This really is a bigger conversation with culture because you’re setting the culture with your leadership and it has to be intentional. So you have a culture right now at your church, whether you set it or somebody else set it or it was just pushed out like a boat pushed out in the water – which is the most dangerous thing to do – because a culture is going to be set. You as a leader, you’ve got to decide, “Okay, I’m going to set this culture.”
So, one thing we do when we hire on our new staff – and I can say this with staff, we encourage leaders – but I can demand it of staff when I say to them, “You will have a quiet time every morning that you’re on the clock.” It’s not a recommendation. I guess you could say it’s a demand, but it’s part of your job. I tell our people, “Look, I don’t want to be a people that struggle with our quiet time. So, you have the best job in the world because you get paid to spend time with Jesus.”
What that does then as a leader is when something spins up I can go and say, “Tell me about your quiet time with the Lord.” “Oh, man, I’ve really been missing that.” “Well, okay, two things. One, that’s why we’re having these problems right now. It’s because you’re not as connected to the Lord. And, number two, what you’re telling me is that you’re not doing your job, so maybe you shouldn’t get a paycheck if you’re not doing it.”
We set that. So, I get pretty excited when I walk around our office and there’ll be a door that’s closed, some of them will do it in their offices. One of our staff has a note on her door that says, “I’m having my quiet time with Jesus right now. Feel free to interrupt if you think you’re more important.” So it’s an expectation that we have with each other. I think we explain these to people, but we hold each other accountable and model them.
I also want to be looking at people and see, “How’s your life?” This is not, “Write down the five people that you’ve shared Jesus with.” I’m listening as a leader what’s popping out of people’s mouth because our heart is connected to our mouth, and what’s in our hearts we can spill out and be able to say, “Hey, I want this.” “Is this really your personal mission, or is this just a job? Because if you’re just here for a paycheck, man, it’s not going to be worth it. Ministry is hard, and you’re not in it for a paycheck. I want you to be in it because you’re called to be in it.” So, one thing that we’ve done is we say to people, “We want you to get the music out. We want you to get the music out.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, I think it was, said that the great tragedy of men is that many of them die with the music still in them. So, when I say to our people, “I want you to get the music out,” that means if you’re doing youth ministry and you’re like, “Man, I think I’m coming to the end of my anointing in youth ministry, but I really have this great desire in worship or I really have this great desire here,” we’re going to be like, “Yes, we want to help you get there now.” There may be a place within our organization to do that, or it may be that we’re going to transition you out and you’re going to transition out to another church or another ministry. We’re going to bless you in that because we’re very kingdom-minded, but we want you to have a personal relationship and just be totally fired up with the cause. So, it’s just a continual talking about that and navigating that as we just bump our way through it.
So, I want to highlight something you said that I think is very important in building culture, is that you continually bring these things up in conversations, you’re listening to what people are saying. But, in some way, it sounds like you’re reminding your team about what the values are. I mean, it’s one thing to hang them on a wall, it’s another thing to model them but also to repeat them, right, and to communicate them over and over. Is that intentional on your part, or does it just kind of happen anyway?
Importance of Core Values
Well, no, we’ve had to get real intentional. It was probably five or six years ago, we felt like we needed to do a little bit of restructuring just in terms of the church overall. So, we took our senior leaders away, and we spent the better part of two and a half days asking, “What’s important to us?” We were coming up with core values. “What is it we really value?” You could list 100 things. We brought a consultant friend in, and he was like, “Okay, you need six,” and we’re like, “That’s impossible,” so we just spent a lot of time wrestling all of those down. Then we lived with those for about five years, and interestingly enough, post-COVID, we came back in and felt like we needed to look at those core values again to see how we’re doing on them and see if we’re missing some or we need to redirect some of it. We did a staff survey, which told us where we were. Facts are your friends, although sometimes the facts didn’t feel like my friends because I was like, “I thought we were doing better in this year.”
We’re very intentional. We have a set of core values and we lay things against those core values. For example, one of our core values is effectiveness, we value results over activity. Our clear mission is to help people take a step closer to Christ. Everything we do, we ask, “Is it effective? Is it helping people take a step closer to Christ?”
There was one point in time that we staffed one of the largest gatherings in our city. I think it was around 15,000 people came into the center of our city for a blues festival. We took all the gates, so you couldn’t get into this blues festival unless you came through one of our team. We would take their money and give them tickets. We didn’t make any money, we just volunteered, and we would just pray for people as they came in. They didn’t know it. We were quiet about it, but we’re praying for people as they came in.
We did it for about a decade. Everybody who was in there were prayed for, and then they just got completely hammered drunk, but they were prayed for. It was very easy to recruit for. People were like, “We love doing this. This is amazing.” It was a big event that we did. But we finally asked, “Is this effective?” We looked back over a decade, Dwayne, and we were like, “We can tell zero stories of anybody coming to Christ. We can tell zero stories about anybody even taking a step closer to Christ, and so we’re going to not do it because we want to be effective and it’s not effective.” Some people were like, “But it was fun.” It was fun, but fun is not effective. We want to invest everything we do in a place that is going to give us great results.
If they just hang on the wall, if your values only hang on the wall, they’re not really your values.
They’re just a nice poster that you’re hanging up. You’ve got to continually come back to them. You have to explain them. You have to lay everything that you do against them. Then you know it’s part of your culture when you hear your staff ask, “Is that effective?”
Excellence is another one for us. “Is that really excellent? Is that the best that we can do?” As a leader, you’re like, “How am I going to talk about this again?” You have to talk about them because I’m sure as you’ve taught, Dwayne, vision leaks. People forget. We have to continue. About the time that you’re so sick of it, it’s like, “If I talk about this one more time,” it’s about the time that they’re just starting to get it.
Just starting to get it, yeah.
So you have to continue to come back to it.
We had the opportunity when I worked with Scott Dawson Association a few years ago of going to Disney but not going out to Disney. We didn’t do anything but play putt-putt golf one day. I thought Scott was a very cruel leader for doing that to us. I’m kidding. But we sat in this conference room, a hotel, and met with Dr. John Corts, who at the time was the COO of Billy Graham Association, and he was for 20 years. He took us through a process of evaluation and vision-casting, not casting as much as vision-determining, and some of the very things you’re saying sounds familiar to me from what he was saying about some of those very things. So, there’s a great value to having values but also identifying them, honing them down, and then walking through those with the staff so they begin to see those and understand those and hopefully model those.
So, guys, if you’re listening, don’t be overwhelmed. If you’ve got a church of 50 or you’ve got a church of 5000, it’s not about the number in the church. The point is God has brought you or maybe someone around you as the leader and you’re holding up their arms, so to speak, like they did with Moses, you’re praying for them, but that leader and that group of leaders maybe have a lot of responsibility, and so we need to pray for them. Amen. We need to pray for God’s direction, and we need to model the things we say are valuable. That’s what I hear Scot saying today, and I’m getting encouraged. Thank you.