Imagine a church with 700 staff and 30,000 weekend worshipers, whose plan for creating a flourishing culture (filled with outstanding talent) might well inspire any ministry organization—including yours.
Several years ago, I traveled to Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas—the nation’s fourth-largest church—where I met with leaders who faced the very same question every ministry organization and church must confront.
Rick Mauderer, Associate Pastor for Staff Development, pinpointed their challenge: “We thought we were a good place to work. But how did we know? We didn’t, because we really didn’t have a good, trusted measure of how we were doing as a workplace culture.”
Recently, Rick told me how Gateway’s senior leadership responded:
Not only did we want to hire the best new people, we wanted to make our current people the best they could be—all while we were growing rapidly as a church. How could we pull this off?”
The validated measures of Gateway’s cultural strengths and weaknesses, revealed through the BCWI Employee Engagement Survey, became the impetus for a fresh plan to identify, promote, retain and recruit the best people for a growing number of roles.
Gateway’s approach, spearheaded by Rick, proved to be incredibly wise, practical and biblically grounded. Among all the benefits I wish I could share, here are five bright takeaways to consider for strengthening your own culture:
1. Affirmation, Improvement & Growth
Rick invites each employee to identify his/her top three strengths, bottom three weaknesses, and one’s plan to grow as they own their current condition and the change one seeks.
2. Five Required Competencies
Everyone on staff embraces customer focus, ethics and values, integrity and trust, management and vision, and humility. (Rick says the last one is “absolutely essential if you expect your people and organization to grow.” Do you agree?)
3. First Tuesdays
At the start of each month, all Gateway staff comes together for worship, celebration and some insightful, relevant workshop sessions. “After all, we have a biblical mandate to grow as Christ’s followers,” says Rick. “Everyone comes to a place of work carrying scars and hurts. Our people come away excited by what they’ve learned, how they’ve been listened to and how they’ve grown.”
4. Inspirational Leadership
Gateway’s high level of trust among senior leadership and staff happens, not by accident, but rather as a result of deepening one’s competence and character. Job referrals by Gateway employees who exhibit these two qualities often prove to be high-quality candidates and new hires.
5. “The Social Covenant”
In essence, it’s that all Gateway employees covenant to commit to, value and respect each other. The Covenant plays out continually in countless conversations between leaders and direct reports in which genuine love and concern for the other erodes defensiveness and sets the table for mutual honest feedback that cultivates and sustains meaningful work.
On the surface, Gateway’s size might seem to set it apart from most other churches and Christian organizations—except for one precious outcome every ministry organization desires. Rick sums it up perfectly:
Whether it’s first-time visitors or longtime members, individuals or families, the people see we are a loving bunch. We’re not about programs, debating politics or grappling with social issues; we’re about making God happy by loving one another, His people—‘so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . being rooted and grounded in love’ (Eph. 3:17).”
“We know none of it is perfect—except Christ. And because of Christ, within our workplace, our worship and our ministry, we strive to speak and act with grace,” says Rick.
At Gateway Church, such love and faith are truly at work.