This article first appeared on the website of the International Baptist Convention on September 13, 2021. David Fresch is the executive director of the Missional International Church Network.
Churches are desperate for good leadership and not just pastoral leadership. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, and good leaders are needed throughout an organization, not just at the top. In many ways, the role of the senior pastor is primarily to train up other leaders to fill various roles throughout the church and to constantly be supporting and challenging them. Those other leaders must be the unique fit to fulfill the individual role they are called to while also being the right fit for the organization at large.
It is easy for us to want to find other leaders who are like us because that feels comfortable, but the reality is that a church will be better off with a variety of leaders with different strengths and weaknesses that reflect the makeup of the congregation. At the same time, we must ensure we have the right people on the bus, that each person is in the correct seat, and that there is consistent understanding of where they are headed and why they are headed there (vision, values, and mission alignment).
One way I have found helpful in ensuring the above is using the 5 C’s Tool. The 5 C’s are character, calling, chemistry, competence, and communication. All of these are critical factors for success in any role, not just in ministry. The person or people tasked with filling a vacancy within an organization should be familiar with how to evaluate candidates in these five areas. This provides a rational way to organize thoughts on different candidates and compare them to one another, allowing us to be more quantifiable than qualifiable in our approach while still giving plenty of room for the Spirit to guide us in the process.
The following descriptions provide guidelines on how to evaluate each of the 5 C’s. If you are filling roles with a team, I suggest you distribute and discuss these 5 C’s with the team before beginning to review potential candidates. A description could be prepared stating what is specifically required for each C in relation to the role being filled. If everyone who is part of the recruitment process has aligned expectations before candidates are considered, then it is much easier to choose the right candidate because everyone involved will be more objective in their assessments. But if the following are not clearly defined upfront, then there is the risk that each person evaluating the candidate will have their own subjective ways of evaluating that often include unconscious biases.
Character/Christlikeness – No one is perfect; we are all on a journey to become more Christlike. But we want to ensure that each leader we raise up within our church is a person with a heart after God’s own heart who is clearly striving to grow and already at a point of maturity suitable for the position they are being considered for. This term “suitable” is key here because someone who is leading our 3-5-year-olds on Sunday morning and teaching them Bible stories does not have to have as much maturity and biblical depth as someone on the preaching team. It is very tempting to find a capable person who is not spiritually mature and want to put them into leadership hoping the spiritual maturity will follow. However, the Bible expressly forbids this, saying that they are likely to become prideful and instead must first develop spiritually and then be put into a place of leadership (1 Timothy 3:6). It is better to have a leadership role left vacant than it be filled by an inept or ungodly leader.
Ask the questions: Is there anything about their character that makes me uncomfortable? If the people this person leads become more like them, is that a good thing?
Calling – This can be one of the trickiest ones to evaluate. First off, calling in this case does not refer to whether or not they are called to this specific job, as that is what the entire tool is designed to help you determine, but rather whether they are called to this type of ministry at all. This should not be based simply on them saying they are called to the role but whether or not you can see evidence of it. For example, if they say they are called to youth, but then you bring them to a church event and they spend most of their time with the adults, you should question that call. If someone tells you they feel called to teaching, but you know you get bored after talking to them for two minutes, then you should question that call as well. We often want to avoid being discouraging to people in the church, so we let them sing even if they are off key or teach even if no one wants to come to their class or Bible study, but the reality is we are doing no favors to anyone by being less than honest. We who are already in church leadership are called to helping others truly find their calling from God and not merely being satisfied with those who are faithful to a calling yet truly unsuited for it.
Ask the question: Do we see evidence that this person is called to this type of ministry outside of what they have told us in the interview process?
Competent/Capable – This is often where secular employers start, though they would be wise to look at candidates through the lenses of the first two C’s before getting to this one if they want to build strong, long-lasting organizations. You will find that failure among leaders in ministry and the secular workplace is often not due to competency but due to one of the other four C’s. Keep that in mind when evaluating candidates and be careful to not get too excited when you find a capable candidate before you evaluate the other C’s. The needed competency varies widely based on the position of course, and it can include a host of things. If they are leading training online, can they operate the technology? If they are preaching, are they any good at preparing and delivering sermons? If they are going to run children’s programs, are they organized and capable of creating systems for check in and check out? If they are running the website, do they know how to update websites, do SEO, and the like. Hopefully, those recruiting for the position know what is needed in this area and can evaluate accordingly.
Ask the question: Is this person capable of doing the job we would place them in?
Communication – This includes both internal and external communication, and while the level of necessary communication will vary according to position, it is important to consider for every position. Internally (communication within the leadership team or the organization), you should consider if this person will respond promptly enough to emails or in online chat and communications. Also, is this candidate capable of making themselves clearly understood? When they are asked to present plans or ideas for ministry, are they able to explain their ideas in a way that is helpful? Can they receive constructive feedback in a healthy manner? These are all things to consider about a candidate’s communication abilities regardless of the area of leadership. For those higher up in leadership, are they able to cast vision, to get people on board with their ideas, to be pastoral (regardless of if they are officially a pastor) in their communication as they represent the church?
Externally (communication with the church at large, visitors, or within the community), the requirements vary considerably. A candidate to run the preschool ministry might be great with kids (calling), of high character, and extremely competent, but if they cannot explain the check-in process clearly to parents making newcomers feel confident in your church’s care for their child, then they should not be the one leading this ministry (or they need to have someone co-leading who brings the necessary communication skills). Someone being recruited to be the teaching pastor of course needs an even higher level of communication that might even include communicating with the media or public officials. All church officers, whether deacons, elders, or council members, must be able to communicate about the church with newcomers, be good at conflict resolution, be able to keep confidence (not overcommunicate), and bring clarity to situations when they speak.
Ask the questions: What level and types of internal communication are expected from someone in this role? What level of external communication do we expect someone in this role to have and who might they need to communicate with outside our church?
Chemistry – The reality is that even very godly people sometimes do not work together well. Paul and Barnabas were both servants of Christ, but there was a point where they split up over John Mark. When it comes to building your team, it is essential that you make sure the candidate you are selecting will fit in well. This is not to say that we want everyone to be just alike; we most certainly do not! But if the candidate just gives some of the team members a bad taste in their mouth, then that should be a serious red flag. It is wise to have other members of the team talk with the candidate, and then listen to their feedback. The candidate may be a great person who checks the requirements for the above 4 C’s, but you do not want to allow any division into your church. If you are not certain they will fit into the culture, it is best to keep looking for another candidate – sometimes saying “no” is the best way to serve your church, the candidate, and the Kingdom.
Ask the questions: Would I want to hang out with this person outside work? Would they be a good addition at a get together with the rest of the staff or volunteers?
There is no guarantee when selecting new team members that you will always get it right, no matter your process. And sometimes we have no choice but to bring on someone with some rough edges that we might prefer to avoid, but God often has a purpose in this, wanting us to experience some spiritual sandpaper, for our growth and theirs.
But using the 5 C’s can help us to avoid some negative experiences. And in other cases, using the 5 C’s can identify areas of growth for the candidate you pick. Lastly, using this tool can help set clear expectations for everyone on the team of what is expected of them, which helps to define culture and create unity in the midst of a shared vision.
And above all, bathe all of this in prayer, as we need spiritual discernment both to properly evaluate the 5 C’s and to sense God’s leading in building His team for His church.