We’ve all heard about those congregations that just seem to have a toxic culture. Perhaps it’s a tight-knit community that has a hard time welcoming in strangers. Maybe it’s a church whose members try to run the church behind the pastor’s back. I think one of the most common examples of toxicity in a church, however, is one in which too many people become apathetic to the church’s mission of growing disciples and feeding Jesus’ sheep.
It can be easy to see the church’s mission as being the job of only the pastor or church staff, but many healthy and thriving congregations seem to be the ones that are full of members who desire to serve. I don’t think building a can-do culture in your congregation is as difficult as some people make it seem, but it does take some intentionality. Here are a few ideas on how to build this kind of culture in your congregation.
Lead by Example
As with anything, the most effective way to create change—and, in this case, build a can-do culture—is to lead by example. If your congregation sees that you as a church worker aren’t willing to serve or give beyond your job description, they may not be all that inclined to do so either. However, if you show them that you are willing to care for those in need, put others before yourself, and take on projects beyond your normal duties, your positive example may encourage them to do the same.
One of the most discouraging things for an employee or volunteer is being micromanaged. People want to feel like they bring value to a team or organization. When a boss or leader tries to control everything to the point that the worker feels like they might as well just let the leader do the task, that is probably what will happen—you’ll be left doing everything on your own. A good leader will empower those he or she is leading to take the reins and will allow them to either succeed or learn from their mistakes. If your first reaction to a mistake is to take over, you will keep others from growing and improving.
As many of us remember from high school and college, working on a group project can be frustrating at times. You may have an idea of exactly how you’d like the project to end up and feel that throwing other people’s opinions in the mix will just make things more complicated. However, if you want to get your congregation to take ownership of your church, you need to give them space to make things their own. When you seek input from others on how to move forward with something, it helps those people to feel more connected to what they’re working on.
Don’t Overburden People
Within church ministry, there is always so much you could be doing to serve, reach out, and care for others. It can be very tempting to try and do it all, lowering the quality of the care you are able to provide. Many times, the most important thing you can do is to take the time to figure out what your congregation can do without. When you try to bite off more than you can chew, it puts pressure either on you or the volunteers in your congregation to get it all done, and many times, this creates burnout. Consider letting less important things fall to the side. There will always be more you feel like you should be doing, but if you focus your time and energy on the things that truly matter for your congregation, those things will turn out much better in the long run.
Be Thankful and Encouraging
Above all else, the biggest factor in creating a can-do attitude in your congregation is to be thankful and encouraging. People long to be needed and to feel like they are a valuable part of the team. When you affirm them, it will make them want to do more. Try to take the time each week to reach out and say thank you to your volunteers or co-workers. Even just a note of encouragement or a pat on the back will go a long way in creating the culture you long for, and, hopefully, your example will rub off on them.
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