HOW TO ESTABLISH MINISTRY CULTURE

If mission is king, culture is queen. A vital mission without an honoring culture will eventually wilt. But a life-giving culture enables the mission to flourish. Let’s learn how.

Twenty years ago God began imprinting His culture on our hearts. He did it by pointing out how weary we’d become from running “fast and furious” to accomplish our mission. And then He reminded us of things we already knew, but weren’t intentionally and actively doing.

  • He reminded us that He Himself was more important than our mission, and that honoring Him was the premier aspect of our mission.
  • He reminded us that He viewed us as children, not commodities, and that He wanted us to value each other as brothers and sisters.
  • He reminded us how wise He was and how well He knew how to run the ministry, and that He wanted us to talk with Him about it.

Two decades later, honoring God, cultivating genuine relationships, and discerning God’s will are hallmarks of our culture—visible in and throughout any given day.

Jesus values organizational culture as well. Take a look at the behaviors He spikes out for His closest associates just before He goes to the cross (paraphrased from the book of John).

5 Aspects of Jesus’ Ministry Culture

  1. “Abide in Me.” (15:4)
  2. “Keep My commandments.” (15:10)
  3. “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (15:12)
  4. “Listen to the Spirit of Truth.” (16:13)
  5. “Be one, so the world believes in Me.” (17:23)

5 Steps to Establish Your Ministry Culture

  1. Reflect. Take some time to consider the values and beliefs that drive your ministry behavior. If you realize they’re weak or perhaps vague, ask God to bring clarity and reveal His heart for your culture. Spend time on this. It’s vital to your mission and to the people you’re serving with.
  2. Identify. Begin putting pen to paper, jotting down values that describe how you’d like to corporately engage with God, honor employees, help them to honor each other and your clients, how you’ll make and communicate decisions, etc.
  3. Share your heart. Talk with your board and key associates. Express your desire to develop a life-honoring culture, and explain what you’ve identified so far. Invite their input. Continue to form this initial understanding of your ministry culture, and then share it with your full staff.
  4. Enter in. Invite your staff to take very practical steps in each of the key areas you’ve identified. Again, take your time, allowing God to shape your hearts, your behavior, and the culture over time. Think in terms of months and years instead of days and weeks.
  5. Uphold it. As your culture becomes established, keep it in the forefront through verbal and written communication. Give fresh examples of how staffers can engage in it, allow time for it within department meetings, and ensure that everyone is included. Give new staffers time to acclimate; yet with the understanding that engagement in ministry culture is essential to employment.

Just like the air we breathe, it’s easy to take ministry culture for granted. But without it, a ministry will suffocate. That’s why developing a healthy culture is so important. A thriving Christian ministry culture is one in which individuals freely engage with their Father and each other in honoring, life-giving relationships.

 

What is one way that your ministry culture honors God? Honors others? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MINISTRY CULTURE?

Next to mission, a godly culture is essential for ministry effectiveness. Absent a healthy culture, mission suffers. So what exactly is ministry culture, and how do you identify yours?

Early on in our ministry, our staff was relatively small. We had an unusually strong rapport—personalities, giftings, and skillsets jived well. We enjoyed each other. We took an annual jaunt to the beach. I thought to myself, “There will never be a better group of employees at this ministry.”

But I was wrong.

Along the way, God taught us about His culture for ministries—really, His universal culture for the body of Christ. And we’ve grown in staff rapport and ministry effectiveness ever since. I’ve learned that, contrary to the “honeymoon” culture I experienced with that small group of staffers—strong ministry cultures don’t just happen.

3 Pitfalls of a Weakly-Defined Culture

  1. Hit or Miss. If you don’t define your culture, your staffers will. And it will ebb and flow according to the comings and goings of staff along the way.
  2. Osmosis Myth. Your staff may pick up on your values and commitment-level. But most of them won’t carry it out to the extent that you do. A healthy culture isn’t transmitted vicariously.
  3. Low Impact. If your ministry culture is vague, its impact on your staff and ministry outcomes will be vague as well.

Take the Ministry Culture Quiz

Ministry culture is a system of shared values and beliefs that govern how people behave. Put a mental checkmark beside the areas you’re intentionally cultivating.

___ We have an expressed value for how we exalt and engage with God throughout any given day or week.

___ We have an expressed value for how we honor the sacredness of each person with whom we interact—staff, board, volunteers, clients, and individuals in the community at large.

___ We have an expressed value for how we actively get to know each other and affirm each other’s unique giftings and skills, leading to maximum engagement and ministry advancement.

