4 Strategies for Rebuilding Your Church Staff Culture

Posted by Aaron Buer on May 13, 2021

This past week we had our first all-staff gathering in what feels like forever.

It was outside. It was socially distanced.

It wasn’t as amazing as our pre-COVID gatherings because of the awkwardness that comes with the restrictions, but we’ll get there.

Plus, there was BBQ brisket, so that was a huge win. Come to think of it, I believe BBQ brisket can fix anything.

I realized something as I watched our staff reconnect. We aren’t what we were before.

The five years before COVID struck, we worked hard to build a positive staff culture.

It took tremendous focus, energy, and persistence, and we built something I was proud of.

I’ve got to be real about something: COVID, all the distance, closed offices, and ZOOM meetings erased a lot of that cultural work.  

I don’t think our church is alone in this experience.  

All of us need to recognize there is work that needs to be done to rebuild our church culture—whether that’s a staff or church-wide culture.

And, rather than be gloomy about it, I’m realizing this is an opportunity.

In many ways, exiting the pandemic restrictions provides all of us with a chance to reform our previous culture.

Maybe your culture was not very strong, or perhaps it was even toxic before COVID.

Here, we have a great opportunity to build something new or rebuild something even stronger than we had.  

So, how do we go about doing that? I have four ideas.


Great leaders listen to the people they lead.

Most of the mistakes I’ve made as a leader happened because I thought I understood the situation.

In hindsight, I needed more information.

Taking the time to listen would have kept me out of trouble.

Before attempting to rebuild your culture, take time to ask the people you lead what they need.

Get a clear picture of the challenges and opportunities.

This will ensure you start in the right direction.

Focus on Your Values

Your staff culture is essentially how your staff behaves.

The key to shaping culture is to identify and leverage your values.

Values that are believed in and lived out will shape your culture.  

So, to rebuild your culture, you’ve got to return to the core values of your church and ensure they are front and center for everyone.

I’m not talking about a poster on the wall of your office common area.

I’m talking about every conversation and every decision.

When we were attempting to forge a new culture in our church, our executive pastor went as far as to begin every team meeting with a five-minute speech on our values.

After a while, everyone could recite the speech.

It became a bit of a running joke, but it began to shape the way all of us thought and led.  

So, key question: What are your values?

If you don’t know, take the time to identify them.

If you do know, dust them off and put them back at the center of everything.

Invest in Your Leaders

If your culture is how your church staff behaves, it’s crucial to invest in your leaders because more than values documents or posted signs, your leaders will shape your actual culture.

If a core value is hospitality, but your leaders aren’t hospitable…you’ve got a problem. 

So, perhaps the best use of your time in this season is investing in your core leaders, whether they are staff or volunteers.

Reinforce your values with your core leaders.

Model your values for them and invite them to invest the values into others.

Encourage the Positive

Culture is how we behave together.

Sometimes we behave badly. It happens.

You have a core value of generosity, and yet, you have a staff member who rarely offers to help co-workers.

The perception is she/he doesn’t care a whole lot about others or their work.  

My Instincts tell me to correct. Call out the bad behavior and challenge it.

Yes, this is sometimes necessary, but I’ve learned there is a more effective way to motivate.

It’s called encouragement.

Look for the few times when she/he is generous and jump all over it with encouragement.

“That thing you did right there. That was awesome! We need more of that!”

Think about it.

What motivates you more? “Stop doing that!” or “You did a great job with that thing. Keep it up!” 

My point is to focus your energy on encouraging the positive and use negative correction sparingly.

When you see the culture you are attempting to build lived out, encourage it and watch it grow.

Wrap Up

We have an opportunity as our churches, volunteers, and staff members return to regular in-person interactions.

We can shape our culture toward what was healthy or away from what was dysfunctional.

Don’t miss this opportunity! 

Topics: Advice

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