Do You Ever Feel Like You’re Living Out the Movie “Groundhog Day” at Your Church?

Groundhog Day is a celebration of an old tradition – Candlemas Day – where clergy blessed and distributed candles for winter, representing how long and cold winter would be.

Groundhog Day is also a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray that popularized the usage of “groundhog day” to mean something that is repeated over and over.

Many churches find themselves in their own version of groundhog day, living out a dream and vision that was once relevant, but now is long in the past. Unwilling or unable to face reality, they are simply repeating the past over and over.



Church leaders who find themselves in this situation have an excellent resource in Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code by Sam Chand.

“Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” offers a practical resource for discovering the deficits in an existing church’s culture and includes steps needed to assess, correct, and change culture from lackluster to vibrant and inspirational so that it truly meets the needs of the congregation.Cracking Your Church's Culture Code

The book includes descriptions of five categories of church culture (Inspiring, Accepting, Stagnant, Discouraging, and Toxic) as well as diagnostic methods (including a free online assessment) that church leaders can use to identify the particular strengths and needs of their church.

One particularly useful section of the book deals with the seven keys of CULTURE:

  • Control – it isn’t a dirty word; delegating responsibility and maintaining accountability are essential for any organization to be effective
  • Understanding – every person on a team needs to have a clear grasp of the vision, his or her role, the gifts of the team members, and the way the team functions
  • Leadership – healthy teams are pipelines of leadership development, consistently discovering, developing, and deploying leaders
  • Trust – mutual trust up, down, and across the organizational structure is the glue that makes everything good possible
  • Unafraid – healthy teams foster the perspective that failure isn’t a tragedy and conflict isn’t the end of the world
  • Responsive – teams with healthy cultures are alert to open doors and ones that are closing; they have a sensitive spirit and a workable system to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks
  • Execution – executing decisions is a function of clarity, roles and responsibilities, and a system of accountability

Understanding your church’s culture is not an easy task. Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code is a very helpful resource for the leader who wants to delve below the surface of church as usual and lead it to greater impact.


6 Principles That Shape the Culture of Your Organization

A church without values is like a river without banks-just a large puddle. It is missing an opportunity for white-water movement. As with any organization, your church has a set of shared motives, or values, underneath the surface of everyday activity. The problem is that they stay weak because they are unidentified and unharnessed in guiding the future.

The role of the leader is to identify the most important values and pull them above the waterline of people’s perception. Once they are in clear view, the leader can nurture their development, enabling the church to do more of what it does best.

Once your people know and own the values, it’s like creating the banks of a river to channel energy and momentum. Think of values not as what we do but rather as what characterizes everything we do.

Is it time to shape a culture change?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Built on Values, by Ann Rhoades

Most leaders know that a winning, engaged culture is the key to attracting top talent—and customers. Yet, it remains elusive how exactly to create this ideal workplace —one where everyone from the front lines to the board room knows the company’s values and feels comfortable and empowered to act on them.

Based on Ann Rhoades’ years of experience with JetBlue, Southwest, and other companies known for their trailblazing corporate cultures, Built on Values reveals exactly how leaders can create winning environments that allow their employees and their companies to thrive. Companies that create or improve values-based cultures can become higher performers, both in customer and employee satisfaction and financial return, as proven by Rhoades’ work with JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Disney, Loma Linda University Hospitals, Doubletree Hotels, Juniper Networks, and P.F. Chang’s China Bistros.

Built on Values provides a clear blueprint for how to accomplish culture change, showing:

  • How to exceed the expectations of employees and customers
  • How to develop a Values Blueprint tailored to your organization’s goals and put it into action
  • Why it’s essential to hire, fire, and reward people based on values alone, and
  • How to establish a discipline for sustaining a values-centric culture

Built on Values helps companies get on the pathway to greatness by showing the exact steps for either curing an ailing company culture or creating a new one from scratch.


Many leaders know what a great culture looks like. They are just unsure as to how to implement one.

Culture develops, regardless of whether or not it is defined. And if the values you’ve formally written down don’t match the existing culture, those values will be ignored.

You can create a model for culture change that will energize your teams every day, and their energy will carry throughout your church’s ministries.

A high-performing culture doesn’t just happen. It can’t be forced into being through willpower. But it can become an inevitability if you create the right environment to foster it.

Six fundamental principles inform every successful values-based culture.

Principle 1 – You can’t force culture. You can only create environment.

