Home Pastors Articles for Pastors How to Avoid Colossal Failure in Building Your Leadership Team

How to Avoid Colossal Failure in Building Your Leadership Team

I am often invited to facilitate private leadership gatherings that are designed as mentoring sessions. I love the give and take, the back and forth, the questions and, hopefully, answers.

Time and again—through both personal experience and formal surveys of participants—the biggest issue facing those in ministry has to do with staff and volunteers.

In other words, the people you have to work with.

The famed business author Jim Collins has written about getting the right people on the bus, and then in the right seats. When you don’t, the organization suffers. 

So does the leader.

So how do you hire the right people and solicit the right volunteers?

I have learned to follow the five “C’s”—the five things to look for in any hire or any volunteer. Violate them at great peril. I know—I’ve colossally screwed up every one of them at one time or another, and paid dearly. 

That’s how I learned them.

So here they are:

1. Character.

The foundational thing to look for is character. I know, we’re all sinners, but I’m not talking about perfection. I’m talking about whether they have a foundational ethic that operates in their life. It’s often been said that integrity is who you are when no one is looking. I want people I don’t have to look after.  

I am often asked about what character issues to overlook, and which ones to make non-negotiable. 

A serial predator who has a trail of dalliances in his background has, for me, a disqualifying character flaw. A person who never pays their bills on time due to habitual misuse of funds has a disqualifying character flaw. A person who manifests an ongoing pattern of deceit has a disqualifying character flaw.

The key words here are “habitual,” “pattern” and “ongoing.” And I am particularly oriented toward the sins of the spirit, not the flesh. Yes, gluttony matters, but not as much for ministry as pride; yes, slipping up and having one too many glasses of wine is not optimal for those who feel the freedom to imbibe, but it pales in comparison to anger, envy or sloth. 

The reason character matters so much is because you cannot teach it. You cannot “impute” it (a good old King James English word) into someone. 

It’s either there, or it isn’t.

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James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.