Persevering After Being Fired by Your Church: Kyle Isabelli Reflects on His Journey

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with repeat guest, Kyle Isabelli, the lead pastor from Avenue Christian Church in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Did you know that as many as one third of people working in church ministry will be forced to resign or be fired from their position? If you’ve ever had that experience, or been the leader making the tough decision, the question is: how do you handle it? In today’s podcast episode Kyle shares his story of being unexpectedly fired from his previous ministry position, the internal work he had to do to recover, and the importance of transparent communication.

  • Where is your identity? // Kyle’s movement to his current church wasn’t by choice. When he was let go from his previous position in youth ministry, it came as a complete shock to him, forcing him to reevaluate where his identity was rooted. He realized that much of his identity was tied to being a successful youth pastor, rather than being rooted in Christ.
  • Candor is kindness. // As people in church leadership, it’s critical that we are candid and transparent about where people on our staff stand in their positions. Communicate expectations and the consequences of unmet expectations clearly. Provide written documentation to help the person understand the gravity of the situation if things don’t change. A firing should never come as a complete surprise.
  • What is God trying to teach you? // If you are let go from your ministry position, rather than focusing on what might feel unfair, ask God what he’s trying to teach you. How is he trying to refine your faith and grow you? Kyle realized he needed to learn to let go of self-sufficiency and embrace a complete dependence on the Holy Spirit. This shift in mindset set him up for success in his current ministry position at Avenue Christian Church.
  • Practical steps. // Use a journal to record what you’re learning during this time. Write down the pain, struggles, and remorse you’re feeling. Working through these strong emotions can help to free you from bitterness and confirm what you are really passionate about in ministry. Take a break from social media and relationships that feed your jealousy or ego. Kyle wishes he had done a better job of setting boundaries and not seeking affirmation from others during his time of grieving and transition.
  • Refined By the Fire(d). // Kyle has written a book called “Refined by the Fire(d): How to Process Pain, Regain Purpose, and Persevere After Being Fired by Your Church.” Coming out in January 2024, this book is the result of Kyle’s desire to create a resource for people going through what he went through. Being fired from a church position doesn’t have to be a fatal blow to a person’s career in ministry. Kyle’s book helps others reflect on their own stories and the work God wants to do after what they’ve experienced. It also can help senior leaders have more empathy, kindness, and grace when something isn’t working and they have to make difficult staffing decisions.

You can download the first chapter of Kyle’s book, or preorder it, at Find Avenue Christian Church at and check out the other organizations Kyle mentions, including Pastoral Transitions and Pastors’ Hope Network.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: CDF Capital

Since 1953 CDF Capital has helped church leaders and individuals bring light to the world through the thoughtful stewardship of their capital. The Church, including your church, requires more than just financial capital, it also needs spiritual and leadership capital. While separate in purpose, these three forms of capital are intertwined and inseparable for the cause of kingdom growth. Together, when we partner with the Lord to bring spiritual, leadership, and financial capital to a church, the results are transformational. At CDF Capital our ministry is simple: we lend money to churches.

CDF Capital, in partnership with Barna Group, conducted a research study to better understand what happens in churches after a new leader comes in. Barna Group interviewed 111 pastors online who have experienced a leadership transition within the last 12 years. Click here to get your free download of the study.

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey, friends. Rich here from the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Super excited for today. You know, we don’t often have repeat guests on the podcast. In fact of the 700 plus episodes, there’s very few that have come on more than once – most people come just once. But I wanted to have Kyle back on. It was a number of episodes, probably twenty, thirty episodes ago we had him on. He’s at Avenue Christian Church. He was talking about Gloo and all their lessons. But we had this sidebar conversation that I was like, ooh that’s a fantastic conversation. If you’re willing to talk about it, I would love to tell ah to hear more about this. So. But Avenue Christian just to kind of remind everyone is a multi-generational church in the western suburbs of Chicago, is a fantastic church, Kyle is the lead pastor there. Kyle, welcome to the show, again. Thanks for being here.

Kyle Isabelli — Absolutely, Rich. Thanks for having me.

Rich Birch — Well I’m looking forward to this. Tell us a little bit about Avenue, just bring us up to speed again on that. Tell us about the church for folks that might not remember.

