categories: staff
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June 26th, 2008

by Craig Groeschel

29 comments (+ Add)

Removing the Wrong People

When you have an underperformer and you have tried to develop them but can’t, you’ll want to make a change.

Here are ten lessons I’ve learned:

  1. The right person in the wrong spot becomes the wrong person unless I do something about it.
  2. If you’re always trying to develop someone’s weakness, you probably have the wrong person.
  3. Keeping the wrong person to protect his feelings is unfair to you and to your team member.
  4. If God has shown you that a team member is not the right fit, you’re cheating the person by not removing him.
  5. You can’t have the right person in a role when the wrong person is filling it.
  6. The longer you wait to remove a wrong person, the harder it is for everyone.
  7. If you’re about to remove a person, they should already have a pretty good sense that things aren’t working out. If they don’t, you probably haven’t been fair in your communication to them.
  8. Honor the person you have removed even if they don’t honor you.
  9. Seek God, make a decision, and don’t waffle on it.
  10. If you aren’t faithful to do what God shows you to do, He isn’t likely to trust you with more.


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  1. Jun 26, 2008 at 5:57 am

    I can SO identify with this. I had to fire my assistant six months ago and points 5, 6 & 7 are bang-on. I waited way too long to ask her to step down (point 6) and it took its toll on the whole team. This was partly out of fear that I wouldn’t find a replacement, but two weeks later, God provided the perfect person for the role (point 5) and she is working out amazingly! Sadly my communication to my assistant of the problems with her work was not good, and she felt blindsided by being fired (point 7) and I still feel really bad about that and wish I had handled it better.

  2. Jun 26, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Can I bury my head in the sand? This has got to be the most difficult part of being a leader. If someone is teaching something “heretical” that is one thing. But job performance is tougher because it tends to be subjective. Fortunately, I work in an environment that includes other leaders (elders) who would also have to be in on the firing. ‘Course it would require me taking it to them. Good but tough post Craig.

  3. Jun 26, 2008 at 8:33 am

    #9 could be higher up imho. God gives us direction and decisiveness. We seem to be the ones who complicate things.

    Great post!

  4. Jun 26, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Very interesting and correct. Now on the other hand you have a team member who really is doing a great service to the Lord and the Church, but you as the Senior Pastor are not personally happy with him, what do you do?

    Several times as a staff member I have been removed by the Senior Pastor when the church or deacons were not.


  5. Jun 26, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Tough stuff but so true. The willingness to make hard choices is one of the key things that separates good leaders from great leaders. Thanks for being willing to talk about the real stuff of ministry Craig.

  6. Jun 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Clans of long ago that wanted to get rid of their unwanted people without killing them would burn their houses down - hence the phrase “to get fired”.
    I don’t suggest this but I thought it would make us feel better when we remove someone. We are not hurting them we are providing them an opportunity to find something better. There comes a point where God calls you to be faithful with something that maybe you are not good at. If you remain faithful God will put you in the right place as pastors we must recognize that when someone needs to be put in a better position suited for them.

  7. Jun 26, 2008 at 10:43 am

    This is something that I am wrestling with in terms of some of the ministries that I oversee. Those who lead before wanted people who would just keep the status quoand that is what they got. These status quo people are still in some of the key positions and I have been trying to get them to dream, but to no avail. I want to be a leader that has people growing and ministries growing. Right now we have both at a stand still. I need to begin to rock the boat and make some moves.

  8. Jun 26, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I’m facing this right now. I (worship leader) have a team member (volunteer) who’s a talented musician, classically trained and everything. The problem is that there is always drama surrounding this one person.

    If they don’t like this arrangement, they’ll let everyone know with a bad attitude. If they’re asked to swap out with another musician to spread the blessing around, they take it personally as if I don’t like the way they play.

    In all, it’s causing tension in the worship team on a weekly basis. We’re not a tiny church and there are plenty of talented folks that would love the chance to play, but it’s difficult for me to fire a volunteer based on “not fitting” with the team. Any suggestions?

  9. Jun 26, 2008 at 11:58 am


    I found in my last church they wouldn’t give me the ability to make the staff change needed so I removed myself.

  10. Jun 26, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I think many times these situations surrounding removal of a staff member get too heated and personal. Instead of finding the positive aspects of an individual, encouraging them in those areas and blessing them as they move on to a new ministry, they are often flooded with negativity.

    What would it look like if instead of just cutting them off completely, we had a specific staff member or volunteer that would give help and support for the person and thus allow the church to aid them in finding exactly where God wants them?

  11. Jun 26, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    I have learned that some people just don’t do well with some people. I know that sounds mean and we should all get a long, but it doesn’t always happen. With that being said, if there is a “problem” with a person (paid or volunteer) Craig is right, you have to deal with it. Certaintly do try and work things out. But eventually you have to ask yourself these tough questions:
    1. Is this getting in the Church’s way of making diciples?
    2. Is this situation causing to much time, energy, and resources that we could be spending on reaching people with God’s love?
    That is what it boils down to in my mind. When you think of it that way, you will know what you have to do.

