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Changing the Culture of your Church

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“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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5 Reasons Churches don’t Grow

growth

It’s impossible for your church to grow and everything stay the same. I know it would be nice if everything could stay the same as the church grows, but it can’t. And the secret underlying truth is as your church grows you will lose some things along the way. But that’s kind of the point. You simply can’t move from here (current reality) to there (preferred future) and everything stay the way it is. If it did, you’d never get “there,” you’d just stay where you are.

While there are a lot of reasons why churches stall, sputter, and stop growing but there are a few big reasons that lurk beneath the surface of the worship services, ministries and organizational structure of the church and live within the heart of the leader.

#1 Control

Things could be done exactly the way you want them to be done at your church, but you’d be the one doing them or directing them. It would be nice, and neat, and tidy. No mess. You wouldn’t have to worry about staff members or volunteers challenging your ideas as the pastor because everyone would be executing your ideas the way you want them done. Unfortunately, you’d also never attract or develop any leaders, you’d only be training people to perform tasks that you assign them. You’d be creating followers and as a result putting a lid on the growth of the church. Controlling leaders stifle fun, innovation, and ultimately production. Your team needs to be empowered and unleashed to be who Jesus has created them to be. That’s when they’ll have the most fun and you’ll get the greatest results. The sad, and very dangerous, thing is controlling church leaders actually stifle personal growth in others and the expansion of the Gospel

#2 Preference

As churches grow, leaders either give up their personal preferences or they personally prevent the church from growing. The best leaders I’ve been around ask what’s best for the organization, not what’s best for themselves, and they defer their preferences for the performance of the organization. Which means one day we’ll all be saying why can’t we sing those old Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, or Jesus Culture songs. We are either constantly designing ministry for ourselves or for people who have not yet said yes to following Jesus. So do you prefer to reach new people with the Gospel or to go to a church that is designed to fit your preferences?

#3 Lack of Leadership

This may just one guys’ opinion, but I really believe that the greatest crisis facing the modern-day church is a crisis of leadership. We don’t have a “Gospel problem,” or a “God problem,” it’s a Church problem and that starts with leadership. The modern-day Church simply doesn’t attract, develop, or keep leaders. Leaders by their very nature are change agents, and because the unstated goal of most churches is to preserve the past, church leaders often times find themselves fighting the family instead of fighting the enemy.

#4 The Ingrained Behavior to Keep instead of Reach

New things attract new people and new churches reach new people. When a church is starting up it’s all about risk (church planting by its very nature is risky). Over time however it’s easier (and less risky) to do ministry programs to keep church people happy than it is to continue to reach out to people who are outside of the church. You know, those ministry programs that keep the core long-time Christians and long-term attenders happy but have no impact on people outside the faith. While the greatest intention of churches may be to reach new people, their greatest behavior is to keep the ones they have happy.

#5 Pain Tolerance

As I mentioned the leadership secret that no one is telling you about is that there is no leadership without loss. It may not be popular, but it is absolutely, “take it to the bank true.” Most people mistakenly believe that gaining leadership is all about gaining more power, gaining a more influential position, and gaining more prestige and popularity. But leaders who lead at the highest levels know there is no going up, without giving up. And the higher you go in leadership, the more you have to be willing to lose. And this is the reason why many churches stop growing. Simply because those leading them don’t possess the pain tolerance or humility to endure the personal challenge of change, discomfort and loss.


Posted in Leadership

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It’s Time for the Church to take a Different Approach to Leadership Development

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There are three prevailing thoughts about leadership development that I’ve been noticing in churches across the country.

First, churches are complaining that their leadership bench has become pretty thin. If God gave them a new opportunity they’re not sure they’ve got the leadership depth to say yes. I get this, I’ve also observed that the leadership bench in the American Church is becoming pretty thin. It really concerns me.

Second, churches are scouring the landscape for an off-the-shelf solution like a class or some curriculum that they can use to magically build a deeper leadership bench at their church. This one is frustrating for me. Yes, there are leadership principles that can be learned and content that can support leadership development but, when are churches going to wake up and learn that leadership development doesn’t happen in a classroom?

Finally, I’m seeing more and more churches hire young, inexperienced, and untrained staff members who attend and love their church but have no bible training or ministry experience. Then they basically throw them to the wolves and hope they’re going to somehow magically work out.

I think it’s time for churches to take a different approach to leadership development.

Optimism

You can’t play a good game with a bad attitude. It’s a true statement when I encourage my 10-year-old son with those words before a practice or game and it’s a true statement in church leadership. Your attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference and when it comes to leadership development in the church it can be the difference between you developing a deep bench or starving your church of good leadership. You’ll always find what you’re looking for and if you’re looking for deficiencies you’ll find them. A critical spirit is a guaranteed way to discourage and put a lid on growth in others. Leadership development is optimistic by its very nature, because you’re helping someone become something that they’ve never been before, and while blind belief won’t make them become a leader they’ll never become a leader if you don’t believe they will.

