3 Key Elements To A Healthy Church Culture

Image created by Matt Wade
Image created by Matt Wade

"Culture Trumps Vision" says Sam Chand. Oh how he is correct. As pastors we often tend to cast vision of great and lofty ideas and dreams. We diligently attempt to implement our vision into the church over a period of time. We also have the tendency to ask our staff to immediately buy in to that which we have dreamed up.

Before we discuss Chand's quote, let me pose a few questions.

  • How often do you vision cast?
  • Since the last time you chise to cast vision, what has been implemented successfully?
  • How much staff turnover have you experienced?

These are tough questions because all of these challenges are measurable. I remember the last time I chose to cast vision. I also know what I have implemented successfully, and that which never got off the ground. I also know the temperature of my staff and the turnover, whether on paid staff or volunteer basis. How? All of these things are measurable.

Vision has to be measurable. If vision is not measurable by the standards of those you are leading, they will easily be discouraged, lose focus, and possibly give up and quit.

So let's revisit Chand's quote. "Culture trumps vision". What does this mean? Let's take a look at more of Dr. Chand's words.

"Like a good consultant, I would probe and prod and create leadership architecture to facilitate the pastor’s vision—however both of us knew something was still amiss till one day… One day the invisible hit me—it wasn’t the vision, the mission, the core values, the facilities, the finances, the ministry programs etc—it was the toxic culture that created a quagmire and bogged down vision fulfillment. We need to understand what we mean by the term organizational culture. It is the personality of the church. My simple definition of church culture is: “this is how we do things here.”

"Culture is the personality of the church. This is how we do things here." (paraphrased)

These two simple sentences have made me think and rethink culture. Over the last few weeks as I have been growing and learning my new role at Cross Point,

I have given much attention to our staff culture. If my staff culture is not healthy, then so goes the church.

This is why we are working on three areas or cultural elements within our paid staff and volunteer staff. Love, Honor, and Grace. These three elements are key to where we need to grow at this current time. Let me give a simple definition for each.

  • Love - View each paid staffer or volunteer staff as whole person and believe the best regardless of others opinions.
  • Honor - Acknowledge the gifts that they posses. Respect and reward them privately and publicly.
  • Grace - Give to them unmerited favor; the same that you would want for yourself. When they fail, align yourself with their failure and bring great encouragement.

We can all have varying definitions of these three of the elements listed above. Regardless of how we define them, these are a good starting point for any staff.

Culture takes time to develop. But changing your church or staff culture has to be very intentional. You start with yourself, then your staff and go from there. Hear this: We DO culture, we don't only talk culture. Culture is intentional on the behalf of the leader.

Confront unhealthy culture with love and patience - but whatever you do - confront it. Do not allow toxic culture to exist in your presence. I will give you one example of how I have confronted toxic culture within the last month.

Due to transition, people have a lot of legitimate questions. However, within the church we often tend to go around the source of information to find someone else's opinion. I was in my office unbeknown to a volunteer. I overheard them speaking negatively about another to one of the staff members. I immediately got up from my desk chair and confronted this person. I killed gossip. The person apologized and said he realized what he was doing was not right. I took a moment to explain my insistence on not allowing toxic actions within staff. He completely understood.

He and I are still friends.

So my question for you today is this: What area(s) can you begin to write down that need a detox?

Once you have identified these key areas, begin to use the three elements above to help bring health to your church or staff culture. It will not happen over night, but it will happen. You may lose a few, but that's ok. It's good to let go of the toxins :)

Don't allow your church culture to trump your great vision. Your vision is worth more than that.

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Sam Chand's quoted text can be seen in full HERE on Dr. Dan Reiland's blog.