Building a Resilient Church Staff: Secrets to Sustaining a Strong Team Culture with Todd Rhoades & Matt Steen

Welcome to today’s special episode of the unSeminary podcast where we are replaying our recent webinar called “Resilient Church Staff: Secrets to Building and Sustaining a Strong Team Culture” with my friends Todd Rhoades and Matt Steen, the co-founders of Chemistry Staffing.

In this webinar, Todd and Matt discuss the importance of cultivating a healthy team culture prior to bringing on new hires, communicating values and expectations during the hiring process to protect church culture, and taking the time to find the right candidate to build and sustain a strong team culture.

In addition they share a FREE assessment that is opening today, April 24th! Visit churchstaffassessment.com and answer the questions there to help you understand the health and culture at your church.

  • Protecting your culture. // Whenever we add staff members to our teams, it changes the culture. In order to protect our culture during that hiring process, Todd emphasizes the importance of clearly communicating your values and expectations right from the start. Don’t just have these ideas in your head, but put them down on paper and make sure that everyone on your team is in agreement about what your culture is.
  • Be transparent. // Once you have a clear understanding of your values and culture, give candidates open-handed access to what your situation and culture are. Be transparent about where your church is excelling and where you are struggling and need improvement. Hiding key bits of your story when talking with potential hires never ends well. It often leads to disillusionment after they come on staff and employment that doesn’t last.
  • The real cost. // We all want to find hires that are going to be long-term team members. We need to be realistic that finding the right candidate can take 12-18 months. While it’s tempting to quickly fill a need, it’s better to go without than hiring out of desperation. Matt explains that hiring the wrong person is costly not only because of the salary and other budget items spent, but also the time wasted, the significant loss of trust on your team, the sideways energy, and impact on your culture.
  • Team health. // Before you hire any staff, take a look at your current team and make sure that they’re healthy. If your team is not healthy and you try to bring somebody else in, it won’t correct the problems. To cultivate a healthy culture, remember that kindness and treating others the way you want to be treated goes a long way. Pay attention to providing regular opportunities for your team to offer feedback, whether for concerns or ideas. Invest in staff development, encourage healthy work life balance, and deal with conflicts and concerns in a healthy way. Foster a culture of appreciation, and make sure your team members are recognized for their contributions.
  • Potential vs experience. // When searching for candidates we are constantly confronted with the tension of hiring someone with potential versus hiring someone with proven capacity. But it’s important to consider more than just skills, abilities and experience. Don’t ignore key factors such as being a theological fit, aligning with your church’s culture and personality, and if the individual has chemistry with you and your team. While there may be times when a skilled person is necessary, take a chance on someone with potential and pour into them, making time for mentoring and development.
  • Staff Health Assessment. // On April 24th Chemistry Staffing is rolling out a 2023 Church Staff Health Assessment for church staff teams to participate in. This FREE assessment consists of 50 questions based on communication, job satisfaction, leadership, team dynamics, compensation and benefits, work environment and more. Take 10-15 minutes to go through the assessment at churchstaffassessment.com and receive a score that will give you insight into your church’s health.

Don’t miss the chance to take Chemistry Staffing’s FREE 2023 Church Staff Health Assessment at churchstaffassessment.com through May 19, 2023 and learn more about the health and culture at your church.

Plus visit Chemistry Staffing to see how their team can help you find the right fit.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Chemistry Staffing

One of the things that they never teach you in seminary is when to move on from your current church. Over the last couple of years, we have been having a TON of conversations about this with pastors all over the United States. Of all the ministry decisions you make, leaving your position will be the toughest.

Download this two-in-one resource that walks you through the decision-making process.

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey, friends, what on earth? Why are we coming in hot with an unSeminary episode on a Monday rather than on a Thursday? You know, for 800 plus episodes every Thursday we have bringed you conversations that we hope will inspire and equip you. But today, on a Monday, we’re coming in with something very special. You see, a couple weeks ago we ran a webinar called “Resilient Church Staff Secrets to Building and Sustaining a Strong Team Culture”. And it was with my friends Todd Rhoades and Matt Steen. And we covered a lot in that webinar that I want you to hear. But even more pointedly, this is what I want you to do to take action on it. Today, April 24th, they are opening up a free assessment. I can’t believe that this is free, but it’s a free assessment called churchstaffassessment.com. And it’s designed to help you understand the, the culture at your church.

Rich Birch — And you do this, it’s 50 questions. At the end they ask for your email address. You don’t actually even have to give it, but if you want to get the assessment, you just give your email. It’s totally free, and it will unpack and help you understand your church staff culture. Now, we’re gonna talk more about this in the episode, but I wanted you to hear this full episode. So we cut out the tops and tails, the kind of frivolous stuff at the beginning of the webinar and jump right in. Uh, but I want you to hear this. Take some time to put this in your ears and listen to this today. And join us on our next webinar. When we talk about this on our emails, you just, you can learn about ’em by just signing up at unseminary.com. We’re constantly unpacking great stuff in those environments, and you get to go toe to toe and ask questions with experts like Todd and Matt. So listen in, and don’t forget to drop by churchstaffassessment.com today. It closes on May 19th, so make sure you get in and do that today. Again, that’s churchstaffassessment.com.

Rich Birch — All right, friends, well, we’re gonna jump in, uh, to today’s conversation. Super excited. We are this, the title of this webinar is Resilient Church Staff Secrets to Building and Sustaining a Strong, uh, Team Culture. It’s gonna be a great time today. Now, just kind of a couple rules of engagement. We will be taking questions. Uh, we’re gonna have a bit of a conversation here. A couple things I want to extract out of these experts minds. Uh, but then we do want to get your questions in. So at any point during today’s call, please just drop them in the chat and, uh, we’ll make sure to get a chance to loop back around to them. Also, I wanna encourage you to stay tuned until the end, because today, uh, Matt and Todd are launching something really cool that you’re gonna get a chance to get it literally in on the ground floor of. So, like, you’re gonna be among the very first people to access this thing today. And so I don’t want you to miss that. Uh, and so we’re just, again, so honored that are, are here.

Rich Birch — So let me give you a bit of an introduction. We’ve got two folks, two friends, uh, on the call today, Todd Rhoades and Matt Steen. Uh, Todd is the co-founder of Chemistry Staffing. You might have heard of them before, if you’ve hung around unSeminary for a while. He’s got over 30 years of experience serving, uh, churches in a whole bunch of different scenarios. Todd, uh, was, has really, you know, helped in a bunch of different contexts as a founder of, uh, churchstaffing.com, which really helped so many churches find pastors and staff online. He worked with Leadership Network, you might know him from, from that context. It’s given really valuable insights, uh, into not only where the church is today, but where it’s going in the future, and how they can continue to operate healthy. He’s a graduate of Cedarville University, uh, so honored to have you on the call today, Todd.

Rich Birch — Uh, and Matt, Matt also, uh, is also a co-founder. We’ve got the co-founders here today of Chemistry Staffing. He served the local church for over two decades as a youth pastor. Yay, for previous youth pastors. That’s good.