A culture is the culmination of the leadership, values, language, people, processes, rules, and other conditions, good or bad, present within an organization.

Principle 2 – You are on the outside what you are on the inside – no debate.

Many leaders do not understand that you cannot create a great organization if you treat your team members badly.

Principle 3 – Success is doing the right things the right way.

By defining your values and the behaviors based on them, you simplify the task of day-to-day decision-making.

Principle 4 – People do exactly what they are incented to do.

Reward the behaviors you want, taking into account how they lead to an outcome.

Principle 5 – Input = Output.

Organizations will only get out of something what they are willing to put into it.

Principle 6 – The environment you want can be built on shared, strategic values and financial responsibility.

Conscious action, beginning with determining a set of shared values, can set up the necessary condition for encouraging a culture that will make an organization great.

Ann Rhodes, Built on Values


List each of the six principles above on a separate chart tablet sheet. Gather your leadership team together for a two-hour discussion, spending 15 minutes on each, brainstorming your team’s thoughts and comments about how each of the six principles are – or are not – in place in your organization.

After you have completed all six, spend the last 30 minutes reflecting on how you can use these principles to improve the values and culture at your church.

Remember, values are the motivational flame of the church. They are the shared convictions that guide your actions and reveal your strengths. Values answer, “Why do we do what we do at our church?” They are springboards for daily action and filters for decision-making. Values represent the conscience of the organization. They distinguish your philosophy of ministry and shape your culture and ethos.

If your values fail to inspire the staff, there is no way that they will shape the culture you are seeking. If your values are boring and predictable, maybe it is time for an update. Click here to schedule a conversation with an Auxano Navigator around values development.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 89-1, released March 2018.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Leaders Model Culture by Consistent Personal Example

How can you protect and grow your church culture without having to be negative all the time?

Either you will manage your culture, or it will manage you.

Simply defined, culture is the way people think and act.

Every organization has a culture, which either works for you or against you – and it can make the difference between success and failure. Managing the organizational culture so that leaders, managers, and team members think and act in the manner necessary to achieve desired results has never mattered more.

When most organizations try to improve their culture, they focus on the negative aspects, and try to fix them. This sounds reasonable, but the opposite approach is much more successful. You may find greater success in identifying a few positive attributes within your culture that are connected directly to your identity and mission. Focus on them and find ways to accelerate and extend them throughout the organization.

Leaders model culture by consistent personal example.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Culture Engine

The Culture Engine shows leaders how to create a high performing, values aligned culture through the creation of an organizational constitution. With practical step-by-step guidance, readers learn how to define their organization’s culture, delineate the behaviors that contribute to greater performance and greater engagement, and draft a document that codifies those behaviors into a constitution that guides behavior towards an ideal: a safe, inspiring workplace. The discussion focuses on people, including who should be involved at the outset and how to engage employees from start to finish, while examples of effective constitutions provide guidance toward drafting a document that can actualize an organization’s potential.

Culture drives everything that happens in an organization day-to-day, including focus, priorities, and the treatment of employees and customers. A great culture drives great performance, and can help attract and retain great talent. But a great culture isn’t something that evolves naturally. The Culture Engine is a guide to strategically planning a culture by compiling the company’s guiding principles and behaviors into an organizational constitution.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – The Culture Engine, by S. Chris Edmonds

As is the case in almost every organizational component, culture begins at the top – with the leader’s personal culture.

Leaders shape the way people think and behave—leaders are viewed by others as role models, and employees look around to see if their behavior is consistent with the organization’s espoused values and philosophy.

Leaders set the agenda. Leaders influence the organization’s culture and in turn the long-term effectiveness of the organization. Leaders and managers set the context within which organizational members strive for excellence and work together to achieve organizational goals.

The credibility and success of any culture improvements at your organization will depend on the degree to which you, as the culture champion, are consistently modeling the desired values and behaviors.

Leaders are in charge of an organization’s culture. Refining or tweaking your team’s or organization’s current culture means that you will be the banner carrier for your organizational constitution.

Here’s what leaders must do:

  1. You are ready to embrace the leader’s responsibility to be a proactive champion of your desired culture.
  2. You’ll need to invest significant time and energy communicating, modeling, and reinforcing your desired culture.
  3. You’ll need to embrace servant leadership in daily interactions.
  4. You’ll need to promptly and genuinely praise and encourage aligned efforts by team members and teams.
  5. You’ll not be able to simply add these activities to your daily workload; you’ll need to redirect time and energy to culture-champion activities from less important activities.

Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine


Take the following Culture Effectiveness Assessment (CEA) (from The Culture Engine, p42-43) in order to help you understand the degree to which you, as a team or organizational leader, have clarified your own purpose, values, behaviors, and leadership philosophy.

Your Culture Effectiveness Assessment, like weighing yourself everyday, only tells part of the story. Your scales may tell you you’re gaining weight, but not if you’re gaining muscle. You will need other testing to determine that.

Likewise, your CEA score is just a measurement. Once you have taken it, set it aside, and begin the personal work required to set the standard for improving cultural organization. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What is one immediate action I can take this week to champion healthy culture? (Example: spend 15 minutes one morning prayer walking your buildings)
  2. What is one collaborative moment I can create in the next month to demonstrate and celebrate aligned efforts among our team? (Example: creating a quarterly staff fellowship with awards)
  3. What is one measurable target we can set for the next year that supports the culture we desire to sustain? (Example: every small group member serving in the community at least once)

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 58-3, January 2017.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

How to Cultivate Long-Term Commitment Within Your Team

Many teams today are not really teams at all – organizationally, structurally, and motivationally they are not set up to work as individual parts of a larger, unified whole. Often they reflect outdated organizational charts that have little to do with current reality. There are times when a leader realizes their team is actually a collection of individuals who are looking out for themselves. Left in this state, a team can actually become a divisive and damaging cancer to the organization.

Is it little wonder, then, that leaders seek help in cultivating commitment within their teams? The problem isn’t necessarily with the team members or leaders themselves, but what the team is being asked to do: work together without any larger sense of organizational direction or purpose.

If your team needs a boost in commitment, consider taking the following action.

Solution: Create a robust culture where people buy in.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – All  In, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

In the highest-performing teams and companies, managers create a “culture of belief,” following seven essential steps of leadership.
To have any hope of succeeding as a manager, you need to get your people all in.

Whether you manage the smallest of teams or a multi-continent organization, you are the owner of a work culture and few things will have a bigger impact on your performance than getting your people to buy into your ideas and your cause and to believe what they do matters.

Bestselling authors, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, answer the most overlooked leadership questions of our day: Why are some managers able to get their employees to commit wholeheartedly to their culture and give that extra push that leads to outstanding results? And how can managers at any level build and sustain a profitable, vibrant work-group culture of their own?

All In is a vital resource which will empower leaders everywhere to inspire a new level of commitment and performance.


Organizational consultants, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, used the results of a massive study of over 303,000 employees from 25 high-performance companies around the world to identify three characteristics that were present in every organization.

They found that team members who were engaged, enabled, and energized provided their organizations with a significant increase in performance.

Team members with high E + E + E characteristics were not only committed to the organization, but were enabled to constantly look for areas where they could add value to the organization, and demonstrate the energy to follow through on their commitments.

If your culture is clear, positive, and strong, then your people will buy into your ideas and cause, and most important, will believe what they do matters, and that they can make a difference.

In the highest performing cultures, leaders not only create high levels of engagement – manifested in a strong attachment to the organization and a willingness to give extra effort – but they also create environments that support productivity and performance, in which team members feel enabled. And finally, they help team members feel a greater sense of well-being and drive at work, in other words, people feel energized.

Engaged – Team members understand how their work benefits the larger organization, and have a clear understanding of how they are responsible and accountable for real results. They are also able to see the value of their contributions to the organization’s larger mission.

Enabled – The organization supports team members with the right tools and training, and leaders spend 75 percent of their time coaching and walking the floor to ensure that team members can navigate the demands of their responsibilities.

Energized – Leaders maintain feelings of well-being and high levels of energy through daily encouragement, helping team members balance work and home life, and recognizing individual contributions.

– Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, All In


The authors of All In identified the three drivers of Engaged, Enabled, and Energized as necessary to create a strong organizational culture. Not only that, but any single driver without the other two will not produce exceptional results.

Use the following exercise at your next team meeting to determine the roadblocks your team may be encountering in trying to achieve the Engaged + Enabled + Energized goal.

Consider Engaged, Enabled, and Energized as destinations that your team needs to reach in order to be successful. For each of the three destinations, discuss the following questions:

  • What roadblocks are keeping our team from reaching our destination?
  • Who put them there, or keeps them there?
  • Who is most equipped to move each of them?
  • Which of our values assists in moving this roadblock? (To learn more about how working values or missional motivators define culture click here.)
  • What does the road to each destination look like with the roadblock gone?

