Transforming Church Culture when You’re Not the Leader

Church life always seems great until it begins to feel faulty. While you agree with its statement of belief and its mission, there are times when something is not quite right. That can often be a sign that there are some problems in the culture .

It can be disheartening to love a church but feel like there is something wrong —especially when you cannot quite put your finger on what it is. The ambiguity, however, does not necessarily mean that you should consider leaving. There are ways you can help turn a culture around—even when you are not in a position of leadership.

1. Pray for discernment

When you get the sense that there are issues, the first step is always prayer. You want to ask God for two things: clarity and wisdom. We need to be willing to accept that sometimes our perception is the problem. Maybe we are misunderstanding a situation or perhaps past experiences have made us sensitive to something that is entirely innocuous.

If you need help seeing things more clearly, make sure you are talking to the right people. Do not start shopping around your concerns, looking for confirmation that something is wrong. This can make things worse. Find someone in a position of leadership that you can confide in. In the rare case that leadership is  the problem, look for someone with spiritual maturity you can trust.

2. Put an end to all gossip in your presence

Gossip erodes community, but we are still too comfortable with it. If you want to turn a culture around, start by ridding yourself of all unhelpful chitchat. This means that you refuse to talk about the problems of systems and people who are not directly involved.

Gossip not only crumbles a community, but it also causes you stress. Fixating on problems that are beyond your control will steal your joy. Avoid the temptation to gossip to gain your joy back. It never works. It contributes to the unhealthy culture.

3. Focus on your circle of influence

We all have more power and influence than we realize. We tend to miss it because we are too focused on this vast area of concern that lies outside of our control. When we are too worried about what we are unable to change, we feel helpless.

The truth is that we all have enormous influence to touch and change the lives of the people around us. When we focus on modeling our deepest values to the ministries and individuals who we come into direct impact with every day, it has an effect. And more than anything, culture is caught more than taught.

4. Build strategic relationships

When we get a sense that there is a problem with our church culture, our first impulse is to talk about it with others to ensure that we are not imagining it. The other option we revert to is withdrawal. Neither of those options is truly helpful. Instead, we should build more  relationships.

Think about it this way: you can always grow your circle of influence. And by doing so, you can impact an unhealthy culture by being an antibody. Of course, you are not increasing your influence to stage a rebellion or get your way. You are intentionally building relationships to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit.

Changing a culture

There are appropriate times and reasons to leave a church, but too often people leave churches that Jesus would want them to influence. An awesome church culture  requires people willing to stick it out and love people with the ferocity of Jesus.