5 Signs That It’s Time for a Staff Member to Resign

“If your overall church culture creates a safe environment for the staff, transitions can be a normal and healthy part of staff life.”

When a staff member makes the choice to resign, it can feel like a defeat, like something broke or a mistake was made. But sometimes transitions are a normal part of staff life.

Some transitions are very difficult, especially the kind when you need to “fire” someone. But those situations are rare and usually represent one of three things.

1. You didn’t have the honest and tough conversations when they needed to happen.
2. One or more people were not willing to change.
3. You waited too long to make corrections.

If we set the more extreme cases aside, we can see that transitions on your staff, while not necessarily routine, can be part of a healthy environment. This perspective is far better than keeping a staff member when it’s not working, just because no one is willing to be honest and make the tough decision.

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Of the following list of five signs, more than one might be in play, but rarely are all five for one person. Some signs seem like they are completely negative, but they are actually normal and can sometimes be corrected, allowing the staff member to stay.

Here are five signs that it’s time for a staff member to resign.

1. When the person’s frustration overtakes his or her productivity, and good coaching doesn’t help.

This is often a combination of competence and circumstance. The person does a good job, but their skills don’t quite rise to the standards necessary to take the ministry to the next level. And good coaching hasn’t helped. As for circumstance, it could be anything from organizational changes to a new senior pastor—ending up in frustration on the part of the staff member. The result is increased frustration and decreased productivity.

2. When the person’s discouragement robs his or her joy, and he or she can’t break through by prayer.

This scenario tends to be more personal than skills and organizational circumstances. But it can be a combination of many things, from their salary not meeting their needs to their spouse not being happy at the church. We all experience discouragement, but prolonged discouragement can sometimes only resolved by getting a fresh start.

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3. When the person begins to experience an inner restlessness about the environment, and they can’t find peace for months.

This case is often misdiagnosed as a bad attitude, lack of loyalty or misalignment. Those things are possible, but perhaps God is moving and stirring a change within the staff member in order to prepare him or her for a move in the near future. The kingdom is large, and God may need him or her somewhere else. Don’t fight that. The important thing in this case is to stay in front of it. Talk about it. Figure out why peace eludes him or her. If you don’t, it likely will turn into an attitude, loyalty or alignment issue.

4. When God speaks and ignites a flame for another place or position of ministry.

This sign differs from the previous one in that God’s voice is bold, clear and decisive. It’s not a gradual stirring. When I left INJOY (John C. Maxwell’s company), I absolutely loved my job, everything was going great and John and I enjoyed a wonderful relationship. But God spoke and told me that I was to be the executive pastor at 12Stone. John remains my mentor and my dear friend, and we both know that had I stayed, that disobedience to God’s call may have derailed my work at INJOY.

5. When his or her relationships begin to deteriorate.

In some ways, this is a combination/culmination of two or more of the above signs. This happens when the person (or the church leadership) has waited too long. When this takes place, no matter how great the relationships are, or how strong the competence, the primary relationships begin to deteriorate. If this has begun, it must be corrected as fast as possible. It will not get better on its own, and almost always gets worse. Make the change while you are still friends.

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If your overall church culture creates a safe environment for the staff, and you have honest conversations that work toward positive solutions, transitions can be a normal and healthy part of staff life.

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. This article was originally published on Reiland’s blog, Developing Church Leaders.