The moment you notice your culture is weakening and hurting inside can actually lead to a total transformation of your culture. See how this truth, tucked inside a priceless story, became a reality.
Allan Kelsey is Associate Senior Pastor (the Chief People Officer) at Gateway Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, a multi-site congregation that’s home to 30,000 weekend attenders. Moments into my recent conversation with him, I said to myself, “This guy knows one of the best-kept, unreported secrets for fostering a healthy culture.” As you read this excerpt, below, from Allan’s inspiring, culture turn-around story, ask yourself, “How might Gateway’s pain point speak to the termites that might be already eating away at the culture of my church, organization or business?”
Allan came right out of the shoot and said, “You can’t fix what you can’t see. The BCWI survey helped us see what was not working and where there were opportunities for growth in our culture.
“The pain point in our culture we had to answer was, “How were we, as staff, going to play by the rules (or guidelines), that were open to interpretation? Differing interpretations of how staff ‘played’ (worked) together held a certain amount of pain for our people. We greatly needed to bring some clarity to this issue in order to nurture healthy relationships and a hurting culture.
The Action Steps
With Alan’s leadership, and the affirmation of his senior colleagues (Founding Pastor Robert Morris, and Todd Lane, Lead Executive Pastor), Gateway was determined to grow. Three outcomes were key:
1. A Flag to Let Fly!
“Soccer became our metaphor: Two referees may view the same play very differently. One ref may blow the whistle and stop play because he sees an infraction, while the other referee may not see it that way at all and let the teams continue.
“Without working guidelines for consistent interpretation, we were sending a very confusing message to staff members. To address this confusion, we created a Social Covenant that practically explained:
-areas of our culture open for interpretation: For example, when or how to give and receive honest feedback and walking in Unity and believing the best about each other.
-an explanation of what’s in-bounds, and what’s in-bounds vs. out-of-bounds is defined in the Social Covenant which outlines how staff fully invest and fully empower relationships, and
-how you get the particular issue and misunderstanding back in-bounds, whether its people, teams, or departments.
“We created a creative, grievance process: To use a pro football analogy, if a staff member sees something that’s not right, he or she can raise a hand and say, “I’m throwing a penalty flag.” The group stops what they’re doing, and the offender offers an apology to the person throwing the flag, followed two meaningful affirmations to help re-establish their relational connection. The response has been fabulous.
I think a church’s culture is hung out on the church’s reputation billboard.”
2. A Field Guide for All!
“To document and communicate the core elements of our culture, we created the ‘Gateway Church Field Guide.’
“We realized you can’t multiply what you haven’t clarified, so we polled our people and got strong agreement on a set of cultural beliefs that literally puts every person in our culture on the same page. We’ve made it visible, from small posters in bathroom stalls and larger hallway posters, to book size, pocket-size, and digital versions for computers, tablets and phones.
3. Every First Tuesday Matters!
“We took a cue from professionals who require continuing education to keep their licenses. The first Tuesday of each month is filled with all-staff worship, workshops and small group gatherings to help people grow spiritually, professionally and personally. “First Tuesdays” has also led us to integrate measurable levels of workplace competency designed to help equip our people to become eligible for promotion opportunities at Gateway.
“One of the best results we’ve experienced goes back to getting in touch with our pain point. Our first BCWI survey revealed we were losing our innovation. We weren’t taking risks because people were afraid of failing, and (inaccurately) affecting our positive growth.
“I took a risk and said, ‘Instead of ‘failure’, let’s use the word ‘prototype.’ The change freed up people to prototype, try new things, feel okay if their idea didn’t work, learn from the experience, and try again.
“Along the way, we’ve learned that the reputation of your congregation, para church ministry, or business publicizes your culture to the watching worlds. Gateway didn’t always have a healthy reputation, yet our choice to focus on the true source of freedom—the presence of Jesus—has been a cornerstone for our culture.”
It’s Your Turn!
What if would happen, if today, you traded five minutes of going online, for completing and then contemplating this sentence, “The pain point in our culture that really needs attention is . . .”
A Canadian Perspective on Culture!
Paul Richardson, President;
Mike Joshua, Vice President of Finance,
Bible League Canada
The Employee Engagement Survey
Click here to learn more!