You’ve likely heard a lot about the importance of church culture. It’s the mix of behaviors, beliefs and values that make your organization unique. Culture is shared assumptions that people can rally around for decision-making and personal interaction. In my opinion, being intentional about developing your culture makes for stronger, unified and healthy church. Conversely, a lack of strong culture creates a ho-hum feeling in your congregation. There’s no guidepost for staff and attenders to become passionate about the work they’re doing.
As communicators, creatives and leaders, it’s your job to not only help develop and foster a healthy culture, but to effectively communicate it and its importance to your congregation.
1. Make Everyone an Owner
There is a difference between a renter and an owner in your church. Renters can kill your culture the quickest because they can leave at any moment. They’re not invested in the long-term well-being of the church.
People become owners when they can see how the work their doing, either as staff, volunteers or members, is making a difference. You become an owner when you’re passionate about your work. Owners are the people with whom you build your church.
2. Lose Lazy Language
The words we use to cast vision and communicate have power. Creative language stirs emotion. Standard, clichéd language doesn’t have a purpose, solve a problem or move a mission. A well-crafted, missional message makes sure ideas stay synced inside one narrative. For example, at Elevation Church, staff refer to visitors as VIPs instead of first time guests. It’s not meant to be a term that’s splashed around as marketing, but language that sets the tone for how new folks should be viewed and treated.
3. Work with Peoples’ Rhythms
Think about the typical year at your church. There are natural flows. It gets busier with more people coming through at the beginning of the year (thank you, New Year resolutions), Easter and Christmas (big holidays) and the fall (people getting back into routines). While those are great times of opportunity in the life of your church, it’s a crazy time for staff. A healthy culture builds in time to renew and refresh around these rhythms. It’s not enough to talk about work-life balance; you should intentionally integrate strategies to ensure your staff—paid and volunteer—can live in balance. Day-to-day, how do your work and home lives integrate to create a personal rhythm for success? If you’re a manager, how are you understanding and working with your people’s productive rhythms?
4. Never Settle on People
Don’t hire people who don’t align with your values. This is worth repeating: Only hire people who clearly align with your values. The same is true when putting key volunteers into positions with more responsibility and influence. People who aren’t in line with your vision or work culture will be a toxic force limiting your success. Why? People enjoy working with people they like who share a common goal. Hiring just to fill a position will burn you every time. While it’s good not to settle, you also can’t get stuck looking for unrealistic people who don’t exist. Your wish list of talents for a position might be longer than any human could reasonably achieve. Consider redefining your search so that you find someone with the right culture and values set, who is willing and eager to receive training for their new position.