Leading a Healthy Church Culture - Lesson 8

What is Culture? Products and Practices

In this lesson, you will learn about the importance of establishing a Christ-centered church culture and how to effectively lead it. You will explore the concept of culture, its components, and the positive and negative aspects it can have within a church setting. You will also examine the organizational culture in the church, understanding the products and practices that are offered, as well as the iceberg concept, which highlights the visible and hidden elements of culture. The lesson will provide insights on the role of leadership in building a healthy church culture, adapting to change, and overcoming challenges that may arise.

Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
Lesson 8
Watching Now
What is Culture? Products and Practices

Lesson: Christ-Centered Church Culture

I. Understanding Culture

A. Definition and Components

B. Positive and Negative Aspects

II. Organizational Culture in the Church

A. Products and Practices

B. The Iceberg Concept

C. Influences on Church Culture

III. Leading a Christ-Centered Church Culture

A. Role of Leadership

B. Building a Healthy Church Culture

C. Adapting to Change and Overcoming Challenges

  • This lesson covers the importance and characteristics of a healthy church culture, the biblical foundation of church culture, diagnosing the health of a church culture, and cultivating a healthy church culture through prioritizing relationships, creating a safe environment, nurturing spiritual growth, empowering the congregation, and celebrating God's work.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the characteristics, and importance of a healthy church culture, how to diagnose and address unhealthy church culture through biblical leadership and communication, and how to cultivate a healthy church culture.
  • You will gain insight into how to lead a healthy church culture by learning about the importance of healthy leadership, building healthy relationships, establishing healthy structures, and implementing healthy practices.
  • In this lesson, the class discusses a fictional case study called "The Shadow of a Leader," which describes the decline of a Christian leader named Dr. Robert Avella, who became obsessed with power and control over time, causing damage to the ministry and losing trust in his team, as they reflect on the early and later stages of his leadership.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the challenges and pitfalls of leadership, particularly when leaders lose focus on their spiritual values, become driven by fear and control, and lack accountability and community support. By understanding these factors, you can recognize and address toxic leadership in various contexts.
  • By engaging with this lesson, you will gain insight into the complex dynamics of power and control in leadership, the prevalence of misused power within the Christian church, and the critical importance of fostering accountability and community to maintain a healthy balance of power.
  • This lesson explores Jesus' unique leadership style in the context of the foot-washing event in John 13:1-17, highlighting principles such as leading from a secure sense of self, addressing the deepest needs of followers, and paying it forward through service to others.
  • This lesson teaches you about the significance of developing a Christ-centered church culture, including the exploration of culture's components and the positive and negative aspects it can have within a church setting. You will also learn about the role of leadership in building a healthy church culture, adapting to change, and overcoming challenges.
  • This lesson provides insight into church culture by examining its components, revealing how assumptions and values impact products and practices, and discussing the importance of addressing these core beliefs and assumptions for lasting change.
  • This lesson examines assumptions and worldviews in church leadership by comparing different mental constructs and their influence on leadership values and roles, while also exploring the machine metaphor's impact on organizational life and the new generation's response to this worldview.
  • In this lesson, you learn the importance of cultivating and nourishing people in a garden model of leadership, comparing it to the machine model, and discovering how various biblical metaphors shape the understanding of the church. Emphasizing core beliefs and values, you realize effective leadership focuses on following Christ and maintaining the right attitudes.
  • You will gain insights into the importance of leadership in creating a healthy church culture, including the role of leadership in setting the tone and creating an environment that fosters spiritual growth, discipleship, and healthy relationships. You will also learn about the characteristics of a healthy church culture, practical steps for building a healthy church culture, and the challenges and obstacles to building a healthy church culture.
  • By studying this lesson, you will gain knowledge and insight into the importance of creating a healthy church culture and practical steps for doing so, including the role of leaders in modeling and promoting a healthy culture, building relationships, developing a shared vision, fostering communication, and encouraging accountability.
  • This lesson covers Luke 5, gleaning lessons regarding Jesus' leadership and the four pillars of Christian leadership, which are relationship, influence, follower potential, and common purpose.
  • As you go through the lesson, you will learn about the four primary handles for developing a healthy church culture, which are stories, rituals, symbols, and power structures, and how they shape the values that become the real values within a culture.
  • By understanding the importance of what we measure, we can determine what is significant to us. Measuring something objectively makes it valuable, while not measuring something can result in losing its importance. The example of churches measuring attendance and donations is used to highlight this point, and the lesson suggests that churches should also measure other important aspects like outreach, discipleship, and community service.
  • This lesson discusses how Jesus prepared his disciples to establish the church, and how his actions and values during his time with them set the groundwork for the culture of the church; you are encouraged to explore the principles Jesus instilled in his disciples by examining specific stories, such as the healing of the demon-possessed man and the clearing of the temple.
  • Learn to lead a healthy church culture by analyzing current values, identifying actual values, and creating a strategy matrix to establish and support desired values using four embedding mechanisms.

