Peter Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, and when it comes to matching job candidates with a church, our experience placing candidates has proven that true. Aside from the spiritual health of a pastoral candidate, there may be no more important factor than culture in determining the quality of that candidate’s fit at your church.
Every church has its own culture or DNA that is determined in part by its location, facility, traditions, individuals on staff, and quirks. You can spot the culture in what people wear, its expectations for staff, how it operates each day, the kind of spirituality it values, and how attendees and staff interact. You can train someone to lead a better meeting or to manage time better, but culture is something you need to iron out on the front end.
Fitting your church’s culture can make or break a job candidate’s tenure at your church. As we’ve interviewed candidates for open pastoral and staff positions at churches, we’ve focused on five essential questions that help us determine a candidate’s fit with the church’s culture:
Does the Candidate Fit Your Church’s Leadership Style?
When interviewing candidates we like to find out what kind of church background they come from, whether they’ve worked at a church in the past, and how those experiences have shaped who they are and how they lead. Do they have experience in an “all hands on deck” church plant or did they lead a very focused ministry in an established church with a lot of staff?
We also look at a candidate’s personality and examine how that personality could mesh with the existing leadership of a church and the open position. Does this candidate have the personal resources and approach to leadership that will be most effective in this context?
Does the Candidate Agree on the Purpose of the Church?
Does a church exist to make disciples or to ensure its own survival? We can all agree that taking care of the former will ensure the latter happens, but it’s easy to slip into a survival mindset.
In addition, if your church is seeking ways to get involved in the community and you’re hiring a leader from an established church with a more “attractional” approach to outreach, you’re going to have a big cultural disconnect–and fast. Allocating time and resources, to say nothing about forging relationships, can shift dramatically in light of a pastor’s vision of the church’s purpose.
Does the Candidate Share Your Social Perspective?
Don’t dance around the hot topic issues in an interview. No one wants to be surprised by a major disagreement after joining a church staff, so go after that elephant in the room. Ask for a candidate’s views on gay marriage, LGBT identity, marijuana, etc. Would you rather find out about a major disagreement over one of these topics in six months when you’re discussing the vision and strategy for your church in the coming year?
Does the Candidate Fit Your “Worship” Culture?
There is a big cultural gap between a church that pairs a hymnal with an organ and a church that includes a full rock band on stage to play contemporary worship songs. While everyone has different taste in music and a different background in church, a job candidate should at least feel comfortable participating in a service.
If they have reservations about the style of music, the length of the service, or the style of the preachers, that can create unnecessary friction week in, week out.
Does the Candidate Fit the Community Culture?
Consider the location of your church and whether your candidates are at ease connecting with others in your community outside the walls of the church. If your church is trying to reach these people, so that they become committed disciples of Christ in your church, then your candidate should have either a personal connection with the community or a desire to become more fully integrated with your community.
That’s just a small sampling of the kinds of questions we ask candidates at Chemistry Staffing. If you’d like to learn more, go to http://www.chemistrystaffing.com/20-things to receive a copy of 20 Things to Know About Church Staff Candidates BEFORE You Interview Them. This document is the foundation of our unique candidate assessment system, and should be the starting point for your search as well.
We love learning about churches and helping them find candidates for their open positions… and we’d love to help you. If you're in the process of hiring a new staff person (or are at the very starting point of considering a new hire at your church), we'd love to see if we can be of assistance. Grab 30 minutes with us to tell us what you're looking for. We'll give you our input on great ways to get started. You can click here to schedule a time.