Like most church leaders, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about your ministries, your people, your budget and operations, next Sunday’s service, and a million other things. Keeping all of those things on track is more than a full-time job — so how much time do you have to focus on your church’s culture?

In working with thousands of churches over the years, I’ve found that you can be ‘doing the right stuff’, but without a healthy church culture your ministry will never reach its full potential for the Kingdom. Here is the big secret: Growth should not be your goal; heath should be. Growth is one of the many positive side effects of a healthy church and culture. This doesn’t begin with programs, or budgets, or operational plans. It begins with the top leadership of your church identifying and living out the cultural values that you want to make up your unique culture.

That’s a lesson we’ve been learning as a leadership team here at Church Community Builder. We’ve spent the last six years being very intentional about preserving our culture, and while we’re far from perfect, our passion for keeping true to who we are as an organization has been instrumental in our growth. Here are a few of the lessons we have learned along the way.

The Three Secrets of a Healthy Organizational Culture

1.  Clarify what matters.

Starting at the highest levels of leadership in your church, you should be able to articulate what your church’s vision is and what its greatest values are. What is true of the church, and what do you want to continue to be true of it even as people come and go and the ministry grows? Here are just a few of the values we’ve identified that we want to characterize our culture and everything we do:

·  Teachable Spirit — Each associate, no matter their position, should have the posture of a learner and accept feedback without defensiveness, blame, or delay.

·  Considerate — Each of us should help others succeed, be respectful and flexible, and celebrate each other’s achievements.

· Transparent  — We should all be vulnerable and authentic with each other, communicating with candor, never withholding our thoughts or feelings to avoid conflict.

· Consistent — We should be the same person, regardless of the circumstances.

· Result Oriented — Each of us must be diligent in all we do. We’re people of our word, and if we say we are going to do something, we get it done — with excellence.

These principles guide everything from our day-to-day operations to who we choose to bring onto the team. If you clarify the culture you desire to build, it will influence decisions big and small, which will help reinforce the articulated values. This framework will help you define who is a good fit for leadership, determine how you make decisions, and choose what you will invest your time and resources into.

2. Communicate what matters.

It’s great when your most senior leaders have clarity on the vision and values of your ministry, but it means little if they’re the only ones who do. Everyone who serves in your ministry should know what these values are and what’s expected of them. This can be a bit intimidating because clarified values are an ideal and none of us live up to the ideal every second of every day. Don’t worry! Sharing these values gives you as a leader the chance to do some self-reflection and be honest with yourself and your team about where you personally need to grow. This type of vulnerability builds trust and cohesion with your team. Communicating the values also allows others to gauge for themselves if they agree with your ministry’s values and fit well with the team. One way we have communicated our values is with a Vision Book our founder, Chris Fowler, developed. Each associate has a copy of it and we discuss what it says on a team level and company-wide regularly. Values may be defined at the highest level of leadership, but they’re carried out at every level!

3. Be accountable.

It’s not enough just to state your values clearly. You have to be willing to protect them and open to receive feedback about times they are not being lived out. One way we have done this is through our associate evaluation process. Several times a year, associates meet with their team leader and discuss how the values are being lived out as a company, as a team leader, and as a team member. This open communication has exposed times when we have not lived according to our values and given us the chance to make the necessary changes for the future. Accountability may also mean saying ‘no’ to a potential team member who wouldn’t quite align with your cultural values. For instance, our hiring process at Church Community Builder is thorough, including a ‘cultural fit interview.’ Associates who may not have been involved in previous interviews get a chance to talk to the candidate and provide feedback about if they believe that person fits our values. We guard our culture here jealously because we believe it’s invaluable. In fact, we believe that it is the key ingredient to our company’s health. Your church’s culture is invaluable as well!

Your culture will grow and evolve as you do, whether or not you approach it intentionally. It’s too important not to think about! What are you doing to protect and develop a healthy church culture?