There are many things written on creating healthy organizational cultures. This is a good thing. Organizational health is vital to success. When an organization is healthy internally, it breeds success in its mission externally.
This is also true of a local church. A church is an organism and an organization. It has a mission. It must organize people around that mission. Decisions are made for the mission’s accomplishment. A church is a very different kind of organization because its bottom-line is not dollars or shareholders, but salvations, spiritual fruit, and glorifying God. Nevertheless, if we believe those things matter—and they do—we must do everything to create healthy churches so we can achieve the outcomes we desire.
Shaping organizational culture happens in many ways. We shape culture by the things we say. We cast clear and compelling vision. We lay out a strategy for how to accomplish the vision. We communicate values and behaviors we want to instill. We celebrate victories and highlight stories. These are all ways we can shape organizational culture.
We also shape and protect organizational culture by things we not allow to be said. By communicating what is off-limits or not tolerated, we shape the culture. By correcting in private, and reinforcing in public, we shape the kind of culture we believe helps execute our purpose.
At The Journey Church, where I pastor, I strive to shape and protect our culture. Here are three types of things I do not allowed to be said without correction. I stay on the lookout for these three things:
1. Deflecting Personal Responsibility
We always have two choices in taking responsibility. We can blame others or we can look at ourselves. The most successful people and places are those who own their actions and the results. A few examples can help explain. If an employee was unable to achieve a task or goal because they were waiting on someone else to send them something needed to achieve it, but never followed-up with that person or sought an alternative plan, then they can only blame themselves. Ultimately, the employee, not anyone else, was responsible for achieving the task or goal they had. Instead of deflecting, they own it.
A second example is a team example. Periodically I will hear someone say, “Our church doesn’t ________.” You can fill the blank in with “serve,” “give,” “sing,” “invite,” “care,” whatever. The statement deflects responsibility. It makes the issue a problem with our people, instead of a problem with the leader. Instead, the leader should say, “We haven’t led our church to _________.” This creates personal responsibility. Only when personal responsibility is taken will actions that bring success follow. You shape the culture by eliminating the deflecting of responsibility.
2. Deflating People’s Ideas
Every meeting has one person in it who wants to be the naysayer. They like to believe they are only playing “Devil’s Advocate.” It is more true than they realize. People who are quick to point out the flaws in an idea kill the idea before it has a chance to get off the ground. There are negatives and downsides in every idea, but leaders find ways to minimize and eliminate those. Ideas will never have a chance to grow and develop if the Idea Killer pounces too fast.
There is certainly a time for picking an idea apart, but not before the idea can develop. Don’t let people who deflate ideas dominate a meeting or shut down creativity. Let everyone know that only ways to enhance the idea are allowed for the time being. The moment someone signals why the idea will not work, remind them you are not working on that. Tell them it is only a time for discussing how the idea can work.
3. Degrading Other Leaders
Bad-mouthing other leaders should never be tolerated. If leaders publicly criticize other leaders, it will permeate the culture of the organization. If a leader publicly degrades another leader, he should not be surprised if he is not the subject of such discussion in the future. Whether a church or a business, a leader must seek to minimize and eliminate leaders talking badly or in less than flattering ways about other leaders.
I recently had to talk to a leader about this. The individual did not even recognize they were doing it. In the moment it was happening, I came to the defense of the leader being degraded and sought to minimize the loss of their leadership credibility. In private, I asked the leader who had been degrading the other leader not to do what had been done and to guard against it in the future. Unknowingly, this leader had painted another leader in a bad light. Any time I hear a leader minimize another leader I seek to offset it in the moment by defending or countering the statement being made and speak privately with the individual afterwards to correct them and lay an expectation of repentance in that area.
Those are three types of conversations you must not allow to take place in your church. They affect the health and culture of the organization negatively. Conversely, if you fight to eliminate them, you will lead the organization towards accomplishing the vision and mission.