___ We have an expressed value for how we corporately discern God’s wisdom and make decisions that have ministry-wide impact.

___ We have an expressed value for how leadership invites input and feedback from staff members, and provides for appropriately open communication throughout the organizational structure.

Next week we’ll look at “How to Establish Ministry Culture.” For now, begin jotting down the paramount values and beliefs you desire to see embraced and practiced in your ministry. The question isn’t whether or not your organization has a culture; it does. The question is, is it God-honoring, well-communicated, and lived out? Take heart—you’re on your way!

 

What’s an aspect of your current ministry culture that you highly value? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

GOD’S WILL: THE THRILL OF DISCOVERING IT WITH OTHERS

You hole up with God. He reveals His vision for your ministry’s future. You share it with others. They embrace it. Does it get any better than that? I’m here to say that it does.

My adventure-seeking husband has been to places near and far—on business trips and snowmobile ventures. When he gets home, he invariably says, “Lisa, I want to take you there!” He wants me, his best friend and bride, to see what he’s seen. He wants us to experience it together.

This is not unlike what our heavenly bridegroom, Jesus, wants to experience with His bride, the body of Christ. He delights to take a group of people on a journey of discovering His will—together.

At our ministry, we’ve learned the value of what we call corporate discernment. Instead of me holing up with God solo, we join together to seek God’s heart and will for the ministry. Watch this visual metaphor of the process:

4 Benefits of Corporate Discernment

  1. Each has a piece. When you and your board members, or you and a team of staffers, pull together to hear God’s heart, each person has ears to hear. God will often distribute portions of His will to different people, and each one does their part in voicing what they’ve sensed.
  2. Jesus has the full picture. When two are three are gathered, Jesus is in the midst. He’s in the center. He has the full, complete picture in His mind. His Spirit prompts and encourages as people express various aspects, and then He pieces it all together.
  3. You discover it together. With each person listening, each person contributing, and each person watching God highlight key elements and placing them into a cohesive picture—you have the joy of shared discovery.
  4. There’s greater buy-in. When appropriate team members participate in the discernment process, they are energized by God’s Spirit to carry out their part of the new vision.

Wise leaders realize they don’t have a corner on the market of discerning God’s will for their ministry. While they often play a key role, they don’t play a solo. God’s manifold wisdom is best discerned corporately and rolled out in glorious harmony.

 

What benefits have you experienced from corporate discernment? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

A SHINING LIGHT FOR JESUS

Our ministry family is grieving the loss and celebrating the life of Carol Weaver—a beloved friend, sister in the Lord, and co-laborer in the gospel.

Carol Weaver    Director of Post-abortion Ministry   Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services

Carol began volunteering at our ministry in 1997. She became director of one of our centers in 1999 and has directed our post-abortion ministry since 2004. She and her husband Tim have three married daughters and eight grandchildren.

Carol was known for her vibrant love for Jesus, her deep compassion for people, and her passionate faith and prayer. Her life impacted each staff member and volunteer at our ministry, and the countless individuals she counseled or trained in post-abortion recovery.

When Carol first began post-abortion ministry, she’d say, “People come to me in such bondage because of the guilt they’re carrying. I have to try to keep a lid on my enthusiasm because I have so much faith that God will forgive them and set them free!”

Carol’s contagious joy was rooted in her love for Jesus and His Word. She saw people with Jesus’ eyes, and went out of her way to talk to and pray with strangers. Recently, she prayed with a woman in a grocery store who said to her afterwards, “You’re the first person in weeks who paid attention to me and spoke kindly to me.”

Carol was an exemplary shepherd-leader. She walked so closely with the Good Shepherd that His qualities emanated through her. When you were in her presence, you experienced the presence and love of God.

If Carol were here to read these words or hear the many, many accolades she’s receiving, she would say, “Well, glory to God! It’s all Him anyway!”

While our hearts break with the pain of earthly separation, our spirits soar with the joy of heaven’s reality. We know Carol is with Jesus forever.

We love you SO MUCH, Carol! We’ll see you on the other side.

“Be God’s children,

blameless, sincere and wholesome,

living in a warped and diseased world,

and shining there like lights in a dark place.

For you hold in your hands the very word of life.”

Philippians 2:15b-16a

 

If you knew Carol, or knew of her ministry at SVPS, please feel free to share your memories in the Comment Section below.

THE BEAUTY OF AGREEMENT

There is profound beauty when a man and woman say “I do.” It becomes even more profound when they reach agreement after their first major conflict. There’s something spectacular about two deeply different individuals honoring, listening, and submitting to one another to come to a place of harmony.

