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Staff Search

Talent vs. Fit

When searching for a new staff member, be careful! The most talented person may not be the right person.


Don't be blinded by talent

I have recently become addicted to Reid Hoffman's Masters of Scale podcast. The podcast is a series of interviews with organizational leaders who have led through significant growth. On a recent episode, Hoffman dropped a great line that I think we all need to consider when we are beginning the search process for team members... regardless of whether they are paid staff or not:

It is easy to confuse the right person with a talented person.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It's easy to be blinded by academic degrees, the places that someone has worked, and sheer talent... becoming so distracted by these things that we hire the wrong person. One of the dirty little secrets of hiring ministry staff is that the right person is not always the most talented person.

We hear he stories all the time... "he was such a great preacher, I don't know why it didn't work out," "she came from a big church in Atlanta, I guess she just didn't like it here," or some version of that story. The trick to finding a long-term fit for a ministry position is finding the right fit. At Chemistry, we believe that the right fit has five different components:

  • Theology: Does this person believe the same things that you believe? Are your open hand and close fist theological issues aligned? This can be tricky because terms and phrases that one tribe uses in the church world may not mean the same thing in another tribe.
  • Church Culture and DNA: What kind of churches are they used to being a part of? Are they a shorts and t-shirt on Sunday type or do they prefer a three-piece suit with a pocket square?
  • Personality: Are they a flaming introvert or are they super extroverted? How about your team, will they mesh with this persons personality... or will the cold war break within weeks of their arrival?
  • Skills and Abilities: Can they do the job?
  • SMQ: The Smoked Meat Quotient. Is this someone that you would enjoy hosting to your home on a Tuesday night for a barbecue? Is there enough chemistry between this person, your team, and your congregation, that they will actually enjoy spending time together over the next five years or more?

Miss on one of these, and your chance of finding the right fit significantly declines. Miss on two of these and you are headed towards a rough season. Talent, in many cases, can be developed. You can teach someone to preach, to create a curriculum, or develop teams. What you can't teach is fit.

Beware the temptation to compromise on fit in order to obtain talent.




Hiring this year? Let's talk!

Matt Steen

Matt Steen

Matt has served the local church for over two decades as a youth pastor, church planter, and executive pastor. Originally from Baltimore, Matt currently lives in Orlando, with his wife Theresa, and has a B.S. in Youth Ministry from Nyack College and an M.Div. and MBA from Baylor University. Certified as an Urban Church Planter Coach by Redeemer City to City and as a StratOp facilitator by the Paterson Center, Matt has made a career of helping churches thrive through intentionality, clarity, and creating healthy cultures. He is convinced that a healthy church is led by a healthy team with great chemistry, and loves partnering with Chemistry’s churches to do great things for the Kingdom.

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