5 Tips For Defining Your Church Staff Culture


Every church or business has a culture. It may not be spoken of often, but it exists, thriving under the surface of your day-to-day operations. In today’s culture, it is becoming increasingly important to define your the culture or core values. Whether you’re a church just starting out, or an established church searching for the next season of growth, defining and redefining your culture is a surprisingly powerful key to the health of both your staff and congregation overall.

A ministry leader I once served under told our team that every organization has a set of values. These are what you can see when you enter the building of an organization. If you don’t define your values and actively work towards them, you won't be without culture; however, you’ll probably have an accidental and likely-unhealthy culture, which is something no one ever intends on or wants for their church. Below are a few things to consider as you define (or redefine) and work towards healthy core values for your church.

1. Who helps you make this decision?

The first step in the process of defining your core values and culture is to decide who will help you define who you are as an organization. This may look like a mentor, a board of elders, or a person on your staff. ‘All of the above’ is also a very appropriate answer in this case! The key is to find a small but large enough group of people. If there are too many voices, you won’t be able to accomplish anything; if there are too few, you'll be limiting yourself on the scope of vision you’re able to have. Varying personality types and ministry gifts are also helpful strategies when building your vision-defining team.

2. Start simple.

Start with the simplest questions, even if it feels unnecessary. Include things like: for what purpose did your church start? What do you want (or what does) to define you and your church? What are your ministry goals? What do you want to be known for as a church and as a workplace? Were there key verses that spoke to you initially that led you to take action, which led to where you are now? Where do you want to be in five years?

All of these things are great places to start, and will help you as you begin defining what sets you apart as a body of people. Even if you are in a season of redefining an established organization, these are still great questions to ask. However, make sure to tailor them more for what you want to see in your future and less for who you are now.

3. What’s in your way?

The next, more difficult question to ask is what stands in the way of achieving your newly-minted core values. This is a question that must lead to action, which can admittedly be very difficult. The answer may be something simple or it may be something much more complex, like a ministry or a staff member. This is your opportunity to get the right people in the right positions of your organization and to remove the wrong people from your staff. These may not even be those we would typically consider ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ employees. 

From my first day of work at Vanderbloemen, I have consistently heard that what/who got you here won’t necessarily get you there.

Sometimes difficult staffing decisions must be made for the long-term growth of your church.Tweet: Sometimes difficult staffing decisions must be made for the long-term growth of your church. http://bit.ly/1OV7GPu via @VanderbloemenSG

Conversely, there are probably also people and ministries that are exactly right for your organization: people who help push your culture and offer growth in the same direction. Treasure these people. Push them to grow and be better. Give them responsibilities in the vein of training others and protecting and pushing the core values to the rest of the staff. This seems like a small job, but it’s actually one of the most important positions you can give a staff member. 

4. Create a system for maintaining your culture/core values.

Other than neglecting to define your values, the biggest mistake you can make is to assume that once you’ve defined them, they will be maintained on their own.

You must be intentional about protecting your values and communicating them across your church staff."Tweet:

This begins in your hiring process – don’t hire people who won’t fit the culture you’re trying to achieve, regardless of their talent, promise, or skill set. Add your values to your employee staff goals and review process so your people know it’s an important component of their job. Appoint someone on your staff to be responsible for driving culture and keeping it fresh in everyone’s mind. At Vanderbloemen, we have a lady who we’ve lovingly nicknamed “Culture Queen” who sends out weekly culture inspiration.

Most important of all, empower your ministry leaders to carry out the vision in order to make it happen on the front lines of your church’s ministries. Be sure you are making time to meet with your ministry leaders to ensure this is happening. To keep accountability, also make sure you are making time to meet with the team of people who helped you define your goals and culture from the beginning.

5. Start.

The most difficult part of taking on something like this is the action step. It often seems like such a steep hill to climb. And you’re right – you can’t do it all at once, and your organization will certainly not change overnight. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t or are too busy to spark change and improvement; you just have to start. Begin slowly working through these steps, and you’ll be surprised at how easily things fall into place.

What steps have you taken to identify your organization’s core values? If you already have them, what steps do you take to ensure their protection?

Guide to creating and implementing your church staff's core values