Our greatest success as a church startup is our healthy culture. By far the most comments we get are directly related to how friendly, loving, and ridiculously good at welcoming people we are. We have created something so uniquely different that it’s become what we are known for. We frequently have guests come just because friends said they needed to experience the first few minutes of walking in our building. We have fought dearly for a “Cheers” (remember the show about the bar?) type of feeling when you walk in and we have achieved it beyond our wildest dreams. Here’s some of the foundation that we laid in order to develop that culture:
1. As lead pastors, we have to genuinely care about people. Mark and I have been known to meet a guest, not see them again for six months, and call them by name when they come back. Why? People are our business. You will have more of an impact in people’s lives just by remembering who they are than any other one issue.
2. Your startup team must be indoctrinated into whatever culture you want to have. Most of the 39 people who we started with had already worked with us and together for years. We were miles ahead in that respect. They knew our DNA and how important it was to replicate that. On day one we looked nearly identical to what we do now in the culture of our church.
3. You can never stop training newcomers in the “rules” of your culture. We don’t fear losing our culture under the weight of growth because we constantly model for our new families the way we do things as a church family. For example: we meet people we don’t know. We smile often. We know your names. Once you’ve come a couple of times, we want you to begin to do that as well.
4. You can’t be afraid to confront “culture-killers”. We had couches in our foyer once. They lasted two weeks. Why? Our teenagers piled themselves up on them and it created the feeling of being separate and hard to be a part of. They went back to milling around amidst the rest of the people and we kept the culture we wanted. By the way: gossipers, divisive people, and grumpy gus all have to go, too…but that’s another blog.
5. Ambiance is a part of your culture. We have low lights, hot coffee brewing, large signs to direct people, and funky decor. It’s as much a part of who we are as our people. It speaks loudly about the type of church that we are and what’s expected of you. Everything about us says, “Come on in, bring the kids, let the coffee spill, wear your jeans, and grow in the grace of Jesus.”
What does your church say? I guarantee it speaks loudly, so you better fight for it to say the right thing.