As a student of church leadership, I am often researching best-practices in the business world. I find that much of their learning and implementation is very relevant to our church organizations. And yes, the church world can also inform and influence the business world.
Today’s study is centered around an insightful article titled How Corporate Culture Can Make (or Break) Your Organization written by Mark McClain for Forbes. McClain shares this understanding of organizational culture, “. Ultimately, it is the beliefs and behaviors that permeate your organization that are the essence of culture.” When working with church staff and leaders, it doesn’t take long to experience the reality of their culture. This is true whether or not they have intentionally created specific cultural beliefs and behaviors.
McClain then shares what he believes underpins our organizational cultures: values. He writes, “… it’s important to recognize that culture begins -- and can also end -- with your values. These values are the foundation for the way your company operates both internally and externally. First, you must determine what your company’s values are (or should be). Then you have to use those values to evaluate each and every decision you make, including the employees you hire and the leaders you choose to represent them.”
Staffing is one key area that must be guided by your organizational culture and core values. Southwest Airlines, widely recognized for their value-laden corporate culture, believes strongly in this best practice. McClain notes, “Southwest Airlines hires employees based on the values of ‘a warrior spirit, a servant’s heart and a fun-luving [sic] attitude.’ If employees don’t meet these requirements, they won’t be a good fit for the company. When you set clear expectations around values for employees, it’s easy to make hires that meet those expectations and reinforce your corporate culture.” Without this attention to culture, church staff can quickly degenerate into silos and individual contributors with no expectation of exhibiting a common church culture and values. If this condition exists, the church mission will be unclear and implemented in a haphazard manner at best.
When guiding church leaders as they develop their strategic plans, The Center for Parish Leadership includes a significant review of existing core values. If necessary, we help leaders develop new or additional values that describe How they fulfill their mission. Once these core values are defined, they must be regularly communicated to staff, leaders and members as the basis for planning, implementation and evaluation of all ministry efforts and outcomes. As noted by McClain, these core values must be evident in the everyday culture of the church.
For another view on this important topic, read the article How Leaders Create Culture Every Day by Ryan Stigile in Leading Ideas e-zine. Stigile writes, “Leaders are culture creators, ...Their words, actions, and decisions reinforce community values. When the culture of an organization conforms to its values, others can be empowered to lead with assurance that everyone is moving forward together in the same direction.”
The Center for Parish Leadership can provide relevant consulting and training for your staff and leaders that is responsive to identifying and supporting your church culture. Please contact us to explore how we can support you on this journey.
The Center for Parish Leadership