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Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: By Sam Chand (Chapter One Review)

At RLC, our staff is currently reviewing the book “Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” by Sam Chand. It is important to step back from working in something to work on it from time to time. Here are some of the statements which stuck out to me in the first chapter.

CULTURE TRUMPS VISION

Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes . . . but no plans.  —Peter Drucker

Culture—not vision or strategy—is the most powerful factor in any organization. It determines the receptivity of staff and volunteers to new ideas, unleashes or dampens creativity, builds or erodes enthusiasm, and creates a sense of pride or deep discouragement about working or being involved there. Ultimately, the culture of an organization—particularly in churches and nonprofit organizations, but also in any organization—shapes individual morale, teamwork, effectiveness, and outcomes.

The fact is, culture eats strategy for lunch.

You can have a good strategy in place, but if you don’t have the culture and the enabling systems, the [negative] culture of the organization will defeat the strategy.

Seven keys of  GOOD CULTURE:

  1. Control
  2. Understanding
  3. Leadership
  4. Trust
  5. Unafraid
  6. Responsive
  7. Execution

Many leaders confuse culture with vision and strategy, but they are very different. Vision and strategy usually focus on products, services, and outcomes, but culture is about the people—the most valuable asset in the organization.

To see a few snapshots of a church’s culture, we might ask these questions:

  • Who are the heroes? What makes them heroes? Who determines who the heroes are?
  • When someone inquires, “Tell me about your church or nonprofit,” what stories are told?
  • How much does the average staff member feel he or she has input into the direction and strategy of the church or nonprofit?
  • Who has the ear of the top leaders? How did these people win a hearing with the leaders?
  • What are the meaningful rituals? What message do they convey to those in the organization and those outside it?
  • Who is rewarded, and for what accomplishments?
  • What is the level of loyalty up and down the organizational chart? What factors build loyalty?
  • What is the level of creativity and enthusiasm throughout the organization?
  • When an objective observer spends an hour watching people interact in the offices, what mood does he or she pick up?
  • How are decisions made, deferred, or delayed?
  • Who are the non-positional power brokers, the people who have authority based on the respect they’ve earned but who don’t have authoritative titles?
  • Where are control problems and power struggles most evident?
  • How is “ turf ” defi ned and protected?

The shape of an organization’s culture begins at the top levels.

Culture Is the Most Powerful Factor in Any Organization

Culture Is Usually Unnoticed, Unspoken, and Unexamined

Culture Determines How People Respond to Vision and Leadership

Culture Most Often Surfaces and Is Addressed in Negative Experiences

Culture Is Hard to Change, but Change Results in Multiplied Benefits

Culture problems, by their nature, are never solved quickly.

The intangibles of respect and trust transform a church culture into a beehive of thinking, creating, and working together to accomplish grand goals. When staff members feel valued, they far more readily embrace a leader’s vision. Even if they disagree or don’t understand, they are more willing to give the benefit of the doubt and pitch in.

A positive culture will act as an accelerant for your vision.

Changing your organization’s culture will be one of the most challenging processes you’ve ever implemented, but I guarantee you, you’ll be glad you did.

Think About It . . .

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the premise of this chapter that culture trumps vision? Explain your answer.
  2. Describe the most inspiring organizational culture you have experienced as a staff member or ministry leader. How did the senior leaders treat people? How did they impart vision and strategy? How did people respond?
  3. Why did you pick up this book? What do you hope to get out of reading this book and implementing the steps of change?

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