Matt Steen — We, uh, you know, we gotta stick together. <laugh>

Rich Birch — Uh, church planter, executive pastor, he’s, uh, studied at Nyack and at Baylor University. Uh, he’s, uh, he’s got a whole bunch of different certifications. He was up in the northeast; that’s where he and I actually originally met. He’s a strata facilitator, uh, with the Patterson, uh, Institute. So, you know, he is a really smart guy or center. Uh, I know he is a really smart guy. Got lots to offer, so, welcome. So glad that you guys are here. Todd, why don’t you, we’ll start with you. Fill out your picture. What did I miss there? Uh, tell us a little more of the Todd Rhoades story there.

Todd Rhoades — Oh my goodness. No, I, I have such a big head after hearing that, that, uh, <laugh> <laugh> and, and, and, and half of it’s true. Even so.

Rich Birch — <laugh> Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — No, uh, you not, not too much more to, uh, to mention there. We really, Matt and I, um, started this, uh, Chemistry Staffing thing about, about six years ago, Matt?

Matt Steen — Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>

Todd Rhoades — Um, really, really out of a, a sense of we want to try and help ch… and this is what we’re gonna talk about today, help churches, uh, hire for, for what we call, what we call healthy long-term fit.

Matt Steen — Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Todd Rhoades — We want, we want to help churches and candidates find each other where they can serve together for a, at least five years. And that there’s that cultural match, and theological match, and all that, some of the stuff that we’ll get into later. But we started that about six years ago and, and just having a blast helping, helping churches and getting to know candidates and, and trying to make as great a matches as we can.

Rich Birch — Love it. Matt, why don’t you fill out the picture. What did I, what did I miss there?

Matt Steen — Uh you know, Todd, Todd never talks about his family and, and, and Dawn and all that kinda stuff. So I’m gonna go and talk, you know, married for 15 years to Teresa.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Matt Steen — Two of us and a retired greyhound named Nelly down here in Orlando. And so, uh, and like Todd said, you know, never, never woke up and said, Hey, I wanna go be a church headhunter.

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm.

You know, it’s just like, you know, Todd and I, we, we we’re, we’re kind of church geeks…

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm.

Matt Steen — …and, and the whole thing for us is, Hey, how do we help churches get healthy? And this was a low hanging fruit for us. It is really coming alongside in that, in that transition season. So, that’s it, man.

Rich Birch — Yeah. I love it. And friends, the fact that we’ve been able to convince both Todd and Matt to be on here is, is just amazing. And so we’re, we’re looking forward to try to extract from them. So, obviously, you know, they have stuff, they have ways they can help you. Uh, but today we wanna really try to learn from them as we think about, you know, our particular context. You know, and lots of times when we think about hiring, cuz it’s a part of what we’re talking about, we’re adding new staff members, man, that we know that when, at least I know when I add staff members to our team, it changes the culture. Uh, it, it, it adjusts things. You know, you can’t make that kind of thing without some sort of adjustment. But Todd, how do we protect, if we’re adding a team member, how do we protect our culture during that process? How do we but during that hiring process?

Todd Rhoades — Well, that’s a, that’s a a great question, Rich. And I think that’s, it’s really foundational. You’ve gotta get this part right or everything that follows in your staff search is gonna go or has a high probability of going off the rails. Really, the one piece of advice I would say is, man, you’ve gotta clearly communicate your values and your expectations right from the start. And you’ve, and it’s not good enough just to have it in your head, put it in writing.

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Todd Rhoades — Um, what we find with a lot of churches that we work with, and we work with some great churches, is that when you’re going to hire a new team member, this is a great time to make sure that everybody is on the same page, and that you’re being honest with where you’re and what your culture is.

Todd Rhoades — So, and, and that has to start with, uh, with putting that down in writing and, and getting agreement on that. because you’re going to start, as you’re start interviewing candidates, you’re gonna start sharing that culture and that DNA with those candidates.

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm.

Todd Rhoades — And if, if, if one person says one thing and another person says something else, that’s gonna be a real tip off that, uh, that maybe this isn’t quite as healthy a place as you can. So, from a practical standpoint, um, just a couple of couple of things that I think uh, once you get that down on paper and you’re in agreement, that’s really huge that you’re in agreement…

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — …um, is give candidates open-handed access to what your, what your situation is, uh, what your culture is, you know, be realistic about, you know, hey, here’s where we’re hitting it outta the park. Here’s some areas that we really need to, to see some improvement or some things that we’re struggling with. Those kind of things. If you find that you’re, this is what we found. If you find that you’re trying to control the situation, as you start to talk to candidates, if you’re trying to control the access or you’re, or you’re, you’re hiding key bits, key bits of your story, to the person you’re trying to hire, chances are that’s not gonna end well for you because you can only hide that for so long. You, you bring them on your team, 12 to 18 months. If you’re hiding something or you’re trying to control access, it’s, it’s not going to go well for you. And we hear, and we, we hear this all the time from candidates when we’re talking to them, is we almost, we need a, a little virtual cuss jar that we can kind of put on our, on our desks every time, every time we hear a candidate say, well, they said they said this, but I got there on the first Sunday and it couldn’t have been…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Todd Rhoades — …you know, we’ve had, we’ve had people say, you know, um, they told us that they had 800 on a, on a Sunday and we got there and there were like 70 people in the room.

Rich Birch — Wow! Oh my goodness.

Todd Rhoades — So, I mean, we, we hear stories like that all the time. So number one, you gotta have your story straight. Number two, you gotta tell the truthful story.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — And number three, you gotta be open-handed with candidates and be honest and transparent and open. If you’re, if you are, that’s the start to a healthy staff culture hire.

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm.

Todd Rhoades — If you’re not, it’s, it’s the beginnings of probably doing this again, this whole hiring thing again in the next 12 to 18 months.

Rich Birch — Well, I love that. Like, so I know for me, I, I feel the pressure when we’re in a hiring scenario. It, at somewhere during the conversation, it goes from we’re checking out them, and then they’re, and then eventually it becomes, they’re checking out us. And we get…

Todd Rhoades — Absolutely.

Rich Birch — I know, I feel the pressure of like, in that mode, it’s like, okay, now I want to sell them on like, Hey, what is great about what we do. But I, I love even just that on having that honest conversation with ourselves around, Hey, what, what is the, let’s resist that temptation, let’s resist the temptation, try to make ourselves look better than we are. Um, and what are those, you know, what are those areas that we want to be super truthful on? Yeah. I love that. That’s so good.

Rich Birch — So Matt, what about, so I know I feel this pressure when we hire people, man, this is a costly, expensive process. Like, I’m like, you know, I already feel the pressure. We’re like, you know, by all I would say a hundred percent of the hires I’ve ever done, there’s some gaping hole in our ministry. I’m like, this party is burning and I just need to throw a staff member at that. Uh, and I have told myself more than I’d like to admit, I’ve said, well, someone’s better than no one in that area. I’m sure no one else has ever said that. I’m just not a very good leader. Someone’s better than no one.

Todd Rhoades — Famous last words.

Rich Birch — Yeah and the… Exactly. I’ve done that a couple times, and over time I’ve learned, actually that’s not true. Because the cost of hiring the wrong person is just so high. Um, it’s, it’s just, it’s insurmountable. How do you kind of articulate that with, with people on the culture side, when you hire the wrong person, what’s the real cost of hiring the wrong person, Matt?