This course is one of many taught by Dr. Rick Sessoms. It can be taken as a stand alone course, or as a part of the Christ-Centered Leadership Certificate. 

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Leading a Healthy Church Culture
What is Culture? Products and Practices
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] Well, that's lunch then. We've been talking up till now about what it means to be a Christ Senator. Later, laying the groundwork for how do we lead a Christ centered church culture. It's important to lead out of who we are. And if we try to build something else, it's kind of like building a castle in a cloud. So it's important to get these things in place first. But now let's talk about what it means. What does culture mean now? My background is in organizational culture, the church. We we will talk about the church being an organization because it is both an organism and an organization. We will talk about what what that's all about. But but let's talk about the the components of of organizational culture. What what is culture? And and so let's discuss that a bit. When you think of the word culture. When I say the word culture, what comes to your mind? Anyone. Social norms. Social norms. Traditions, habits, traditions and habits. Okay. Shared values. Shared values. Okay. Structure. Structure. The rules. Rules? Okay. There's organization to it. It's not random, capricious, both written and unwritten rules. And sometimes the unwritten rules are more powerful than the written ones. In culture, think of common preferences for one sort of culture, common preferences. Right. Expectations. Expectations about how other people will act. Okay. Understood. Worship Unknown. History of Share. A shared history. A shared story. Okay. Excellent. What other images come to your mind? I was talking to one group and asked this question and one person said, Well, it's just the way we do stuff around here. And that kind of captures it, doesn't it? And there's there's probably more sophisticated way to say it, but that kind of gets to it.

[00:02:42] So is culture good or bad? Yes. Yes. Why do you say that? It's going to kill you. Okay. What's good about it? It can. It can unite a diverse group of people towards a common vision. Okay. So there's a there's a there's a unifying factor toward a potentially toward a common mission. What else is good about culture? Any culture gives you structure. So it does okay. It gives you some framework, it gives you a tangible framework. And by the way, when we're talking about culture here, we're told we can talk about a national culture or a church culture or a family culture or an ethnic culture or a college culture, it fits regardless. Okay? And there's subcultures within cultures, of course, and you can drill down on that thing. But but these are just general statements now about culture. So what else is good about culture? Any culture think it makes people comfortable, Like when they're when they're you're in your own culture, you can be comfortable and you feel understood by the people around you and you. There's something different about being in that kind of culture you're comfortable with. Okay? Makes you feel so There's a comfort, there's a safety. Perhaps most cultures develop as a way of of protection against the outside environment, whether you're looking at the Navajo Indian culture or the American culture or what have you. There's there's there tends to be this this sense of circling the wagons, if you will, to create a sense of safety and comfort and predictability as well. What else is good about culture? There's a tendency to interpret events sort of in the same way as a group. Okay, so there's a common interpretation of events so somebody outside the culture may not interpret those events the same way.

