An Important Ingredient in the Church Hiring Process

An Important Ingredient in the Church Hiring Process

Long before I entertained the idea of being on staff at a large church, I was asked by our Executive Pastor to go to dinner with a candidate for our open Children’s Pastor position. I remember thinking, Why would you want me—someone who is not on staff—to be part of the church hiring process?

After saying yes to that request and sitting down with the candidate and his spouse, it didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that he would have a difficult time adjusting to our church’s culture and vibe. He was a great guy and gifted in leading children’s ministry. His theology fit was good. His experience and skills were beyond what the job description called for. The dinner conversation we shared as families was enjoyable.

However, there was just something about the interaction that made me think, If this guy was just looking for a church for his family to attend, I don’t think he would choose our church. Add to that recipe the idea of him being on staff, recruiting volunteers and being an integral part of the lives of families—this guy was not going to be a fit. He might be able to fake it for a while, but I don’t think he would thrive in our church environment.

The next day I got a call from our Executive Pastor asking for feedback on the candidate. To be honest, I was hesitant to share my true feelings and gut reaction. This guy was qualified and our church had gone to the expense to fly him and his family out for the weekend. I knew that others at our church were excited about him.

So, I sugar coated my feedback, saying, Great guy! Seems like he could really do a great job. Thankfully, our Executive Pastor pressed in a little, saying I’m sensing some hesitancy.

Well, I’m just not sure if he and his family will thrive here. I said somewhat trepidly. It doesn’t seem like he would choose to attend our church if he wasn’t looking to be on staff.

Our church went on to hire that candidate and things went well … for a couple of months. He then began to struggle with his role and was having difficulty with the staff, as well as the volunteers he was leading in his ministry. Nine months into his employment at our church, he resigned. He left our church and returned to one where he was comfortable with the culture of the church community.

Hiring a candidate, moving them to town and enduring the growing pains of the transitional period all have hidden costs. Having this person on staff for only nine months—and then having to redo the entire process with a new candidate—was not only financially expensive, it also had a great relational cost with our staff and the families who attend.

Sometimes as church leaders, we are so anxious to fill a role with someone who looks like a great candidate that we overlook the important indicator of what makes for a successful hire: culture fit. We are too deep into the forest to see the trees and can easily be blinded by the obvious. Bringing in some folks within your church, who are not as close to the situation, helps think through the culture issues.

No one knows and appreciates your culture more than individuals and families who are long-time attenders and dedicated volunteers at your church. This asset can be incredibly valuable in your hiring process and can open your eyes to important requirements for being on staff at your church.

Today, I have the privilege of helping churches and ministries find great people to fill critical roles in my work with Group One39. I often think about that interaction from almost twenty years ago and how important it is to match not only skills and experience but also that most important ingredient—cultural fit. It helps shape many of the conversations I have in identifying a great candidate for the churches I serve.

Let me challenge you with this: The next time you have an open position at your church and are interviewing candidates, reach out to a church attender who is a dedicated and passionate advocate of your church culture. Their feedback and insights will be an invaluable ingredient to your overall decision on hiring the right person.

When you get that feedback—even if it isn’t the feedback you were hoping for or it differs from your preconceived conclusions—listen. The feedback you receive just might prevent you from making a costly mistake.

Original content by the XPastor. This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.