Matt Steen — The the real cost 4.7 million, it’s been, you know, scientifically prov… No, I, I, I don’t know that I can put a dollar value on it.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Matt Steen — But sure. But, you know, here’s, here’s where it comes. I mean, the, the, the recruiting cost, just, just spending the money and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. That’s, that’s a real cost. The salary that’s spent, and any budget items, I mean, that’s, that’s real cost. But, you know, I think the more significant cost is loss of trust, loss of, you know, the sideways energy, the cultural hits that, that you take, you know…

Rich Birch — So true.

Matt Steen — …all those, all those soft things that you really can’t put a number on. But what are, what are true, because I mean, the time that goes into that goes into, into a search right now, um, I’m telling churches that, you know, if you’re gonna go into a search process, be thinking 12 to 18 months. Now we’re gonna pray that God, you know, God, God shows up a whole awful lot quicker than that. But we’re saying, think about this as a 12 to 18 month run. And if it goes quicker, great. Right? But that’s a significant…

Rich Birch — Okay. Can I just say something? Can I stop there for a second? Just stop there.

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Because you just rolled over that; you’re an expert in this area. I, I wonder if people are surprised by that number, because I, I know for me, I, I’m like, man, we need somebody there tomorrow.

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — So, uh, but even this idea of 12 to 18 months. Do you, did you get people surprised when you say that, or no, they’re just like, oh.

Matt Steen — Man, I, I ruin people’s day when I say that. I really do.

Rich Birch — Okay, okay. Right.

Matt Steen — It’s like, yes yesterday, you know, guy’s like, Hey, I really, our worship pastor’s leaving in May, we’d really like somebody here in June. And it’s like…

Rich Birch — <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s the third week of April.

Matt Steen — And it… yeah. I mean, this was, this was literally yesterday. And so…

Rich Birch — Oh my goodness. Wow.

Matt Steen — You know, and part of what I tell people, it’s like, I, I’m good, but I still haven’t figured out how to sync my calendar up to God’s calendar, right?

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm. Yes.

Matt Steen — God’s not surprised by the fact that we’ve got this staff opening, but his timing may not be the same as ours. And so, part of what I tell people is, we’re gonna pray like crazy that it’s gonna go quicker than 12 to 18 months. But part of, part of the role here is this higher, regardless of what position it’s gonna be, is so critically important to your culture, and to the direction forward that you need to be able to say no to somebody who looks amazing on paper. You need to be able to say no to somebody who you hit it off, and it’s just incredibly talented. You need to be able to say no to that person when the only thing that you can come to is the Holy Spirit is just saying, Hey, um, I’m not so sure about that. Right?

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Matt Steen — And if we’re in this saying, Hey, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s April and I need somebody in June, it is incredibly tough to say no to that person at that point. And so, part of what I tell our church is, is, hey, publicly communicate 12 to 18 months.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Matt Steen — Um, pray like crazy. It goes quicker. And, and man, I tell you what, we, we we’re shooting to get people in place way quicker than that. But the, the church needs to have that, that sense of, Hey, this is gonna take a little while, and that’s okay. We’re not broken as a church. And so, you know, so much of this, I mean, you, you wanna talk about protecting your culture and, and, and building the sustainable, it’s, you, you need to intentionally go slow and, and realize that, hey, you know, we, we blow this.

Matt Steen — We’re losing trust, we’re losing morale. Um, you know, our congregation is saying, oh dear, we’re going through this process again. What’s wrong with us? Um, all the, you know, all the financial costs in, in involved in that as well. And then just what it’s gonna take to recover, um, the, in that ministry area again as you’re going through the second hiring process. It’s, take the long view on this because, you know, it is, it is so tempting just to go and hire the, hire the guy who, their jokes are funny, you know, and, and they remind us of our nephew, and…

Rich Birch — Sure, sure.

Matt Steen — …yeah, they’ve, they’ve been at this great church and they’ve done the job. You know, it’s really easy just to go pull the trigger on that without digging, digging deeper to make sure that they’re culturally they’re gonna be such a great fit. So.

Todd Rhoades — And that’s, that’s where the tension comes in. I mean, that’s what we hear. That’s the tension that we hear all the time, is…

Matt Steen — Totally.

Todd Rhoades — …we need somebody tomorrow, but we don’t wanna screw this thing up.

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — You know what I mean? Um, and, and so, so even the, even the 12 to 18 months, like Matt said, we, we, when at church is working with us, we, we strive to get somebody way before that time.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Todd Rhoades — But the first thing we tell search committees is, number one, it’s probably gonna take twice as long as what your minimum, at least twice as long as what you think it’s gonna take. Because, because there’s a lot of different factors to make that, to make a good hire so you don’t screw this thing up. Um, and, and number two, just we try to tell them, breathe, you know, this doesn’t surprise God. He’s not surprised at this.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s so good.

Todd Rhoades — But give, give, give your leadership team, give your board, give your search committee, give your congregation room to breathe. Uh, kind of the under underpromise, over-deliver type thing…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Todd Rhoades — …that, you know, it’s much better to say, you know, this is gonna be a longer term process than to say, Hey, you know, we should have, we’ll, we’ll have, we’ll have a list of 50 resumes in, in six weeks.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — Um, cuz it, it, it just doesn’t work like that. And, and if it does work like that, you’d really need to breathe and make sure that you, if you make two a desperation hire, it’s better to go without it than to hire out of desperation. And a lot of churches do that. So that’s one of the ways we kinda help them hold their hand through that so they don’t make those mistakes.

Matt Steen — That’s the part…

Rich Birch — Friends, this is a part, oh, sorry, go ahead. Go ahead.

Matt Steen — But that, that’s part of the reason. I mean the, the, the average stay right now is what, three, three and a half years. And, and you think, you think about that and there’s, there’s a lot of long-term guys that have 10 years in. So you think about how many are just staying 18 months, 12 months, something like that. You know?

Rich Birch — Wow, yeah.

Matt Steen — It is, it’s got, it’s gotta take us some time. So, I cut you off, man, that’s so rude to me.

Rich Birch — No, no, not at all. I was cutting you off. I I was cutting. I was interrupting you while you were interrupting me. The, um, well, you know, this is a part of why I love, you know, Chemistry Staffing friends. Like this is, uh, so I, there’s a different or similar organization that does a similar thing to Chemistry Staffing. And this is years ago. And we, we had come to the end, like we had exactly that kind of thing. There was like this burning hole in our organization. We’re like, okay, we need to hire somebody to help us with this cuz this, we clearly can’t do this. And so, uh, so we need to get something new. And so we, we brought, we brought in another firm and I was talking to the salesperson and they were like, we got your person. We totally got your person. We’ll find this person quickly, and I’m sure we can, you know, we, we placed these things all day or all night, blah, blah, blah, that kind of thing.

Rich Birch — And then the first time the consultant came and met with us, literally this happened, friends, the first time the consultant met with us, sat down, the very first thing outta their mouth was, man, this is gonna be a very long hire. This is gonna take us forever. I don’t know if we’ll ever find this person. And I was like, what? Like, we just paid you all this money. Uh, and so I really, this is part of why I love, you know, Todd and Matt, because they’re right out front. They’re saying like, Hey friends, this is gonna take a while. No, obviously they’re gonna try to do it, you know, work faster if you end up engaging them. But, uh, really appreciate that and that, you know, uh, that’s not dogging anybody else. That just is, uh, part of why I love these guys.

