A crucial task for leaders is to create an organization’s culture. This important responsibility is often eclipsed by work that garners more recognition and demands that feel more urgent, like running programs, raising funds or managing the everyday needs of the organization. However, the expression “culture eats strategy for lunch” reflects a reality that impacts leaders at every level, especially new leaders.
Andy Crouch defines culture as “what we make of the world.” When leaders create organizational culture, they set the standards for how members of the organization behave, what they do and how they measure success. For example, churches often think of themselves as “friendly.” But how does a church actually develop a culture of authentic hospitality?
When leading organizational change, it’s particularly important to reset expectations for how people behave and find ways to reinforce desired behaviors. The vision may be clear and compelling, but if leaders do not align individual and organizational behaviors with the strategic direction, the organization will tread water at best.
In Scripture, we can see the connection between behavior and culture when we reflect on the Apostle Paul’s comments in Romans, 1 Corinthians and Philippians. He cast a transformative vision for a Christ-centered culture by advocating for new ways of behaving within the Christian community.
To create culture in congregations, leaders must discern ways to transform what people do. What behaviors emerge when conflict arises? How do people respond when new members join the congregation? In what specific ways does the congregation support children and young adults? Notwithstanding the fact that leaders must address these issues in love and with humility, the task of leadership is to notice and name opportunities for congregants to put new behaviors into practice, so that over time, the community cultivates a culture that reflects the life of Christ.
By L. Roger Owens
By L. Gregory Jones
By Ryan Stigile
Before you go…
Years ago, I led a congregation through a stewardship campaign. We discerned a theme for the project, and three years later, we celebrated a financially successful campaign. More than a decade later, I now realize that the money was only a small part of what God changed at the church. Emphasizing mission and generosity for three years changed the culture, and based on what the church continues to do, the impact is ongoing.
We will know that culture is changing when people intentionally adjust their actions to shift into alignment with God’s vision and mission. This is never easy, but creating culture is the work we are called to do as leaders. What culture are you creating?
You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at email@example.com. Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity