Experience is Overrated


I hear it all the time: “The person we hire must have the experience to do what we need at the same level.”


“Our youth ministry has 200 students – we need someone who has led a youth ministry of 200 students, and ideally grew it larger.”

“Our church has 500 people coming, and we see it growing to 1500 in the next few years. We need a new Lead Pastor who has grown a church from 500 to 1500.”

“We have one campus, and we are going to become a multi-site church with five campuses. We need an executive pastor who has taken a church from one site to five sites.”

“We have a children’s ministry with 300 kids. We need a children’s pastor who has led a children’s ministry this size or bigger.”

In all of these situations, I would say, “No you don’t.” You don’t need someone who has done it somewhere else. You don’t need an expert.

You need a culture that develops leaders.

You need team leaders who know how to empower those who join your team.

You need a network so you can equip your new staff members to learn from the best.

You need to hire high-capacity leaders who know how to lead and will figure out what they don’t know.

You need to have a commitment to continuing education.

You need a good on-boarding plan for new employees.

You need an environment where it is okay to try, and it is okay to fail. 

You need to resource your leaders so they have the tools they need to thrive.

In my 20 years as an Executive Pastor, leading a church that grew from 250 to over 6,000, and growing our staff from 5 to 129, I can’t think of one example when we hired someone who had done what we were hiring them to do at the level we needed.

We hired a city manager to be one of our pastors.

We hired a men’s clothing retail manager to be our connections pastor.

We hired a kid straight out of college to lead our youth ministry – eventually growing it to more than 400 kids.

We asked that same guy to launch our global missions, eventually planting more than 2,000 churches in India.

We hired a youth pastor to launch a new campus.

We hired a college professor to be our children’s pastor.

If you are hiring a surgeon to open your heart so it can continue beating, pay very close attention to experience. But if you are hiring for a church--stop giving experience so much weight. Spend more time developing a culture where leaders can learn and grow and thrive, and then go out and find some leaders—regardless of their experience.