by David Lyons

We’ve all heard stories of a church that hired a “great candidate” for a position only to find out that both parties are miserable in short order. One common reason is the church and/or candidate never checked to make sure there was a good cultural fit.

Over and over again, I’ve heard church leaders and pastors say things like: “The Lord’s in this” or “He came recommended from . . . ” or “I know he’s from the south, but he’s passionate about people in the north. . . . ” I could go on and on. These are good things but they don’t mean a candidate is going to be a good fit.

Below are a few points to get you thinking about defining culture:

  • Geographic culture – region (south, midwest, pacific northwest, etc.)
    • Also, the specific culture of the community from which the church draws
      • What are the people like in the community?
      • How do they respond to Christ followers?
  • Church/Congregational culture
    • What are the people like who attend the church?
      • Different ethnicities
      • Socio-economic
      • Personalities
      • Communication style
      • Relational style
  • Leadership Culture
    • How does the leadership team interact with each other?
    • Is it a more structured setting or more organic?
    • Do staff interact outside of the office or not?
    • What does “community” mean in this setting?

Those are just a few things that you need to identify about your church’s culture before you begin a search for candidates. After you’ve done that, you’ll have a better picture of the type of culture your candidate needs to come from and desire to be in.

As you begin looking at candidates, ask them questions that will help you understand the culture(s) they’ve come from. Also, ask them to tell you their cultural preferences around those things you’ve identified.

It’s okay if they come from and/or want a different cultural setting. That just means you can’t hire them—no matter how much you like them. 

Do you think culture is really this big of a deal to the success of a candidate?
What are some other cultural indicators that should be considered?