“What were you thinking?”
This was followed by . . . wait for it . . . “We’re going to have to let you go.”
There were many words spoken in between, but no amount of talking could have saved me from being fired. It didn’t matter that I had pulled off the greatest community outreach event my church had ever seen, and it didn’t matter that it was the biggest one I had ever executed in my short, four-year career. Why was I fired? Because I dismantled the band’s stage in order to make the event happen. I may have pulled off the big event, but my dreams were crushed in the process.
Being fired was not the worst part—the worst part was going home to tell my wife and two small kids that after only 40 weeks I’d failed them. All I remember of that day is the desire to throw up and a lot of tears. Not only had I failed my family and myself, but—in my mind—I had also failed God.
How does someone come back from that? The answer is very slowly. I expected a lot from the church and its leadership—I expected them to act fairly and with honor. When I felt as if the church—that organism I had trusted for so long—had treated me unfairly, I became disenchanted. That made the journey to healing much harder.
Where did I begin? I asked my wife to forgive me for putting us in that mess, and then I prayed. I asked God to forgive me, and then my wife and I prayed and forgave the church leadership. It was the only way we survived the bitter thoughts and feelings that were to come.
I’d like to say that was my only experience with being let go from a church. But stuff happens. Sometimes it was my fault, and sometimes it wasn’t. To be honest, I had no plans to go back to work in the local church—it was just too painful. Four years later—after much prayer, counsel, and a time of healing—I decided I wasn’t going to go out that way. I gave the reigns of my life to the Lord and let him guide me back.
When I went back to the local church, I initially thought I was giving God one more chance, but I quickly realized it was God giving me another chance. Allowing me to be fired was simply one more way God used the failures of men to bring himself glory.
I’m still a youth worker in the local church—twenty years after the first time I was fired. I learned how systems work, how to make better decisions, and that getting fired was not the worst thing that could have happened to me—giving up would have been the real failure.
Paul Turner is a long-time youth worker, speaker, and blogger of all things youth ministry. He’s the youth pastor at Pleasant Grove Assembly in Birmingham, AL and writes regularly at TheDiscipleProject.net.