Three Areas that Trip Up Church Leaders


As church leaders, the principle of choosing people of character can be a bit difficult for us. Why? Because we are the church. It is part of our business model to help pick up the pieces for people. It is our intention to be there when people fall so we can point them to Jesus and help get them back on their feet. If people in our church have addictions or bad habits, or if they engage in damaging behaviors, we don’t kick them out of the church. We meet them where they are and help them take their next steps.

But when we are talking about key volunteers or staff leaders, whom we have brought on the team to help others take steps, it is important that there aren’t any debilitating character flaws that will cause others to stumble.

This can be misinterpreted by some to mean that only perfect people are allowed on the team. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t want to encourage that kind of thinking or put that burden on our staff. All of us are dealing with something. All of us have areas in our lives where we need help and support. All of us deal with the reality of our humanity, and we are constantly striving to lean on Jesus.

But it’s crucial that the people we bring on our team do not have huge flaws in their integrity that could cripple their ability to lead. Even if you are leading a business, you want people of integrity on your team. You don’t want to worry about whether money will go missing, customers will get mistreated, or a sexual harassment accusation will divert your focus.

I’m not talking about unrealistic expectations; I’m talking about basic areas of integrity. In my experience, there are three big areas that seem to take leaders down over and over again.

  • WORDS: You don’t want people on your team who can’t control their tongues. James said, “By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation” (James 3:6). Whether you are trying to transform lives or deliver a product that will serve your customers, an employee who can’t control his or her tongue will be detrimental to your bottom line.
  • MONEY: We live in a world that has little tolerance for financial mis- management. It is important that you have policies to protect the assets of the organization, but it’s also important that you have employees who are not mesmerized by money.
  • SEX: This is the big one, isn’t it? It seems as if every week I hear of someone else who couldn’t keep his or her pants zipped. This is not just a male issue. We’ve seen male and female leaders equally fall to sexual temptation. And it is damaging because it betrays trust and strips away credibility.

So how do you make sure you don’t hire someone with character flaws? You can’t. But there are some things you can do during the interview process to minimize the risk for yourself and your organization. Stay tuned--we'll talk about that next week.

Read more in Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace