The 3-Step Framework for Developing a Mission-Based Culture

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Leadership

Creating a clear, vibrant culture is essential for church health and stewarding faithful believers into a mature Christian walk.

Many church leaders, however, overlook the importance of fostering an environment where every member feels like a valued and engaged part of the mission and often instead jump to tactics without the underlying support of developing the culture.

When shaping church culture, it’s crucial to understand that it revolves around the everyday experiences, interactions, and values shared by your congregation. A thriving and healthy church culture doesn’t just happen—it is cultivated with intentional effort and strategic leadership.

The Culture W.A.R. Framework

The Culture W.A.R. Framework is a simple, 3-step framework that will help you take practical and intentional steps toward developing a healthy culture that your congregation can embrace. I believe when fully embraced, this simple framework can fuel a positive reputation in your church and in your community.

The framework is simple. A healthy church culture is shaped by:

  • The Words We Speak
  • The Actions We Take
  • The Relationships We Foster

Step 1: Words We Speak

Words are powerful tools that shape perceptions and expectations. They can build up or tear down a community. The language used within your church sets the tone for its overall atmosphere.

So what do I mean by “the words we speak”?

A good place to start are core values and your purpose statement (you might call that your mission statement or vision statement). These components are created with the purpose of being culture-shaping, but they don’t always seep into the congregation. Your values and purpose should be concise and memorable. If only the senior pastor can repeat them, it’s time to revisit them.

In general, the words we speak should support the heartbeat of your church – what you’re passionate about and how you help people.

Consider this example from Fincastle Baptist Church in Fincastle, VA.
Nearly every Sunday, Pastor Kevin Cummings can be heard reminding congregants that their church exists to glorify God by helping others to know God, grow in God, and live for God. This simple, memorable statement gets repeated often to communicate the church’s priorities and shape its culture. Whether it’s your first visit or your 500th, you know what’s important to them. In addition, they are then able to dig into the “how” of each statement with more intentional endeavors such as adding campuses, planting churches, etc.

Maybe you already do that. What other “words” are important?

  • Stories. It’s common for this to happen during a “giving moment.” Use your words to reveal the good things being accomplished that people may not be aware of.
  • Celebration. It’s often said, “What gets rewarded gets repeated.” It’s easy to forget to verbally acknowledge the good things that are happening if you’re jumping from fire to fire or task to task, but when you slow down and celebrate with your words, you uplift people and acknowledge priorities you want to see continue.

But words alone are not enough, they need to be supported by actions. When done well, your Words should inspire Action.

Step 2: Actions We Take

Actions are the visible expression of our beliefs and commitments. In church, this means your values show up in the actions leaders and congregants take week in and week out.

Some leaders fall into the trap of talking about values and visions without taking substantive actions to back them up. Whether unintentional or not, this can lead to a culture of skepticism and disengagement. Demonstrate your values through consistent, intentional actions. Whether it’s through community outreach, incredible hospitality, or small groups activities, your actions should reflect the culture you wish to cultivate.

Text In Church is great at this. Their tagline, “Known. Noticed. Loved.” is pervasive throughout their organization. Their team members go out of their way to check in on people, send small gifts or notes, support others’ big dreams, etc. It’s why their platform is so successful. It’s not just a texting tool – it’s a follow-up framework powered by a genuine spirit of helping people be seen and cared for.

But actions, like words, are meaningless if they are siloed. That’s why it’s important to foster relationships that build up a healthy church culture.

Step 3: Relationships We Foster

Genuine, caring relationships are at the heart of any vibrant church culture. Building relationships within the church fosters a sense of community and belonging, but it doesn’t happen overnight and cannot be forced.

In the book, Growing Young, the authors unpack the six essential strategies to help young people discover and love your church. Unsurprisingly, half of these essential strategies involved relationships (unlock keychain leadership, fuel a warm community, be the best neighbors).

Relationships matter, and in this day and age, when people spend most of their time behind a screen, they crave deep, meaningful relationships. The bad news is that many don’t know how to make that happen. The good news is that there is a huge opportunity for The Church to be part of the solution for this very real pain point if we intentionally foster relationships—especially cross-generational ones.

The field is ripe for the harvest, but society needs more churches that are fostering mentorship-style discipleship across generations. It’s common for churches to say “we are a family”, but many of those same churches don’t, in fact, act very family-like. A true family consists of multiple generations supporting each other, but oftentimes in the church world, we develop programs and ministries designed to keep people isolated in age-based silos.

There is tremendous value in shaping your church’s culture through the relationships you foster so that people feel like they are truly part of something bigger than themselves. Go beyond just offering small groups and teaching people how to be mentors. Create cross-generational social gatherings that allow members to connect on a personal level. Remember, strong relationships are the glue that holds a church community together.

The W.A.R. Framework in Action

Implementing the Culture W.A.R. Framework in your church’s approach can lead to a healthy and holistic transformation of your church culture. Whether you’re in a church revitalization context or just want to see more engagement across the church body, culture is a great starting point. And this simple, 3-step framework gives you a good place to start when it comes to being intentional in your leadership. Here’s a quick summary of the Culture W.A.R. Framework:

  1. Words: Use language that unifies and inspires.
  2. Actions: Lead by example, embodying the values you preach.
  3. Relationships: Foster deep, meaningful connections among members.

A church culture that thrives is built on a God-given vision that’s implemented through a foundation of intentional words, actions, and relationships. By incorporating the Culture W.A.R. Framework into your strategy, your church can become unified and grow in a healthy way in its pursuit of The Great Commission.

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