Our book group just read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and – as I do with everything from Cooking Light magazine to Tillich, I read through the lens of Church World.
Peter Drucker apparently once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, we can make all the strategic plans in the world, but if those plans mess with our organization’s culture, the plans will never work . . . unless we change the culture.
We need pastors who know how to change a congregation’s culture – albeit lovingly, pastorally, patiently, firmly. But it’s essential for a congregation’s future to make such changes as we move into a post-Christian season. Too few of our pastors know how to do this.
I love Brene Brown’s Ten Questions For Figuring Out An Organization’s Culture – again from Daring Greatly – and I have added common answers to her questions from churches I have known and loved.
Q1: What behaviors are rewarded? Punished? Rewarded: Singing tenor in the choir. Punished: Changing the menu for the long-established Annual Global Mission Dinner.
Q2: Where and how are people actually spending their resources (time, money, attention)? On soccer fields (for the kids) and golf courses (for the adults). At the office. In minivans and SUVs.
Q3: What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, ignored? Followed: Casual Fridays dress code. Enforced: No smoking. Ignored: Coffee cups in the sanctuary.
Q4: Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need? If they are under 35.
Q5: What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stands the cows back up? Sacred cow: The parlor. Suspected Tipsters: Members under age 40 with kids. Cow restorers: Church Ladies.
Q6: What stories are legend and what values do they convey? Remember when the pews were packed? But now we have the wrong pastor/choir director/organ/elders.
Q7: What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake? We sometimes eat them.
Q8: How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived? As naive and too Oprah-esque.
Q9: How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up? It’s the Presbytery’s fault.
Q10: What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)? Why is The Presbytery/the new pastor/the new music director telling us what to do? There was nothing wrong with the way we wanted to do it.
Every week of my life I visit congregations full of truly wonderful people who are faithful but fearful. They fear uncertainty. They see the world around them changing. But many of them love God and want to serve in the name of Jesus. And this is why I stay in the institutional church.
Many of my friends decry the institutional church and all the ridiculousness of it. But – in spite of all that is ridiculous – I know really great people who want to be the church for a new season. They just don’t know how. And it’s scary making the necessary shifts in an uncertain world. But about these things I am certain:
- There will always be a church. It just might not look like it has in the last century.
- Denominations will be altered in significant ways. But even non-denominational churches will have partnerships with other churches.
- Everybody will continue to crave community. Everybody wants to belong.
- Jesus is Lord.
Do you and/or your pastoral leaders know how to shift the culture? What would you need to make this shift?