Some people don’t realize that the biggest moment of creating a healthy culture doesn’t happen when you actually celebrate your turnaround; it’s realizing you’re suddenly on the cusp of a life-changing transformation.
That’s the inspiring, down-to-earth story of Southridge Community Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. What can it mean for you and your culture? Everything.
The first words from Lead Pastor Jeff Lockyer were soaked through and through with integrity. “Our expectation at Southridge is that leaders must first experience the kingdom of God themselves before they can share it.
“Similarly, we can only bring who we are and what our Kingdom work is all about to our culture. The results of our first BCWI Employee Engagement Survey in 2013 told us we weren’t living up to our own expectations. The survey pinpointed that our culture—with all of the good, the bad and the ugly—was, at best, borderline healthy.”
How might you improve the health of your culture so that your people feel more engaged, more focused, and more encouraged both individually and together, to advance and fulfill your organization’s unique, important mission?
The answer, for Southridge took the form of a very wise, clear, and practical step-by-step approach that, I believe, can benefit any church or organization. As Jeff explains:
“Our barely-healthy culture had various bottlenecks that were hindering our people in their work. Obviously, we couldn’t improve everything at once. Instead, in that first year, we strategically focused on resolving three or four bottlenecks hindering our culture. We approached each bottleneck through three steps:
1. We embraced our mission as church
We asked ourselves, “Why pursue a healthy culture? It wasn’t that we would do better work, grow numerically, or increase our programs. The far greater reason had to do with each of us experiencing the Kingdom of God in our work and through each other.
2. We faced the reality
Our culture was not where it needed to be. The measurable survey results told us that facts are our friends. This took a bit of courage, yet we needed to sit with the facts of where we were—where we were strong, and weak and somewhere in between.
3. We strategized around our culture a little differently
A traditional organizational approach is that every department and ministry has a strategy—the way they do ministry or grow their programs. Typically, then, you throw in “culture” on top of all the strategies you’re trying to pay attention to. But the BCWI survey experience taught us to treat culture as a strategy itself in a way our whole church staff could rally around together.
Example: Relative to other churches, we were disproportionately low in compensation and benefits. Instead of reactively throwing money at the issue, we created safe, open focus groups that allowed our people to give us safe, honest feedback: They told us they didn’t know they could invest in their own retirement savings and that they were relatively unfamiliar with their health benefits.
Most people didn’t know why they were paid what they were paid, and how or why that compared to others on their team. By better educating our people around fair benefits and compensation and the criteria for advancement, our people became more unified over time. Their growth, both individually and collectively, is one way we focused on culture itself as strategy.
Leaders must first experience the kingdom of God themselves before they can share it.”
In the course of six, vigorous years, by wisely listening to their people and living out their biblical values and Kingdom convictions, the leadership and staff of Southridge Community Church have created a deepening level of trust, accountability, and resilience to address and resolve conflict, sustain momentum, and experience a fair amount of fun at work.
“Through our culture journey,” says Jeff , “I’ve learned to pay greater attention to both myself and our people knowing that, ultimately, I am responsible for their workplace experience. “Today, I also have far greater empathy for other people and their varied roles.”
“Similar to what Jesus told his disciples, we live in a time when the harvest is plentiful, and the laborers are few. By improving your culture, you can find, attract and retain more and better leaders.
“Again, it’s not a means to grow your numbers. More than anything it’s all about fanatically pursuing the reality and expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. I believe this can and will happen as we view our work space, our culture, as the epicenter of where we experience and invite other laborers in, together serving God who makes it all possible.”
It’s Your Turn!
What’s one “bottleneck” area of your culture in need of a turnaround? Who needs to be involved in this strategic conversation? By contrast, what’s one area of your culture where people are feeling encouraged and engaged? What’s the positive, uplifting story here that needs to be heard and told?
“Identifying Your Culture’s #1 Priority”
Steve Crawley, CFO/spokesman
BMA America, Lifeword Broadcast Ministries
The Employee Engagement Survey
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