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah, yes, as you said, we’re locating the western suburbs of Chicago um. Church has been around for sixty plus years. I came here in 2017 as the student pastor in the summer, and then ah about two and a half years later I transitioned into the role as senior pastor. So January 2020, started as the senior pastor and have been great.

Rich Birch — Great time, Great time. Great time.

Kyle Isabelli — Great time to to start leading a church. And it’s you know, I think like every church there’s a lot of transitions that’s happened over these last few years. But a lot of health a lot of growth has come out of it, and it’s exciting to see the future that the Lord has for us here. And I love the Chicagoland area. My wife Marie and I grew up in the Chicagoland suburbs so we love the area, love the culture and just love seeing the work that God’s doing here in western suburbs.

Rich Birch — So good. Well um, you had shared on our ah last kind of after the episode we had talked a little bit about the fact that you ended up in your current ah ministry placement because of it an earlier transition and you were open to talking about that. Ah, why don’t you unpack that a little bit? What ah, you know, what what ended up leading you to the place where you ended up at Avenue Christian?

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah, yeah, no, it wasn’t by choice.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Kyle Isabelli — So when I was ah I was a student pastor high school pastor at a church in the Chicagoland area from 2015 to 2017. And it was the, about the spring of 2017…

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — …I was pulled into my supervisor’s office with another kind of executive level pastor, thinking I was going to have a conversation about specific roles they wanted me to do for Easter, if I had to go to a, we were a multi-site church, or was I going to be at the main campus on Friday, somewhere else for Saturday service, you know, I thought that was more of the conversation. And to my surprise it was, hey we don’t feel like you’re a good fit here…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kyle Isabelli — …to lead the Youth Ministry anymore, so after Mother’s Day after the end of the kind of student ministry year we’re gonna let you go. And so that was a ah complete shock to me um…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kyle Isabelli — …didn’t didn’t see that coming, you know. And um, it it brought me to a place of really beginning to find find my identity in Christ again. I know we say that a lot as like christians and as leaders in Christian circles, and churches that our identity in Christ. But um it was clear that a lot of my identity was was found in being like this this youth pastor, being in ministry, and being successful. And even over the course those last couple years of the church, seeing up into the right movement in in the ministry.

Kyle Isabelli — And um it was really hard just to hear that like hey, you’re a good youth pastor but you’re just not a good fit here. And not fully understand that. And so that that really began that journey for me of processing that pain, figuring out what my identity is, beginning to think about transitioning – all in the in the realm of I have a wife at home, I have 2 kids under two, and…

Rich Birch — Who, wow, wow.

Kyle Isabelli — …I have to like provide for them in a very short amount of time because time was ticking at that point.

Rich Birch — Wow. So let’s there’s a lot we want to unpack here. There’s a lot I’d love to talk about.And I appreciate you being willing to kind of talk through this because, you know, there are for sure people who are listening in who have been through this, and um, you know it’s a in some ways a normative part. But man, you never think it’s going to happen to you.

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — And so I really appreciate you being willing to talk about that. When you say it was a surprise, unpack that for me. Was that like were there so were there any signs, or was it completely out of left field when you kind of…? Now I realize at the moment there’s the shock…

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …of like oh my goodness. What’s happening? Ah, but when you look back on it now, years and in in kind of hindsight, what did you see what do you see looking back on that moment now?

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah, yeah. We, you know, I’ve been at the church my first year I had three different supervisors. Ah people hired me, then were not my supervisor. And then I had a new supervisor that first year, and then he ended up being let go. And so I was on my fourth supervisor. And the the expectations that that supervisor had of me, or my the junior high pastor who worked with me, were very different than the expectations that the other supervisors had of us, the other executive level pastors had of us.

Kyle Isabelli — And so um I think for those first 3 to 6 months of working for for him, it seemed like things were going well. But then slowly began to see some of those, you know, they call philosophy of ministry differences, or mission/vision felt like it was a little bit off. And um, just expectations weren’t clear. And so probably in January February we began to have those conversations of like, okay, what’s a win for ministry, and what does this look like? And we really started to dive into that. And I began to realize okay, we don’t see eye-to-eye and everything, but to me these are not necessarily like essentials for leading student ministry. So okay, if you want me to do this instead of doing that um, ah, okay, we can we can try that and see what happens.

