Building a Healthy Ministry Culture

Darren HalesAll Enews, Strengthening Team

As a young adult, I loved Jesus and truly believed that those who loved and served Jesus would function with joy, enthusiasm, unity, and a Kingdom mindset. I was so naïve. On the outside, all appeared well in my local church. There was the illusion that we all had the same heartbeat for Gospel ministry, but when it came to the nitty gritty, our church leadership was dysfunctional.  Communication was poor, which caused tension. There was no clarity of our mission, which led to stagnation. Our inner relationships were dominated by personality clashes with no genuine humility. We all kept a smile on our faces while ignoring serious heart issues that are necessary in order to maintain unity. However, the grin and bear it of ministry leadership was so deflating.  Sadly, over the years, I have found this to be true in many churches.

When I planted Big Sky Fellowship, I was determined to build a ministry team that was submitted to Jesus and one another. I challenged us to be united in spirit and purpose and to love unconditionally. When there was even a hint of dysfunction, I was quick to ask clarifying questions. I became a good listener and tackled potential conflict head on. I did not want to see a negative spirit or relational strain fester. What I found is that building a healthy ministry culture is the work of the Holy Spirit. We all need grace! Everyday! It is also an intentional and ongoing process. You are never done. You must clearly and consistently articulate the distinctives of your culture and EVERYONE is responsible for cultivating it. It is to be valued and protected because a healthy ministry culture is so freeing and empowering. It must be taught from Scripture, modeled with humility, and constantly reinforced through conversations and celebrations.

Culture is a set of core values that are lived out in relationships. It is a common vision fostered in community and organized upon eternal truths. It is not just what you say you believe; it’s how you live it. It is the attitude of the heart and the love you demonstrate. Jesus built a culture that was welcoming of sinners and yet consistent in its message to repent and believe. He was a shepherd, a servant, a healer, a truth teller, and a grace giver. His life demonstrates truth and compassion. With the enabling of the Holy Spirit, the koinonia (fellowship) of Acts 2 is ours today. We must reclaim it.

One can articulate a great vision, but without a healthy ministry culture to build upon, it will be anemic. Therefore, you must fight for it.  There are a few givens.  Jesus needs to shape our culture. The Holy Spirit transforms people.  Character is essential.  Prayer is the foundation. With those assumed, here are some actions that build a healthy ministry culture:

  1. Select and develop leaders that align with the ministry culture.
  2. Organize your team and release them into the Gospel ministry with encouragement and coaching. 
  3. From the pulpit, there are axioms that highlight and describe the culture. These statements define the culture in simple terms and illustrate it. I would say often, “Our desire is to be a reflection of Jesus.”
  4. Allow edifying traditions to form that emphasize the culture. For example, we share testimonies at baptisms and shout and celebrate when new believers come up out of the water.  
  5. Use images and objects that embody the beauty of culture in tangible ways. The Church at the Gates has a counter that tabulates the meals hosted by the church with unchurched neighbors. This is a great visual.

There is so much to unpack from those exhortations. If this sounds intriguing, please contact me. I would love to share some pertinent resources and examples. I would also be delighted to offer training and coaching from my ministry experience. 

Let me leave you with a final thought. You are ridiculously responsible for the culture of your church. You will either shape it or it will shape you.

About the Author

Darren Hales

Darren Hales is the Church Strengthening Team Leader of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.