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Understanding Pastoral Termination Part 2: Recognizing The Process that Leads to Termination

Jun 17, 2024 | Help & Hope

The following article is the second in the five-part series “Understanding Pastoral Termination.” If you missed the first article, you can read it here

 As noted in the previous article, pastors who lose their ministry position fall into one of two groups: (1) those who did something to justify the loss of their job and (2) those who are terminated or forced to resign through no fault of their own.

Those who are forcibly terminated experience a brutal, systematic process that has long-term effects that impact the well-being of the pastors and their families. The Process wreaks havoc in churches, leaving behind devastation and splintered congregations. Though The Process culminates in forced termination, parts of it can be experienced by pastors in other situations that lead to resignation. Read on to gain an understanding of The Process.

Recognizing The Process That Leads to Pastoral Termination

If you’ve never been unjustly forced out of a ministry position, you may be surprised to discover The Process behind pastoral termination. In the secular workplace, The Process is known as Mobbing. The similarities between Mobbing and The Process used by church leadership to get rid of a pastor are alarming. Anyone concerned about pastor well-being must learn to recognize signs of The Process or else risk being used by the perpetrators. Consider the following line-by-line comparison:

    • Mobbing involves a group of people who work together to force out a co-worker.
      The Process of Pastoral Termination is orchestrated by a group of church members with the purpose of forcing out a pastor.
    • Mob leaders conduct unofficial interviews with the victim’s co-workers, gathering information by using gossip, innuendo, and leading questions. This information is used to create a false narrative against the victim.
      Those orchestrating The Process of Pastoral Termination gather information based on gossip, innuendo, and strategic conversations. This information is used to create a false narrative against the pastor.
    • Mobbing takes place in secret.
      The Process takes place in secret.
    • Mobbing lacks due process.
      The Process lacks due process.
    • Mobbing focuses on the victim’s personality and character, with the intent to destroy.
      The Process focuses on the pastor’s personality and character, with the intent to destroy.
    • When victims of Mobbing discover what’s taking place, they believe their friends, co-workers, supervisors, and/or HR will come to their defense.
      When pastors discover that The Process is being carried out, they believe people in their congregation will reject the lies and come to their defense.
    • The Mob prevents victims from answering their accusers because they know “the victim’s silence is essential to protecting the perpetrators from liability” (Suskind, Psychology Today).
      Pastors are often not given the opportunity to confront their accusers and when they are, they often remain silent. Why? Because they refuse to use the weapons used against them such as gossip, slander, and lies.
    • Mobbing victims are unaware of the investigation against them until it’s too late.
      The pastor is usually unaware that The Process is being carried out until it’s too late.
    • Once the victim of Mobbing is terminated, observers blame the victim rather than examining the company to determine underlying problems.
      Once pastors are terminated, observers blame them rather than acknowledging that The Process is unbiblical and sinful. The church leaders ignore underlying problems.
    • Victims of Mobbing are usually ostracized by the people they counted on to defend them.
      Pastors who are terminated are usually ostracized by those they believed would defend them.
    • “Mob victims suffer deep levels of traumatization due to the large-scale ostracization, character assassination, abandonment by colleagues, and upper management’s involvement in the attacks.”
      Pastors who experience The Process suffer deep pain and trauma due to the abandonment by friends, church members, and denominational leaders. The silence from the people they thought they could count on is the ultimate betrayal.

The Process is nothing new. The Pharisees perfected it as they planned their attack on Jesus. A quick read through the gospels reveals their strategy: secret meetings (Matt. 12:14; 22:15), listening carefully for anything that could be used against Jesus (Mark 12:13), watching and waiting (Luke 6:7), plotting (Matt. 26:3-4), recruiting people to lie (Matt. 26:59), and manipulating and stirring up observers (Mark 15:11). And of course, there is the abandonment by Jesus’ disciples at a time when He should have been able to count on them.

Why do church leaders initiate The Process against their pastor? We’ll answer that question in Part 3. We’ll also share a true story of one pastor who experienced The Process.

Until then, please contact me at [email protected] if you would like to visit about pastoral termination.

NOTE: The question we ask our clients at Pastors’ Hope Network is not “How did this happen?” but rather “How can we help?” We exist to pick up the wounded, get them stabilized, and put them on the road to healing. We invite you to join us in our mission.


* Quotations and details on workplace mobbing are based on the article “Are You Being Mobbed at Work?” by Dorothy Suskind PhD. Published online in Psychology Today December 31, 2020.

* Much of the information on the process of pastoral termination is based on the extensive research of Marcus Tanner, PhD, as well as anecdotal information from Pastors’ Hope Network clients.