10 Ways to Deal with People on the Right Bus, but in the Wrong Seat

Many of us have had faithful church staff members who weren’t always on the right seat on the bus (to use Jim Collins’ Good to Great terminology). If you face that situation, here’s what I’ve seen churches do to work through this transition successfully:

  1. Pray. You need the help of God’s Spirit – for you and for the person who will hear your concern. Cover the whole process in prayer. 
  2. Take advantage of staff openings. If you have an open staff position, don’t just replace the role. Slow down. Evaluate. See if the role can be adjusted to meet the church’s needs while also opening a new seat for the misplaced person.
  3. Ask the staff member about a possible change. You might find out that the person already recognizes that he or she is not in the right seat. Some folks quickly welcome a new seat.
  4. Be honest, while also expressing gratitude. Don’t beat around the bush about the issues, as a lack of honesty won’t help anything. On the other hand, say “thank you” for a staff member’s faithful service while also requesting a change.  
  5. Help the staff member evaluate spiritual gifts, experiences, etc., to determine the best seat. Rick Warren’s SHAPE process and Wayne Cordeiro’s DESIGN process are two options to help guide this step.  
  6. Affirm abilities and attitude. There are reasons you still want these folks on the bus. Magnify those reasons.
  7. Be patient. No matter how hard you try to affirm somebody, it’s hard to hear “right bus, wrong seat” terminology without taking it personally. Give folks some time to make a decision.
  8. Get the new role as right as possible. The last thing you want to do is move somebody to another seat that’s not the best one.
  9. “Sell” the new role well to the congregation. It’s tough to move people around without leaving the impression of failure at some point. Work hard to affirm the persons you still want on the bus.
  10. Reward faithful, productive service in the new seat. Do it appropriately within the church’s system, but recognize the staff member who is willing to make a change. 

What other ideas would you add to this list?   

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