Rich Birch — Well, let’s, let’s talk about, you know, team, unity, team, you know, health, when we think about the changing culture that happens, we bring somebody else in there, it kind of changes all the relationships. Things shift around a little bit. And we wanna make sure that we, we are hiring people, then that’s increasing unity, that that’s increasing, you know, people feel better about working here after not worse. Um, and that, you know, what, what can we do? How can we keep our team unified and healthy through this process, Todd? How do we, what can we do to ensure that we’re we’re coming out the other end as a more unified team?

Todd Rhoades — Yeah. Well, first is to be a unified team to begin with. So that, that sounds like just a total consultant answer, but I kind of get back to my first…

Rich Birch — No, no, I get it. I get it.

Todd Rhoades — Kind of go back to my first answer. Um, just that first, very first question is, you know, you, you have to clearly know what your situation is, right? So you, you should have, as before you hire any staff, I mean, you really should take a look at your current staff or your current team and make sure that they’re healthy. Um, because if your staff, and if your team is not healthy, um, and, and you try to bring somebody else in, it’s not gonna correct the problem.

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — Um, okay. So I, I, I try to, I always try to, to bring it down to as, as, um, I don’t know, as 30,000 foot view as I can. But I mean, when it comes, when it comes to staff, um, try to be like Jesus, or at least be kind, you know?

Rich Birch — Right. Sure. Right.

Todd Rhoades — And, and I’m convinced that so much of the, so much of the disunity, so much of the conflict that happens in our churches today is, it goes back, this is sounds so simplistic, and I almost hesitate to say it, but almost goes back to the golden rule, right? That you treat other people the way that you would want to be treated. So that goes from the senior pastor all the way down to your staff. How that goods communicated to the volunteers is you really have to treat people the way that you want to be treated. And you have to be kind. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tough conversations. Of course there are tough conversations and tough things. It’s, it’s, and ministry is messy. Ministry is some of the most messy work you can do, um.

Todd Rhoades — But, uh, you need to try and cultivate that healthy culture, you know, provide regular opportunities for feedback, for communication. If you’re not allowing people to speak up to the leadership and to give concerns and to give ideas and to, to innovate and, and communicate, then that’s a problem. You know, how are you investing in your staff development, in your staff training? Um, how are your encouraging healthy work life balance? Um, how do you, how are you fostering, um, a culture of appreciation? I mean, do your, do the people on your team feel appreciated? Do they feel recognized? Um, when there is a concern, do you deal with it properly? Uh, or do you kind of, uh, let it take care of itself or sweep it under the rug? All those kind of things are, are—and we, we all know this, but it’s much harder to do than to actually talk about—is making sure that before you bring somebody else on your team, that the team that you already have is healthy. It’s the best thing you can do.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s so good. I, I was just recently was, um, talking to a senior leader who was reflecting back on their, and this person’s like, driven, done a ton of things, made a lot of impact, and they were reflecting back on their, their career, and was, were saying, you know, it’s not that they had regrets, but they were saying, listen, if I could do it again, I would’ve been kinder and more generous with my team earlier. You know, I’m like, I, and I’m like, man, there’s some real, there’s some real wisdom there for, particularly for up and coming leaders, right? They’re like, you know, hey, like we, you know, we, we have to be guided by that. We have to lead from that, that place. And I thought, man, that’s, that’s so true. I think we all look, you know, we can look at conversations. We’re like, I’m not sure that was a win for the kingdom there. We might have got done what we needed to get done, but like, were we, you know, can we be kinder? Could be more generous? I I love that.

Rich Birch — Well, Matt, when you think about, um, you know, church health. You think about, you know, you guys interact with a lot of churches. I wanna try to take advantage of the fact that you interact with the, with a lot of churches. What, let’s, let’s kind of have a bit of a real conversation. What concerns you when you look at church health these days? What’s kind of like a, something that you’re, you know, a little bit concerned about?

Matt Steen — Yeah. So, so I, I think there’s, there’s, there’s the, the stuff that everybody’s complaining out about out there right now, you know, the, the division society-wise, and all the, the politics and how that’s affecting things and, and all that kind of stuff. And yeah, I think those are, those are big. I think the declining attendance post covid is, is, is an issue. And, you know, I don’t wanna sound sound like a doom and gloom guy. I tell you though, Rich, um, the thing that, the thing that keeps me up at night and the thing that praying most about right now is, is both ends of the pastoral timeline, okay?

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm.

Matt Steen — And so what I mean by that is, um, we are going through a pretty significant wave of succession.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Matt Steen — You know, pastors of a certain age realizing that it’s, it’s time for them to retire. Um, traditionally, um, we’ve done wonderfully with this in the church, you know? No.

Rich Birch — Insert sarcasm emoji.

Matt Steen — Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Let’s, let’s be clear on that one. But I mean, so we’ve, we’ve struggled with this.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Matt Steen — And we’ve got a lot of churches that have never once mentioned the succession word that all of a sudden, you know, have six months. You know, and a lot of the, a lot of the work that I’m doing right now, I call it crash succession, it’s succession processes where, um, it’s been less than 18 months of actually being able to prepare for it. And most, most of that work is less than 12 months. And so that’s, that’s a big one. But the other, the other piece of this, um, and I think it’s, I, I know it’s, I know it’s related, but the other piece of this, Rich, is, is our pipeline and our bench depth, okay? We’re struggling, um, in the capital “C” church.

Matt Steen — Um, right now with our bench depth, um, youth pastor researchers have become the toughest that we do. And a lot of that is because, you know, a lot of the rising generations, you know, have, have said, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go in, I don’t want to go into ministry. And one of the big, I think one of the biggest struggles that, or we kind of found ourselves in a bit of a perfect storm here because we’ve got, you know, a lot of bible colleges are shutting down their ministry programs cuz they don’t drive enough revenue. Um, a lot of seminaries are struggling to graduate students that actually want to go into local church ministry. You know, they’re, they’re going out and getting an MDiv and using it as like a vanity degree. It’s like, that’s a huge degree to get if you’re not gonna use it.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Steen — But they’re struggling to, to, to, and so we, we need to figure out how do we, um, help people discern a call to ministry? How do we get them to a point where they’re trained and ready to go and equipped and empowered to go do ministry? Um, and release ’em to go do it. And we just, I think over the last, the last few decades we have, we’ve really struggled with this. And I think we’ll have to pay the piper on that. And so, again, gloom and doom. I think there’s hope, you know, God’s not surprised by this, but those, those are the things that keep me up. And those are the two big things that I’m praying for right now local church-wise.

Rich Birch — Yeah. You know, it’s interesting, I was in the last year I was at, um, was onsite at a church doing some coaching stuff and was talking to their young adults pastor and, you know, they had just come back from a young adult retreat and this, you know, couple hundred kids, they went away to this big conference center and all that. And I was like, tell me about it. And, and I was really encouraged because it was so rare and, and, and kind of old school. I said, well, tell me about what was going on. And so he was telling me about people who made first time commitments to Christ, which I was obviously amazing. But then he also was saying, he’s talking about how they, one of the services really focused on the call to ministry.

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — And it was like, it was like, and I remember that from when I was that age…

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …that was like an old school, like that was a part of those ministries. But I said to this leader, I was like, thank you for doing that because…

Matt Steen — Yes.

Rich Birch — …I don’t know that I’ve heard anyone do that in like 10, 15 years. Like, we need to specifically articulate to that generation, Hey, you know, are you, this is a, this is a noble cause; this is a noble thing for you to, you know, step towards. Love that.