In the context of leadership and ministry, there’s no end to divergent personalities, different opinions, and disagreements. These are natural. In God’s wisdom, He designed each of us to carry just portions of His characteristics and giftings. The key is to work toward a heartfelt, multifaceted agreement that’s representative of His will.

6 Keys to Reaching Multifaceted Agreement

  1. Truly value your coworkers as image-bearers of God.
  2. Seek understanding. Listen with the goal of truly comprehending your coworkers’ perspectives.
  3. Express your opinion. Your perspective is important too. Share it with conviction and humility.
  4. Give honest feedback. “Hold up mirrors” to each other, so you can see yourself from others’ viewpoints.
  5. Be malleable. God wants to shape you and your coworkers into a cohesive whole—both relationally and practically, regarding the topic on the table.
  6. Embrace God’s wisdom. Move forward in God’s will, heart-to-heart, hand-in-hand, as one.

Watch this YouTube, looking for these aspects of the beauty of agreement: symmetry, coordination, complimentary gifts, deferring to one another, blending, synergy, glory to God.

Perhaps the most vivid picture of agreement in the Bible is found in Psalm 133:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron,

running down on the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Notice all the exclamation points throughout this Psalm. There is great joy and excessive goodness in unity! Leaders who want the fullness of God’s blessing in their ministries cultivate the beauty of relational agreement.

How do you cultivate relational agreement in your ministry? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

GOD’S ONE-TWO PUNCH

Leaders are doers, movers, and shakers. But if that’s all they are, their efforts can amount to shadowboxing. Thankfully, God has a one-two punch that’s powerfully effective and worth learning.

It was our monthly retreat to plan state-wide initiatives. Given the scope of our outreach, we could’ve felt the pressure and packed our agenda. But since God was carrying the load and designed us for relationship, that’s where we started. We took our time honoring Him through worship, Scripture, and prayer. And then we honored one another. We listened and prayed, as each person shared their latest challenge. With hearts alive in God and soft toward one another, we delved into discernment and decision-making.

By the end of the day, our relationships were deeper and our mission was advanced. One woman observed, “This feels like a support group.” Someone else added, “Yes, the best kind—a support group with purpose.” Combine authentic relationships with kingdom purpose, and you have a powerful one-two punch.

Remember C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, that gives voice to the enemy’s devious plans? If Satan was scheming against ministry leaders—and he is—it would sound something like this:

Satan’s Diabolical Schemes Against Leaders

  1. “Let’s make them think they’re at their best when they’re uber busy.”
  1. “Yes, and let’s use that load of busyness to short circuit their devotion to God.”
  1. “Perfect! Let’s take it a step further and keep them self-protective and reluctant to open up to their brothers and sisters in Christ.”
  1. “Hahaha! That’s brilliant. We’ll keep them from the two sources of greatest help—their Lord and the so-called body of Christ.”
  1. “Right! So busyness is their king, and they’re operating solo—apart from their real King and their brothers and sisters.”
  1. “Sounds like they’ll be doing a lot of shadowboxing!”
  1. “You gotta love it!”

As Christian leaders, we have the Spirit of Truth to combat the enemy’s lies:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…

and, love your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Share each other’s burdens…

Galatians 6:2 (NLT)

Two are better than one,

because they have a good reward for their toil.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 (ESV)

…standing firm in one spirit,

with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

Philippians 1:27 (ESV)

For we are God’s fellow workers.

1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)

 

There is never a shortage of work in leadership. Because of that, it’s tempting to keep our noses to the grindstone. But leaders who do that lose their vitality and productivity. Let’s take God’s Word to heart. Let’s actively love Him and our co-laborers, and advance God’s kingdom together. In the process, the enemy will be on the receiving end of God’s one-two punch.

 

How do you reconcile incessant busyness with God’s invitation for relationship? Please share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

 

Elements of Enriching Staff Meetings

Staff meetings can be as satisfying as homemade bread or as stale as yesterday’s toast. As a leader, you want to serve up valuable meetings. The key is using the right ingredients and keeping it fresh.

The word meeting has gotten a bad rap, and for good reason. Tell someone you’re going to one, and they’ll say, “Oh man, sorry about that,” or, “Hope it goes quickly.” And it’s true! Meetings are notoriously boring, lop-sided in participation, and way too long. But they don’t have to be.

How can you ensure your organization’s Staff Meetings are worthwhile?

