Crafting a Christian “corporate” culture

Practical points for pastors.

To attract more talent and visitors, Christian organizations need to be intentional about communicating their values through their environment and work policies.

Growing up in Europe, I visited hundreds of magnificent cathedrals. These edifices were designed to make a person feel small so that he or she would marvel at the greatness of God. The spires rose hundreds of feet high. Hand-carved figures of saints often stood over the entrances, and high on the parapets you could see the stone gargoyles fleeing the presence of the Holy God within. Inside were tomb-stones with statements of undying faith, statues of honorable people, and beautiful stained-glass windows telling Bible stories that were enlivened by the coruscating light.

While it is the people inside a church whom God most treasures, church leaders should ask themselves how they can best make their work-places glorify God and speak of His presence. A well-planned environment will not only make your workers hap-pier and encourage them to share your values but also welcome visitors and inspire them to linger and return.

I once visited a church and decided to explore a little since I was early. I quickly noticed that the walls were mostly barren, with old white paint slightly peeling and stained in places. One tattered poster of Jesus’ face without a frame was stuck to the wall with yellowing tape. Near the entrance I spotted a cork bulletin board and decided to see what kinds of activities were available. To my astonishment, I discovered that most of the notes were deprecatory statements like “Whoever stole the darn Wii controller from the youth room GIVE IT BACK!” I remember thinking I had made a mistake in visiting and wanted to leave before the service started.

While many in the business world realize that investing in a positive work environment pays dividends, the church has been more prosaic in its understanding of work environment, relying only on God’s Spirit to make a place feel comfortable. While I agree that there is nothing more attractive than feeling the Spirit of the living God dwelling in a place, I also think we should join King Solomon and try to make our houses of worship as attractive and inviting as possible.

Studies show that a positive business culture inspires more engagement from employees, attracts top talent, and delivers higher retention rates. To create a positive culture, you must know your own values and then ensure they are being projected by your environment, celebrations, and policies. Strive to understand the total employee or visitor experience. Consider installing large windows, French doors, or skylights. Try to plan informal meetings in your building foyer that have good, natural lighting. Embellish these places with live plants, and ensure there is a place to sit that has access to the most recent publications that you believe in. This will allow your visitors and employees to spontaneously educate themselves and better understand the wider world.

Have your values written out and made into professional signs for your walls, and consider having a “hall of fame” where you place pictures of the missionaries you support or organizations that partner with your ministry. Consider places to hang the flags of all the countries where you have influence. Have a place to herald your heroes, possibly honoring a “person of the month” or having pictures of employees’ families or hanging pictures of religious leaders, scriptures, or values that you most admire. Maybe you could just put up pictures that depict God’s beauty in nature.

Yearly events, traditions, and celebrations can also proclaim your values. Initiate yearly, grand Mother’s Day celebrations where every mother gets a flower and is honored by the reading of submitted praises that complete the sentence “My mom is the best because . . .” Try holding annual hands-on missionary nights where people go through different rooms to experience stories from missionaries, food from foreign places, and the types of work that missionaries do. Consider celebrating the biblical Jewish holidays, and take the opportunity to explain their relevance. The important thing is that you consider what is worthy of celebrating and then celebrate it well.

Finally, consider how you treat your workers (whether full-time or part-time employees or volunteers) and how that reflects your values. Workplace expert Daniel Pink suggests that the modern workforce mostly wants autonomy, the ability to gain and employ mastery, and the knowledge that they are working for a true purpose.* If you restructure your ministry setting to create a positive Christian culture that delivers these things, you will find the environment a happier place, and your visitors will also notice it and want to linger and return.

*   Dan Pink, “The Puzzle of Motivation,” talk presented at TEDGlobal 2009, TED, /dan_pink_on_motivation.

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March 2018

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