Matt Steen — That’s, that’s awesome. And that’s so good to hear, because Todd, Todd’s tired of hearing me say this. Cuz I’ve, I’ve said for a while, I came, I came to faith, you know, in college, so I didn’t grow up in the church and all that kind of stuff. And when I first started at Bible college, I would hear stories about that. You know, my pastor did a, they did the altar call and then they did the second altar call, who’s, who wants to… And, and really, I thought it was cheesy back then because, you know, I was, you know, twenties and knew everything and everything was cheesy, um. But dude, I, I, so I so regret that we’ve gotten out of that, you know, as the church. So I’m so excited to hear you say that. That, that, that’s pretty, that that gives me hope, man. That’s really cool.

Rich Birch — Yeah. And they do it, they do it every year at their kind of, they’re young, this big young adult retreat thing. And it’s like a whole bunch of churches together, a thousand, 1,500 kids.

Matt Steen — That’s so cool.

Rich Birch — And, and they follow up and they have a whole system for like getting kids, you know, great, you’re interested in that.

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Let’s get you plugged in, which is, you know, is fantastic. So that was great. Well, I know…

Todd Rhoades — That was, that was a huge pipeline to, to get people to…

Rich Birch — Absolutely.

Todd Rhoades — …get into Christian college and seminary and to start that to talk, nobody talks about calling anymore. And and, uh, so we’ve, we’ve, we’ve essentially, because we’re not doing that, we’ve seen one of our biggest recruitment tools…

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — …for ministry, um, kind of dry up. And Matt and I are, are so excited about the future of the church. Um, but, but the little secret is, is most churches don’t do well in, in training up leaders and in discipleship.

Rich Birch — Right. Sure.

Todd Rhoades — And if, if churches did a better job at training leaders from within, a lot of the work that we do with churches wouldn’t be necessary because…

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — …they would have this kind of internal pipeline. Some churches do that really well. Other churches just have, you know, they’ve, they’re a generation removed from really investing in young people and saying, Hey, this is a, this is something worthy of giving your life and your calling to.

Matt Steen — Totally.

Rich Birch — Yeah. I love it. Well, I love painting. Oh, sorry, go ahead Matt. I keep cutting you off, man.

Matt Steen — We keep doing that, man.

Todd Rhoades — We’re kinda passionate about this stuff.

Matt Steen — Yeah. We, we, we, we really are. Because it’s like, to to Todd’s point, you know, people keep asking us, well, how do we keep our staff? How do we keep our staff? And it’s the same, it’s the same answer. Right? It’s, it’s…

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Steen — You know, if, if you’ve got a youth pastor, you know, sit down with him and say, Hey dude, where do you see yourself in five years?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Matt Steen — And start developing the way for him to get there, you know, and, and, that’s, that’s how he stays an extra five years instead of leaving in 18 months.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Matt Steen — You know, is is that development mindset, you know, go release; let ’em go do their thing man. And that’s, we, we, we get that, we get that throughout the whole church, man. We’re, Todd and I are out of, out of business. And frankly, I’m, I think I’m okay with that. You okay with that, Todd?

Todd Rhoades — You’ll find something else to do.

Matt Steen — You gonna pay the mortgage somehow, you know, Nelly. I’m, I’m cool with that.

Rich Birch — Yeah. You’ll get that dog back running in the dog races there. Yeah. That’s what you’ll do.

Matt Steen — There you go. You’re you’re gonna get me some hate mail now.

Rich Birch — That’s great. Well, I, I kind of like, uh, painting Matt as the negative guy and Todd as the positive guy – that kind of makes me, that makes life better for me. So Todd, what, what are you guys doing about this? What, how, how is Chemistry Staffing helping with this whole church health area? How can you help? What do you, because I know this is a passion area for you guys. You, you know, you’re…

Todd Rhoades — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Obviously you, you, you do searches, but you’re passionate about the whole long-term fit thing and health is a big part of what you do. What are you doing to help them get and stay healthy?

Todd Rhoades — Absolutely. When we started six years ago, um, our, one of our main goals was to try and help the hiring process suck a little less.

Matt Steen — Can we say that?

Rich Birch — Okay. Yes. I love it.

Todd Rhoades — This is, this is our first audience. We can say that I believe.

Rich Birch — Yeah, you could say it.

Todd Rhoades — But no, both for the church and for the candidate. Right? We’ve, and we’ve been, I’ve been doing staffing stuff for a long time. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a candidate say, I love searching. I love the whole search transition process. And churches never love the hiring process either. I mean, there’s a certain level of excitement. But at the same time, everybody kind of loathes the process.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — And, and you know, if you’re a church, you’re, you’re scared about making a bad decision. If you’re a candidate, you’re scared about making a bad decision. Right? So we want to try and, and mitigate that as much as we can. So our framework, and I think we’ve talked with you about this before, but I’m just really…

Rich Birch — Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Todd Rhoades — …really five really quick things. We, we try and…

Rich Birch — Totally.

Todd Rhoades — …to get that healthy long-term fit, really looking at five things, and we tell candidates and we tell churches, look, you can’t compromise. And this is one of the reasons why it may take longer to find the right person. You really can’t compromise on these five things. You’ve gotta have a great theo theological fit. Right? They need to be, they need to believe, uh, the things about Jesus that you believe about Jesus. Um, they need to be a good cultural and DNA fit for your church. Um, so you, and we assess for all this stuff with all of our churches and all of our candidates on the very upfront before we even have a conversation with them. So, uh, they need to match the personality of your church.

Todd Rhoades — That’s number three. Number four, they need to have the skills and abilities, the experience, um, and, and the wherewithal to actually do the job that you need them to do. So, uh, you, you’ve gotta do some skills and ability assessments there as well. And then there just has to be, uh, a what we call it the chemistry factor. Go figure. The, the, the, when it comes to chemistry, it’s, it’s, you only learn that by boots on the ground…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Todd Rhoades — …shaking hands across the table, doing life together. Um, but, uh, you know, not only, not only do you like this person, but can you see yourself doing ministry with this person for the next five years?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — Can they see themselves living in your community for the next five years? Do you want to have this, this person in their family over to your house for a barbecue on Tuesday night?

Rich Birch — Yep.

Todd Rhoades — Um, do you, as, as Matt puts it, you know, if, if when you pull into the church parking lot in the morning at, at 8:30 before, uh, you know, to start your day and you see that that person just walked in the building, do you need an extra five minutes just to kind of pray yourself through so you don’t feel, and you don’t dread going into the office with this those… But seriously, those things happen all the time, so, if you can get those five things down, um, we really think that increases the likelihood of a, what we call that healthy long-term fit. Uh, so we try to, we try to process our candidates this process with our candidates in the process with our churches as well. And part of the thing that is, every church is different and every candidate is different. There’s no cookie cutters. So, uh, and that’s part of what makes our work so challenging. But part of what makes our our work so exciting is that, uh, every church and every candidate is different. So the, the, the thrill that you kind of get when you find, uh, a candidate and a church that match all five of those is, is really, really cool.

Rich Birch — Hmm. So good. That’s great. Now, I know you are, um, rolling out an assessment that, and this is the part where we’re so glad if you’re listening in, uh, live, you’re gonna get a chance to learn about this. But can you tell us about this 2023 staff, uh, church staff health assessment that you are, uh, rolling out, Todd? Can you let us know about that?

