We may teach our people to invite their unchurched friends to church, but one of the biggest obstacles in the way of them actually inviting could be the culture of our church. We must ask ourselves, "Is our culture conducive to outsiders?"
If our behaviors reflect we value insiders over outsiders, then those behavior will override our vision to reach the lost. Our behaviors determine our culture, and culture trumps vision every time. Culture is more powerful than the mission statement. It is more important than our strategy. Culture is our heart. It tells the world what we most value.
I believe culture can be broken down into two categories - tangible and intangible behaviors. Let me explain.
The Tangibles include:
- The Behaviors. What gets done carries more weight than what is said. These are your behaviors 1-on-1, in teams and in large groups. As leaders we must intentionally teach what is acceptable behavior . This is a big part of guarding our culture!
- The Dress Code. Whether we like it or not, our society does judge the book by it's cover. Your dress code will effect who is attracted to you and your church. So dress on purpose, for those you are trying to reach, rather than those you are trying to keep.
- The look of the facility. Again, the cover of the book is important. Your decor, the upkeep and cleanliness of your facilities plays a major role in who you are reaching. Notice the difference between the decor of a Starbucks and that of Tim Hortons. Now compare the demographics of each. These two companies both serve coffee but they serve it to a vastly different clientele. Both companies are very conscious of the look of their facilities and how it relates to their culture.
- The symbols. Your symbols include how time is spent, how money is allocated, how titles and status symbols are handed out, who gets promoted and who gets favored, as well as the messages on the walls of your facilities.
- The Systems. Your systems are determined by what gets measured, what gets reported on, your structures, budgets and the goals you set.
The Intangibles include: (these are more difficult to read but they give a better read on your churches true personality)
- The values (stated and unstated) Your language matters. Bill Hybels said, “Axioms bolster a culture and steady it against the winds of change.” Carefully chosen phrases can make strategic plans sound like rally cries. Therefore, be very strategic with the language you use. Ex. we use the slogan "No Perfect People Allowed" to bolster our passion to be accepting of everyone.
- The beliefs and assumptions. Jim Collins said, “You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts.” It is so easy to make decisions as a leader 'by feel.' Be careful about doing that! Our feelings don't often reflect the truth. We must constantly evaluate our organization and make decisions only after we have received the brutal facts, not just when it 'feels right.'
- How success is celebrated. What’s your win? How do you celebrate your wins? What you celebrate gets repeated. So, what are you celebrating?
- How problems are addressed. Which problems are addressed and which problems are tolerated? What you tolerate will become a repeated behavior and will become the new standard.
Your behaviors, both tangible and intangible, must align with your vision. If your church has a heart to reach the unchurched, yet your corporate behaviors reflect otherwise, your behaviors will trump your intentions every time. Is your culture allowing your people to invite the unchurched?