Develop a plan to dismantle each of the roadblocks identified. Report on the progress monthly until all roadblocks have been cleared.


While all too often teams are “teams” in name only, individual commitment to a larger whole is an integral part of the success of any organization.

By creating a robust culture, church leaders can help their teams maintain commitment and accomplish their Great Commission call.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here. Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Bring the Heat

The ability to control the temperature of food involves a set of kitchen skills and food knowledge that, more than anything else, defines the excellence of the cook. An expertise in temperature control won’t turn poor ingredients into good ones, but it will determine much of what follows once the ingredients are in your house.

The Elements of Cooking, by Michael Ruhlman

 In other words, it’s all about heat.



 Bill Hybels, writing in axiom, has exactly this process in mind when he writes:

Anytime you see God-honoring values being lived out genuinely and consistently, it’s fair to assume that a leader decided to identify a handful of values and turn up the burner under them.

When you heat up a value, you help people change states.

  • Want to jolt people out of business as usual? Heat up innovation.
  • Want to untangle confusion? Heat up clarity.
  • Want to eradicate miserliness? Heat up generosity.

New “states” elicit new attitudes, new aptitudes, and new actions. It’s not rocket science – it’s just plain chemistry. Which is a lot about heat.

Leaders must determine what values they believe should be manifested in their organizations. And then put them over the flame of a burner by teaching on those values, underscoring them with Scripture, enforcing them, and making heroes out of the people who are living them out.

Over time, sufficiently hot values will utterly define your culture.

It’s time to bring the heat.

The 6th Discipline of Guest Experiences: Culture

Organizations that want to produce a high-quality Guest experience need to perform a set of sound, standard practices. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, in their book Outside In, have developed six high-level disciplines which can be translated into Guest experiences: strategy, Guest understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture.

An overview of all six Disciplines can be found here. These disciplines represent the areas where organizations that are consistently great at Guest experiences excel.

If you want to deliver a great Guest Experience, these disciplines are where you need to focus, too.  


Now matter how solid your strategy is or how carefully you design your Guest Experience, it’s simply impossible to plan for every single Guest interaction at every last touchpoint. At some point, you need to put your trust in your organization’s most valuable resource – your team members – to do the right thing for Guests.

Building a Guest-centric culture is critical to your success.

How exactly to you get to this level of a Guest-centric culture? First, you overhaul your recruiting practices so that you get Guest-obsessed people on the front lines. Second, you need to socialize the importance of Guest-centricity through storytelling, rituals, and training. Third, you’ve got to reinforce new values and behaviors through informal and formal rewards. Finally, tie it all together with a steady cadence of communication that never lets team members forget why they’re doing all of this in the first place.

Measurement Practices

  • Screen candidates for Guest-centric values as a part of the recruitment process
  • Screen candidates for the specific skills needed to deliver on the organization’s Guest Experience strategy as a part of the recruitment process
  • Provide training to help new and existing team members build and maintain the skills they need to deliver on their part of the organization’s Guest Experience strategy
  • Communicate the importance of Guest Experiences to all team members and partners
  • Collect and share stories of Guest Experience best practices with all team members
  • Perform rituals and routines that reinforce the importance of Guest Experience and what it takes to deliver it
  • Use informal rewards and celebrations to highlight exemplary Guest-centric behavior
  • Connect formal reward structures to performance on Guest Experience metrics

Guest-centric values are the building blocks for reprogramming your organizational DNA. Behaviors are how you turn all of the other practices form the other five disciplines – strategy, Guest understanding, design, measurement, and governance – into habits that your organization just can’t kick.

Application to ChurchWorld

  1. You need to build a Guest-centric culture that pervades your church from bottom to top
  2. Recruit leaders of your hospitality teams for Guest passion and cultural fit
  3. Socialize the key behaviors required to deliver a great experience throughout your organization
  4. Reward team members to reinforce Guest-centric behaviors
  5. Solidify your Guest Experience efforts with constant communication about the “why”

Series Concluding Thought – Mastering these six essential disciplines of Guest Experience takes time and effort but it’s something that you have to do. If you want to succeed at connecting with Guests coming to your campus, you have to decide – right here, right now – to roll up your sleeves and do the work of building competence in these six disciplines. That may scare you – but what should scare you more is the thought of becoming irrelevant to your Guests – which is what will happen if you don’t take action.

