Culture and the church go hand in hand.
Every church has a culture. Yours does. Mine does.
So, what is a church culture? Think of it this way: Mission is what you do. Vision is what you see. But church culture is how your church feels. It’s the atmosphere, vibe, or climate of your church experienced by members, staff, and visitors.
If the culture is healthy, amazing things happen.
- People love being there
- People grow
- Great leaders come and stay
- Your church becomes attractive to the community and more fully accomplishes its mission
Sadly, for many churches, the culture isn’t healthy.
Culture is invisible but determinative. You can’t see it, but it defines so much.
A bad culture will consistently undermine an amazing mission, vision, and strategy.
As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Think about it:
- Culture is the reason you love shopping in some stores and despise shopping in others.
- It’s why you love some airlines and pass on others.
- It’s why some families always have fun when they’re together and others can’t stand to be in the same room.
So, the question becomes: How do you create an amazing culture?
When I led a church, I worked hard on creating a better church culture over the years.
As I became healthier, our church became healthier.
What follows is a 5-step guide on how to create a healthy church culture that echoes throughout your organization, even if you’re starting with a bad culture.
Note: This article was updated and republished on February 24, 2023.
Step 1: Identify and Eliminate the Toxins
Church culture isn’t naturally healthy because people aren’t naturally healthy.
As a leader, one of your chief jobs is to figure out why your culture isn’t healthy and change that.
Look for the toxins that are making your culture unhealthy.
Conflict, selfishness, personal agendas, or even toxins like a lack of passion for the mission can be lethal in a church.
(If you want to drill down further, I outline six warning signs that your church culture is toxic in this post. And I outline 6 early warning signs that a person is toxic in this post).
You can’t eliminate what you don’t identify, so identify the things you want removed from your culture.
Step 2: Model the Change You Want to See
Here’s a sobering reality for all of us who lead: your church will only be as healthy as you are.
Expecting a church to be healthy when its leader isn’t is like expecting an athlete to run a marathon with a missing heart. It’s not possible.
Any conversation about church health starts in the mirror for a leader.