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How To Conduct An Effective Staff Exit Interview

The primary purpose of conducting an exit interview is to identify opportunities for improvement within the church and staff culture. A well designed exit interview will allow you to see patterns in feedback from departing staff, understand the reasons people are leaving, and identify actions that can be taken to avoid future loss of valuable employees.

Unfortunately, most churches miss the opportunity to learn from departing staff. They don’t realize that performing an exit interview is an opportunity to learn how their staff team, supervisors, and church can improve employee satisfaction and retention.

Typically, you are most interested in the feedback of employees who voluntarily terminate their employment with your church. However, don’t miss the opportunity to ask for feedback from employees you terminate for performance related issues. You may obtain useful information, such as why they think they underperformed and how church leadership could have better supported them. Nearly every exit interview should help you identify opportunities for improvement within the organization.

 Exit Interview Best Practices

A key to conducting a successful exit interview is to create a culture in which the exiting employee feels comfortable in providing honest feedback. A culture that fosters honest exit interview feedback is one in which staff are accustomed to sharing ideas openly, encouraged to evaluate church programs and processes, and never rebuked for sharing their opinions and ideas. An organization that consistently seeks feedback from employees and take corrective actions based on what was learned create a culture of helpful feedback.

Other best practices include:

#1. Consider asking a third party to conduct the exit interview. Rarely is it wise for the employee’s immediate supervisor to be involved, and then only if the exiting employee requests their presence. Other staff such as the Executive Pastor, representatives of the Human Resource Department, and Personnel Committee members are good resources. Bottom line, find interviewers who engender trust and openness.

#2. Ask the departing employee how they would like for you to share their information…..with the Pastor, immediate supervisor, Personnel Committee, or only combined with other exit interviews in aggregate form? Or, should it remain confidential with the interviewers? Encourage them to be honest and assure them you will only use the information in the manner they approve.

#3. Remind the interviewee that you are bound not to talk about this interview or their performance in a future reference call and that no feedback shared will be used against them. State clearly the purpose of the interview is to improve employee satisfaction and retention.

#4. Exit interviews are most commonly conducted in person. Some organizations prefer a written survey, but most find talking personally with the departing employee provides more opportunity to completely explore and understand his or her views and the dynamics surrounding their departure.

#5. Use the exit interview to better understand the positive aspects of serving on your church staff that can be further enhanced.

#6. Process the information and use it to develop a list of actionable items. If given permission, share key points from the meeting with relevant individuals.

#7. Make sure that every exit interview contains the single most important question you need to ask the departing employee. You want to know what caused the employee to start looking for a new job or be receptive to a new offer in the first place.

Sample Exit Interview Questions That Gather Actionable Information

The exit interview questions you ask are key to obtaining actionable information. Below are sample exit interview questions. Use any combination of these questions in your church or click here for a Sample Exit Interview Template.

1)     What caused you to start looking for a new job, or caused you to be receptive to a new offer?

2)     Did you share your concerns with anyone in church leadership prior to deciding to leave? What was the response?

3)     What does your new church or organization offer that encouraged you to accept their offer?

4)     How was your relationship with your immediate supervisor? With other church and ministry leadership?

5)     What could your supervisor do to improve his or her leadership/management style?

6)     In general, what are your views about church leadership?

7)     What did you like most about your job?

8)     What did you dislike about your job? What would you change about your job if you could?

9)     Do you feel you had the resources and support necessary to accomplish your job responsibilities? If not, what was missing?

10)  Were your job responsibilities characterized accurately during the interview process and orientation?

11)  Did you have a clear understanding of what was expected of you in your job?

12)  Do you feel you had a reasonable workload?

13)  Did you receive adequate ongoing feedback about your performance?

14)  Did you receive the necessary resources to perform your job effectively?

15)  Did you receive the necessary development resources and opportunities to continue to grow in your job?

16)  Did the church leadership care about you and help you accomplish your personal, professional development, and career goals?

17)  Did you clearly understand and feel a part of the church’s mission, vision, and goals?

18)  Did you have any close friends on staff? Did you find the staff culture supportive and encouraging?

19)  Do the policies and procedures of the church help create a fair, consistent, and well managed workplace?

20)  Do you have any recommendations regarding our compensation, benefits, and recognition programs?

21)  What are the key qualities and skills we should seek in your replacement?

22)  Can you offer any other comments that will enable us to further understand why you are leaving, how we can improve, and what we can do to become a more effective church and better place to serve?

Questions Not to Ask

 Exit interviews give employees an opportunity to provide their opinions and share what led to their decision to leave. However, you need to be careful not to encourage negativity or fuel hurt feelings in any of the following ways:

1)     Avoid asking questions about specific people, instances, or issues.

2)     Don’t insert your opinions into the conversation. Although he or she may have negative things to say about certain people, you should listen without agreeing or disagreeing with his or her perspective.

3)     Don’t feed church gossip. It’s never constructive and rarely provides actionable and reliable information.

4)     Don’t say anything that could be construed as slander. The conversation should focus on the employee’s church and workplace experience.

5)     Don’t say anything that could look like you are setting someone else up for termination.

6)     Don’t get into personal issues. Keep the conversation professional and work-related.

7)     Don’t try to convince the employee to change their mind and stay in their current job.

Obviously, the best time for a staff member to discuss their concerns, dissatisfaction, and suggestions is while they are still employed, not on their way out the door. Make sure your church provides multiple opportunities to gather and learn from employee feedback, including employee surveys and regular reviews

Finally, prepare yourself to be criticized and to not become defensive. Remember, what you hear is probably not the entire story. Your defensiveness isn’t going to change their decision and could even contribute to further hurt. End the exit interview meeting on a positive note. Commit to using the information provided to improve the church’s workplace. Wish your exiting employee success in his or her new endeavor. End the exit interview graciously and with prayer.

The exit interview, when conducted properly, provides useful information about how to make your church a better place in which to work. Conduct them wisely.








Posted on May 15, 2018

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5