Sure, it’s a cliché. No doubt about it. But it doesn’t make it any less true.

Although the pastor had been there for a couple years, he was just one in a long line of bullied leaders. No one had any idea what to do about her, but she’d been known to brag about the pastors she’d outlasted, and some she’d had a hand in ousting. Problem was, she was beloved by many in the congregation who saw her as one of the cornerstones of the church. And why not? She’d been in her position since some of the members had been children.

The church itself was in less-than-optimum shape. It had been in decline for more years that anyone could remember, though the historical records showed it had been slipping for at least a couple of decades. The neighborhood had changed, the church hadn’t. The building was huge, the congregation was tiny. And the church had reached a crisis point.

Change was necessary. Pretty much everyone knew that. In fact, pastor after pastor had tried to lead change. And pastor after pastor had been shut down by the pressure brought to bear by the one lone staff member and her disciples.

The pastor knew that the only way to move forward was to remove the staff member.

The Session knew that the only way to move forward was to remove the staff member.

The denominational exec knew that the only way to move forward was to remove the staff member.

And no one was willing to do the deed. Pretty much everyone was willing to try and wait her out. “Surely she’s going to retire at the end of the year.”

Problem is, there were no guarantees she would actually retire on schedule. But the real issue was this: there was a guarantee that if something didn’t change right away, there’d be no finances left to keep the church afloat. Maybe a year. Possible three if the pastor went to part-time. But that would just forestall the inevitable. If the church was going to turn around, it had to start turning now.

So they removed the staff member.

She didn’t go quietly. In fact, just the opposite. (Isn’t social media great!). But go she did.

And the church lost members.

It lost supporters.

It even lost some of its positive local reputation.

The pastor and the church leaders have been called pretty much every name in the book and veiled threats have been levied against them.

Frankly, it was the most painful decision the pastor and the leadership could ever have made. It would have been so much easier to just wait her out. Removing her has caused the church tremendous problems and pain.

But without pain, there is no gain.

What did they gain?

A chance. Slim though it may be, the church has a chance to move from decades of decline to growth. 

It won’t be easy, but only now is it possible. 

Take Away: If you don’t deal with a bad hire, or a staff member who shifts from team player to entitled bully, it’s better (and easier) to deal with the problem as soon as it rears its head. The longer you wait, the more deeply entrenched the leader becomes and the more painful the removal will become.

Q: What other options do you think the church had? Share your thoughts in the Comment section below.

Growing a church today is the most difficult responsibility every pastor faces.

Getting visitors is tough.

Hanging on to them is tougher yet.

And turning members – let along visitors – into disciples of Jesus is a very tall order.

The fact is, though, there are actually only four things that will grow your church. Master these four processes and you’ll see the growth you long for. Click the button below to find out more.