Kyle Isabelli — Um, and so like those those conversations had started to happen. Um and so to hear that maybe I’m not a good fit in the long run isn’t as surprising is probably how I felt back then. But for it to happen so quickly without like an extended amount of time to like evaluate, and talk about it, and say oh well…

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — …let’s talk more about this, and let’s have some deeper conversations about this. And how does this fit within the realm of our entire student ministry, within the realm of our church. And um, those conversations just they they never got to take place prior to that firing. Um.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — And that and that was hard. But yeah, so there were there were some things then that were made very clear. A unique part of my story that um is probably different than what a lot of people have gone through um is that after I had that conversation—it was a week before Easter spring of 2017—we kind of kept it on the down low for a while because Easter was coming.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — It’s like that’s what we need to focus on. And so within those couple weeks a few of the elders and other executive level pastors found out. And they weren’t happy with my supervisor about it.

Rich Birch — Oh no. Okay.

Kyle Isabelli — And so it almost got like taken back.

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Kyle Isabelli — And so they wanted them to have us with ah a mediator in the room, talk through some of these differences, talk through…

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Kyle Isabelli — …why why don’t you guys see eye-to-eye? Why did you feel that you were at this place to make this decision? Why don’t you feel like he’s a good fit? Like so then we had like 3 or 4 conversations over the course of the next month where it was very clear that like we were on different sides of…

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — …what it looks like for the student minister to be successful. Um. And just even just overall general expectations for me…

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — …as as the youth pastor. And so it was like in that season where it’s like, oh this is very clear. And so at the end of that it was I was like, hey, like you’ve made it clear that I’m not the guy you want leading. I get it. Let’s continue on with this. This is your decision; you’re making it. I respect that. I understand more of where you’re coming from. Um but it wasn’t a surprise at that point anymore, you know, because we had those conversations.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes.

Kyle Isabelli — So um, a little bit of clarity prior. But then after that initial firing and then more talking about it, there is a lot more clarity after that.

Rich Birch — Well yeah, that’s a good there’s good insight there around us, if we’re on the on the management the leader side of this equation, um, you know, we we cannot be too clear, like we have to be painfully clear…

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Candor is kindness. You know being as clear as if this does not change I will have to let you go. Like you know we’re not there yet, but that is where we are headed.

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Um and and you know here is this um here is what I’m saying in a piece of paper that you can take home, because and that’s just compassionate.

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Because man, when you start talking like that, people’s brains shut down. Like they’re like man, what? Like as you start thinking about, how am I going to pay my mortgage? What about my kids? Like although, rightfully so…

Kyle Isabelli — Yep.

Rich Birch — …though all those things come to the fore forefront. But let’s talk about, like okay so let’s let’s talk about how you then kind of what what was the internal work that that had to go on? You you, I would imagine, you know, like working in any any ministry position, it’s more than a job. We have an identity to it that and and some of that or a lot of that is good. Some of that’s maybe not so good. Ah, but it’s definitely more than than, you know, you’re not punching a clock. You don’t become a youth pastor because you want to make lots of money. So like how did you process that at a personal level, what that look like?

Kyle Isabelli — Ah, yeah, so as you kind of shared earlier, this has probably happened to quite a bit of people. There’s some studies/research that have been done that say anywhere between 1 and 3 and 1 in 4 people in ministry at a church…

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — …will be forced to resign or be fired from their position. Um, so just even in America 300,000 churches, that’s 75,000 to one 100,000 people.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, it’s a lot of people.

Kyle Isabelli — So like this is common.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kyle Isabelli — Um, it’s a lot of people. And so it just so happened that probably 10 years prior, my youth pastor growing up um, he’d taken a job in California, he was from the Chicagoland area, taken a job in California, he was there for fifty-three days.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kyle Isabelli — And on that fifty third day they said, hey, you’re done here. Pack up your family of four kids and wife and go back to Chicago.

Rich Birch — Wow. Wow.

Kyle Isabelli — And that was it. He didn’t get any explanation. Didn’t get any conversation.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kyle Isabelli — And so I remember calling him the day I first found out. And he really challenged me, and his name’s Justin. And he’s like, Kyle, before you think about: this is unfair, this isn’t right, whatever; he’s like: what’s God trying to teach you?