It’s natural to put on your CEO hat and plan Staff Meetings that are informative and productive. But put on your “BOC” hat instead, and plan from a Body of Christ perspective. Think of your staff members as brothers and sisters in Christ engaged in kingdom work. Realize they’re ultimately serving their King, the true CEO of your ministry. And remember their King is also their heavenly Father, so He wants to nurture them as they serve. With this perspective, your meetings will be informative and productive, and they’ll also be replenishing and inspiring.

3 Primary Ingredients for Great Staff Meetings

  1. Connect with God. As our Father, God is relational and longs to spend quality time with us. At our ministry, we engage with God for about 45 minutes of a three-hour Staff Meeting. We invite staffers to lead the time, and it might include musical worship, an inspirational story, drama, a creative activity, a scriptural focus with journaling, etc.

We also talk with God throughout our meetings. If we discuss an important area of outreach or a new dimension to a fundraiser, we ask a few staffers to pray for His blessing. When staffers join or leave our ministry, we gather around them for a special time of prayer.

  1. Connect with One Another. As sons and daughters of God, we’re family members. We want to know each other as people, not just as coworkers. We devote portions of the meeting to a thought-provoking question or spiritually-encouraging topic. Sometimes we do this as a whole group; sometimes in small groups. Or we may engage in an activity or lesson from a client curriculum, or work through a spiritual gifts inventory.
  1. Connect with Mission. God is purposeful in everything He does, and He invites us into His specific mission for our organization. We discuss the latest initiatives within our ministry – whether client-related, employee-related, or new resources we’re developing for the Church. Often, staffers from various departments provide updates, so we can value each aspect of the ministry and stay current with what God’s doing. Occasionally, we watch a pertinent video, allowing God to stir our hearts anew.

3 Secondary Ingredients of Great Staff Meetings.

  1. Fun and laughter. Get a bunch of people together who love God, love each other, and love their shared mission, and there will be lots of conversation, laughter, and heartfelt tears.
  1. Breathing space and flexibility. Keep your schedule open-ended, with room for some segments to go longer and others to be omitted, and your staffers will appreciate the relaxed pace.
  1. Coffee and treats. Nothing fancy. Just a few essential beverages and a few simple snacks will go a long way in providing the “comforts of home.”

Meetings can be content-heavy and relationally weak, or lightweight and frivolous. The best meetings have ample time for connecting with God and one another, on mission together.

 

What elements or activities do you most appreciate in your organization’s Staff Meetings? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

HOW TO VALUE EMPLOYEES AS WHOLE PEOPLE

As leaders, we can have tunnel vision when it comes to our employees – primarily focusing on their time at work. We want it to be effective for our ministries and life-giving for them. But employees are whole people, with lives outside of work, and family-friendly policies will go a long way in showing them you care.

I recently sat down with an employee to hear her feedback on the ministry. We had a great conversation and she shared many ways she’d been blessed by serving with us. At the very end she said, “I don’t know if it’s appropriate to bring this up, but I wondered if you would ever consider prorated holidays for part-timers.” She’d received this benefit from a former employer and explained the hardship a holiday presents for a part-timer. “When a holiday falls on my normal work day, I don’t work that day, but then I try to make up the time during the pay period so I don’t get behind in my work and so my paycheck is consistent.”

Our leadership team discussed her request and saw the wisdom in making the change. Not only would it alleviate pressure in her personal schedule around holidays – it would bless her family because she’d be available to them instead of squeezing in additional hours.

3 Family-Friendly, Budget-Neutral Policies

  1. Prorated Paid Holidays for Part-Timers. If a part-time employee would normally work six hours on a particular holiday, allow him to take the day off and pay him for those six hours. Trust that productivity will be ensured through the normal ebbs and flows of the workload.
  1. Sick Days for Family Care. Allow employees to use a portion of their personal sick time to care for family members who are ill or in need of some type of health intervention. This can be extended on a case-by-case basis.
  1. Sabbath-Break between Christmas and New Year’s. If it’s feasible for your organization, close from Christmas Eve through the federally observed New Year’s Day holiday. Give your employees this entire time off with their normal pay – whether full- or part-time.

3 Biblical Principles about Valuing Employees

  1. God treats us as children, not commodities. He sees us as people – sons and daughters – not slaves. He cares deeply for our well-being and wants our lives to have a good balance of fulfilling work and replenishing rest. Let’s follow suit in our employee policies.
  1. An employee’s life is 24/7 kingdom. The work employees do for our organizations isn’t in a category all its own – as far as its impact for God’s kingdom. Their time spent with family, friends, church commitments, and leisure is all part of how they’re living for God. Let’s honor this reality.
  1. God ordained families. By God’s design, families are the primary crucible of intimacy and security for individuals. Work is also designed by God, advancing His kingdom and enabling people to provide for their families. But let’s develop policies that acknowledge the God-given role family plays within employees’ lives.

