Due to the failing economy and a decline in attendance numbers, The Chapel in Akron, Ohio needed to make budget cuts. They had to trim $760,000 from their staff budget … which meant laying off people that they loved. Below is a note that David wrote for the XPastor Newsletter after the time of the crisis.
A restructuring is hard because staff becomes like family. In a major restructuring, dearly loved people are often let go. The “pastor” side of the Senior and Executive Pastor positions finds this one of the hardest things to be done. After nearly five months, I was still working through the grieving process—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
My terrible task one February was to cut $760,000 in staff from The Chapel. As one friend put it, “That’s more than my entire church budget.” With a staff of 140 full-time equivalents, the cut came to about 15% of The Chapel’s staffing budget. The recession and a changing church caught up with our budget—and we needed to make some changes.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We had to be gentle to the congregation, compassionate to the staff that was downsized, strong for everyone’s tears and wise with our governing board.
We opted to be proactive in telling all that could be told. The day after the restructuring we published on our website a public letter on restructuring staff to the congregation and community. The letter explained the process and the cuts that were made. Also, we gave interviews to the local newspaper and radio station.
On the communication side, one person wrote a comment on the radio station’s page:
If each of the area’s various governmental agencies made half the effort to do a top to bottom review to their mission, their staffing, and their financial resources such as The Chapel has done, and made the appropriate adjustments, the world would be a much better place.
We accepted every positive comment! And, yes, there were some negative comments too. Some people had disagreements with our decisions. It was extremely hard for people to lose their pastor. We shed plenty of tears and tried to explain the issues to the best of our ability. You can get a feeling for this in the Senior Pastor’s Congregational Note.
We endeavored to be gracious in lengthy severance and brought in local and national firms to help with outplacement issues. The letter to each downsized person tried to reflect grace and the challenge.