Is your church declining? Are you losing members? Is your staff discouraged? Leaders frustrated?
Contrary to what you may think, the reason for your decline isn’t bad preaching; a number of people not giving; the fault of an elder; or because of a moral failure.
Bad preaching, congregants not giving, difficult elders, and even moral failures are a symptom of a deeper issue: unhealthy culture.
It’s that simple…Healthy Churches grow. Unhealthy churches decline.
It’s all about Church Culture!
Not convinced? Ok.
Let’s say that your preaching is bad, really bad.
Your spouse doesn’t want to hear you.
If you were within a healthy church culture, someone would tell you or at least share some suggestions for becoming a better preacher.
But if you are in an unhealthy culture, everyone will tell you how great you did.
One more example…
Let’s say that an Elder had a moral failure.
In a healthy church culture, the congregation trusts the senior leadership. Healthy churches usually handle the situation with a measure of transparency. Transparency disempowers gossip. Yes, the congregation may be hurt, but transparency begins the healing process.
In contrast, an unhealthy culture will either over communicate (The congregation will hear details that are unnecessary) or they won’t hear anything (The Senior Pastor may say that God has lead the Elder to another church.). The situation is swept under the rug. This leads to distrust.
A church’s culture is the most powerful force for growth or decline.
Culture follows behavior and perpetuates the behavior. It shapes how we act and react.
What is culture?
The concept of culture is a bit abstract. It’s not tangible.
Here is how I would define culture:
- Culture is the way your church does things…
- Culture is how we do things!
- It’s how the Pastor makes decisions, how the leaders execute their decisions.
- It’s the why behind the behavior in a church. Culture is why we do certain things and why we don’t do other things.
According to dictionary.com,
“culture is defined as the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. For pastors, culture encompasses the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a church.”
Culture is important because it trumps vision.
According to Samuel R. Chand (Author of Cracking Your Churches Culture),
“If good steak is the vision, then the plate on which it is served is the culture. If the plate is dirty, then the steak (vision) is devalued.”
Is your culture toxic?
So, how do you know if your culture is toxic?
Let me give you 10 indicators of a toxic church culture.
(It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a list of indicators that are pretty frequent in toxic cultures.)
Here are the 10 indicators that your church culture maybe toxic:
- Laughter is rare. Ministry is a burden and not a blessing.
- The Pastor makes all of the decisions. No one else can lead.
- Church staff and volunteers are demotivated or burnt out.
- Senior leaders care more about tasks than people.
- Issues are ignored or swept under the rug.
- No unity or family atmosphere among key leaders.
- Senior leaders are disconnected and unaware of church issues.
- No clear communication.
- Policies and systems are rarely followed.
- Staff and volunteers are experiencing problems with their personal health.
Is there hope?
Of course. Nothing is impossible for God.
But helping a church’s culture transition from toxic to healthy takes time– like months– and the key to going from toxic to healthy is the behavior of the Senior Pastor.
Church leaders take their cues from the Senior Pastor. If you are ready to go from toxic to healthy then look out for next week’s blog where I’ll share 7 characteristics of a healthy church.
If you’d like to discover whether your church is toxic, select 5 staff members (a superior, a peer and a subordinate) and ask the following questions and require honest answers (or ask them anonymously):
- Do you feel valued?
- How are you doing spiritually?
- Are you exhausted? Have you been experiencing any health issues?
If the answers to these questions are consistently negative, then you definitely have a toxic culture. But fear not, next week I’ll share with you 7 characteristics of a healthy church and 3 ways to remedy a toxic culture.