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Kyle Isabelli — How is God trying to refine your faith? How is he going to try to grow you? How is he… At first I was like, I don’t want to hear this from you; I want you just to be on my side.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Kyle Isabelli — Tell me that I’m right and he’s wrong, that I’m smart and he’s not.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Kyle Isabelli — And like and he wasn’t and I mean that’s why he’s been ah, a mentor and someone who’s spoken truth into my life for years upon years upon years. And so he’s like, whatever now you’re learning, you need to write it down. You need a journal, you need to think about it. And so that’s how I really began to process just the the struggles I was feeling, the pain I was feeling, the remorse I was feeling, the um just the anger that was really building up inside of me. I’m a pretty like happy go lucky person, always positive, you know. And I just began to see bitterness take root in my soul. And those were the things that like I began just to pour out on paper and then type it on a computer and just like try to make sense of it all in that season. And then obviously when we started having these like post-firing conversations about like what went wrong, I began to learn more about like, well what am I passionate about in ministry?

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — What do the things I really do care about the most? You know it’s like you’re a youth pastor. I mean you want to see kids love Jesus. You wanna see students grow in their relationship. Yes, we like see a full room; every pastor youth pastor like seeing a full room – that doesn’t change. But um, there’s more to it than that. So like what are the things that really I care about the most in ministry? And those things I began to really wrestle with and think about. Not that I hadn’t previously, but now I was putting it on paper and I was typing it out.

Kyle Isabelli — Um, and then to your point of going into ministry, like we’re not. It’s just it’s a little bit complicated because, and and Carey Nieuwhof has written a bunch about this. And um, he talks about how when you’re in ministry your work is your church, your your friends are in your church, and your church is your church. And so when all three of those things are taken away from you all of a sudden, you lose all of those support systems and those close relationships that you have.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — And so we were wrestling with that and what that was going to look like. We were in a season where my wife had experienced some um just difficulties in in labor and deliveries was still in a lot of pain, and we were relying on our church family. My high school ministry volunteers to like be there for us, like 24/7. And we were we were having to do doctor’s appointments, different things like that to help help my wife out. And it was just it was a hard season in that regard. So it’s like, well what’s what’s going to happen to that support system?

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — All of those things were beginning to [inaudible] and process. However, I was starting to learn those things about myself, and I was starting to see oh this is how I handle stress. And this is how I handle when really I’m dealing with conflict and issues in my own life. And the Lord really began to grow um those things in me and grow those fruits of the Spirit in me that needed some pain and suffering in order to develop.

Rich Birch — Love that. I, you know, I love that that advice from your your mentor. The the, you know, isn’t that that’s like ah a true friend in that moment…

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …to say, hey, stop. Ah, you know, stop that.

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Ah, let’s use this to try to ah grow ourselves, as opposed to just go inward and become bitter. You know, I think all of these kinds of moments, right, they have an opportunity for us to either get bitter or better, right? And how do we how do we find that? Talk more about how kind of your own emotional spiritual depth um, you know, deepened in this in this season. Because I I think that can be um, that could be really difficult to, you know, to see that through in a moment like this where I think, man, we just go to survival mode, and we and we go back to animal instincts rather than, you know, maybe some of those deeper questions. Talk to me about what what that looked like.

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah. No, yeah, I would say for me it was the dependency on God was lacking in my life. You know I was just ah, you know…6, 7 years already in student ministry. Everything grew up and to the right. Everything was, “Kyle’s doing a great job.” And, “We love Kyle.” And and it it was just, you know, we just experienced a lot of “success in ministry.” Um, and so to really see that um that I had to be more reliant on God and less self-sufficient in the gifts or the abilities, or the skills that God, God has given me. They’re of him, they’re not of me. But to, like a small example is just when prep prepping for youth group nights, or preparing for whatever it was, and even like interacting with students, like prayer just was not existent.

