How Words Can Help Change Your Church Culture

Words create worlds.  Language shapes us and forms us.

For example:  When I say, “Let’s go to church,” what does that statement reveal about my understanding of the nature of the church?

Sometimes as leaders we are called to help people move from one deeply held perspective to another.  Words help make that shift possible.  Words build a staircase that allow people to move from where they are to where God wants to lead them.

In leading that kind of “perspective shift” at the Church, I recognized that a portion of our staircase was a little shaky.  It needed to be rebuilt.

Let me explain:  in pursuing a God-inspired vision which we call “One Church, Regional Impact” many have asked, and to some degree are still asking, “Why?”  I began to recognize that some did not understand the “Why” behind the “What”.  I realized, because of my work with Auxano, that this was a Values issue.  Words create worlds.  In this case, words articulate the answer to “Why?”

Here’s how we define Values as Missional Motives at the Church:

“In any given day there are a thousand things clamoring for our attention, a multiplicity of motivations that move us.  What we value will either direct us back toward center or divert us from what is truly worthwhile.  Values are the motivational flame of the church.  They are the shared convictions that guide actions and reveal our unique strengths.  These motives answer “Why do we do what we do at our church?”  They are springboards for daily action and filters for decision-making.  They distinguish our philosophy of ministry and shape our culture and ethos.”

the Church Leadership Guide

[Old]  Values

[New] Missional Motives – where everyday life becomes so much more

Growth – We value a lifelong journey with Jesus that results in individual growth and kingdom expansion.

Ordinary+ because ordinary people connected to Jesus share in Christ’s extraordinary mission.

Relational Service – We value people and the opportunities to meet their individual needs as an expression of the Gospel.

Step+ because simple steps guided by Jesus accelerate the impact of new life.

Authenticity – We value genuine relationships and a sincere Christian lifestyle/behavior.

Friendship+ because friendships infused with Jesus expand the reach of true community.

Creativity – We value innovation in ministry.

Generosity+ because generosity empowered by Jesus fuels a contagious, others-centered culture.

Every Person a Missionary – We value the personal privilege given to every Jesus-follower to help others live life with Jesus every day.

Home+ because a home centered on Jesus becomes the epicenter of an active life of faith.


Here are 3 reasons why we are rearticulating our values.

The Motives behind our Motivational shift:

1)  Our values could be any church’s values.

They did not clearly express OUR unique motivation.

>> Ask:  What uniquely motivates your church?


2)  They didn’t help us answer the “Why”.

We were never using our value statements as an answer for people when they asked “Why?”

>> Ask:  As a leader in your local context, what “Why” questions are you answering?


3)  The words that we chose were not catalytic or compelling.

People did not want to speak them out loud.  They did not inspire anyone to participate in creating the culture that those words were trying to shape.

>> Ask:  Are your values serving as a motivational flame for your people?


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Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer

I am Jeff Meyer, and I start fires. Ever since that basketball game in college when I came off the bench and lit a spark for my team, I have carried the nickname "Fire Meyer." (Until that point in my career my jersey #22 never saw the floor in an actual game. Perhaps the #22 was a symbol of my life calling: 2 Timothy 2:2?) I live to see sparks ignited and connections made. I long to see the church wake up and live. I long to see Jesus-followers display passionate commitment to Jesus. Jesus' invitation to follow Him was an adventure of epic proportions. Can we recapture that today? I long to see communities transformed into healthy places of wholeness. I believe that communities are transformed when Jesus-followers are stoked and respond. Perhaps you've heard it said that the church is the hope of the world. I believe that a responsive Jesus-follower is the hope of the world. "Igniting connections" is my way of setting off some inspirational sparks; sparks that ignite a passionate response to the call of Jesus.

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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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