Character vs. Competency

Character vs Competency

Whether you’ve been a Worship Leader for years or are just starting out, you’ve felt/seen the tension between these two things. This is true for anything we do in life, but Character & Competency are the two core aspects that we need to be successful & faithful in ministry.

You can’t do what you do with one and not the other, and we have to cultivate both in our lives if we want to become better at what we do. I contemplated calling this post “How to Not Ruin Your Life In Ministry,” because that’s how important it is to understand this topic personally and for your team. I know first hand.

Quick Definitions:

COMPETENCYHOW WELL you do what you do.

CHARACTERWHO you are, specifically your mental & moral qualities.

This isn’t a new idea, I mean most of the stuff we talk about here isn’t, but we’ve got to understand the importance both of these Life Accounts in us being able to be successful Worship Leaders (see Worship Matters pp. 54 for an excellent definition of what a successful/faithful Worship Leader looks like).

I love the illustration of thinking about these two things on an X/Y axis. You know, like this:

Comp vs Character - GRAPH


I know, pictures help me too. As you can see, there are 5 points marked on the graph. Each one represents a different combination of Competency & Character. While it’s important to know where YOU are on this graph, as leaders, we need to be aware of where our team members are on the graph. I use this in all of my auditions for all prospective team members.

Lets break them down, specifically for Worship Leaders:

1. Low Competency | Low Character

These are people who aren’t very good at singing or playing drums and they make pretty terrible decisions too. We don’t have to worry about these people too much, cause they’re not likely to end up in leadership positions because they are lacking both.

2. Low Competency | High Character

These are people who love Jesus, have great marriages, but aren’t very good at whatever they do. The good thing here is this is FERTILE SOIL as we can teach people to play an instrument better more quickly than we can help someone change their character. Don’t ignore these people.

3. Mid Competency | Mid Character

While this balance isn’t what we’re shooting for, this is a good place to START for most people. Pretty solid at their craft and pretty trustworthy character. Both need work, and hopefully these people know it. I’d welcome them on my team.

4. High Competency | High Character

These are the DREAM. Men & Women who are excellent at what they do, and also care deeply about their character. This is what we’re shooting for, myself included!

5. High Competency | Low Character

I saved this one for last because this is easily the most DANGEROUS person on the board, and unfortunately it’s an all too familiar scene. This is a person who is an incredible singer/leader/guitar player/etc, but is always making poor decisions. While this a volatile combination to have on your team, it’s an even more dangerous person to have LEADING a team or a church.

Unfortunately, what happens is the person with the most talent is elevated to a place of leadership, without any care given to their character. I get it, you want to have qualitatively excellent music, but we CANNOT fall into this trap (I’m looking at you Worship Pastors & Lead Pastors). I’ve personally had this burn me before, so take the time to build up this person’s character before or as you increase their leadership on your team.


Now that we’ve got these 5 archetypes, if you will, in our minds, how should they inform how we lead our teams? Here’s 3 ways this information can help us to lead our teams even better:

Train Weaknesses, not Strengths

In weightlifting, there is a tendency for young lifters to want to train their strongest lifts. Makes sense. I mean, you’re already strong at bench press, and having a good bench press session would probably have you leaving great about what you did. However, you still can’t deadlift anything.

For Worship Leaders, we shouldn’t just train to the stuff we’re good at (though we should still train that stuff), but we should focus on building up deficiencies. Addressing weaknesses will not just make progress in that area, but will likely naturally increase the strengths as well. They are strengths after all. Lean into those weaknesses and watch how a rising tide lifts all boats.

Start the Conversation

This graph is a great thing to introduce to your team. Seriously, this is a simple thing to introduce during a monthly/quarterly team meeting by talking through this idea, the graph, and even the 5 points on the graph. Use this idea to start the conversation with your team about growing in not just competency but in character.

Once you introduce the idea as a team, it will open the door for you to have the hard conversation with those on your team who might fall closer farther down on the character line than they need to. Use this idea as the conversation starter you need to lead your team well.

Paint the Picture

Along the same lines of the last point, take the time to paint the picture of what a High Competency/High Character person looks like. I don’t mean in generalities, I mean SPECIFICALLY, what does this person look like? What do they do? What is their life like?

It doesn’t matter to me how you paint that picture, but it matters to your team! Painting the picture of what that person is like and some of the results of being like that person could be exactly what a team member needs. Sometimes, you can’t see where you need to go until you’ve gotten a good look at the place.

Having this conversation about competency & character is a helpful individual exercise, but it can be a game changing one if you have it on your team. Take the time to teach this idea with your team and lead your team members to improve not just their skills, but also their character.


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