Culture is a funny thing. It's all around us, affecting us all, but not all of us are aware. To a degree, we're all shaped by culture. Perhaps, just perhaps, we shape the culture we're in too.
We all have our individual cultures, as do organisations. Businesses and churches have their own unique mindsets, attitudes, perspectives, worldviews, beliefs, values and practices. These all conspire to create a culture that is an unseen atmosphere and environment affecting anything and everything to do with that organisation.
Some cultural aspects we have are intentional. But some are not. Whether we like it or not, our culture is a garden. Is it full of flowers, or full of weeds? Have we cultivated it, or have we let it just happen?
This is a key question, especially when it comes to our churches. Because what we say our values and culture is doesn't automatically make it true. There is a difference between aspirational culture, and actual.
Our church culture, then, actually answers a key organisational question: 'what is your church growing?'
Our values are what we believe to be right, good and best. They give us a framework for making decisions and choosing what is important. We can have any number of values related to any subject, but values are only true values if they manifest through action - otherwise, they are simply opinions or convictions. The sum total of all our values amalgamated together creates culture.
Returning to the earlier agricultural illustration, think of culture this way: an individual plant - a tree, flower, or vegetable - is a value. But a collection of plants together - the garden - is a culture. The garden, or culture, has a specific purpose. Perhaps it's a flower garden, or a vegetable patch, or an orchard. But there is hopefully a purpose for the garden's existence, whether that is for viewing pleasure for people or to provide food. How is a garden's purpose determined? By the vision of the gardener. Therefore, your church's vision has to be clear in order to determine what church culture - and therefore, what values - are necessary to see the vision fulfilled.
Unconsidered values, or those chosen simply because of personal preference, will have a negative impact on the culture in multiple ways. In contrast, when a church has a well-thought-out culture, there are a number of benefits:
1. Church culture needs to be created intentionally because it provides parameters of assessment during ministry review and evaluation.
2. Culture needs to be created intentionally because it affects momentum for the mission.
3. Culture needs to be created intentionally because it makes or breaks the success of the vision.
4. Culture needs to be created intentionally because it influences overall beliefs and behaviour in the church.
5. Culture needs to be created intentionally because it shapes how the church ministers top to bottom.
6. Culture needs to be created intentionally because it adds and subtracts to a church's strategic plan.
We can see that church culture is one key aspect we need to ensure is a strength, but there are more we need to be aware of - you can discover the other aspects of a healthy church here.
This is a guest post by Anthony Hilder, who works as a Church Consultant and Coach. You can find out more about all that he does at anthonyhilder.com.