Todd Rhoades — Yes. Well, this is the first time we’ve said anything about this outside of Matt and myself and our small team here.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Todd Rhoades — So it’s, it’s actually gonna launch in a couple weeks on, uh, I believe April 24th. But since you’re listening here, we would love to have you, it’s, it’s all ready to go. Uh, you can kind of preview this. It’s totally free. What this is, is we’re calling our 2023 Church Staff Health Assessment. It’s, it’s 50 really quick questions that are gonna, um, give you, uh, some insight and you’ll get a, you’ll get a score at the end of it. It’ll take you maybe 10, maybe 15 minutes to take. But at the, uh, at the end of that assessment, we’re going to, uh, kind of give you a score, a health score, uh, based on, uh, communication, on job satisfaction, on leadership, uh, team dynamics, compensation and benefits, work environment, and future, your future stability on a on a staff team.

Todd Rhoades — So you’re gonna get a lot of information just by taking it. But what we wanna do, uh, and, and we think this is gonna be huge, um, for us and for the church moving forward, is we want to get a pulse. Really, so much has changed in the past three years. We wanna get a pulse. Okay, so how, how are—and this is open to all full-time and part-time, um, paid staff, people at churches—we wanna find out how, what’s the state of health in, in most church staff; how are they feeling? Are they feeling appreciated? Are they feeling, uh, like their compensation level is good? Do they feel healthy? Do they, do they wanna stay where they are? Do they, do they feel appreciated? Um, all those kind of things are gonna be a part of that.

Todd Rhoades — Uh, and like I said, we’re gonna, we’re gonna, it’s gonna run from April 24th to May 19th. And then…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Todd Rhoades — …I think we’re actually gonna come back and do a podcast with you to kind of announce…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — …uh, some of what we, well, all of what we’ve, what we’ve what we’ve learned through this assessment. So our goal right now is just to kind of introduce it, get as many people to take the assessment as we can um, and kind of go from there. And they, anybody today can, it’s, it’s ready to go right now. You can just go to, uh, uh, churchstaffassessment.com.

Rich Birch — Great. Love it. So that’s churchstaffassessment.com. We want you to drop by there and, uh, and take it today. Now is this, so I got a chance to get a little bit of a sneak preview on this, friends, and this is a great thing. Like this when I, and I can’t believe you’re not charging for this, right? This is like a free thing.

Todd Rhoades — No, no. Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely free.

Rich Birch — You guys are crazy. Like this thing, not charge it for this.

Matt Steen — What?

Rich Birch — Yeah, exactly.

Todd Rhoades — Well, we never thought of that, Matt.

Rich Birch — No, but seriously, I’m like, so many people do these kind of things and it feels like, oh, this is like a, I don’t know, like, it’s just like a marketing thing or whatever, but this man, and this looks super helpful for churches, for church leaders. It’s the kind of thing that I think would be great. Are, are you envisioning that we would do this? We’d send it to our teams? How are you picturing that this could kind of be used in our, uh, you know, our church environments?

Todd Rhoades — Well, essentially, I think, um, so come later this year, probably in the fall, this is gonna come from, right now the assessment is a candidate assessment, but I think we’re gonna actually turn that into a church assessment, and there probably will be some paid options for that. But, um, what, what that’s gonna do, what we’re doing with the, with the candidate assessment, is we’re trying to gather as, as large of a pool of candidates and get as much data in there as we can.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Todd Rhoades — So that we can say, Hey, here, on a national average, uh, here, here are on all of these 50 data points, uh, here is how the average candidate feels.

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — And then when we can, what we can do is when we come back to, in the fall, is we can come to a church and say, okay, so here’s, here’s what the heartbeat is nationally. What does it look like for your church? How how…

Rich Birch — Got it. Okay, that makes sense.

Todd Rhoades — …each of those, those areas. How, how are your staff able to do? And the other thing I wanna mention too, Rich, is that this, all of the answers are confidential.

Rich Birch — Perfect. Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — We’ll ask you, we’ll ask you at the end for your name and email only, so that we can send you that full report at the end. But we’re not sharing, we’re not sharing individual answers or anything with, with anybody’s boss or anything…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah. Right, right, right.

Todd Rhoades — …as a cumulative thing to gather the, the information as a whole.

Rich Birch — Yeah. You gotta attach it to a real person. Make sure it’s not… <inaudible>

Todd Rhoades — If I’m a pastor, if I’m a pastor and I’m getting ready to hire a new staff person, I want to know what the health of my current team is. And I, and other than, uh, I don’t know that there’s a really great tool out there to do that right now other than, you know, just, which is, which is a great tool asking people how they’re doing.

Rich Birch — Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Todd Rhoades — Kinda doing some of the healthy things that we said earlier.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Totally. Love it. Again, so that is church staff, uh, health assessment…

Todd Rhoades — Just church staff assessment. Yep.

Rich Birch — churchstaffassessment.com. Um, which is wonderful. So I’d love for you to go by and take a look at that. Friends, we’re gonna, we’re gonna pivot here in the last little bit of our call to questions, so make sure you drop those in. Uh, if you’re listening to the recording, why were you not here live? You missed out. You did not get your li your questions answered. But, uh, we will, uh, we’ll get a chance to, to answer those. So, uh, but again, we wanna make sure you go to churchstaffassessment.com. Uh, you can get early access to that.

Rich Birch — Okay. So Tricia’s got a question here. She’s saying, how do you manage the tension of hiring NextGen versus hiring the most skilled and qualified? Tricia, this is a great question, and I’m gonna want both Matt and Todd to answer this. We’ll start with you, Matt, because this, I think is like, this is the quintessential question. Do we hire someone with lots of potential or do we hire someone with proven capacity? And how do we, you know, how do we figure that out? Um, Matt, let’s start with you and then I’d love to go to you, Todd, as well.

Todd Rhoades — I know what Matt’s gonna say. It’s two words. Go ahead, Matt.

Rich Birch — You can tell you’ve been working together for a while.

Todd Rhoades — It depends. That was Matt’s answer. It depends.

Matt Steen — So, so yeah. So, okay, so yes, it, it depends on where you are ministry wise and what the, what the situation that you’re in, in is. But here’s, here’s the deal. And, and I think, and I, I don’t wanna pick on Tricia cuz she’s in the Baltimore area, and I grew up in Baltimore, and you know, we’re where people go, go birds. Um, yeah.

Matt Steen — So, so, but so many times people start there, okay? They start in skills and abilities and, and skillset. Right? And, and so part of why we always go back to the five, the five pieces is because it’s more than just skills. It’s more than just, Hey, what church did they work at? Can they, can they do it there or not? Right? And so, we’ve got to, we, we’ve got to start with theology, culture, personality because if, if this person has all the skills in the world and they, you know, you know, they’re a rockstar Jesus, it doesn’t matter if theologically you guys are, if you theologically you guys are in different places when it comes to women in ministry or something like that. It’s never gonna work, right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Steen — So, so, so yes. Um, there’s times when you want the skilled person; there’s times when you wanna take the chance on somebody that’s coming in. Here’s, here’s the piece though. And I’m, I’m honestly, and this is gonna be an unpopular answer, and Todd’s gonna have to go in PR cleanup for us.

Rich Birch — <laughs> Love it.