[00:04:45] That's very insightful. That's good. Good. You tend to find its people, it can define its people. Unpack that a little bit. You I do. This is who I am. This is my role. All is part of that culture. Okay? It can give me direction, it can give me purpose. It can give me this definition of who I am within this entity. Okay? So it gives people a space and a place that is that has some sense of certainty to it. That's that's helpful. I think that a good culture can make people feel loyal to it and inspire also inspire them to behave in good ways. If it's a if it's a good culture. Okay. So there can be an aspiration toward. Raising the level of morality and motivation. Not all cultures are like that, but yeah, can be. Anything else that you can think of off the top of your head that's real positive about culture? Illegals, you're going to often accomplish something. It brings people together on the same page and plane to accomplish potentially accomplished goal or goal. If I want to produce a bunch of widgets, I've got this culture that can help me produce that. Okay, excellent. Now let's flip the switch and talk about what's bad about culture. When you think of culture, what can be negative about a culture? Have the lowest common denominator comes into play. If you kind of enter into a culture and then there's a certain status quo, you tend to you don't pull up the culture. The culture kind of tends to pull you down. So yeah, that's good around a bunch of out-of-shape people all the time, you know? Yeah. Yeah. You know, that kind of thing, I think offensive. So there's a there's a tendency to in some ways, if you want to be healthy, not just physically healthy, but if you want to be a healthy person in, in a in a culture, sometimes you have to go against the grain because it does tend to reduce to lowest common denominator.

[00:07:12] Good. He used a metaphor earlier about circling the wagons. Sometimes cultures can circle those wagons are very, very tightly exclusive. Yeah. So it becomes very exclusive. Okay, So there's there's a there's that that barrier cannot be permeated from the outside. Sometimes that can be veiled in sincerity, but it's very strong in terms of you're outside of this culture, will wave to you from a distance, but don't use the wagons. Excellent. When that comes into play, I think also along with that, people kind of feel like they have blinders on and they don't look outside of their culture and, you know, they don't want to accept other ideas. Even if they are good ones. They don't even want to consider them. Maybe because. You're part of that culture, you just stick to what you know in that culture. Yeah, very interesting. Sometimes strong cultures can define boundaries so well that they reinforce negative stereotypes of those outside the fence and empower prejudice towards those outside and actually can justify, you know, some rather hideous things, I guess, some bizarre behavior at times. Sure. Yeah. So there there can and there tends to be what we call ethnocentrism, this superiority, this sense that my culture is better than your culture, whatever my culture tends to be, is superior to someone else's. As hard as you can is we can believe some of the people that that live in places that that would be hard for us to even conceive that they would see themselves in a superior culture they actually do around the world, and vice versa. We do as well. It's interesting that I. I used to work for an organization called Trans World Radio, and as I watched transistor radio transmitter radio internationally, it is, of course, a culture, but within the various regions of the world, there were subcultures of transistor radio.

[00:09:36] And so whenever I would go to Africa, the attitude toward wine or toward alcoholic beverage was you cannot possibly be a Christian and partake of an alcoholic beverage. And so, you know, you had to be very careful in working in that context. On the other hand, when I went to Europe and was working with our colleagues in Europe, they they always served wine at lunch during the day. And I wasn't so good at handling it. So I was careful how much I took it to lunch because I had a lecture in the afternoon. But, but it was those even within a culture, there are subcultures that have very, very strong views. And it was interesting to watch the tug of war take place in those subcultures because one or the other felt very superior to to the other, depending on who you're talking to. What else is potentially negative about culture? It can hold people back. Okay. Excellent. That's a very important point. Is it cultures, particularly more mature cultures, tend to resist change, even change for the better. And so it can tend to hold us back. It can tend to collectively restrain us from moving into more to more helpful places in our lives. Anything else strikes. You can be pretty exclusive. So welcoming to it can really hold out people that just don't quite fit. Yeah, and they can do great harm. A lot of killing has been done in the name of Christianity, right? Right. Which is part of the problem. Which is a culture. Yeah, absolutely. So we we know what culture is and we know that it's both good and bad. We know that there are certain aspects of culture, every culture that are positive, and there are aspects of every culture that are negative.

