Change Your Church's Culture to Change its Future
- Friday, July 22, 2005
Is your church life stagnant? Are your efforts to reach out to your surrounding community falling flat? You can try to revitalize your church by copying the latest programs that have made other churches popular. You can try to pump new life into it by implementing formulas from church growth conferences.
Or ... you can do the only thing that will lead to significant, lasting transformation for your church - change your church's culture from the inside out. When you change your church's culture to reflect God's unique, authentic mission for it, you change your church's future as well!
Here's how you can change your church's culture:
Understand what makes up a church's culture. A church's culture is an overall life force that the Holy Spirit uses to give energy, personality, and uniqueness to everything a body of believers says and does. It is to a church what a soul is to a human body. Realize that you can't clone a church culture; it must be incarnated by God to be authentic. A church's culture contains three foundational elements - God's kingdom agenda, who you are as your congregation's leader, and your church's unique local setting.
Figure out what your church's culture currently looks like. Study your church's values and the way they are currently expressed. Consider four main areas: leadership and values (What values do leaders communicate by their lifestyles?); your vision statement (Is it something people can identify with and use to measure their spiritual lives? Does it clarify how to be, instead of just what to do, as a congregation?); symbols, ceremonies, and celebrations (Who are what did you honor and celebrate during the past year? Embedded in each of those things are your real values.); and you as the pastor (Ask yourself, "What do I want to accomplish here at this church? What is it that makes me come alive and feel successful before God?"
Realize that, as the church's leader, you pull everything you do toward the things you value most.) Analyze your church's culture through the eyes of an outsider. Ask yourself: "What values are communicated most strongly when someone approaches our church from the outside?," "What would an outsider, after sitting through several worship services, say our church values most?," "What are outsiders' two or three leading perceptions of our church, after they have participated for a month in a variety of our church's programs and ministries?," and "How would an outsider describe the spirit (or attitudes) most prevalent in our church?"
Sum up your impressions. Then list a handful of values that the church seems to be broadcasting. Compare these values to what you want to be known for. Then put together a focus group of people who don't belong to your church and ask them to study it for one month. After they give you feedback, consider how close their observations are to what you had hoped they would say.
Pray for wisdom. Once you know what values are truly driving your church's culture right now, pray for God to help you understand whether or not those are the values He wants for your church. If not, ask Him to clarify specific ways He would like your church's culture to change. Ask Him to reveal the answers to questions such as, "What are our true needs in this church?," "How can we best meet those needs?," "How can we truly serve people?," and "What can we do to bring out the best in our people."
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