  12. 13danny
    Jun 26, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    I’m fairly new at having significant leadership responsibility. I have only had to remove a few people. The first time, it was the hardest thing I had done in leadership up to that point. The next time it was a bit easier, but still difficult. I think one of the reasons it’s so hard is because this is their work and their church. Also, I have found that the Holy Spirit will go before you and prepare the way if you let Him.

  13. Jun 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I do totally see your point, and I’ve read you talk about this many times. It makes a lot of sense, but how do you contrast your mantra of “hire slowly, fire quickly” to what Donald Miller says in his book “searching for God knows what”? here’s the quote…. I’ve talked to one of your staff members about this before, but I’m wondering where you draw the balance between these two, seemingly, very different philosophies.

    “My pastor and friend Rich McKinley talked to me recently about a meeting he had with a young pastor who was beginning a church plant in another city. In the course of conversation, the young pastor asked Rick at what point he should kick people out of leadership because they were failing to understand the nature of ministry. Rick looked at the pastor, confused. “Kick them out of leadership?” Rick asked. “Sure” the young pastor replied. “We have to move forward, right? And if they don’t get it, I need to weed them out.”
    Rick sat back and laughed. “Listen” he said. “If I threw out the guys who didn’t get it when I stared Imago, we wouldn’t have anybody left, including me! You are never going to build a church by kicking people out. This isn’t a fast food restaurant; it’s the kingdom of God, and quality disciples take a lot of time. Jesus is patient to the end”

    You do see a lot of times where Jesus puts up with a lot of pretty stupid things that the disciples did. I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard you say before that it seemed like the disciples would never get it.

    I’m not trying to start an argument, just looking for your thoughts.

  14. Jun 26, 2008 at 4:30 pm


  15. 16MRB
    Jun 26, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    What if you love a guy and really believe in him, but his wife rubs you the wrong way? He’s a lifter, but she’s equally a downer. Would you hire the guy based on his merits or look at the big picture and say — I just don’t want the baggage on the team?

  16. Jun 26, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    No. 10 reminds of something my pastor/boss said this past Sunday: “If you’re unwilling to take the first step, don’t expect God to give you the second.”

  17. 18Jim
    Jun 27, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I do agree with you Craig. The problem I have is that I think you are taking your stance from a large church perspective. Here is my reasoning. I came from CA, and I was on staff at a very large church. When I first came to OK I had the idea that I would do everything the same as I saw my Pastor do, alot of the same things you are writing about. I cannot begin to tell you how different a large church is from a small one. I am blown away at the differences, and through it all God has changed my heart and my thinking about all of it. Your points are well taken Craig, but I don’t think they apply in every situation. Blessings,


  18. Jun 27, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    One thing that I think Jesus really had that I honestly covet is the ability to see the potential of a human being. Yeah he had that diety thing going for him but I think of how many times I’ve seen someone flourish in one ministry after having been removed from another. The tricky part is helping the person you’ve removed find that place they are supposed to be. I know that God uses “being let go” as a way to motivate and move people sometimes but what a tragedy to have that person not see the possiblities associated with that move and just give up. Too often these things end up in messes that merely cause more disunity in the body. My dad always reminded me that the person in the body that I have the most conflict with could very well be my roommate in heaven!!

  19. 20stephanie
    Jun 28, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    from someone who will soon be helping build a team of people, these recent posts have been helpful and much needed! thanks!

  20. Jun 28, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    The leader in the room is not always the smartest person, but the one who can make this kind of tough decision. Thanks for the reminder.

  21. Jun 29, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I have a saying…when it comes to staff…we have zero projects…

  22. Jun 29, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Matt…dang it, did you google that? I am both in awe of yer skillz & and I hate you! (grin)

  23. Jul 1, 2008 at 7:27 am

    So if you do have a small church (which that is how Life Church started as the rest of us except mine is still small) and its in a small area, how do you fire someone not knowing who will fill the hole? Do you start seeking the replacement first?

    And its a hard balance between helping someone change and grow and having to let them go. I would think that a process needs to be in place to ensure growth. And then if a person doesn’t then they will know because of the process.

    I agree with Craig - totally. Just not sure what to do if there is no replacement in a spot where you have to have someone else.

  24. Jul 8, 2008 at 11:29 am

    [...] Removing the Wrong People - : swerve [...]

  25. Jul 8, 2008 at 11:33 am

    We faced this decision as a church plant. we had four people on our team and had to fire one early in the life of the church. As if church plants are not unstable enough, we had to deal with the relational repercussions of that choice. Because of many of these principles, that ex-staff member and his whole family are still active and participating in the church a year later.

  26. Jul 15, 2008 at 8:48 am

    [...] Removing the Wrong People - : swerve [...]

  27. Mar 3, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Why do some ministries and churches put people into leadership rolls because they are faithful but lack the ability to do the work, I’ve seen it time, and time again in small and mega- churches what happens every time people begin to leave, people with strong gifts & talents that is sad the secular world doesn’t operate that way.

  28. Jan 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    [...] the wrong person to protect his feelings is unfair to you and to your team member. Visit his blog for the [...]