Communication Team Building

Unhealthy Church Culture

November 1, 2014

As we argued in Rebuilt one of the, if not the main problem in parishes today is culture. Culture is a system of beliefs that guide a community’s behaviors, shapes their priorities, and ultimately determines the allocation of resources. More than ever these days we hear culture discussed in the secular community, especially when it comes to the business world and leadership development. But it remains largely ignored in churchworld. Yet to be a healthy church a parish needs a healthy culture.

If you are diagnosing your parish’s problems, here are some warning signs to look for when it comes to unhealthy culture.

1. Unclear Expectations

Usually for me, the early indicator that there is a problem with the culture is this one: people don’t know what to expect, in a way that is uncomfortable and unproductive. It is often amazing the disconnect that can exist between team leaders and members, or even among team members themselves about expectations. People sometimes think they’re being completely clear and they’re simply not. In this scenario people are not on the same page, efforts will be duplicated and wasted, feelings will be hurt, tempers will flare, time is lost.

2. No Passion

Lack of shared expectations will erode passion and interest in the ministry or work at hand. But people can lose passion for lots of other reasons too. When it’s lacking, so is much else. Ever been to the staff meeting of a team that lacks passion? They’re bored, disengaged, they spend more time texting people who aren’t in the meeting than showing the people who are attention and respect. How did this happen? Perhaps somewhere along the way they fell off the same page with the other team members or leaders, maybe they ended up feeling “not heard” at some point and started checking out.

3. Absence of Trust

This is the big one and it probably underlies the other two (it is also the inevitable outcome of the others as well). When your team doesn’t trust one another whatever good work you do is going to be compromised, and it’s never going to feel good either. When there’s a lack of trust, people are not honest with one another, they hide ideas, are afraid to take risks, and tend to drift off into silo ministries where they do what they like and take care of themselves. Clarity, communication, mutual support and respect and authenticity all are victims when there is a lack of trust. And, all of this is seeping out into your congregation too.

What is going on in your church’s culture ?

What are some other ways you can spot a sick culture?


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