when I started that next job at that church, I came into it a completely different person.

Mike Mage
I bet. Yeah.

Justin Price
because I was determined to never set myself up in a position where I where people would, would not value the work that I was doing for their church, after growing multiple churches so significantly to be to be let go like that with such disrespect, the lack of communication and not even bringing me into the conversations. For me, it was it was a life changing experience. And so when I when I failed to communicate that and when that was a surprise on my first fire, the first person I fired, that was a surprise.

That was another big, big aha moment for me. And so I would just say, hey, if you think that you have even been slightly ambiguous, over communicate. If you think that you are at potential of firing them, tell them do not skirt around this, let them know what’s at stake, so that you can give them the fullest potential, the fullest opportunity to say, well, then this job isn’t for me, or this job is for me, and they will fire themselves.

And that level of communication for me ever since that bad fire has I have not fired anybody. So we’ve been able to have really great conversations, people have been able to say this isn’t the right fit for me, or move themselves inside of the organization because of good communication. So there it is. That’s my not as lightning as last time.

That’s my third point, Mike these uh, it’s almost like we practiced and talked about these, they were really almost all the same dovetailed into each other just like the first time.

Mike Mage
Yeah, well, I think that, you know, I think that’s a good thing.

And you know, like, it’s tough for us to separate those two would be the wrong thing when you agree.

Justin Price
I agree. And I would say, if there’s one thing that we could take away from this is that if you care about having a healthy culture in your church, then caring about hiring and firing is the biggest thing you can do. It’s not about whether you should use Pro Presenter or not. It’s not about it’s not about whether your team’s on Slack. It’s not about technology, it’s not about meeting schedules, it’s not about anything else.

It is literally focusing on how you hire how you fire. I think that all of these things are rooted in this concept that is super generic, which is the idea that we we really have to treat and love the people that we were working with. We need to treat them as if as as Christ has called us to treat them and that sounds like super Sunday school. But I think that the difference between firing somebody the wrong way and even hiring people the wrong way. You know, I told you at the beginning of this like I try to talk people out of it when I’m hiring them because I want to make sure that this is what’s best for them because I want them to be thriving in their workplace doing that because a place to for of love for them and love for my the rest of my team. You know sometimes even making those hard choices, isn’t,

it’s not easy for me to do the hard choice, the conflict, the conversation, when I’m just thinking about the impact on me. The thing that usually will push me over the edge to actually have the conversation to have the hard thing is when when I hear another team member complain. When I see it’s affecting the other rest of the staff. Now all the sudden I’m like, I can’t brush it under the rug for me anymore. I’m hurting my team. And I love my team. And so I’m actually making a hard decision or a hard conversation out of out of a place for love. And guys, that when you let somebody go, the severance package, always stepping up, always doing what the best that you can, for people, is going to be the best. And sometimes you can’t do a lot, you know, sometimes you’re financially in a bad spot, sometimes you know, your organization’s not got a lot because of a bad person caused you to lose quite a bit of donations this year. You know, there’s you got a moral failure from a pastor, you’re probably going to be down a little bit.

And so it’s hard to be like, well, we’re gonna still give you a ton of money too. So sometimes you can’t do as much as you even want to, but do the most that you can do what you can and to leave people with as much respect and as much love as you possibly can. And I would say I don’t have any of this figured out, these are some things that have helped me be from like, terrible at this to a little bit better. I’m not in a good to great situation, like from like a worst to like, not as bad as where I’m at right now, Mike. So I would echo your hearts for I would love to hear more stories from people who do this really well. I’d love to get more tips from you guys. And I it’s something that as my career as a leader continues. I know it’s one of the most valuable things I can invest in is getting better at hiring and firing. I hope you guys are taking a lot away from this. If you are young leader, you can do this, you can lead up if you’re in an organization where you’re frustrated, because you’ve heard all of this and you’re like, Well, my leadership isn’t doing this. Bring it to them. Bring it to them and make it happen. Bring it to your team and start implementing it on any level that you can. You can lead up and you can say I want to review, can you you can schedule a meeting with your leader. And you can set your own reviews. It doesn’t have to come down and you can ask them what are your expectations of me and write down their expectations of you. And what are the goals that you want to have? You can write that down with them without having that system and don’t let your bad organization or your bad culture that’s being led by anybody else stop you from making a healthy church culture that’s going to grow your church deeper and wider. That’s all I got for you today, Mike.

Mike Mage
Well, that’s a great place for us, for us to cap this off. This has been an incredible conversation. Justin, thank you so much. And thank you to all those people who are listening and sharing. We’re so grateful for you. But thanks again for listening to the Healthy Church Growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.