As our ministry has grown in God’s wisdom and ways, we’ve grown in His life-giving rhythms of Sabbath rest. When our employees received the unexpected news of these family-friendly policies, there were whoops of joy and tears of gratitude. One employee said, “This is just one more beautiful expression of the way this ministry values life. Thank you!”

When you develop family-friendly employee benefits, you create a win-win-win for your employees, their families, and your organization.

 

What impact have you witnessed or experienced from family-friendly employee policies? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

THANK ONE PERSON

Remember those awkward pre-leadership days of not having a clear calling or definitive direction for your life? I sure do! And if you’re like me, there were a few people who believed in you, prayed for you, and gave input that shaped the course of your leadership. Have you thanked them recently?

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I did some reminiscing last week as I drove past the road leading to my writing coach’s house. I thought of how she regularly pointed out positive traits she saw in me when I was a fledgling leader. My mind drifted back to a junior high youth leader who said, “There’s a calling on your life, Lisa. I’m committing to pray for you about that.” I thought of a college advisor who slipped a note in my mailbox saying he believed in me and saw leadership qualities in me. And the speaker at my first leadership retreat who pulled me aside to say he observed spiritual maturity in me from my interactions during sessions and with others.

My heart swelled with gratitude as I thought of the impact their comments had in my life. In the midst of uncertainties, their comments were stepping stones that kept me pursuing God and the service path He had for me.

So the next day, I sent a hand-written note to my writing coach, thanking her for encouraging me through the years.

Can You Thank Someone Today?

How about you? Is there someone who’s encouraged you as a leader that you could thank today?

  1. You could give them a quick call.
  1. You could email them.
  1. You could send them a card.
  1. Better yet – if they live close by – you could line up a get-together and share what God’s been doing in your lives.

We don’t become leaders in a vacuum. God uses our parents, family members, and leaders in the family of God to build us up in Him and prepare us for leadership. Let’s thank them!

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,

just as you are doing… respect those who are over you in the Lord and admonish you…

esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-13

 

 

In the Comment Section below, share a brief story about someone who spoke into your life and the impact it had on you as a leader.

IF YOU BUILD IT…

Most of us can finish that sentence – “If you build it, he will come.” It’s from the 1989 Field of Dreams movie where an Iowa farmer built a baseball diamond for bygone players. Despite its fanciful Hollywood plot, the phrase contains a profound truth. If you put intentional effort into something, you usually reap results. At our ministry we’re intentionally building relationships, and everyone is being edified.

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That is, when we remember to do it! Last week I walked into my office to find two close associates sitting at my table. They were all smiles because they could tell I had no idea why they were there. A few chuckles and ribbings later, we rescheduled our “relational community” meeting that I was in charge of that day!

Afterwards, I talked with one of the associates about just how busy this season is. She responded, “But think about it. Even though it has been extra busy, every season is really full.” And I said, “Yep, and if we didn’t make it a priority to deepen our relationships with each other, it simply wouldn’t happen – because there’s always something ‘more pressing.’”

4 Reasons to Build Relationships at Your Ministry

  1. We’re children not commodities. At our core, we are children of God and not solely commodities to accomplish His work. Being children makes us brothers and sisters in the family of God – with lives outside of work, and families, and other interests. Everyone appreciates being valued for who they are and not just what they do.
  1. We’re gifted differently. Another biblical metaphor is that we’re the body of Christ and we need each other. Each staffer has a unique experience with God and specific gifting(s). As you get to know each other more deeply, these will become evident and will contribute to the effectiveness of your ministry.
  1. We’ve got opinions. In addition to our various giftings, we have a wide variety of backgrounds and divergent skill sets for decision-making. While it may take longer and be messier to give voice to others on your team, the outcome will always be stronger.
  1. We’re human. As human beings we have histories, joys, and burdens. There’s a very human heart behind everything we do and say. When we share our hearts and pray for each other, we feel cared for, we understand each other more deeply, and we’re able to engage wholeheartedly with the people and work of the ministry.

As God’s image-bearers, we’re designed for relationship – similar to the relationships within the Trinity. Just like there’s love, honor, and a knowing of one another within the Trinity, God wants us to value each other as human beings and as brothers and sisters in Christ. If you build relationships within your ministry, people will come and thrive.

 

What’s one way you build relationships within your ministry? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.