Matt Steen — This, this’ll go viral and our competitors are gonna love it. One of the things that I’ve really been thinking about here a lot lately is, is one of the, um, one of the, one of the complaints that we, we hear older generations sharing about the younger generation is that the younger generations wanna start where their parents left off, right?

Rich Birch — Oh, interesting.

Matt Steen — And, and they’re not willing to go and sacrifice and be in the, you know, the cheap apartment and all that kind of stuff. And, and I sometimes wonder if we haven’t taken that, you know, the thing that we’re complaining about and putting it into the church and saying, Hey, we need to we need to start where, where the other guy left off. Right?

Matt Steen — So many times we’re talking about succession and we’re saying, Hey, our pastor’s been here for 15 years and we need somebody that’s gonna be, you know, just like who he is now for the 15 years to come. Well, it took 15 years for that guy to get to that point, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right, right.

Matt Steen — He needed somebody had to take a chance on him or, and, and kind of help them kind of gain their skills and abilities through. Now, I’m not saying don’t take somebody who’s absolutely not qualified, you know? There, there needs to be some ability to think ministry wise, but sometimes we need to realize that going into this, you know, maybe, maybe the person that we hire, they, they may not be, they, they may be a little bit greener than what would be ideal, but they’ve got the fundamentals and we can pour into them.

Matt Steen — And, you know, part of, part of our role has to be pouring into the next generation, whether they’re on staff, whether they’re in our congregation, whether they’re in our age grade ministries, that kind of stuff. We need to be developing this next generation for us to continue to exist. And so, so I think we need to go more towards the side of risking on the next generation. Now, a lot of people of a certain age are gonna say, Hey, now you’re saying I can’t get a job, and I’m not saying that. But I think, you know, I think that we need to take that, that idea of being a little bit more willing to take a, take a risk on somebody who, who may not have the resume yet, but has the potential to pour into it. I think that’s, I think that’s an okay thing as long as they line up in all, in all of those areas. Um…

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Steen — Now, if, if you’ve got a ministry that’s just, you know, it’s, it’s blowing up and, and you don’t have the capacity to really mentor the next person, then you gotta get somebody who’s, who’s got some seasoning to ’em.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Steen — But I don’t, I sometimes wonder if we need to rethink what our workload is if we don’t have the time to really develop the next generation leaders on our staff team.

Rich Birch — No, that’s good.

Matt Steen — All right. Clean me up, Todd.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Todd Rhoades — Yeah, I think everybody, everybody wants somebody that can hit the ground running.

Matt Steen — Yes.

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — Everybody, I mean, everybody we talk to. Um, sometimes that, so I’ll bring out the, the negative connotation of that. Um, sometimes when you say you want somebody that can hit the ground running is we want to hire somebody that we can set it and forget it, right?

Rich Birch — Mmm. Oh that’s good.

Todd Rhoades — And that, that is not a good way to hire. So if you’re a senior pastor and your main goal for hiring a youth pastor is I need to hire a youth pastor so that I don’t ever have to deal with youth…

Rich Birch — Yes. <laugh>

Todd Rhoades — …is, is a non-healthy way to look at it. Okay?

Rich Birch — Sure.

Todd Rhoades — So if, if, and what Matt said, and it goes back to what we were saying five minutes ago about discipleship and training up leaders, right? Is, sure, I get it. You’re a senior pastor and you want, you want to have somebody that’s competent that can handle an area. But you also need to be available to, to speak in, to train, to build in, to have those conver conversations. Like Matt said, where do you see yourself in five years? How can we help you get there? You know? Those kind of discussions, if you’re not having those discussions, if you’re not building in, um, it’s, that’s where the 18, you know, 12 to 18 months to 24 months where they take off cuz they don’t feel appreciated. The other thing I would say is, is we’re seeing another reason why we’re so, uh, bullish on the church is we’re seeing a ton of really everything we’ve said about, you know, hard time recruiting people. There are some really, really incredibly sharp people—we call ’em Jesus with a guitar, internally—really sharp people coming into ministry that are gonna just absolutely kill it. But they’re not set, they’re not set it and forget it people. Uh, they, they, they actually want the mentoring and the, the hand holding a little. They don’t wanna be micromanaged…

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — …but they, they want, they want that input. Uh, and, and they will hit the ground running, but they won’t do exactly, they won’t do everything exactly the same way the last person did it, nor should you expect them to. So um…

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Todd Rhoades — …don’t, don’t if, if you’re trying to do the set it and forget it, you’re gonna look over a lot of candidates that could really…

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — …kill it at your church.

Rich Birch — Well, I was gonna, I was gonna ask a kind of a co-related question, which is how often do you—and we can stick with you, Todd, on this one—how often from your vantage point point are you talking with the church where, and you don’t have to, you know, like how often are you talking with the church where they, you think they, they’re missing a great next hire because of this? Where they’re like, ah, like I, man, I, I just wish they would take a risk on this person. I think it could be a great thing. Is that common and you run into that all the time?

Todd Rhoades — Uh, I wouldn’t say all the time. We run into it quite often.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Todd Rhoades — Where, where we’ve, and, and some of, honestly, and Matt can push back on this, some of our best work, I think are sometimes taking candidates that we think, so this, this person can do exactly what you’ve told us you need to have done, but they don’t look exactly like the person that you thought this person would look like.

Rich Birch — Yes. Yes. Oh, that’s good insight.

Todd Rhoades — And, and so is it, is it risky? Um, every hire is risky. But yeah, we, we really try to, to, uh, sometimes we’re even surprised at the people that we find that are like, you know, even some of this doesn’t make sense, but man, could this be cool?

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally. Totally.

Todd Rhoades — So, and sometimes churches are really open and responsive and receptive to that, and other, other times it’s just, you know, a little bit too much. So, and, and we get it. But the, that’s the fun part of the work.

Rich Birch — Yeah. I, you know, I’ve found over the years that man give me a team of, I, I think sometimes when we hire people, we’re looking for the, what is the, the example, the Michael Jordan, the, you know, Wayne Gretzky, the whatever, the, I’m not a sports guy, whatever, whoever the most recent, like the, uh, the superstars, like, we’re looking for that. Or, or we say like, man, I’m not even sure Jesus can do this job. Like, they’re like the, the, that’s what we’re looking for. But actually over time, the more hiring I’ve done, I’m just convinced if I can find solid, like B+ players, <laugh>, you know, who are, who are great. You know, they’re like, it’s the difference between the guy who always gets a home run and the guy who always gets on base. Man, the guy who always gets on base, man that is, uh, or the woman who always gets on base, man, that’s, I can, you can do a lot, you can build great organizations on the back of that. So I, I love that.

Matt Steen — I I tell you, I tell you what Rich, you know, I know I’m the gloom and doom guy, but that’s what gives me the hope for the church, right?

Rich Birch — Sure.

Matt Steen — That right there.

Rich Birch — You’re not the doom, gloom guy. Matt, come here, gimme a big hug. You’re not the doom and gloom guy.

