Over the years, we’ve been able to identify several areas that affect the long-term success of a new pastoral staff member. One key area is CULTURE.  One of the reasons churches and pastoral staff have struggled is there hasn’t been enough attention given to defining and matching cultures. Most have assumed that if someone “believed” the same things and was called or passionate about a specific area of ministry that was enough. However, the high turnover rate among pastoral staff has proven that not to be the case.

In my days of corporate head hunting, we looked at some cultural distinctions, but they were mainly around geography. People from different parts of the country act, communicate, and relate differently. There are also climate distinctions – for example, we Texans have no clue how to drive in ice and snow and those from up north think 90 degrees is “hot.”

While those are very important points to cover when defining specifics about a church, there are many more necessary to make the right match in ministry. I’ll cover a few of those in this post.

Community culture – when meeting with a church, we ask all kinds of questions about community culture. What do I mean by that? Community culture would be things like, what are the locals like? How to people engage each other? Are locals open and friendly or more closed off? How do they respond to outsiders? How do they respond to Christians and/or people in ministry?

Church culture – there are several areas of church culture that are important to identify. Defining and understanding those who attend the church is very important. Do they represent the local community? Do they represent who the church is trying to reach? Establishing specific areas/demographics/etc., that the church is focused on is critical.

Leadership culture – we also find it very helpful to understand the leadership culture of the staff team. Some churches have a more systematic or process driven culture while some are more organic. I have several opinions about how these should be balanced but will save those for another time. Leadership culture can be determined by looking at goals, listening to conversations, seeing what’s discussed in meetings, etc. I highly recommend looking at the facts – how things really play out – instead of how you would like things to be.

Social culture – defining how the leadership team relates inside and outside of the church is also important. Some teams work together and play together while others don’t see each other outside of their ministry duties and responsibilities.

While none of the above is about right or wrong, it’s imperative to define these things about a church. Several helpful things will come out of that.

  • Allow leadership to see if they’re all on the same page
  • Help leadership see if their perspective matches others
  • Open the door for discussions about change
  • Give leaders the information they need to determine who will be the right fit for the team

I believe that cultural identifiers and discussions are almost as, if not as, critical as doctrine and theology. While they are very different topics and points, the importance of defining them determines who will work best and is of the utmost importance.