Our mission as a church is too great to leave culture to chance. We have to design a culture that will enable us to fulfill our mission and vision. What does this culture look like and how do we go about creating it?
Last week, we discussed 5 of our 10 Culture Codes here at MyVictory Church. The fives codes were:
- We lead with Vision.
- We mess with the Methods.
- We need to Know.
- We’re all In.
- We never waste a Crisis.
In my leadership, I discovered that “culture is more powerful than vision, mission, or strategy.” I think it was a few years into my ministry that I made an observation that forever changed my thinking when it comes to vision and culture. I have made it a habit to attend mega conferences ever since I have pastored. And in the beginning, I would go to a conference and catch an idea or hear a teaching that would blow me away and I would come back to my church fired up about that idea. I thought that if I implemented it into my setting, it would be the spark that would cause my church to grow just like it did for the person who taught it.
So, I would listen to Rick Warren teach about his purpose driven church concept, or Bill Hybels teach his seeker sensitive concept, or Ralph Neighbours teach the G-12 small groups model. I came back passionate about the idea and would try to implement it into my church, expecting the same results. However, none of it worked and that frustrated me to no end. Why wouldn’t it work?
The one day, I was excitedly teaching my leadership team the next new thing we were going to implement and one of my leaders spoke up and said, “This is great Pastor Kelly, but how long will we stick with this vision this time?” I was mad, to say the least. But, as I thought about it, I realized she was right. I was “tossed to and fro by every wind of vision” as a leader and none of it was working.
That is when I investigated and discovered the concept of culture and the fact that culture was more important than vision. There wasn’t anything wrong with any of the visions I had tried to implement, but the reason none of them worked was because I was trying to force someone else’s vision into my culture, and the two didn’t match. If I wanted to implement a vision, I first had to design a culture that would be that would be conducive to the vision first. And that is what we started to do, and what we have done in Lethbridge. The results have proven themselves.
Each of the five codes from last week were followed by a broader statement, and that statement always began with “We guard our heart”. Culture is the “heart” of the organization. It’s the life source that makes everything else work. King Solomon said, “Above all else (in other words, this is the most important Proverb of all), guard your heart for out of it flows the issues of life.” The word “issues” can be translated as “boundaries” or a fence line on a property. So, when it comes to designing our culture, we must guard our culture for it defines the breadth of the vision we can take on in our organization.
Culture Code: We Keep it Simple
We guard our hearts against over-complexity and busyness.
Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.” This code is based on Luke 9:1-4 where Jesus sent out the 12 disciples. It is so easy to make things complex, but it takes a stroke of genius to keep things simple. The tendency for all of us leaders is to just add to our vision or programs. When a new idea comes along, we just simply add it to what we are already doing. And as an organization grows, the more we add and the more complex we get. But simplicity is often what caused the growth in the first place and complexity will stunt growth.
The key to growth is to keep people moving to higher levels of commitment. When we become too complex, we become confusing and people aren’t sure what to do next and our growth is stunted. Look at some of the best companies in the world. For example, Google, who has only 236 words on the front page of the website, or Apple, who have been masters of making complex technology easy to use. These companies are so successful, in my opinion, because of their simplicity. Their customers know how to take the next step and so people gravitate to their products. The church needs to be the same way. God gave us a simple plan for salvation and to begin a relationship with Him, let’s not make it more complicated for people to follow Him. Let’s keep it simple.
Culture Code: We Make it Better
We guard our hearts against an attitude of “it’s good enough”.
This code references to the account of the wicked servant in Matthew 25. The servant buried his talent and did’t work to produce more. He was called wicked and lazy by his master. This is alarming! The servant didn’t lose it, he simply settled and thought that was good enough. But God wants us to push much further than that. He is a God of excellence and He expects us to push on towards excellence as well. Excellence is about taking what we have and making it better. We don’t ever want to settle on “it’s good enough”. That’s a swear word around our church. We want to make everything better. And to always be looking at everything we are doing and asking ourselves, “How can we make it better?”.
