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Why The Culture Conversation Isn’t Going Away And 6 Reasons You Need to Pay Attention to It

This post is by Jenni Catron. Jenni is Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group and is a member of my  Speaking Team. You can book Jenni to consult with your team or speak at your next event here.

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.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

How’s your company culture? 

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

5 Comments

  1. Louis Karman on November 6, 2019 at 11:09 am

    What to do when Church is full of Seniors who are set in their ways & hardly any youth or young adults. The Pastor just keeps visiting members who quit coming.
    Very Concerned;
    Lou Karman

  2. Mark Gehrke on November 6, 2019 at 11:06 am

    I love your posts. I pass them on to my leaders daily. I see myself as a life long learner until my last breath. However, I must respectfully disagree with your comment that “Millienials and Gen Z, unlike their predecessors, are willing to sacrifice income and some luxuries to be a part of something with meaning.” In my recent experience I have heard directly from younger pastor’s that they need to work less hours and more pay as long as they get their job done. I had an associate take a new call he told me because he would only have to work one evening a week. He told others that I worked him to hard even when I was willing to take things off his plate. He too thought that he deserved a raise so that his wife could go back to school. More often than not I feel entitlement rules. Not willing to make the long haul investment in earning respect and trust. I’m sure it’s not all, it is not right to generalize in either direction. But in the past 4 years I can point to at least 5 of 6 that do not model sacrifice of income and luxuries. As a predecessor pastor I believe that ministry is never done and ministry is not a 9 to 5 job. In fact, it’s a calling not a job.

  3. Gary on November 6, 2019 at 10:24 am

    I worked in “church world” for a couple of years after retiring from my career job. First in a “mainstream” church that was hobbled by the matriarch of a “legacy family” (who was also a prominent donor) who insisted all decisions go through her, then at a campus of a “mega” church that had no clear lines of authority when it came to personnel guidelines, etc. Both experiences were, shall we say, less than stellar. I was recruited into both positions and accepted the invitations only to further the mission, not because of any financial need or want. After resigning from the second position I established a personal policy that is necessary, but that I despise. That is; “I will never again be a paid staff member of a church. Never.” I love the role of the local church and do serve regularly in one, but the culture I experienced in those two employment opportunities was so bad it caused me to run away and not look back.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 6, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      Gary,

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. I hope our content can change this for many churches.

  4. Jeannie on November 6, 2019 at 9:10 am

    JeannieB … One of the most evident of all you’ve mentioned is how no church steps up to the plate to align with The Red Cross, First Responders, community volunteers, etc. to open doors to victims of mass flooding and other “natural” occurrences.

    And yet Daystar continues from day to day showcasing “christians” who primarily act like 1950’s used car salesmen or modern-day politicians with the same old worn-out “send your gifts …” etc.

    Boom! Something happens and all I hear are crickets. With all the information peddling going on (today, more than ever) in the face of abject poverty, homelessness , income inequality, bias against females, racism, and prisons filling up, one would think “the church” would be visible–and I’m not talking about Paula White.

    What we have today is barely indistinguishable from anything else Hollywood or seedy nightclubs put on the front page. I’m “done” with the business of “church.” Actually have had more kindness from atheists down through the years. And that’s a sad commentary on Paul’s idea of the church at Ephesus IMHO.

    We’re so Heaven bound, it doth appear, that in far too many instances we are indivudally and collectively no Earthly good!

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