Using Definition and Repetition in Your Leadership Language Helps Keep Your Culture Steady Against the Winds of Change

When the winds of change blow against your church culture, what keeps it steady? The visionary leader cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended.

Wise leaders understand the importance of words.

They grasp the importance of language in describing the culture of the organization and the direction she is headed. But the role of a leader in relationship to language does not end when the doctrinal statement is finalized. It does not end when the mission and values are clarified, placed on a wall, and boldly declared. Leaders must continually remind people of the meaning behind the words, behind the language that is essential to the organization. The important words need definition and repetition.

  • Words need definition

Words must constantly be defined, or the words will lose their original intent and begin to mean different things to different people. Language drift often occurs as people in an organization learn the desired or accepted organizational vocabulary and use those words as taglines in an attempt to give credence to just about anything.

For example, if “community” is the current focus for a local congregation, a leader can add “community” language to any initiative or event to give it credence. Similarly, if “customer-centric” or “narrowing the focus” are the latest buzzwords in an organization, folks can start to haphazardly use these words without understanding the intent and heartbeat behind them. Pretty soon, the words carry an array of definitions and lose their singularity and potency.

Unless there is constant definition of what the important culture-shaping words mean, there will not be alignment. In fact, if the important words are allowed to mean a plethora of things, if leaders don’t constantly define the words that are used, the language will only create confusion and a plethora of directions.

If you are a leader, it is important to define the important terms/words in the organization you are leading. If you hear words that are important in your culture being used in a way that does not match the original intent, some definition is necessary.

  • Words need repetition

Some leaders run from repetition for the desire to always say something new and fresh. But wise leaders understand, as Max De Pree said, “Leadership is like third grade: it means repeating the significant things.” For example—because the gospel is the principle and essential doctrine of the Christian faith, Martin Luther stated “most necessary is it that we know this article [the gospel] well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” Luther was clearly passionate about repeating the most important message continually.

When it comes to articulating a direction, I have learned that when the leaders are sick and tired of presenting and discussing, people are just then starting to grasp it.

Both definition and repetition are necessary.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

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