Establishing Healthy Church Culture on Staff

Joel Owen - Lead Pastor | Grace Fellowship Church, Kingsport, TN

I’m a fan of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Being a fan of the Vols football program has not been easy in the past 15 years. My sons were born into a world where Tennessee football is irrelevant on the national stage (or any stage for that matter). But, my fandom is a lot like marriage- for better or worse, until death do us part! And trust me, there is a lot of “worse” right now in our program. Over the past 14 years we have rolled through five head coaches and now have a sixth man at the helm. Every single coach says the same thing in the initial press conference: “We have to work hard to establish a healthy culture here and get this program on the right track to win.” They all want a healthy, winning culture, but few ever really establish it.

Every church leader I know wants a healthy staff culture. In fact, to be a disciple-making church, it is imperative that a healthy staff culture exists.

Establishing that culture can be easier said than done! The key word is “establish,” because cultures are not born, they are intentionally formed.

Maybe you were fortunate to walk into a great situation with a staff team that was on the same page and was moving toward common goals, focused on making disciples within their ministries and the church at large. That culture had already been established and you get to reap the benefits. Or perhaps you are trying to build that culture from the ground up. What does a healthy staff culture look like and how do you establish that type of culture where you serve?

We need to look at the way Jesus approached things to establish a culture for making disciples. Here are a few things to consider from the methods Jesus used to turn the world upside down with a small group of people- we will call them his staff team!

To establish a healthy staff culture…

Make the calling clear:
As Jesus invited his first disciples to follow Him the calling was very clear: “Come follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) The disciples knew Jesus was inviting them to leave what they knew in order to follow Him. That was clear. This invitation would not leave them in the same place physically or spiritually. But it was also clear what they would do- fish for men. There was a new expectation that was clearly established so everyone knew what their calling was, no matter what role they played on the team.

  1. Define the win:
    For Jesus the win was to teach the disciples to abide deeply in Him. The culture Jesus established was predicated on complete dependence on God for success. In John 15 Jesus tells the disciples, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) A healthy church culture is established by continually equipping our staff team to abide in relationship with Jesus. As we pursue Jesus together on staff we also draw closer to one another.
  2. Spend time in deep relationship:
    A healthy staff culture is born out of time together. I’ve never seen or been part of a team that truly thrived if they only interacted with one another in the church office. Read the gospels and ask the question: How much time did Jesus spend with His disciples that didn’t revolve around ministry? A healthy staff team needs an intentional leader to lead the way in doing things together outside of church. Healthy culture is built when a team serves and plays together!
  3. Have high expectations and give grace generously:
    Jesus was on a mission to change the world. That was no secret! The expectations for the men He was training up and the culture he was building was extremely high. But extravagant grace was also available when the disciples messed things up. Nowhere is this seen more fully than with Peter when Jesus restores him following Peter’s denial of Jesus. (John 21:15-19) Any healthy culture has high expectations and demonstrates amazing grace!

Establishing a healthy staff culture at your church can be difficult. But this hard work is worth all the blood, sweat and tears when you begin reaping the benefit of a team who loves one another, fights for one another and is working toward the common goal of making disciples of Jesus with one another.

For more information on building a healthy culture I strongly encourage you to read a book published in the last year by one of our fellow RDN members Brandon Guindon.

His book titled Disciple Making Culture has helped our team tremendously. Click here to check it out.

By Joel Owen, Lead Pastor

Grace Fellowship Church
Kingsport, TN