Culture Code: We Replace Ourselves
We guard our hearts against selfish ambition.
This code is about having someone with you whenever you are doing your job, whether as a staff member or volunteer. We don’t ever want to become so territorial and controlling that we are the only ones who could ever do what we do. We are all replaceable, and someone will eventually be doing what we are doing, so we might as well be I constant training mode, equipping someone to do what we do. If they become fully trained and are ready to take our position, we could get promoted or, we could branch out and duplicate our department or job elsewhere. This is how we plant church and campuses; we are constantly training others. And,
if we do it properly, we should never be left with gaping holes in our organization because someone is always ready to step up to a vacant position should it occur.
Studying the Codes
When studying our codes, I would recommend looking them over and digging deeper than just the statements. Discover why we think these statements are so important in our organization and what these statements would have the power to do if we behaved according to them. Then, I would encourage each leader to have a discussion with their leadership team to talk about what behaviours and values are important to them. Take the time to allow the team to craft their own culture codes because when they craft their own, they will own them, guard them, and teach them.
Culture is about what behaviours happen internally within an organization, but those behaviours then effect how everything happens externally. Our vision keeps us externally focused, and our culture enables us to do so. For example, we want to make things better because we believe excellence attracts people. We keep things simple so that outsiders will have an easier time getting connected to Jesus and His church. This allows us to make disciples. In other words, this behaviour enables us to fulfill our mission. Being complicated would make it difficult to fulfill our mission – so again, the culture makes it possible for the mission, vision, and strategy to work. They go hand in hand.
Culture Code: We Make Each Other Look Good
We guard our hearts against gossip and being publicly critical.
This code is of vital importance. Based on 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Gossip is deadly in any organization, church, or business and trust plays a major part in this code.
We wanted to create an environment that was void of politics and unhealthy competition. We didn’t want to be a place where people were scrapping to get positions and titles or making each other look bad so they can look good themselves. We wanted a place that was full of love and selflessness. A place where we would champion one another and would avoid gossip and other destructive behaviours that are purposed to tear others down. We wanted to be public raving fans of one another, but at the same time honest private critics when it is needed. Because we want to make things better, sometimes we need to challenge the process and sometimes that means confronting the people involved in that process. We didn’t want to be void of conflict, because conflict helps move things forward sometimes.
So, in this statement, we made a decision that we would make each other look good by being public raving fans of one another, and honest private critics when necessary. We believe that public loyalty creates private leverage. That means that when we make each other look good, it creates an atmosphere of trust and safety that allows us to be more honest with one another. This is healthy in every sense for an organization.Public loyalty creates private leverage. #leadership Click To Tweet
Culture Code: We Guard our Culture
We guard our hearts against division and hypocrisy.
We so value these behaviours that we have all chosen to play a role in enforcing them with one another. This is partly a “we are all in” concept, except it is focused on our culture. We wanted each leader to take an active role when they witness a contrary behaviour happening in the church, for instance, if someone tries to gossip to them, they can stop them right away by simply stating “remember, we make each other look good.” Or if someone says in a creative meeting, “Oh, it’s good enough”, everyone can speak up and say “we should dig in a little further because we make it better.”
Because these culture codes are simple and memorable, it is easier to guard them and I see it happening all of the time. Our staff and volunteers do a great job of enforcing these behaviours with one another. I’d recommend that each lead pastor take the time to define the behaviours they want their teams to enforce. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you take the time to work these through with your team.
Culture and the Great Commission
It is imperative that we keep everything central to the great commission. I like studying the Word and in particular, how Jesus and the early church leaders led. They are inspiring. I am also surrounded by a great team that enforces these cultural behaviours with me, as well as each other. I have been caught a number of times by members of our team, violating one or more of these behaviours and because they are so clear, they gently coach me back on track. I love it! It is so easy for each of us to drift into bad habits, bad thinking, and bad behaviours. The mission is too great to leave culture to chance. We have to design the culture that will enable us to fulfill our mission and vision. Why? Because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.
If you’re listening and would like a copy of our culture codes, you can download the complete set here.
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