Business executives from around the world pay big bucks to attend seminars on “the Disney Way”—learning how leaders at this much-admired company build their culture, leverage business success, and treat their employees and guests. For a long time, the tech company Hewlett Packard has been known for its egalitarian, decentralized culture, known as “the HP Way.” In both examples, company leaders first looked inward to discern and articulate their “why”—the purpose at the foundation of their work—and their distinct way of doing business that aligns with their calling. Then they looked outward to discern and articulate how they would relate to customers and workers in light of that calling.
The bridge to church culture is not so hard to find—after all, the early Christians defined themselves as “The Way,” referencing Jesus when He described Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life.”
In a congregation I once served, the leaders modeled their ministry after the Simple Church movement, where everything they did had to help people “connect with God, connect with each other, or connect to the needs of the community.” If it didn’t honor one or more of these three intentions, then it wasn’t part of this congregation’s “way.” This process—looking inward to discern your church’s “way,” then looking outward to define how you’ll live out that “way”—leads to transformational impact both inside and outside your church.
To get started, start asking people in your congregation a simple question: “What is the (Your Church Name) Church Way?” After you’ve gathered input, meet as leaders to prayerfully consider what you’re learning from that feedback, and brainstorm words and phrases that capture “the way” of your church, or your unique calling. Then write down what your “way” would look like if it was infused into every individual and team. Consider creating a Congregational Covenant that would help capture “the way” for your congregation. Then share “the way” of your church by referencing your covenant at all gatherings, meetings, and major events.
This alignment around your “way” can be reinforced by what business consultant Tom Peters calls “management by walking around.” I have a coaching relationship with a pastor who practices walking-around management by regularly asking people questions such as: “Mary, in what ways do you see us fulfilling our mission?” or “Susan, what are your thoughts about our three main goals for this year?” or “Tom, which of our five core values are you most energized by?” This pastor told me, “I get a weekly reality check about which messages are getting through to our people and what messages I need to pay more attention to in the future.”
If you want to change your congregation, change what you talk about. Find your unique expression of The Way, then embed the way of your church in everything you do.
If you would like additional help in putting this approach into practice, please reach out to me or any of the coaches at Vibrant Faith. Just CLICK HERE for more information. Coaching is an intentional process that moves you forward and aligns with this four-step process.
Jim LaDoux is the longtime Director of Coaching Services for Vibrant Faith. Jim lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife—he has two adult sons. He’s been a coach since 1992, and has a Master of Management Arts and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach). He’s author of the coaching manual Surface to Soul.