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Leaders are the Culture

Everywhere I turn it seems like people are talking about culture. Team culture, staff culture, and organizational culture. How to build a healthy culture and how to avoid a toxic one. But what about the culture at your church? 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 determined by the defining set of values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the Sr. Leadership Team. This could be the Sr. Pastor, the Staff Team, a Board, Deacons or a group of Volunteer Leaders depending on the size and nature of the church. Another way to say it is, show me the top 3-5 decision makers or leaders in your church and I’ll show you who your church is going to be and the culture you’re going to have in a couple of years.

Culture is something that is usually unnoticed, unspoken, and unexamined in churches. As a result, few churches ever take steps towards intentionally defining and building a healthy culture; instead it usually happens by default.

It’s 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.”

While every church already has a culture, most of them “happen on accident.” As the leader you have to create the culture. And here’s a truth about culture you may have never thought about before…

Leaders are the culture

Their behaviors, their attitudes, what they allow, what they address, how they approach people, the decisions that they make, how they dress and carry themselves, how approachable they are, the list goes on and on. All of this tells people how to behave.

This is why I can play a name association game with you, and by saying Jeff Bezos you automatically think about Amazon. Or if I say Mark Zuckerberg you think Facebook. Or if I say Steve Jobs you think Apple.

This is because over time every organization takes on the personality of the leader. This is how the organization takes its cultural cues. Some leaders understand this and are wise and intentional about it while others lead without thought as to how their behavior is building or eroding culture.

Because leaders are the culture at your church, the easiest and fastest way to change the culture at your church is to change the leader at your church.

Change the leader, change the culture

Obviously, a new leader is a leadership change and will result in a change to the culture. But I’m more so referring to the leader themselves changing and growing. This is why everything gets better when the leader gets better.

If you’re the leader at your church and you want a better culture on your team and at your church, than change and be a better you. Pay close attention to the culture of your church because it is a mirror for you and your leadership, and after all you are the culture.


Posted in Leadership

One Response to “Leaders are the Culture”

  1. Naphutali Halerimaana August 28, 2019 at 1:54 am #

    You are very right Paul. A leader who does not improve on his skills and approaches makes a stunted church even in sermon preparations we have to vary our approaches.

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