One of the toughest situations in ministry is what to do when someone’s not working out.
This “someone” might be a person on staff or might be a volunteer. This “someone” could be a lead catechist or part of your support team providing administration or facility maintenance. What makes a situation like this so challenging for those of us in ministry, is that quite often, we’re nice or at least aspire to be nice–and as a result we shy away from addressing a situation out of concern that we’ll end up hurting someone.
love, maturity, and professionalism.
The goal Lencioni puts forth is to help those who aren’t working out change or move out/on to something else. This might mean another ministry within the parish–or maybe a different sort of service role. (p. 43). If you’re thinking, wait, that’s not the kind of ‘love’ I want to be a part of! Hang on. Lencioni proposes that:
The most unhappy people in a company are the ones who don’t fit the culture and are allowed to stay. They know they don’t belong. Deep down inside they don’t want to be there. They’re miserable. (p. 61)
The insight here is that when someone seems to be “not working out,” they too might be suffering, may be feeling like a ‘fish out of water’ or unsatisfied themselves–this is why as leaders we are compelled to act, rather than letting an unhealthy situation persist without attention.
Now, if you’re thinking this means get rid of the person as quickly as possible, terminating (i.e. firing or downsizing) them if an employee or banning them from a ministry team if a volunteer, stop. It’s absolutely not healthy to terminate someone unexpectedly or without their input into the process (unless, for example, there is an allegation that clearly violates parish/diocese policy, moral/ethical behavior, etc. that has been investigated and found credible). Doing this sends chilling ripple effects through the community, reducing trust in leaders and creating the impression that we as leaders are more about “efficiency” or “getting rid of a problem,” than living out our vocation as a Christian.
Okay, so now that the sudden, unexpected termination of a staff member or volunteer who has not credibly violated policy or civil law is off the table–what to do?
Lencioni encourages this attitude for leaders: know you’re not going to “just fire” the person, and instead ask, how do we give this person a chance to be a team player?–to grow or adapt to fit your ministry’s culture, needs, and expectations (133). This means, sitting down and talking to the person. Not talking with other leaders about this person without ever including them, not talking to other staff/volunteers about the person–talking to the person in question. Directly.
Lencioni directs, “don’t make it a witch hunt or anything” (p. 134). Make it an invitation. Tell the person what you’re trying to do as a leader with culture, with the specific expectations for their role, etc. Then see if the person “has the stomach for it” (p. 134). This is keeping it simple. Lencioni emphasizes, “most training and development comes down to how much a person wants to change” (p. 134). Your goal as a leader in this conversation is to discern if this person is willing to change, willing to grow.
If you’re thinking you can know this without speaking to the person directly, you’re wrong. When we only speak to others about someone else, we’re not giving that person a chance as an individual. And, in a broader sense, we’re not building a culture of trust surrounding how we invest in people and our ministry/parish’s mission and culture. Don’t make this mistake. Go for health in your ministry organization. Invite people into growth or a peaceful, loving transition to a role where each can flourish within the Body of Christ, lived out at the most local level.