Culture Before Strategy: New City Church

For our From the Front Lines series, we asked several pastors to share the stories of their church plants. These pastors will be checking in online with regular updates on their churches and experiences, allowing readers a front-row seat to the ins and outs of church planting.

New City Church: Update No. 2

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” —Peter Drucker

The first time I heard that quote, it stuck.

I was reminded of this over a year ago, when I was attending a leadership retreat where the power of staff culture took up a lion’s share of the morning discussion. We were all challenged to write down the cultural values of the teams we led. To be clear, this wasn’t an exercise to define the core values of the church, but rather the values of the staff team, which will be similar but likely include some notable differences. All of the leaders in the room understood the importance of doing so, but few of us had gone through the process of writing down the words that both define our current culture and describe the culture we aspire to have.

As a church planter, this exercise is critical because the further you get away from your launch date, the more likely you are to drift from the core values you have for your team. The tyranny of the urgent and exhaustion that comes from the marathon of ministry can often lead us to make key decisions, like hiring staff, without considering what is really core to who we are.

So, when I returned from the leadership gathering, I began to write down the words that define the team I help lead. I also put the question to our staff and sought input. After a few days of thinking and getting input, our staff culture values look like this:

1. Have an entrepreneurial spirit. Take ownership—don’t wait for someone else to do it. And be resourceful—ask first, What can I do with what I have?

2. Honor God with your work ethic. We work and recreate at appropriate levels.

3. Be open to critique. We have thick skin and don’t take critique personally.

4. Do things with excellence. We believe an excellent God deserves our best.

5. Have fun. We take the gospel seriously but don’t take ourselves too seriously.

6. Be culturally diverse and culturally agile. As a church in the city and for the city, we must connect with people from all walks of life and be comfortable around people who are not like us.

5. Seek God in all things. Instead of doing and then asking God to bless it, we first ask God what he wants, and then we do that.

6. Our stated cultural aspiration: We aspire to celebrate and appreciate each other often!

This process is beneficial on many levels and applies in all areas of life, whether in the church, at home or in the business sector. I do think these can change slightly over time, but the value of having them on paper is tremendous, especially as your church and team grow. You need to have a rudder, and this provides a great one.

Coincidentally and almost without knowing it, we went through a similar process almost six years ago when we began New City Church. We looked at the city of Phoenix and asked ourselves questions like, “What are the current cultural values of this city?” and, “What do the people of this city aspire to be?”

While the global church has one stated mission, to make disciples of Jesus, our cultural contexts matter and must inform the modes of our ministry. Knowing who we are and “who our city is” and “what it aspires to be” is key to shaping programing and ministry.
When we know this, we will be more effective at making disciples who in turn contribute to the flourishing of a city where all people have an opportunity to live, work, study and play in a community they are making home.

Read more from Brian Kruckenberg and New City Church »

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