The Cure for Unhealthy Culture at Your Church

How can you protect and grow your church culture, without having to be negative all the time?

Either you will manage your culture, or it will manage you.

Simply defined, culture is the way people think and act.

Every organization has a culture, which either works for you or against you – and it can make the difference between success and failure. Managing the organizational culture so that leaders, managers, and team members think and act in the manner necessary to achieve desired results has never mattered more.

When most organizations try to improve their culture, they focus on the negative aspects, and try to fix them. This sounds reasonable, but the opposite approach is much more successful. You may find greater success in identifying a few positive attributes within your culture that are connected directly to your identity and mission. Focus on them and find ways to accelerate and extend them throughout the organization.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Culturetopia Effect, by Jason Young

What drives high performance for any company, organization, or team? How do successful companies create high fulfillment and high engagement within the employee workforce where people can do their best work?

The key to real success for any workplace lies at the very heart and soul of the organization it s culture. When business leaders understand how to measure, define and drive company culture and take action to integrate the values and behaviors consistent with an environment of care and accountability, they will witness an emerging, motivated workforce characterized by optimism, productivity, fulfillment and innovation high performance and high fulfillment. When this occurs, Culturetopia has been attained.

In The Culturetopia Effect, speaker, trainer and author Jason Young provides his valuable insights and practical ideas on how to create Culturetopia in any organization. He shares years of observations and experience with companies such as Southwest Airlines, Walt Disney, 3M, Cisco Systems and others, that have developed unique, high performance cultures and have experienced Culturetopia.


Every organization has values – even if they are not stated or acknowledged. Values alone do not guarantee success, because values can drive an organization toward maintaining the status quo, ignoring current realities, and even leading them to fail. The values of an organization must be ones that ultimately produce behavior throughout the organization that will help it achieve its desired results.

Values are used every day to guide every employees workplace behavior. Whenever an employee is in doubt about what to do next in any situation, then the companys values can provide guidance. In an organization that aspires to become successful by building a culture of cooperation, values provide an attitude ecosystem that works to guide employee behavior in every job, every moment of the working day.

In Culturetopia, there are no conflicts in the application of values; there is a complete and consistent values alignment.

This “values alignment” is obtained when your organizational values have the following six characteristics. 


If the values of the company are inconsistent with the personal values of those who espouse them, employees will be unmoved by the insincerity. Values that are not based on truly held principles are merely platitudinous words and the values will not stick.


The stated values of the company must be aligned with the needs and the aims of the company and its workforce. Irrelevant values are either ignored or cause conflicts or confusion.


Stated values should not be fuzzy notions. The values should be aligned with reality by describing what they mean in practice.

Selectivity and Persistence

Achieving a workforce that is aligned with company values is a process that includes selecting, training, coaching, and reinforcing.


The stated values of a company must be applied equally to all stakeholders. There cannot be a separate set of values for a specific group. You should be able to ask anybody within a company to describe the values and they should be the same.


The actions of the company must be aligned with the company’s stated values. Stories containing actions taken by employees that reflect the core values of the company are often repeated

Jason Young, The Culturetopia Effect


Write your existing values in rows down the left side of a 2 flip chart pages. Next, write the six characteristics in one column each across the top of the pages. Add one more column for a total score. You should have a table that looks something like this:

In your next team meeting, review your values as measured by the six characteristics, and rate them from 1 to 5, where one is “we are nowhere near the ballpark in this area” and five is “we are killing this area.” Add each value row for a total score at the end.

First, exalt any values scored from 24-30, by doing the following:

  • List 5 ways to maximize this value as a decision making filter.
  • Craft 2-3 ways this value is visibly and tangibly demonstrated in a ministry area
  • Anchor a key verse or passage of scripture to this value.

Next, evaluate any values scoring 18 or less by doing the following:

  • List 5 ways this value is holding us back organizationally.
  • Ask if there is a better way to state or restate this value for impact.
  • If needed, eliminate this value to keep culture clear.

Finally, examine any values scoring from 19 to 23 by doing the following:

  • List 5 ways this value should have more impact.
  • Ask if there is a way to define or demonstrate this value and increase it’s impact?
  • Weigh this values place in our culture with a pros and cons list. Move forward after a time of prayer. Answer the questions in section 1 above for any values that “make the grade.”

Now present your new, better-defined values set to a larger leadership team. Ask them to weigh in on what they like best and how they see these values lived out across the church. Continue to build conscious culture around these values.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 58-1, January 2017


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
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

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