Culture Creation

Creating the right culture is the most important task leaders can undertake to reach a broken, post-Christian society, and yet often we give culture creation very little mental effort.  In fact, because culture is largely unseen, we are mostly unaware of the cultural soil we have created in our churches, small groups, or ministries.

This explains why several churches may be trying to reach the same group with the same methods, but one just “feels” completely different than the other.  That intangible “feel” is the culture.

I became aware of this through Gabriella, a spiritually curious young woman who wrote to me about her past attempts of going to church:  

“I feel so much guilt and always feel like I just don’t belong.  So it was a very big step to walk into your church this past Sunday.  I have to say I was very welcomed by everyone, and I loved the service and teaching.  I just wanted to thank you and the staff for creating such a warm and loving environment for people to open up to even hear the message, knowing that whatever level they’re coming in at is okay—they’ll be loved for who they are!  I know with any organization that attitude comes from the top and is duplicated by the whole organization, which can be good or bad, but yours is GREAT!”

She had only been once!  Curious visitors pick up on culture in a church immediately, though it may be imperceptible to members.  Culture makes all the difference in the world in a post-Christian society.  This is why effective leadership must be synonymous with creating the right culture.  This is the glue that holds any organization together.  Culture creation forms the texture of relational life and community in a local church.

The outcome of an effective culture is an engaging BODY–a community of faith that God uses to transform individuals, neighborhoods, cities, and societies – the invisible God made visible through us. But it’s messy. How do you create culture?

  1. Leadership Mindset – How leaders think about themselves and the church creates the core from which the culture grows.  What picture do the leaders have in their heads of what Christ’s body looks and feels like, when we meet – in the lobby, in community, in the world?  How you think about Christ’s church will reflect how you teach and talk.  Are you living out the Way of Christ—are your unchurched friends becoming the church and the leaders of the church? Do you live out the values of a Biblically functioning community, loving one another?  Culture starts with how we think about ourselves and the church, and who it’s really for.
  2. Training & Values – How are you equipping your leaders to live out your values? Your front line leaders are the ones who most shape the culture, even more than what is said or done up front.
  3. Visionary Story-telling – What gets communicated over and over? What stories get told to reinforce what the church is about?  How are people supposed to act? Often you have to tell them who you are through the stories you tell, before they start becoming the church.
  4. Organization – If the church is an organism, the Body of Christ, it must function in a coordinated way.  Lack of organization hinders the Body from expressing itself in a diversity of unified parts.  Organization that’s too rigid doesn’t allow the flexibility the Body needs to fully express itself. Organization helps us live out the cultural values we claim to hold dear.  If we can’t help everyone get involved as the Body, the culture suffers.

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