As the time gets closer to the upcoming Leadership Conference on Saturday, Feb. 1, I am spending time preparing for my presentation. The topic concerns church culture and why it is important to understand it. This is something that I’ve studied closely now for four decades, and yet, I still find myself feeling at a loss to effectively convey. Why? Because every congregation has its own unique culture, and that culture is a very powerful influence in the life of the congregation even though it is not easily articulated. As many have said, “Culture is just how we do things around here.” That’s like the saying we often hear in church: “We’ve never done it that way before.” The clear implication is that we’re not going to do it now, either. And why not? Because it’s just not the way we do things! That’s the power of culture.
Now don’t get me wrong, culture in not a negative thing, just the opposite. Culture is born out of a group learning on how to deal with problems. When successful, those ideas and methods become part of the basic assumptions of the group and are then taught to new members as the correct way to think and feel in relation to these problems. As long as the problems remain the same the culture serves the group well. But what happens when they change? What happens when the problem-solving methods of the past no longer work? I believe that’s the problem we are facing in the church today. We look at the world through our own basic assumptions and they are not helping us understand the problems we are facing. In this case, our culture is not as helpful as it once was and could probably use some adjustments. How do you do that? Well, that’s some of what we are going to talk about on Feb. 1. Hope to see you there.