Kyle Isabelli — I knew what to do, I had my rhythm. I knew how to prepare, I knew how to get the game ready. I knew how to do X, Y and Z.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — And it was like those thoughts are coming from the Holy Spirit obviously, and those giftings are coming from the Holy Spirit, the power’s in the Holy Spirit. But I wasn’t like consciously aware of like, God, this isn’t gonna happen unless you show up. God, these things I’m writing down or saying in the moment on stage, you know, it’s like as ah as a communicator you have everything prepared then you say something like a little bit off but it really resonates, like I know that’s a Holy Spirit.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — That’s not me. But I just…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Kyle Isabelli — …I wasn’t in tune with him. I wasn’t focused and just being with him consistently in my my time with him. And so that was huge. And that really set me up when I did enter into my next ministry position. It’s like, okay, as I prepare, as I go forward, as I invest in the students and the leaders and build teams and get volunteers, prayer has to be a consistent part of that. This complete dependence on the Holy Spirit for everything that I do has to be a part of just my daily rhythm, my my consistent check-ins throughout the day, whatever it is.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Kyle Isabelli — So that was that was a huge thing. It just took away that self-sufficiency that had been there for years that I can get it done. I’m the one that can take charge of my own destiny. And it’s like, no this is all God’s. And if he wants to take it away, he’ll take it away. If he wants to bless it, he wants to bless it. And if he wants to refine and grow my faith in dependency on him, he’ll he’ll do that as well. And so that that to me was one of the biggest shifts that I had, and have had in ministry over these last 6 or 7 years.

Rich Birch — Love that. Well, let’s talk about the kind of practical side of it. So this is like maybe the opposite end of the spectrum in that. were there some decisions you made in the early days after or during all that on the practical side that were particularly helpful that you might say to someone who’s who is facing this? Or um, are there things you wish you did that you that you didn’t do that looking back on, you’re like, oh maybe should have made that call then.

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah,

Rich Birch — Just you know, if there are any of those kind of practical things?

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah, I’ll I’ll give you one of each. The one positive thing was what my youth pastor had told me to do was was journal, was process…

Rich Birch — Good. Good.

Kyle Isabelli — …these emotions and feelings, get them on the paper and allow, you know, your quiet times in scripture, like spend extra time on it; really journal what you’re thinking and feeling. Um and be more intentional with that. That that was huge. Because we do we have we’re a mixed bag of emotions when something like this happens and I needed that. I really needed that.

Kyle Isabelli — One one such instance, it was probably like three or four months into my new position here at at Avenue, and I I’d taken this position because it was a position where I would supervise someone. So in back in my mind’s like I I’m gonna do things the right way. I’m not gonna be a jerk boss and you know all these favorite things. It’s very self-sufficient, prideful. And I remember leaving a conversation with that person one day and I was getting in my car, and I was and I was like, man, it just be so much easier if I could have someone else here like that I that I know of or whatever. And I was like oh wow. Like I’m three months into this new position. I’m like five six months from being fired and that thought crossed my mind instinctively.

Rich Birch — Wow, wow.

Kyle Isabelli — So then I had to like process that and write that down. And and and in the moments of processing, writing things down, you begin to meet with other people. I met with mentors, met with counselors, like sought help in this. That that was huge. So that was that was a big big thing for me. On the flip side of it, there were things that I ah wish I had done. One of which was I, because in the Chicagoland area you’re still like thirty, forty minutes away from your church and from my church and I was still around people…

Rich Birch — Okay, yeah.

Kyle Isabelli — …you’re still – I had to take like ah a year and a half break from social media. So those first six months I was still kind of on social media, kind of checking things out a little bit. Um and I don’t remember when I started, I don’t remember when I stopped, and and all… But like there is a season where I just got really jealous; I got envious. I would still follow the old youth groups like Instagram page and see what they’re doing. I would, you know, like to hear from former students who’d be like, ah, youth group’s terrible that you’re not here anymore. And that would like feed my ego and stuff like that.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Kyle Isabelli — Like I had to really, I wish I would have, not gonna say cut off those relationships, but not seek out that affirmation from them. I still wanted to be in connection with them and hear how they’re doing and stuff like that. But I needed to do a better job of just saying like, no, like this isn’t time to gossip. This isn’t a time to slander the other church. This isn’t a time to um for you to tell me how amazing I am, and how terrible the new youth pastor, or the youth group is. And blah blah blah.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — Like I love you and I care about you but like I can’t keep hearing these things. So I had to like cut off social media for a season. I had to um, just you know, not meet students for coffee or different things like that, or leaders for coffee. And just be like you know what, like I appreciate you. Thanks for checking in on us, and that means a lot. And ah you know, hey can’t can’t meet right now. I’m “busy at church” right now…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Kyle Isabelli — …but you know like let’s connect at some point. I just wasn’t in a good space. I wish I had done that better on the onset.

