Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado is experiencing a radical transformation of culture. At the center of the turn-around is a four-letter word that will open your eyes.
Rebekah Layton is Cherry Hills’ Executive Pastor. During our recent conversation, it didn’t take long for her to say the all-too-obvious four-letter expression that says it all: LOVE.
“In January 2014,” says Rebekah, “Cherry Hills faced the reality of a weakened and toxic staff culture. The BCWI Employee Engagement Survey forced us to see that what we sensed at ground level was true, namely why 72% of our staff was disengaged.
“A lot of it had to do with siloed teams and suspicion of motives and intentions among some on our 115-member staff. Needless to say, we as a staff were humbled – especially by the idea that this broke God’s heart.”
The culture transformation came about through four clear steps:
1. Discover Jesus’ clear invitation to us.
“Coming to grips with our broken staff culture humbled us. We began to ask God, ‘Who are you calling us to be as a church?’ We turned to Scripture, and as we went through passage after passage, it became crystal clear to us that Jesus was calling us to be all about love.”
2. Trust and follow our senior pastor.
“Our culture transformation was modeled in the heart and actions of our lead pastor, Shane Farmer. When he first arrived in the Fall of 2013, he did his own 90-day listening campaign to hear our church and staff, begin to define where we were, and gain clarity on where God was calling us to go.
“His passion for our church is Jesus. And how he leads shows it. I remember in my first conversation with him, before I ever joined the staff, he shared: ‘Whether someone walks into our church and doesn’t know Christ or has walked with Him for five decades, I want them to encounter Jesus.’
“This passion and commitment – for people to love, encounter, and obey Christ – is at the center of all ground taken, from improving communications to dismantling siloed mentalities and beyond.”
3. Repair relationships and build trust.
“We realized we were never going to improve our culture unless we reconciled any lingering mistrust and suspicion among our people. This became clear at our first Leadership Team offsite. We agreed that before we could plan and dream for the future, we needed to deal with current reality.
“Those on the Leadership Team took a half day to work through unresolved conflict. It was a God-moment that culminated in us taking communion together and committing to the six commitments of Trust. Vs. Suspicion that Andy Stanley teaches.
“It was hard, yet necessary. Out of our reconciliation came the strong conviction that God was calling us to love and serve one another. The needed repair of our relationships set on us the path to an increasingly healthy culture.”
4. Walk it out.
“Last, our Leadership Team – a group of about 20 leaders at our church – has chosen to live, and not just read, the pages of the New Testament. They’ve been committed to living out a culture defined by love every step of the way – in their relationships with each other, with their staff, and with our church. They have done heavy lifting to define, build, protect and fight for a culture that is defined by love.
“And our staff has embraced living and modeling this as well. Culture really comes down to the 100 choices that each of us makes every day – what we believe about others, how we treat others, how we talk about others, who we hire, what we set as the tone through both what we create and what we allow.
“These leaders and our staff have been courageous and committed. They love Christ and put Him first; they love each other and our church; they are humble and committed. I believe I serve with the best team on the planet and am so grateful for them and their leadership.”
- Love in action. “We’ve learned to behavioral-ize love. How do we love each other through the words we say and the emails we send? Love has everything to do with the level of accountability, dependability and follow-through we’re seeing more and more of today. In our performance reviews, loving behavior comes through character, competency, chemistry, culture and calling. It’s the same grid of identifiable and measurable skills and capacities we use to recruit, hire and grow outstanding talent.
- Unity personified. “We’ve found that when we live out Jesus’ radical love, it frees us from being territorial and protective. We work together, row in the same direction, and sacrifice individualism for the greater good of whole.
- Vibrant biblical community. “The result of all of this is a growing passion and realization that Jesus is writing his story in our culture and therefore our congregation. And as our culture continues to improve, so does the impact Jesus is bringing about through his church at Cherry Hills.”