I forget who first said it but “culture eats strategy every time.” Church culture is the intersection of vision, values, narrative, leaders, and practices that characterize and guide an organization as shown in the graphic.
The reason any kind of major change is so difficult and takes so long is because of culture. A church’s culture determines most outcomes.
Case in point. Several years ago a church called me in to help them strategize on how to reach young adults. I surveyed their ministry and determined that their style of worship would never reach most young adults and I recommended they begin a new service designed to reach them. They started the new service and within two years the new service was the largest service. About that time they asked me to come back. I thought they wanted me to help them go to the next level, but to my surprise they wanted me to referee a church fight. Some of the old guard were ticked off. They said they were being ignored and were no longer important. In spite of my warning they cancelled the new service! They believed all the new people would drift into one of the traditional service. Well guess what? – Virtually all of them left the church along with many of the regulars. That’s what is meant by “culture eats strategy every time.” They had a great strategy but a lousy culture.
If you are wanting to move to a multiplication culture you must first change the hearts and minds of most of the long-time members. They are used to either an addition or survival culture and will resist even if your strategy works – unless you change the culture.
But here’s the good news – culture can be changed. As we write in Dinosaurs to Rabbits: Turning Mainline Decline into a Multiplication Culture, “Culture isn’t quick setting concrete. It’s more like lead – give it enough heat and you can mold it into something new. You can change or recreate your church’s culture.” Most attempts to change the culture fail because pastors and key members aren’t willing to turn up the heat. They allow the bullies to control the conversation. We discuss how to change the culture is our Dinosaurs to Rabbits book. We believe this book to be a game changer for churches wanting to break the chains of addition or survival.