Rich Birch — Interesting. Well yeah I can see that, you know, creating, you know, understanding, hey what is like a healthy boundary there? And that’s probably an imperfect one, but even just thinking about that and thinking consciously about that, and trying to make an active decision around, Okay, what is that? Where is the, you know, the best place, you know, for those kinds of things? So. Interesting. Well, you’ve put together a book on this that I want to I want to make sure we’re gonna give people a chapter to that. We’ve got a link in the show notes. It’s called “Refined by the Fire(d).” Love the title. It’s a great title. Ah “How to Process Pain, Regain Purpose, and Persevere After Being Fired by Your Church.” Ah this must have been a painful book to put together, must have been hard… What what are you hoping, who are you hoping reads this book, and how do you hope it’ll help in the midst of, you know, what can be really difficult days for people?

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah, yeah. I mean the the book it really it came together pretty quickly within that first year which is kind of crazy because I never thought I would like write a book. Once I got done with seminary I was like, I’m never writing a paper more than 20 pages ever again. You know?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Kyle Isabelli — And so but in that process of like journaling and typing things out, um and then at the same time looking for resources.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — There’s not really that many like books or resources on something like this. And there’s random blog articles, but there is there’s there’s really nothing. And so more has obviously come out over these last five or six years, but at that point I was like, I want to create a resource for people who are gonna go through what I’m gonna go through, who have gone what I’ve gone through. And I began then to have more conversations with different youth pastors that I knew that had gone through that, or then subsequently went through it after I was let go. And was able to talk with them, and encourage them and it’s like, I want to do something and have something for the the ministry staff person who had to resign, or was forced out, or was fired. They need something that they can walk through and utilize and not only hear my story, but then also reflect on their own story, and the the work that God wants to do in their life. The the “refining by the fired” work that God wants to do. And so um um I’m grateful that, you know, Morgan James Publishing took ah took a chance on my proposal and and they thought it was a story worth sharing. And so, yeah, primarily that’s that’s who I’m hoping it reaches is is the ministry staff who have been let go.

Kyle Isabelli — But you know secondarily, ah, it’s going to be for people that are in leadership positions. I think about myself now as a senior pastor like, if this would happen, how do I want to work with someone if we have to get to this place? You know, what are the expectations I want to be crystal clear about, like you like you said earlier. Like you know you know, being candid – I can’t remember is it. It was a great phrase. So someone go back and hear that – it was good.

Rich Birch — Candor is kindness. Yeah yeah.

Kyle Isabelli — Candor is kindness. Yeah, like how am I clear about my expectations?

Rich Birch — Right.

Kyle Isabelli — How am I clear about what is a win and if things aren’t going well, how do we intervene?How do we track progress? How do we right the ship? And then how do we gracefully work with someone if it’s if it’s not the right fit? If it’s not going to work out long term? Like how do we have empathy and kindness and grace? And and I would hope that like because of what I’ve gone through, I can encourage that in someone else’s life, or help senior leaders then in ministry positions um, have more empathy, have more kindness, have more grace when they are having to wrestle with some of these decisions.

Kyle Isabelli — So that, and then even just the people in the church. Like one, you know, I think about the students and families especially. Like one day I was there, and then the next day they got an email saying that I’m done. And like they’re like, what, wait a second?

Rich Birch — That’s tough. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kyle Isabelli — It’s tough. It’s like this is now we’re wrestling with, like do we stay in the ministry. Do we stay in the church? What do what do I believe about Jesus? Like this doesn’t seem loving. And all these different things. And and so there’s even just a little bit in there for them of like well how do you evaluate that? How do you maintain or strengthen your faith when you feel like the church isn’t acting like the church? And those feelings may be valid, you know. And so like how do you wrestle with that? And um, yeah, so it can really help the entire church, but it is focused really on that ministry staff person who has unfortunately gone through a firing in their ministry career.

Rich Birch — Yeah, do you know do you have any sense of what percentage of people who go through this experience end up in ministry after that? Because I would my gut says that there’s a lot of people who when this happens to them that that’s it.

Kyle Isabelli — They check out.

Rich Birch — Like they become real estate agents. They, you know, they they end up in some other thing. Um, but you…

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah, they sell insurance.

