By Jenni Catron
Churches are often miserable places to work.
Rarely do we say this out loud, but it’s a sentiment I hear in conversations with exhausted pastors and in whispers in the hallways of church conferences.
Church staff are giving their lives to cultures that are draining the life out of them.
This was a shocking discovery for me when I left my career as a Brand Manager at a record label in Nashville to become the Executive Director of my local church. I was ecstatic about the opportunity to lead this young, small, and scrappy team in what I was certain was going to be an amazing season of growth.
In just three short years this church plant had grown steadily but quickly. There was ridiculous potential ahead of us, and I was eager to be on the front edge of building this team.
In fact, in my transition from business to ministry, God put a vision on my heart for what the church could be. This is the vision I wrote in 2005:
My Vision for the Church:
“I believe the church can be the leading organization and source of affiliation for individuals. By providing exceptional opportunities for community, personal and spiritual growth, technical training, and leadership development, the church can become the primary influence in a person’s life. It should be the source of inspiration and belonging that people long for. It should equip people for the workplace. It should be the place for people to explore their God-given gifts, talents and dreams. The church should be well-respected by the community because of the value of its leaders and the contributions of its members to society. It should be the premier volunteer organization that other businesses and organizations look to for leadership.”
The good news was that I was joining a team that had the makings of bringing this vision to life.
There were some really great things about our culture. The team enjoyed being together – they all genuinely liked one another. They were laser focused on the goal of reaching people who were far from God and they had clarity of how they would do this.
The bad news was that, as I began to network and connect with other church leaders, I learned that this was not the reality for many churches.Church staff are giving their lives to cultures that are draining the life out of them. @JenniCatron Click To Tweet
The Big Problem For Many Church Cultures:
Most church leaders are trained to shepherd and teach the congregation but rarely are equipped to lead and manage a staff team.Leaders have the power to change or affect the lives of others and therefore leadership is sacred work. @JenniCatron Click To Tweet
They have a heart for ministry, but no experience with management.
Without the tools, you avoid the work.
And when you avoid the work of leading your team, you find yourself consistently frustrated with a lack of unity, alignment, and engagement.
The result: a constantly revolving door of new staff who need your time and attention and coaching.When you avoid the work of leading your team, you find yourself consistently frustrated with a lack of unity, alignment, and engagement. @JenniCatron Click To Tweet
Almost 15 years later, the vision that I wrote when I started in ministry is more important to me than ever. As leaders, we get the privilege of creating environments that connect and engage people in meaningful work.
Church staff gets to pursue the greatest mission – the Great Commission – and yet so many of us engage our work day with less enthusiasm and passion than those employed at Google or Chick-fil-a.
This feels radically incongruent and incredibly heartbreaking to me. And I suspect it does to you too.
Skim the cover stories of Harvard Business Review or Forbes Magazine and you’ll quickly find a plethora of articles devoted to the importance of workplace culture and why you as the leader need to be attending to it.
Culture has become the corporate “buzz” word of the day. And for good reason: people are what it’s all about.
As artificial intelligence and automation contribute to a rapidly changing workplace, the importance of stewarding our human resources is more critical than ever.
We, as the church, should be leading the way.
One of my favorite definitions of culture is from Dr. Randy Ross in his book Relationomics, “A remarkable culture is a place where people: believe the best in one another, want the best for one another, and expect the best from one another.”
Is this true of your team?
Here are 6 reasons not to ignore the culture conversation:As artificial intelligence and automation contribute to a rapidly changing workplace, the importance of stewarding our human resources is more critical than ever. @JenniCatron Click To Tweet
1. The church is ABOUT people and FOR people
We’re not producing the next tech widget or launching the next great product.
Our purpose is people.
The first group of people we’re responsible for as church leaders is our staff and key volunteers.The first group of people we’re responsible for as church leaders is our staff and key volunteers. @JenniCatron Click To Tweet
2. Purpose matters more than ever
Honestly, I think it has mattered to every generation of leaders.
I just think Millienials and Gen Z, unlike their predecessors, are willing to sacrifice income and some luxuries to be a part of something with meaning.
If you don’t connect people to purpose, you’ll lose people.Millienials and Gen Z, unlike their predecessors, are willing to sacrifice income and some luxuries to be a part of something with meaning. @JenniCatron Click To Tweet
3. Gig economy and remote work is here to stay
Employees have more flexibility than ever before, and truly great employees have no trouble finding work.
Churches need staff that are local and are an active part of the community you’re trying to reach.
If you want them on your team, you must create a compelling environment that makes it worth giving up some of the flexibility that their peers enjoy.
4. Longevity pays off
The average worker today stays just 4 years in a job and this stat has been on the decline for younger workers.
In order to attract and retain great people (and save the money that the revolving door costs your organization) you must create a culture that compels them to stay.
5. Navigating change requires great culture
The pace of change is faster than ever before.
This means your team needs to be able to react and respond quickly. Strong cultures are more nimble. Because they trust one another, they can move more quickly together.
6. Great culture multiplies
As you create great culture with your team, they in turn will create great culture with their teams of volunteers. As goes the leader, so goes the team.
If you want the kind of team culture that you’d be proud to multiply, begin by diagnosing your existing culture.
Here are some questions to get you thinking
You might even gather your team and process them together:
Do we have a clear, shared purpose?
Does each person on the team understand what is expected of them to achieve that purpose?
How well do we communicate?
How do we handle bad news?
Are we vulnerable with each other?
How do we handle disagreements?
Do we have a set of shared values as a team?
Does work get done when the leader is not present?
Do we regularly and consistently do performance reviews?
Does each person on the team have a plan for growth?
If you aren’t satisfied with the answers, the good news is: things CAN change. You’re perfectly poised to do something about it. It’s patient and persistent work, but it’s worth it.
Ready to get more intentional with your team culture? I’ve created a free downloadable workbook that will guide you. Click here to download Three Keys to Developing a Thriving Team.
As you build better culture, you will need better systems
Whether you’re a church that isn’t growing, has plateaued, or whether you wish your church was growing faster than it is, I’d love to help you break through. That’s why I created the Church Growth Masterclass.
The Church Growth Masterclass is everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.
Naturally, I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that.
But I believe you can position your church to grow.
You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people. That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.
In the Church Growth Masterclass I’ll show you:
- The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
- Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
- How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
- The 5 keys to your church better impacting millennials.
- What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change
- 5 essentials for church growth
- 5 disruptive church trends to watch—and how to respond
- How to increase church attendance by increasing engagement.
The Masterclass includes a complete set of videos that you can play with your team, board or staff, PDF workbooks that will help you tackle the issues you’re facing, and bonus materials that will help you navigate the most pressing issues facing churches that want to reach their cities today.
How’s your company culture?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!