Shaping culture

By Ken Behr

Organizational culture is extremely important. One of the growth lids most organizations hit is when their organizational culture is contrary to their organizational goals. If your organizational goal is to reward great employees, but your organizational culture doesn’t include discussing, measuring and quantifying employee performance, then there is a problem.

Leaders lead the culture!

Church leaders, like the leaders in all organizations, are responsible for shaping the culture of the organization. Just as the actual culture of an organization is not easy to define, so too any disconnect between what is intended and what is perceived may be difficult to quantify.

In the church, some of the key positive culture factors are integrity, responsibility, servant-leadership, competency, biblical literacy, authenticity and tenacity. Your organization may have identified similar cultural values or statements that get to the heart of your church’s goals. Likely some may be grouped under the words above, others may be a little more specific to your vision for your organization.

Sometimes it’s difficult to quantify.

While it may be difficult to determine if all the employees and members of the church are displaying and rallying around the stated cultural values, it may be easier to spot when the leader is marching to a slightly different beat.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and perhaps ask others that you have given permission to speak into your leadership.

  • How have I demonstrated a respect and insistence on integrity in all matters?  An integrity test is often called a ‘red-face’ test. It includes both internal and external compliance with a higher calling, a higher standard.
  • Do I give people responsibility or do I often pull it back when I want to make a different decision?  Am I often accused of micromanaging despite my insistence on letting leaders lead?
  • Am I a servant-leader at heart? Am I known to be the one that ‘chips-in’ and ‘picks-up’ or do I equate being a leader with being ‘up-front’?
  • Do I follow the rules or, as one of the rule-makers, am I likely the exception? Budgets, internal processes and systems limitations should also apply to leaders, not just everyone else.
  • Do I respect other people’s time? Or am I late for meetings or do I change agendas at the last minute?  Patrick Lencioni said in his book “Death by Meeting” that bad meetings are a reflection of bad leaders. What I have done to make meetings better?
  • Am I tenacious? Do I stick to a stated multi-year plan despite setbacks and challenges?  It’s often easier to teach on the parable of the persistent widow than personally lose heart and camouflage our frustration with new or modified ministry plans.

What is described is more important than what is prescribed.

Many of the above may sound a little simplistic. However, when we examine our own behavior in light of the desired culture, we often find troubling disconnects. While it is not the practice in many churches, senior leaders – including executive and senior staff pastors – need to critically examine their behavior and their leadership style. Culture starts at the top, but in most cases what you describe with your behavior is more important than what you prescribe.

Become a fan of self-examination and reflection. King David was described as a “man after God’s own heart” and while certainly not perfect, he nevertheless was willing to say, “Test me, Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind.” (Psalm 26:2)

Ken Behr is an executive pastor at Christ Fellowship, Palm Beach Gardens, FL.


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