It’s 2017 people. The year of male rompers, fidget spinners, and the Golden State Warriors. Health food stores are still on the come-up, storage facilities and mattress stores are being built on every corner to rival the booming empire of Starbucks, and while the current President of the U.S. is busy tweeting, the world may or may not be getting warmer!

All these things may seem silly, even unimportant, but in a nutshell, these are staples in the culture of our country.

Good, bad, ugly, or indifferent, the perceivable things that radiate in any setting will greatly define the culture that exists there. You will always know that “it was their pleasure” at Chick Fil A, “easy” at Staples, and the “happiest place on earth” at Disney! We know this because it is in their culture.

Culture is the loudest communicator when people are trying to figure out who you are and what you stand for.

In ministry, culture can be defined in a number of ways:

  • Maybe you consider culture to simply be the sum of your efforts for any given weekend in the life of your church.
  • Maybe culture has a lot to do with the style of your worship music.
  • Or maybe culture revolves less around what your church does and has more to do with your church’s leadership style or even just your leader.

The speculation of what culture is could continue, and maybe at some point, your point of view would have been mentioned, but that is beyond the point.

The moral of it all: culture is unique to you and your place in ministry.

So now I will ask you, “what is your culture like?”

Consider asking yourself:
What characterizes your culture to an outsider?
What needs to change in your culture in order to get where you want to go?
What are you doing today that is contrary to where you want to be tomorrow?

As you pray through what culture you want to instill in your ministry area, I believe there are three things to keep in mind to get you there. These things are principals to build the infrastructure you need to create a healthy culture.

here are my three tips for creating a healthy church culture

one: wear it before you share it

This one is all about living the culture you want to see. This is a principle I learned from my Senior Pastor, and it ultimately boils down to one word: integrity.

Integrity is being undivided in thought, action, and belief.

Integrity, when fully alive within someone, is clearly seen and needs no further convincing. As a leader, your greatest contribution to establishing healthy culture will be your commitment to it in private and in public.

No one will follow anything you establish if they do not see it in you first. If you want to see your team on time, you better be an hour early. If you want to see your staff honoring one another, you better “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).

Wear, embody, and live the culture you want to see in your ministry before you ever formally discuss it with your team. In the world of “culture building” you must live in the land of what is possible, not what is present.

two: honor what came before, but clearly establish what is now.

You’ve decided or identified the culture that you want to have. Now, you need to be an emblem of it, not an anomaly in it.
So what does that mean?

You need to formalize it! AKA: write it down.

Your church and ministries should have a clear mission and vision that is written down and known. Inside this mission and vision of your ministry will live the blueprints for your culture.

We’d never want our mission and vision to be unclear, so why would we want culture to be unclear? Even though “culture is caught before it’s taught”, there still has to be a language by which it’s distributed.

Your staff and volunteers need to easily have access to the language, that describes who you are if you want them to be able to share it with someone else.

Finally, as you begin to introduce these things to your team, make sure to always recognize and honor what came before you. For we are only small iotas in the essay of God’s great story. What we strive to do in culture building isn’t new or groundbreaking, it’s simply “our turn”. There have been countless people who have gone before us in ministry, and there will be many more that come after. When you cast vision about your new culture to your team, reflect on where the Lord has brought you instead of bashing the past for all of its flaws.

three: preserve culture at all costs.

If “living” your culture takes integrity and establishing culture takes clarity, preserving culture takes grit!

Preservation of culture takes wisdom, composure, patience, determination, and often times, confrontation.

You must be wise in how you handle culture related situations. You must be:

  • composed when you receive push back
  • patient when you feel anxious
  • determined when you feel defeated
  • and confrontational when you face conflict.

The need to preserve your culture will always present itself. There will come a day when the people on your team will challenge what your culture is like. This is ok because people have opinions!

However, in the face of adversity, champion your culture!

Adversity, though it comes with its challenges, will also act as a way to refine and fine tune the elements of your culture that need improvement. Remember, you want your culture to be healthy and easily reproducible.

If something you thought would be great isn’t great, take the feedback and take the critique. Humility and honor wins ten times out ten, but passivity in your vision will never lead to a healthy culture.

Embrace and understand the difference between evolving to improve versus adapting after adversity, always trusting the Lord to lead your ministry where He longs to take it if you will remain obedient.

Many have said culture trumps vision every time, and I couldn’t agree more. If you don’t intentionally build culture, it will build itself however it pleases.

Lastly, remember every leader is going to build culture differently, based on their giftings.
To the young leader, be bold yet humble.
To the wise leader, normalize culture building, make it part of who you are.
To the person behind the scenes who is immersed in a toxic culture, lead up, honor always, and encourage daily.

Culture is caught first and taught second. Your daily behavior will make or break the culture you long to see in your ministry or organization. After all, your vision is sacred, and it deserves a culture to serve it well.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Ben Harrell

About Ben Harrell

Ben is the worship pastor at Beach Church in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. He is married to the lovely Dakota and thinks life is short, so you should drink good coffee!

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