Rich Birch — Yeah they sell insurance, you take those relational skills and you figure out some other way to monetize them. Um, but you fought the odds there. You’ve ended up in ministry, and for all intents and purposes feels fairly healthy. You know?

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — So yeah, what’s your sense on, you know, does it is it kind of a fatal blow for lots of people?

Kyle Isabelli — I think it is. I wish there were statistics about it more. I know Barna has done a lot with their statistics about pastors wanting to quit during the pandemic and everything like that.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Kyle Isabelli — Those coming back? I guess I don’t know the numbers. I do know this, is that there were issues that you were struggling with or wrestling with while you were at your church that you were let go from, and you do find yourself at a new church, those same issues are still going to be there unless you actually deal with them, unless you actually work through them.

Kyle Isabelli — If you experience an unhealthy leadership situation and now you’re the leader, if you didn’t deal with that you’re just as susceptible to doing the same thing to someone else. You know, like case in point, like I said I thought, “man, I wish I would have had I have someone else here to work for me instead of this person,” like three months in. So I don’t know what the percentages are. I would say probably more take, ah I would say more probably take a break for an extended period of time.

Kyle Isabelli — For me, um I just had a strong calling and passion for student ministry that um, was validated by a couple people just close to me – my youth pastor. Like if this is what you feel called to still, then you should pursue it. And and it it just so happened, you know, the lLord was working. There were three different churches in the Chicagoland area that offered me positions, you know, in the span of those like couple of months. So like, Okay, Lord, like you you still are calling me to this. You know that that it’s a sign, that like even though like there’s the baggage of whatever it was I had, I was probably bringing in, these these people looked at me and were able to talk with some of the other pastors and staff and leaders there and say, no Kyle, here’s how he’s been. He’s been above reproach. He’s had integrity, here’s what he brings, here’s what he’s passionate about. And so to me the Lord really affirmed that in my heart, and obviously I didn’t know, you know, having the perspective that I have now, but you know two years later he was preparing me to to be a senior pastor at this church, and to be a part of this church community.

Kyle Isabelli — So um, ah you know, I think you have to be careful about taking a step forward, but I understand if if there are a lot of people who do take breaks, who do something else for a career, do work in some other industry for now, that can be a good thing. Because it can help them get some good just help and encouragement, and ah I would say a refocusing on what their identity in Christ is, what their purpose here on this earth is.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. Well I really appreciate, Kyle, I appreciate you taking time to unpack this, and I hope people will pick up a copy of your book, before – I think it comes out in January, right?

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah.

Rich Birch — If I’m correct it comes out January 2024.

Kyle Isabelli — Yep.

Rich Birch — But before then you can actually get a chapter of it. So if you just go to the link in the show notes to scroll there on your phone, click on that drop in your email address, and I’m sure then Kyle and his team will loop back around with you when the book comes out. But you can download the first chapter, a great starting point for sure. Anything else, you’d like to say just before we we wrap up today’s episode?

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah, you can also pre-order the book anywhere you get books. It’s you know it’s all the links are there for all the big books stores, book websites, so feel free to do that, pre-order. Pre-orders are always great for authors – I’m learning this as an author. So that’s a good thing.

Rich Birch — Yeah, first time author – love it.

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah, and and I would say this too, Rich. I in the course these last couple years I’ve come across a couple of organizations that are actively helping churches as well as pastors or ministry workers who have been let go: Pastoral Transitions is one of them in California. And Pastors Hope Network, mainly in Texas, is another one. Bill, Tom, and Dana Harrison – they’re doing some great work for each of those organizations. And so if you find yourself in that season, you need career coaching, you need counseling, you need resume building skills, whatever it is, to really go to organizations I’ve come across that can be a great benefit to those who have been fired from a ministry position.

Rich Birch — So good. That’s great. Super helpful. I appreciate you being on the show today, Kyle. If people want to track with you or with the church, where do we want to send them online?

Kyle Isabelli — Yeah I mean for me, it’s it’s website I-S-A-B-E-L-L-I. Find me on Instagram, Facebook, that way as well. And as you said our church is Avenue Christian Church so

Rich Birch — Love it. Thanks so much, man, appreciate you being here again. Appreciate it. Take care.

Kyle Isabelli — Thanks, Rich.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.