I believe it was Peter Drucker who famously said, “Culture eats vision for lunch.” When bringing on a new team member (paid or volunteer), making sure that person is compatible with the culture of your group, church or organization is critically important.

Originally written by Justin Anderson at Context Staffing

Every organization has a culture. Every church has a culture – a set of beliefs and practices and traditions and language shaped by your geography, theology, and personality. You are part of a culture.

Just because a person has proven character and is competent to carry out a role does not necessarily mean that person is a good cultural fit for your church.

  • In evaluating character, we ask, “Does this person love God, love others and live a life consistent with his professed belief?”
  • In evaluating competence, we ask, “Does this person have the skill set to do the job?”
  • In evaluating Culture, we ask, “How well does the person fit in OUR current context and community?”

If you hire a person from within your church, cultural fit is relatively easy to assess. The person is already a part of your current culture. But what if you are adding a person that is not from within?

Here are three ways to evaluate a cultural fit of a potential new team member:

Extended Network Culture

Most of us have an extended network outside of our local context. Perhaps you are a part of the SBC, the PCA, Acts 29, or some other group. Or maybe you roll with the Exponential Crowd, the TGC crowd, or the T4G crowd.

A good starting place for evaluating the cultural fit of a potential new team member is to start by asking, “Does the person that we are considering hiring come from our same network, tribe, or denomination?”

This shared connection does not ensure cultural fit with your church but is a big step in the right direction. Network commonality brings a common language, a common belief system, and a common set of experiences. Hiring a person from within your extended network is a good start toward the right cultural fit.

Geographic Culture

A critical question about a potential staff addition is, “Will the person we are considering hiring survive long-term in our geographic culture?”

Many people think they want to move two thousand miles away to take a new position. Many of these same people go home a couple of years later. If you decide to hire a person from another country or even a different part of your country, proceed carefully. Most people go home eventually.

A prominent American leader once told me off the record that he does not love to hire people from Texas and move them across the country. Now don’t get offended, Texans, because this is a compliment, not an insult. This leader’s rationale was that every time he hires a person from Texas, the person eventually goes back to Texas. People who consider Texas their home often miss it when they leave! People usually go home eventually. I am not saying that you can’t ever hire someone from somewhere other than where you are, but evaluate and proceed carefully!

Here are some questions for assessing geographic cultural fit:

  1. Has your potential team member lived his entire life in one part of the country?
  2. What makes him want to move across the country into an entirely new culture?
  3. Where did your potential hire grow up?
  4. Where did their spouse grow up?
  5. Where does your potential hire’s extended family live? How about his wife’s extended family?
  6. In what kind of culture is your potential hire most comfortable? (Urban, Rural, Suburban) Does he have the experience to back up his answer?
  7. If married, are both husband and wife entirely on board and optimistic? (Ask them both)
  8. Asking these questions carefully might keep you from having to do it all again a year from now.

Remember – Most people will tell you what you want to hear in an interview. So, dig deep and argue back.

Relational Culture

Does your potential hire “click” with your current team and other leaders in your organization? In a church, does the person connect well with key lay leaders?

How can you assess this kind of culture? The key is to bring any potential hire into your context for a few days. You get to know a person when you spend several days with him. We’ll talk more about this in a future post,

There is no way to guarantee the perfect hire, but due diligence in assessing culture will help you avoid significant hiring mistakes and the pain accompanying them!

And remember, we started Context Staffing to help you find the right leader. We specialize in finding leaders for churches. Our team spends hundreds of hours searching, recruiting, and vetting potential leaders for your church so that you can confidently build your dream team.