To read an overview of the Six Disciplines of Guest Experiences, go here. To begin reading an in-depth review of each of the six, go here.

If you haven’t already, order your personal copy of Outside In right now. This is an excellent guide to developing a Guest Experience ministry in your church – one that you will refer to time and again. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine have done an amazing job of writing a business text that has immediate and far-reaching implications for your church. Go ahead and gift it to yourself for Christmas this year!


Want to know more about the Guest Experience in your church?

  • Learn why the Guest Experience matters here
  • Contact me here
  • Read up a little here


Create a Culture of Extreme Guest Experience Focus

Here is a short checklist for how to create a culture of extreme Guest Experience focus.

1.    Create a Guest Experience vision. Much like creating a vision statement to direct the organization, you should also create a clear and compelling “Guest Experience vision” that describes the level of service your organization aspires to deliver.

2.    Infuse your entire organization with the Guest Experience journey. Create strong, trusting relationships with your Guests. Solicit feedback, communicate that feedback throughout the entire organization, and then be sure to take action on the feedback your Guests have given you.

3.    Become an expert on delivering superior Guest Experiences. Find out everything you can about how to deliver a great Guest Experience. Steal the best ideas, benchmark against the top performers, share that information across your organization and make learning about and working on improving Guest Experience a core competency of your organization.

4.    Turn every team member into a Guest Experience champion. Make serving the Guest the number one job of every team member in your organization.  Help them with the tools, training, equipment and support they must have to deliver excellence consistently.  Reward and praise those who deliver above and beyond the call of duty, deal quickly and effectively with anyone who does not embrace the Guest Experience values.

5.    Remove any barrier that stands in the way of delivering superior Guest Experiences. Look at all systems, policies, procedures, reports and rules. Wipe out anything that creates roadblocks or frustrations in the effort to delight and amaze the Guest.  Stupid rules that make it hard for team members to serve superbly impact your organization negatively.

6.    Measure, measure, measure, measure, measure & communicate. Create a clear, specific and extremely well thought out and over-communicated program for systematically collecting and quickly communicating the most important Guest Experience delivery measurements to the people who can then act on them.  Make it easy for your people to win.

7.    Walk the talk. Every level of the organization, starting at the very top, MUST be a living example of your Guest Experience strategy.  If the senior leadership team in your organization does not support and demonstrate the critical importance of Guest Experiences, there is absolutely no hope that your front-line people will deliver great Guest Experiences. All team members must demonstrate an obsession for delivering consistently Guest Experiences.

What would have to change in your organization to create a culture of extreme Guest Experience focus?

What are you waiting for?


Adapted from Awesomely Simple by John Spence

The 7 Step Road Map to Being All In

To have any hope of succeeding as a leader you need to get your team “all in.”

No matter the size of your team, few things will have a bigger impact on your performance than getting your people to buy into your ideas, your cause, and to believe what matters.

– All In, Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton

Best-selling authors of The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton’s new book All In answers one of the most overlooked leadership questions of the day: Why are some leaders able to get their employees to commit wholeheartedly to their culture and give that extra push that leads to outstanding results?

As with their previous works, a huge (in this case, 300,000 person) study led to a groundbreaking finding: leaders of the highest performing groups create a “culture of belief.” In these distinctive organizations, people believe in their leaders and in the organization’s vision, values, and goals. Team members are engaged, enabled, and energized (the authors use the term Three Es).

Based on the extensive interview process and combined with their years of experience, the authors created a seven-step road map for creating a culture of belief:

  • Define Your Burning Platform – define the mission with great clarity and instill a sense of urgency
  • Create a Customer Focus – focus on customers and mandate a pro-customer orientation
  • Develop Agility – learn to see the future and position your team to meet both seen and unseen challenges
  • Share Everything – create a culture that is a place of truth, has constant communication, and exhibits marked transparency
  • Partner with Your Talent – success is direct result of your teams’ unique ingenuity and talent
  • Root for Each Other – high levels of appreciation and camaraderie create a tangible esprit de corps
  • Establish Clear Accountability – teams must be held accountable for goals, but have the responsibility and tools to ensure their success, with appropriate rewards at completion

All In is a book about culture, but more than that it is the story of how great leaders create unique, inviting, and rewarding places to work – or serve.

What about you – are you ready to lead all in?