Changing the Culture of your Church

“Culture” is the latest buzz word in church world. Everyone seems to be talking about how to build a healthy culture and avoid a toxic one. But how do you know what your church culture actually is and how can you change it if you don’t like it?

A church’s culture is set by the defining set of values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the Sr. Leadership Team. This could be the Sr. Staff, a Board, Deacons or a group of Volunteer Leaders depending on the size and nature of the church.

Culture is something that is usually unnoticed, unspoken, and unexamined, particularly in churches. Especially by those inside the church. As a result, few churches ever take steps towards intentionally defining and building a desired culture; instead it usually happens by default. It’s very common to see churches fall into ruts and get stuck in the familiar traps of, “just preach the Word,” “just reach people,” or “just build disciples.” The problem is building a healthy culture in a church; particularly a healthy leadership culture is never “just that easy.” Every church already has a culture, but most of them are built on accident. As the leader you have to create the culture. If you don’t it will default to the strongest personality or loudest voice in the room.

Decide to:

You have to decide to change the culture. You have to decide what you don’t like about the existing culture…what behaviors, attitudes, decision making filters, beliefs or values are wrong and need to change? Seriously…make a list of what frustrates you about the culture of your church and must change to become a better version of what Jesus has in mind for it?

You Get What You Tolerate:

You get what you tolerate. Really. If there really are bad behaviors, attitudes, values, or other things about the culture that are “off,” they’re “off” because the Sr. Leader or Sr. Leadership Team has allowed it to be “off.” If you tolerate behaviors and attitudes that subvert and grate against the culture you’re trying to build, then you’ll never build the kind of culture you’re hoping for.

Starve the Past:

Starve the past. Kill it if you have to. The best way to change a culture is to build a new one. Simply start behaving and making decisions through the filter of the new culture you’re working to build. By attempting to take slow incremental steps to change the culture, instead of change you’re left with confusion. Much like a “blended worship service style,” nobody is happy. Frustration sets in because no one knows how to behave. In shifting, culture clarity is king. People need the leader to provide clarity as to how to act, make decisions and so on in this new framework.

Leverage Catalytic Moments:

Culture isn’t built in a moment but in a series of moments over time consistently leveraged to move things in the same direction. However, there are a few moments that have the opportunity to offer course corrections. Anything new has the opportunity to shift things significantly. The hire of a new Sr. Pastor or Sr. Leader, new board members, a new building, the start of a new ministry year, new vision clarity, a new worship service, or a new approach to ministry. Moments like these create windows of opportunity to significantly shift the culture.

Posted in Leadership


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