That header up above, well, that was me.
I knew it all. I had it all figured out. I got outstanding results. I got results through fear and intimidation. But I couldn’t sustain them long term. I couldn’t change the culture. I got compliance, but not commitment.
Then someone was kind enough to clue me in and teach me how to change the culture with people, and that’s how I’ve spent the last 25 years of my career in business and volunteer work. I’ve had a much more rewarding, impactful life as a result.
I’m not gifted with the skills to be a minister of any kind. I struggle to remember scripture. I can’t even stay on tune enough to sing in the choir. I learned years ago that I was a great parishioner, a good usher, a good guy to keep the youth from destroying the youth room, a decent video operator— but definitely not a minister.
I do know “marketplace people.” They are the people who sit in your pews for worship, go to Bible study, serve on committees, usher, sing in the choir, and work (or worked) outside the church five or six days each week. They’re the people who are at church on Sunday for three hours, which accounts for a whopping 1.785714% of their week. Those are the non-ministry professionals. Those are the people I’ve worked with for more than 25 years, and those are the people you can influence—if you speak their language and know what motivates them.
I’ll give you three things today that are foundational for supporting culture change in any organization, marketplace, or ministry.
You can’t create successful change if it goes against your mission.
Google’s mission statement is “To organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” What would happen if a new CEO was hired and decided to allow only the richest 1 percent of Americans to buy a subscription to use Google search? The employees would revolt (they helped live out that mission!) and the new CEO would be left all alone with the “change.” Investors would jump ship, and Google would fold as a company.
It’s the same for your church. If the vision of change you are advocating doesn’t fit with your current mission, one of them has to change. Sometimes the mission is the right thing to change, and sometimes it’s the vision that has to change to fit the mission.
Realistic expectations of time are required for change.
Change takes time. Frequency, not the calendar, is one of the most influential factors for any culture change. You have to be realistic about the amount of time your change will take. For any changes you intend to make, you have to be clear with everyone how long it is expected to take for it to become part of the culture. To learn more about managing expectations for change, particularly with time tables, order a copy of ‘Practical Stuff for Pastors: Leading Change‘.
What really motivates people is what’s in it for them.
“What’s in it for me” (WIIFM) is what truly motivates every human decision. That’s a fact many of the folks I’ve worked with in business, charity organizations, sports clubs, and even churches didn’t want to accept. It sounds self-centered and unconcerned with others. It has nothing to do with others. WIIFM is how someone justifies doing something in their own mind.
Culture change is not easy, fast, or painless. It’s a process that requires planning, realistic expectations, and recognition of the progress as it happens. Most of all, it’s about people. Culture change happens with people, not in spite of, or without regard to them. If you have a clear vision, a realistic plan, and a committed group to work with, cultural change will happen.