Matt Steen — I, I feel, I feel I feel better, man. I, I love, you know, so many of the churches that we work with are guys that you are never gonna get published, right? They’re, they’re, you’re, you’re never gonna know their name. They’re never gonna go viral, but they are doing slow and steady work in communities…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Matt Steen — …and having such incredible impact. And it’s like, yeah, you’re never gonna know their name. And, and they, they may not have been the, the, the rising star coming outta seminary or anything like that, but they’re, they’re, they’re seeing people come to faith. They’re, they’re walking marriages through crises, right?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Matt Steen — They’re, they’re baptized in pe It’s, it is crazy what they’re, what they’re doing. And there’s so many of those people out there. It’s, it’s really encouraging. That’s probably my favorite part of, favorite part of my job besides, you know, working, working with Todd.

Rich Birch — Yeah. I love it. Well, I’ve got a question, uh, that since you’re here and all the people have listened to the end, I’m gonna ask you, I’m gonna throw this one to Matt. This is spicy meatball, spicy meatball question.

Matt Steen — Oh, no.

Rich Birch — Hopefully our relationship can sustain this.

Matt Steen — It depends.

Rich Birch — Um, so you’ve seen where this has gone wrong. Like you’ve seen the, like, okay, we hired somebody and, and either they came through your service or you were talking to a, a church and they’ve now come to your you because they hired somebody and it didn’t go well. Like, it, it was like, you know, x number of months later, and it was like a little bit of a gong show. I’m sure you’ve seen one or two of those. Are there any common things, common factors – maybe it’s in the five, it’s like there’s one of those that keeps coming back time and again, or maybe there’s a common trade or something that we should be looking for when we’re hiring? Where does this just go wrong when it, when it goes wrong?

Matt Steen — So when it, when it goes wrong, here’s the common theme.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Matt Steen — Um, most, more often than not, people forget the first three of our five factors, and they, they start with skills and abilities. They look at a resume, they say, oh, I know that church. That’s a great church.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Matt Steen — I listen to their pastors podcast. That’s awesome. Of course they can do the job, right?

Rich Birch — Yes.

Matt Steen — And then they start to interview ’em based on, based on that alone. And they start to laugh at the person’s jokes and they say, oh, he reminds me of my grandson. You know? And they start to fall in love relationally. And, and there’s a, there’s a, there’s a degree of chemistry there. They, they fall into like, and all that kind of stuff. And, and in the back of their head, you know, you’ve got this question about, yeah, I do know that church, but you know what, they’re, they’re a little bit different than how we operate. Oh, it’ll be fine. Jesus will make it work. And it, and typically somewhere around 12 to 18 months in, they start to realize, oh, maybe Jesus isn’t gonna kind of smooth out our differences on women in ministry. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe the fact that we’re Wesleyan and, and he’s pretty hardcore reformed um, maybe that’s not gonna work itself out. Right.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Matt Steen — And that’s, that’s, you know, that’s, that’s when it, that’s when it goes sideways. It’s, we, we short circuit things and we really, we, we really don’t think that theology is as important as it is. Or we really don’t realize that, you know, that church of 2000 works a little bit differently than our church of 500. Right?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Matt Steen — Or, or maybe those, those personality quirks that, that are cute, you know, during the interview, they’re gonna cause us to take a hostage down the road. You know, I, that’s…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Matt Steen — That’s, that’s what, that’s what I’d say. I don’t know, Todd, if you think I’m, if you think I’m off.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Anything else on that, Todd?

Todd Rhoades — Yeah, I don’t know that there’s any, any one thing. I mean, uh…

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — We, but, but we do hear, we do hear the theology and the culture pieces all the time.

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — That there are mismatches. And again, what Matt, I’ll reemphasize what Matt just said. A lot of times we fall in love too early before we even ask the tough questions. And I’ll tell you, once you fall in love with a candidate, um, and it’s the same, you know, we say this all the time with assessments. That’s why we do, uh, any of our candidates or churches, we do the assessments on the very front end is because we we’re full believers in assessments. But we, we think churches wait way too long to do the assessments. They, they fall in love with a candidate. They bring ’em in for the onsite visit, and before they, before they offer the, you know, the, here’s, we’d like to bring you on our, here, take this Enneagram or take this, uh, you know…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Todd Rhoades — …Strength Finders. It doesn’t make any difference. There could be like glaring discrepancies and red flags and those things…

Rich Birch — Yeah. You’re just gonna justify it.

Todd Rhoades — You’re gonna justify it cause you love them.

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally.

Todd Rhoades — They’re, they’re great. We love their family. His wife is awesome. We love his…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Todd Rhoades — …he’s got kids the same age as my kids, man. Um, all that stuff supersedes what could be like the really important things that are gonna cause somebody to leave in 18 months.

Rich Birch — Yeah. One of the smartest things… So I, I had the privilege of working with Tim Lucas at Liquid Church for years with you guys, which you guys know, and he, he’s a smart leader on, brought a bunch of fronts. But one of the smartest things he realized early in his, in his leadership, like really once the church started growing was he was like, I need to be in these conversations at the very end because every one of these, I get in and I’m like, we should hire this person. This person’s amazing. Like, they’re, and and, and then he was like, and he was self-aware. He was like, then I go into sales mode and I’m like, I’m just trying to figure out, I’m trying to woo this person to say, Hey, come here, come here, come here. And so he, you know, smartly was like, I need to pull myself outta this, and only come in when we actually want this person. Like, do not trust me to o be able to, you know… And they’ve built an incredible staff team, you know, on that. And, and, you know, and it’s worked out and they’ve, you know, which is, but that takes a, that takes a, uh, a depth of, uh, emotional intelligence and, uh, and humility to be able to declare that with your, with your leadership team. So, love that. Which is not surprising. He’s a great leader. So he’s good at that stuff.

Rich Birch — Well, this has been a fantastic conversation. I, again, I can’t believe we’ve got both of you guys in one room. It’s been so, it’s been so honored to have you here today. Uh, as we wrap up, Matt, I’ve been kicking you a little bit. I’m gonna give you the final last words today. What, what do you wanna say as we wrap up? How can people connect with Chemistry Staffing? I, I really do, I say this to people, I don’t say this just because you guys are a sponsor. When people are, talk to me on both sides, either they’re a church or a candidate, like about these kind of things. I always say like, Hey, you should talk to the guys over at Chemistry Staffing, give your website, chemistrystaffing.com. But what, what would you say, what would you say, you know, what would your kind of final words for today’s conversation?

Matt Steen — Yeah, I, so, so yes, I am the doom and gloom guy, but man, I tell you what I am, I’m incredibly optimistic for, for, for the church. We, we really are. You know, there’s a lot of, you know, we just need to shift a little bit about what we’re doing, need to focus a little bit about culture, start developing the next generation. Man, I tell you what, we’re, we’re, we’re gonna be in good shape. But we’d love, love to be able to serve you guys and really would love, if you guys do, go to churchstaffassessment.com and, and, and, and take that, I think that’s gonna be an incredible tool for the church. So much has changed over these last three years. Um, I think that’s gonna give us a really good snapshot on overall church health, um, in this country. So…

Rich Birch — Love it. Well, love you guys. I’m so thankful for the work you do for the church. Thanks for being on here. Again, friends, we’d remind you to go to churchstaffassessment.com, uh, to fill that out. You can do that up until May 19th. So you’ve got, you should do it today, be the first people in on it, but you’ve got only got until May 19th to do that. So make sure you get in, uh, and do that. What a great tool. I appreciate you guys providing this. Uh, thanks so much for being on the call today. Have a good day.

Todd Rhoades — Great. Thank you.


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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.