Being a transformational church where God is moving through the lives of its people is an exhilarating experience. So, how do you navigate the many doors to create cultural change and become a transformational church?
Through the course of my research, I found 8 activities designed for culture change to become, and remain, a transformational church. The key is to create a psychologically safe environment for members of your faith community to be free from learning anxiety.
The Need for a Learning Environment
Leading a ministry is first and foremost an activity in leading people. As ministry leaders, we are guides for people on their spiritual journey, which is also a journey of learning and growing. Whether members of your congregation are seasoned in their relationship with Jesus, or just starting out, it is imperative they actively engage in their quest of knowledge and growth. This is why it is so important we provide them with space where they are not shackled with the fear of learning and the anxiety of failing.
Ministry leaders like you desire to lead their faith communities into a state of effectiveness to advance the Kingdom of God. You desire to foster an environment where the Lord can move in mighty ways, where people’s lives are changed, and where the hurting and broken can come into a saving knowledge of Jesus. This requires a church culture open and available to God to move.
All of this can be accomplished by creating a safe learning environment where members of the faith community believe a new reality is possible and achievable. They also need to believe the faith community they have grown to love is not going to lose its identity or integrity in the process of cultural change. This is achieved by having a clear plan and process to lead your members through, and here are 8 steps to creating a transformational church culture.
Create a Compelling Positive Vision
As a default, every faith community has the vision of fulfilling the Great Commission. It doesn’t get any more positive than that. A vision to impact the eternal well being of God’s people is the most positive and compelling vision possible. However, it is also very abstract and sometimes is not compelling enough for people to hold onto. We can’t assume the members of our congregation are equally compelled by the Great Commission as we are. We need to provide them with a positive compelling vision that compliments the Great Commission and speaks to their specific purpose in their specific community.
Provide Formal Training
For most of us, when we were preparing for a life of ministry service, we imagined preaching, praying with people, and preparing events to reach our communities. Seldom did we imagine sitting down and creating a training process that would properly equip our volunteers, leaders, and staff members. Despite our lack of foresight, the truth of the matter is that providing a clear and strategic formal training process is one of the most important things we can do. As ministry leaders, we must put in the work to develop a strategic process of training that properly equips our people with the skills, mindsets, attitudes, and knowledge to be successful in their roles as members of our faith communities.
Encourage Involvement of the Learner
Once the formal training process is designed and implemented, the next activity is to involve learners in the process. Now, this doesn’t mean get them moving through the process, although that is clearly a vital part. Encouraging involvement of the learner is about allowing members of your faith community to manage their own informal learning process.
This is a difference between goals and methods. The goals of the learning process are nonnegotiable because they are the bricks creating the cultural foundation your transformational church will rest upon. However, the method of learning can be individualized to the learning style of members for optimal learning.
Facilitate Informal Community Learning
One of the key points of learning anxiety among members of a faith community is stepping out from the crowd and being singled out. Now, some of your high-level leaders, aspiring leaders, and those with the initiative to be involved in learning opportunities will have no issue stepping out from the crowd.
A large percentage of the crowd, however, will remain in the crowd until they perceive the crowd shifting in favor of a learning opportunity. For this reason, you need to implement informal ways of teaching the crowd the new ways of the transformational culture. This can be done by incorporating it into your weekly sermons, using quote and thoughts in your social media posts, and providing a common language to your staff members to use that will create a consistent experience for members of your faith community.
This informal community learning will create an environment where those who step out to go deeper in their learning will not feel like deviants but will feel as though they are with the crowd or even slightly acting in the role of a trendsetter.
Provide Room for Practice
One of the biggest challenges in this process of creating a culture of transformation is providing space where members are able to practice the new skills they are learning without risking major catastrophe. This may come in the form of a trial period in a role, as role-playing with other team members, or even live practice where someone is providing coaching in real time.
Whatever the form is, the goal is to allow members to practice what they are learning so they can successfully move from theory and knowledge to skill and experience. By creating a safe practice space for roles to be tested and skills to be exercised, this will show those in your faith community that you are more concerned with their development than you are with the perfection of your church. People will feel safe in your presence with the security knowing you value them more than what they can do for you and the church.
Promote Positive Role Models
Your culture is built on your praise. When you have the attention of your congregation, take the time to praise those who are doing well, those who are involved in the process of becoming transformational leaders, and those who are putting in the effort to embrace change and be prepared for it.
Once you praise them publicly, then promote them into roles of leadership and responsibility as soon as they are ready to perform well. The sooner you promote those who are all in on the process, the sooner others will be encouraged by their example and join the process themselves. Promotion of role models that inspire others is how a culture is changed.
Hold Open Debrief Sessions
What can often hold a church back from becoming a transformational faith community is the stifling of information and not allowing open forums to receive feedback.
As leaders, it is difficult for us to take feedback. As ministry leaders, I believe we are in a unique situation where we get more than our fair share of criticism, even if we do an exceptional job. This causes us to avoid, and sometimes even resist, receiving feedback. This can be detrimental to the development of a transformational church, as well as to us as leaders.
If you as the ministry leader set up opportunities for your staff, leaders, and volunteers to share their concerns, ask the tough questions, and even be objectively critical of what is happening, you will create an environment where objective feedback flows freely, ideas blossom and grow into innovative practices, and a sense of security rests on your team and faith community. Nothing breeds insecurity more than shadows of information and dead ends to feedback. As long as you the leader can handle the feedback in a secure way, your faith community with thrive on the road to being transformational.
Develop New Systems Conducive for Transformation
When churches try to change, they will focus their attention on aesthetic changes, maybe even programmatic changes, but too often they stop short of what may be the most vital step: restructuring the systems that run in the background.
The systems and structures that are used in your faith community are vital for the health, efficiency, and sustainability of your teams. At the same time, your systems communicate value to those who are paying attention. For instance, for anyone in your congregation is giving financially to the church (which we hope everyone is), then keeping up with the necessary online security for those who use their cards is of great importance. If this is an oversight within your systems, then you may see a drop in your giving, or even have people leave for another church who has a secure system.
For many ministry leaders, systems and structures are not their thing, which is understandable. If you are more on the big vision spectrum and leave the detail work like systems and structures to others, that is fine. However, if you are unable to hire someone to build quality systems and structures for you, whether it is a staff member or an outside service, then put in the effort to learn how to build systems and structures that can sustain a transformational community.
By updating old systems, and shutting some down to be replaced by others, you position your community to be more agile and more in tune with technology, people’s preferences, and the demands of our fast-paced world. Most of all, you will increase the productivity of yourself and your teams.
Transformational churches are often on the cutting edge of ministry practices, they draw people in, develop them, and send them out to advance the Kingdom of God. These 8 steps will help you move your church from where it is and either become transformational or go deeper in your level of transformation.