Why Knowing Your Church’s Culture is Critical

Peter Drucker once reportedly said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” So, so true!  When pastors come into a church, they bring their personal ‘culture’ into the culture of an already established church. While some opt to plant churches because of the higher likelihood of the pastor influencing the direction and establishing a preferred culture in a church.  But most pastors enter into a church, and how those pastors navigate the personal culture and values with the culture and values of their church will speak volumes into how long and how profitable the tenure will be.

How do we define culture? Aubrey Malphurs in his book Look Before You Lead defines this as follows:

I define the church’s congregational culture as the unique expression of the interaction of the church’s shared beliefs and its values, which explain its behavior in general and display its unique identity in particular. This is what I refer to as my long definition. However, I have condensed it into a short definition. In short, a church’s congregational culture is its unique expression of its shared values and beliefs.

The key word is ‘unique.’ While various lanes of churches have similarities, each church is unique, expressing values and beliefs uniquely. Sure, we can certainly see patterns and trends, but pastors must never, ever treat churches in a cookie-cutter manner.

We’ve seen this happen numerous times. Young and new pastors bring their culture and values and beliefs and mindsets and strategies into an established culture, diagnosing far, far too quickly and implementing their strategies too quickly. These quick cultural changes  bring an uneasiness to people who would otherwise take changes better if they were explained and if the people were allowed to ask questions.  Pastors need to give established churches time pray, understand, ask, pray and understand some more, and then move forward together.

Without understanding the culture, our strategies that are fueled by different values and beliefs will be met with rejection. Start with understanding the culture!

(These thoughts were distilled from my reflections from reading Aubrey Malphurs’ Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture.)


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