[00:11:52] So as we go into this discussion, it's important to hold those neutral perspectives. And because when I begin to unpack and talk about the components of culture. We recognize in these discussions that there are both positive and negative aspects of each one of these components, potentially within any culture. Sometimes when people talk about culture, they they tend to either talk about positively or negatively. But really what we're dealing with is a neutral, at least from the beginning here. It's a it's a neutral arena they're working with. So let's talk about specifically about organizational culture. We use the concept of an iceberg to talk about culture, and you'll see why in just a moment. But above the iceberg up where the Titanic could see, even in the even the night are what we call products and practices. Now products are and to talk in terms of the church product can be whatever you offer to the environment that you're in, whether it's a ministry, you know, there's a our church has a ministry to to hurting people, gives out clothing that would be an example of a product or what you provide to your community on on Sunday morning, for example, or whatever the public sees, whatever the value add to the environment is in any organization, in order to survive has to have a product that is of a value ultimately. Now, the fact is that organizations can go for a long time without having much value, but ultimately they have to have some sort of product, some some value add into the environment in order to to survive within that environment. Does that make sense? So from an organizational point of view, as you think about the church, you think about the product that the church brings to the society, and that's a business way of saying it, But it's I hope you follow this.

[00:14:05] It's that's, that's where we start practices. On the other hand, are those things products are our relationship with the external world, world outside the culture, if you will. Practices had to do with those things that that those ways that we behave within the culture, the members of the culture itself behave that make sense. And so when you think about practices, what are some of the practices? Most of you attend this church? What are some of the practices that are prevalent within this, within this church, like group worship and worship and prayer? Small groups. Small groups. When you go into church on Sunday, the practice is to probably to face whoever is speaking. Okay. That seems bizarre, doesn't it? There's nothing written. But what if somebody were suddenly to turn around and face the other way? When somebody when when we're worshiping or when we're listening to the speaker? There are there are unwritten practices. I used to work in a transistor radio and we had, uh, we had devotional time each morning at 8:00. Now, there was never anything written about expectations to attend these devotion times. But I was absent for a few days, and I got a visit from the h.r. Director asking where I had been. What was the problem? And the issue is that there was an unwritten expectation about practice, and in every culture has those. And as i mentioned earlier, sometimes the written practices are the unwritten ones are more powerful than the written ones. What are some of the other practices that are prevalent here in this church? During worship, you can move to music. You can't move too much. Okay, So there's a there are parameters within that interesting standard deviation, if you will. Yeah. Body movement.

[00:16:22] That's very interesting to me. And so if a person moves too much, they're out of place. Right. Interesting. What else what else is is distinctive about this cultures practices. Focus on children. Okay. So if if I was if a person that's not from this culture is not from this church were to walk in. The way to think about products and prices is these things are things that can be seen. Very easily can be seen. So whether it's the products or the practices, these are visible. To whoever wants to take a look. Now, that does not mean back to your point. It does not mean that they can necessarily interpret all the practices, but they can observe them. They can see them with their own eyes. What's interesting is that the longer you're in a culture, sometimes those products and practices become invisible to you. The longer you've been inside of a culture is, the longer you're part of it. You don't notice some things that are going on. I keep using transistor radio as an example. We if you were to go to Kerry and go into the international offices there, the first thing that you would see is you walk in the front door into the reception area. Is a receptionist, receptionist desk that's about 15 feet long across the front. Very beautiful. And behind that desk on the wall, behind the desk, behind the receptionist is a huge logo. Transworld radio logo. That's probably about. Three and a half feet wide by three feet tall, I mean, is huge. I did a little survey one time I went into and I asked people who had been there for more than ten years, all of them more than ten years. I said, Tell me what's on the wall behind the receptionist desk.

[00:18:35] Not one of them could tell me the logo that was on the was on the wall. When we are part of a culture, we can no longer see the the where in the carpet that a person walking in for the first time sees. I went to a funeral in a church and went in and sat down in the in the pews. It was an old church and the pews had had all these in these carvings in them. You know how kids do. And and and I'm sure that the people that sit in those pews have been sitting in those pews the last 35 or 40 years. They don't see those carvings anymore. Now, I'm talking about simple things. But the the fact of the matter is, is anybody that enters into a new culture tend to be able to see things that people that have been inside that culture for a long time simply can't see anymore. A friend of mine attended our church recently, and as we stood in the lobby after the service, I said to him, I said, Colin, what do you see? He's from London and he's weird anyway, because he's from London. He's. He's my dear friends. I say that about him. But. But Colin stood there and he began to say, Well, this is what I see. This is what I see. I hadn't seen those things in years that he was mentioning because that's the reality of our products and practices.


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