Having No One Is Better Than Having the Wrong One

Lead long enough, and most of us will break our rules. But, unfortunately, doing so brings unintended and harmful consequences to our leadership and those under our care. One such rule that cannot be broken is having no one is better than having the wrong one, or leaving a position open is better than filling it with the wrong person. I have known this for many years, yet in a season of indiscretion, I compromised and opened the door for the wrong person to be hired. I got desperate and took matters into my own hands instead of waiting on the Lord. 

Like many pastors, my congregation is smaller than it was a few years ago. With limited financial and volunteer resources, I needed to fill a critical role on my leadership team. I had been required to fill this position for months, and those stretching themselves dangerously thin were coming to the end of their ability to serve. One afternoon, I lost my patience, grabbed my phone, and started calling a few people I thought could fill the role. The first call ended with no progress. The second ended with a willing new attendee to our church accepting the position. Because the congregation had shrunk, so had my reliance on the power and provision of God. It would take eight months to find out, but I had hired the wrong person. 

Thinking that I was doing the right thing, I had the individual fill out an application and submit it to the church board. I also had the church board interview our one and only candidate. We were following protocol, but in my heart, I was settled on hiring the individual and hoping the board would go along with me. I now believe my desperation caused blindness to red flags present in the application and interview. In my desperation-induced blindness, I added this individual to our leadership team. It is possible to follow protocol, gain unity, and still make costly mistakes. 

The first couple of months passed with some success, only encountering what I believed to be new leader growing pains. My new team member did well establishing themself in the life and relationship of the church. However, behind the scenes, it became evident that I had made a mistake. As I began noticing a lack of maturity in this person, I kept it to myself. I believed in my ability to train and raise new leaders. Unfortunately, this was not going to be one of those times. I thought basic immaturity turned out to be a deep-seated lack of emotional and spiritual health. This became painfully evident when the individual resigned due to a disagreement. 

Upon their resignation, I met with the church board and admitted that I had errored in deeming the individual fit to lead. I confessed to each board member that I had ignored my long-standing rule that no one is better than the wrong one. I put more trust in my ability to raise a new leader than in God’s ability to provide the right person in his own time. Fortunately for me, I have been leading this church for over eight years and have an excellent relationship with the congregation and church board members. We weathered this season, and God is doing new, creative work with us. 

If your congregation is smaller than it was in the past, and you find it difficult to fill leadership and ministry roles, let my mistake be a lesson for us all. It is better to leave the position open than to fill it with the wrong person. No one is better than the wrong one. Do not take matters into your own hands. Wait on God to bring the right person into your church family. Whatever you think you need, there is never a time to compromise the ministry of your church by adding the wrong person to your leadership team. There will be a more significant problem when they leave than before they arrive. 

My church board and I have committed to removing the desperation to fill positions. Instead, we trust our creative God to lead us into new seasons and ministry methods. We have already made changes that we believe will carry us forward. Those changes have received tremendous responses, and the Holy Spirit is working in our hearts. A decrease in finances or volunteers does not limit him; therefore, neither are we. As many of our churches are smaller and the old normal is gone forever, may we enter a season of prayer through which God can birth and empower new pathways forward.

Paul Hobbs
Paul Hobbs

Paul Hobbs is lead pastor at The Retreat Church: A Church of the Nazarene in Yucaipa, California.