Encouragement

You’ve probably read about social experiments that have been done to test the correlation between expectations and performance. In one such study teachers were told that a group of students they had in their classroom had tested incredibly high at the beginning of the year. However, these teachers were duped. These students weren’t gifted, but the fact that the teachers believed they were influenced the way the teachers viewed and behaved towards the group of students. When tested at the end of the year the students that the teachers believed were gifted actually outperformed the rest of the class. Sometimes people behave the way you treat them. If you want to build leaders, then start treating them like leaders. Encourage them through your words, actions, attitude, and approach to become what they’re not.

Opportunity

The thing about leadership is you can’t learn it in a classroom. Leadership development is an immersive, hands on learning experience. To get better at it you’ve got to get reps. The first ministry leadership opportunity I ever had scared me to death. As a freshman in college my pastor asked me to teach a Jr. High Sunday School Class. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and took a risk on a young guy. It paid off, and the next opportunity came along, and the next. That’s leadership development. You throw a young promising leader in the deep end of the pool and see if they can swim. If they don’t make it, you jump in, make sure they don’t drown, coach them up and give them another shot. If they do make it, you coach them up and throw them into a bigger pool.

Coaching

So, what do you do after you give a young promising leader an opportunity to have some responsibility? You coach them up. Coaching involves turning on the game tape and reviewing how things went. Great coaches reinforce what went well and redirect what didn’t. They start with reinforcement because they know that’s how consistent culture is built. What gets noticed and celebrated gets repeated. Then when it comes to parts of the project that didn’t go as well good coaches assume the best intent and redirect what went wrong.


Posted in Leadership

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11 Questions to Ask yourself about Soul Care and Personal Fulfillment

soulcare

People perform at their best when they are in a role that plays to their personality and gifting. They have more fun, experience greater fulfillment, and produce better results. The soul is actually at greater rest when it finds the rhythm it was designed for.

But it requires a tremendous amount of sober-mindedness. That is, knowing who you are, knowing who you’re not and doing what’s best for the whole. This means, among other things, being willing to play the part you were designed to play instead of striving for the top spot on the team.

So how do you get a healthy dose of sober-mindedness in your life without experiencing a bunch of pain? Honestly taking a few moments to answer the following questions is a great start!

  1. What gives you Energy? What fills you up? I’m not talking about sitting around and binge watching Netfilx. What do you do that really fills you up?
  2. What do you need More of in your Life? We’re not talking about a winning lottery ticket here. But it may mean more rest, vacation, a greater challenge at work, more investment in your most meaningful relationships, or something else.
  3. What do you need Less of in your Life? Debt, relational drama, pressure, conflict, etc.
  4. What must Change in your Life? There may be some habits or behaviors that need to change, or you may need to change the way you approach your schedule.
  5. What Must you do? What do you have to do? What is it you were created to do? It would actually be a personal value violation if you didn’t do it?
  6. What Could you do? Are there things you could do because of your capacity, experience, and talent but aren’t the best things for you or the team for you to do?
  7. What Should you do? You may not be doing it now, but you know you should. You may even have been putting it off for some time.
  8. What must you Not do? If you’re really honest what are you doing that you shouldn’t be? You’re not the best at it, or by doing it your preventing (enabling) someone else from doing what they’re created to do.
  9. What do you Care about? What do you really care about, what really matters to you?
  10. What do you Dream about? What are your hopes and dreams that are worth chasing after?
  11. What do you want your Legacy to be? At the end of the day what do you want to leave behind and be known for? What do you want to start that outlives you?

If you want to build some accountability into this you could share this list with a friend, the two of you work on it separately and then share the results with each other.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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How the Lead Pastor and Executive Pastor roles Work Together

Business agreement - Senior and young male executives shaking hands at office

The relationship between the Lead Pastor and Executive Pastor can make or break a church staff team and has profound impact upon the overall ministry of the church. Get this right and you’ll end up getting a lot right. Get it wrong, and well, it’s going to be tough sledding.

There are some basic no brainer things that make a great Lead and Executive Pastor partnership and of course trust is at the foundation of it.

  • You can’t allow triangulation; the Lead and Executive Pastor need to stay connected and on the same page. I’d recommend a weekly touch base meeting to help solve this.
  • You can’t have a “good cop / bad cop” situation. You don’t want the staff to love the Lead Pastor and fear the Executive Pastor. Executive Pastors remember that fear doesn’t make people want to follow you. On the other side of the coin, Lead Pastors can’t delegate all of the tough decisions and execution to the Executive, the church needs your leadership not just your direction.
  • A better analogy for a healthy partnership between a Lead and Executive Pastor is more like a mom and a dad leading a family together through mutual submission to one another. Leading in their area of brilliance and submitting in their areas of weakness.
  • The Executive Pastor needs to support the Lead Pastor publicly and when needed appropriately challenge them privately.

And if you’ve ever wondered what the basic lanes are that the Lead Pastor and Executive Pastor should be running in here are 4 things that each role can’t delegate away:

There are 4 Things the Lead Pastor can’t Delegate

  1. Leadership
  2. Teaching
  3. Vision
  4. Culture

There are 4 Things the Executive Pastor can’t Delegate

  1. Strategy
  2. Execution
  3. Leading the Sr. Leadership Team
  4. Daily Train, Develop & Coach the Culture

Posted in Leadership
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