Home > Church, Culture, Leadership > How to Establish a Culture that is Consistent with Your Vision

How to Establish a Culture that is Consistent with Your Vision

For as long as I can remember vision has been the primary topic of many leadership discussions.  It has long understood said that it’s the leader’s responsibility to get his people from “here” to “there.” Vision is the leaders ability to show people where to go, while inspiring them to get there.

In recent years, however, culture has become the new buzzword in leadership, and for good reason. Leaders from various arenas are realizing that culture will eat vision alive.  Or as Leonce Crump, Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta says, “culture is what most of the people do most of the time.”

It does not matter how compelling your vision statement.  If the people in your church aren’t carrying that vision through the actions of their daily lives, then you will never see that vision realized. For a vision to have an effect it must be accompanied by a culture that is consistent with that vision. Your vision must be something that most of the people in your church are working toward most of the time.

At Living Hope our vision is simply to glorify God by making disciples and planting churches. In other words, we want to see God made famous in the lives of people who are learning to believe in and obey Jesus through intentional relationships. This vision, as simple and straightforward as it is, does us no good if our members are not actively making it a reality. Our vision must become our culture.

Image via meetville.com

Image via meetville.com

The Five Building Blocks of Culture

The following five principles have helped us take great strides in developing a discipleship culture in our church.  We’re not doing these things perfectly, but as we consistently practice them we are, by God’s grace, seeing some decent progress.

1. Establish Clarity. Culture begins with clarity. If you want everyone in your church or ministry on the same page, heading in the same direction, then they need to know exactly where you’re taking them and why.  Paint a crystal clear picture of your end goal.  What specifically are you going for? For us, this means clearly defining what it means to be a disciple and identifying a clear process of making disciples.

2. Create Alignment. One of the quickest ways to sabotage your culture is to give people who are not aligned with your values and processes the opportunity to lead. If you want a culture that is consistent with your clearly defined objectives, then you must be intentional to guard the gate of leadership.

Do not, under any circumstances, let anyone into a place of leadership who does not clearly embody the goals and strategies you’ve established. At Living Hope, we create alignment through an apprentice development process that filters out anyone who is not aligned with who we are and where we’re going.

3. Communicate Consistently. Clarity and alignment are not enough to get your entire church, ministry or organization on board. Your people must constantly hear about your vision, values, strategy and processes until they can recite them in their sleep. Put simply, what gets repeated gets done.

At Living Hope, we accomplish this by dripping the big ideas of the gospel and discipleship through every means of communication we can.  We talk about them in sermons, in small groups, in emails, in one-to-one discipleship, in announcements and in leadership team meetings.  We do everything we can to keep sound doctrine, clear objectives and simple processes on the forefront of people’s minds.

4. Give People Experience. One of the reasons that culture doesn’t get established is because the leaders are too quick to do the work and not quick enough to give church members the experience of doing the work. It’s not enough for people to hear about your objectives and processes, they must experience them for themselves.

For us, this means practicing the buddy system.  If a current leader has a meeting to attend, a person to meet up with or a task to accomplish he is encouraged to bring an inexperienced leader with him.  This allows the current leader to get the potential leader experience, to coach him up and to thoroughly explain what we do and why.

5. Reinforce Right Behavior. There’s something powerful about celebrating your beliefs, values and processes that catalyzes culture development. On a large scale, the things that get celebrated get repeated.  Publicly celebrate the people, events and opportunities that embody the culture you’re wanting to build. This is because, as Erwin McManus, Pastor of MOSAIC in L. A. says, “whoever tells the best story shapes the culture.” Make sure the things you celebrate tell the best story of who you want your people to become.

Discipleship is one of our biggest values at Living Hope.  It typically takes place in small groups.  We reinforce our culture by publicly celebrating when someone steps into the apprentice development process, when new small groups start up and when people are added to the church through a discipleship relationship with one of our members.  This let’s everyone know that it’s important to us.

The best way to realize your vision is to make it become your culture.  These five concepts will help you take strides in establishing a healthy culture in your church or organization today. Give it a try.

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  1. December 1, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    Wise words. Thanks for sharing.

  2. December 1, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    I really like the Create Alignment point. Sometimes we are so desperate for people to take part and help with all the things which need to be done that we simply don’t make sure they believe correctly…false teacher, creeping in unawares…right?

    • December 2, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      Not only that, but people become a bottleneck to discipleship if they keep trying to reinvent the processes that you’ve already established.

      • December 2, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        It may be easier where I come from. We are just a small country church and frankly its’ easier for us to work thing out I think. Or course, there are people who never want to do things different…but that’s ok. We usually work it out with the help of the Holy Spirit. We just don’t have big church issues I guess.

      • December 10, 2014 at 8:20 AM

        The larger the church the harder it is to get and keep everyone on board for sure. What are some things you’ve learned about culture in your church?

  3. December 2, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Well thought and well said.

  4. December 10, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    Trevor

    It’s funny you should ask that. My preacher and I were just talking about a situation the other day. My church is quite old..been around over 150 years. Some of the folks have literally been there approaching 75-80 years. At the same time, we have younger families coming in who don’t necessarily like the status quo. That creates a high potential for conflict. Yet, we seem to be doing okay working through these issues for the most part.

    In this case, the answer seemed to be understanding why the older folks were motivated to tend to resist change. The answer, really, was simply: nobody wants to be shoved to the side. The answer, also simple; don’t push them aside! The younger folks have tended to still be proponents for change ( we are a little countyy Baptist church, so change here is probably not like change in some places LOL), but seek the wisdom, guidance and input from the more established members of the body.

    And FYI…I’m not any sort of official leader in our church…no church office..just a guy here.

  5. December 11, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Thanks for this Trevor – great stuff. We’ve been reflecting on this culture thing in our church too – particularly, how you shift it when it’s already established. It’s also really hard to name it when you’re already so immersed in it isn’t it?

    I think one of the most important (and hardest) things is working out how to connect all this to the heart, starting with ourselves. Deep sounds to deep and if the vision, culture or process I proclaim isn’t rooted in my own ‘deep-down-ness’ then it will always smell inauthentic. People need to pick up somehow that I really do believe that story I’m telling; that I’m not dispassionately flogging real estate, but have myself already sold up, purchased a plot, and started to build a home on it.

    Don’t ask me how to actually do that though – I’m rubbish. I read something recently about the first step to real social transformation being rooted in the individual’s desperate decision to ‘live divided no more’ which I quite liked. That alignment thing you mentioned needs to include the marriage of our own inner and outer lives as a leader before it’s going to flow out and meaningfully connect with anyone else or start to birth a new culture. Some sort of profound and visible authenticity is needed to fuel genuine culture change I think.

    • December 12, 2014 at 8:34 AM

      Those are good points. Culture definitely begins in the heart of the leader. If the foundation of a discipleship culture is believing in and following Jesus, then authenticity and integrity are the first bricks that need to be placed on top of it.

      Thanks for your insights. They are very helpful!

  6. December 18, 2014 at 1:33 AM

    Reblogged this on The Rest of the Old, Old Story and commented:
    I had set this post aside for later reading. Round 2 of lymphoma chemotherapy turned out to be just that opportunity. This inspired me and convicted me:

    1. About my lack of organization
    2. About my unwillingness to repeat, repeat, repeat. I know from experience how well this works.

    Thank you Trevor Nashleanas, head pastor of Living Hope Church in Maryville, MO.

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