When a staff member has difficulty assimilating into a new church culture, we often reference the dissonance as a “fit” issue. And, increasingly we see more emphasis being placed on “fit” during the hiring process. I have found it helpful though to further differentiate into “fit” and “fit in” factors.
For purposes of this discussion, “fit” related factors are more value, experience, and skill based and “fit in” factors are more personality, preference, stage of life, and cultural based. Being able to differentiate between the two is helpful in understanding and addressing the resulting tensions.
Fit related issues typically flow out of education, work experience, knowledge, skills, gifts, beliefs, and values, such as:
- Their skills……tech savviness, administrative ability, communication, leadership, strengths, planning, conflict resolution, supervision, etc.
- Their values……politics, teamwork, collaboration, preparation, excellence, promptness, follow through, compassion, etc.
- Their gifts and passions……preaching/teaching, prophecy, evangelism, discernment, etc.
- Their convictions……theology, doctrine, beliefs, practices, polity, etc.
- Their philosophy……the theories and constructs that guide their ministry and leadership decisions.
- Their methodology……ministry strategies, tactics, programs, processes, and systems.
- Their education…….degrees or lack thereof, institutions they attended, etc.
- Their experience…….big or small church, growing or declining church, liberal or conservative, rural or suburban, blue collar or white collar, pastor led, deacon led, etc.
Fit In Factors
Fit in related issues typically flow out of the preferences and influences of hard wiring, family of origin, life experience, and stage of life, such as:
- The way they groom themselves……the way they wear their hair, facial hair, makeup, and clothes.
- Their appearance…..height, weight, balding, youthful, aging, tattoos, jewelry, piercings, neatness, cleanliness, etc.
- Their ethnicity….color of skin, language, dialect, and accent.
- Their stage of life……age, wealth, kids at home or not at home, married or unmarried, etc.
- Their grammar…..vocabulary, pronunciation, written and verbal communication.
- Their personality and temperament……introvert, extrovert, gregarious, reserved, outgoing, aloof, confronting, non-confrontational, abstract, concrete, relaxed or formal, etc.
- Their preferences……housing, transportation, food, work conditions, office hours, music, etc.
- Their appropriateness…….humor, anger, friendliness, sarcasm, tone, emotional intelligence, defensiveness, etc.
As a general rule, fit related issues are more detrimental to church health, ministry effectiveness, and staff fulfillment than are fit in issues. Yet, fit in issues may generate more noise, complaints, and criticism as they tap into our deepest biases and prejudices. Often fit issues are only seen or discerned by other staff or lay leaders while fit in issues are obvious to most of the congregation. In both cases there is a culture incongruence that usually demands acknowledging.
Logically, staff who are a good fit as well as fit in make for a healthier, more harmonious, and productive staff culture, therefore both should be considered in the hiring and evaluation processes. But, is that always the best approach? Maybe not.
At times a church or a staff become too homogenous and are in need of greater diversity. Some church staffs lack a much needed skill set, giftedness, or personality to be more balanced or to advance a new vision. Other churches are stuck or have stalled ministries that could use a new perspective, philosophy of ministry, or strategy. In these instances someone who isn’t a fit or doesn’t fit in brings the disruptiveness necessary for progress. In such cases, leaders need to be intentional in communicating the why behind the hire and put into place the support and encouragement systems for the new staff member during the transition.
Though these lists aren’t exhaustive and which bucket an issue lands in is arguable, they do illustrate a clear distinction search committees, hiring managers, and supervisors should be aware of. They also illustrate the overwhelming number of factors that can contribute to fit or fit in issues to be considered in church staff hiring and supervision.
Posted on April 17, 2018