How to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement

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How to Create a Culture of Church Improvement

Chances are you were not taught how to create and build church culture in Bible school or seminary…

Or if you were, you really weren’t paying much attention as someone in their late-teens or early 20’s. I mean, what in the world is church culture and what does it have to do with anything?

In this post we’ll look at the following:

What is Church Culture?
What is a Culture of Improvement?
The Myth of Church Excellence
The 3 Components of Building a Culture of Improvement

(NOTE: This is part 1 of a 3-part blog series. In part 2, we talk about the Top 8 Areas of Ministry to Improve. In part 3, we share 7 questions to ask when striving to improve ministry.)

What is Church Culture?

Legit question. Let’s start with this. Culture is defined as the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization (Merriam-Webster).

The fact is every church has one of those – a culture – a set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices…

It’s the way people in your church operate, their way of life, their way of thinking and behaving.

Creating culture is an essential responsibility of pastors. Pastors and church leaders can and need to intentionally create the culture they want for the church.

Today we want to look at a church culture which strives to continually improve the ministry. This is of paramount importance to the pastor who wants to see church growth.

Creating culture is an essential responsibility of pastors. Click To Tweet

What is a Culture of Improvement?

A centerpiece culture virtually all growing churches possess is a church culture of improvement. So… to state the obvious, if you want to grow you need this culture of improvement, and we would say “continual” improvement.

By the way, this culture doesn’t just happen by accident.

Growing churches work to continually improve ministries. They strive to make them better all the time. These churches do things with purpose and intentionality…

They look at how they can tweak, modify, and adjust what the church is currently doing in order to do it even better.

The goal is not perfection, nor is the goal to be a church of excellence. The goal is improvement.

The Myth of Excellence

We often hear of churches saying they want to be a “church of excellence.” While that is an admirable goal, it’s not the best mindset to have.

Here’s why…

Excellence is subjective. What you think is excellent another person thinks is mediocre.

Case in point: Have you ever gone to a restaurant that was highly recommended by a friend only to be let down upon your experience? It happens all the time!

Unfortunately, this happens in ministry, too. What some people think is excellent, other people think is so-so. This is true with the worship music that’s played, the cleanliness of the facility, the quality of video announcements, or the preaching of the Word.

So here’s the point…

You can’t create a church culture on a subjective goal like “excellence.” This is why “improvement” is key.

Improvement says, “How can we take what we did today and make it better tomorrow, next week and next month?” This is the goal.

(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)

Take the Church Growth Audit for Pastors in Ministry

Your church and the people you are reaching deserve nothing but the best in ministry. To give anything less than your best is a missed opportunity. At all times, you want to get better at doing church.

The key to continually improve your ministry is to recognize it can be improved. Churches that feel they’ve hit the mark and already do it well enough are sorely mistaken.

Even the best-run churches in the world can still do everything better. Do you really think churches like Elevation, Highlands, Hillsong and Life Church think they’ve arrived? Not on your life!

So, what about you? Are you now or have you ever been at a place where you feel like certain aspects of your ministry have arrived? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Whatever the case, for today and going forward, now is the time to set your course to improve ministry areas.

How to get better doing church should be central to your leadership as a pastor and central to how you lead others.

The 3 Components of Building a Culture of Improvement

So what does a church culture of improvement look like?

Well… there are three primary components to building a culture of improvement:

1. Set the stage for a culture of church improvement.
2. Identify the main areas of ministry on which to focus.
3. Develop a plan to improve overall church ministry and area-specific ministry.

Let’s take a look at each of these three…

1. Set the stage for a culture of church improvement.

If improved ministries are not presently in your church’s DNA, then you need to begin working toward developing this “getting better at doing church” and “improve church ministries” culture among your staff or volunteers.

The church will only improve on a regular basis when it truly becomes part of the culture. It has to be the DNA of the church. Everyone at your church needs to acknowledge this.

So how do you get there? Well, there are two primary things to which you need to give attention.

First, begin talking with your staff and volunteers about the need to improve ministries.

Initially some of your team may push back and say, “Well, we’re already good to go in certain areas.

That’s a natural human tendency… especially for the area they oversee! And frankly, that mindset is what has positioned so many churches to get stuck in a rut. They just keep doing what they’re doing rather than looking to improve.

As a result, when a church is stuck, church attendance is flat, or there are no new church visitors coming, staff and volunteers need to look at the way they’re doing ministry and ask themselves what they need to do different (or better) in order to regain traction.

But it all starts by recognizing the need for this. So you need to begin talking with your staff or volunteers about the need to improve each ministry area.

Train your team to dig deeper, examine harder, and identify ways to see church improvement.

Help them understand the rationale for developing a culture of improvement. Don’t just tell them to fix things. They need to know “why” you want to do it.

Say things like:

“We want to continually do ministry better to more effectively reach people.”

“We never want to become stagnant or comfortable with where we are currently.”

“Improved ministry will help us go to the next level in reaching people for Jesus.”

Statements like that will help build the buy-in you need from staff and volunteers, because let’s face it – as good as you are, you can’t do this alone. You need to develop a team to help you improve the ministry experience at your church.

If you don’t have a team, here are 13 ways to develop abundantly capable leaders to help you carry out the ministry.

The more people that believe in the idea of improvement, the quicker you’ll create the culture of church improvement in the DNA of your church and see greater influence.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement in your church is not about perfection but improvement. Click To Tweet

Second, be sure to model the concept of improvement.

Another critical component for you to do in setting the stage for ministry improvement — YOU need to model it.

There’s nothing worse than telling your team what you want them to do but you not lead the way.

For example, if you’re the preacher, you need to explore ways to improve your preaching. I know I’m getting personal here. But really. Let them see your desire to improve (even if you’ve been doing it for 30 years!).

When covering The Top 8 Areas of Ministry to Improve, #4 is preaching. It is a big, big deal. Pastors need to continually improve their ability to communicate God’s Word.

I can tell you, if pastors want the worship team to step it up a notch or two, and the same for children’s ministry and hospitality, then pastors need to let those ministry leaders see them step up in their preaching.

Straight talk, but that’s the truth.

Ask people from a variety of ages what they think you can do to improve connecting with the audience. Bring others along the journey with you.

Model getting better at doing church – in this case, in your preaching – and do it better!

Now…

To get better at doing church and improve in all areas of ministry, you also need to incorporate times of debriefing with your ministry teams.

Whether it’s with staff, volunteers, church board members, etc., debriefing each weekend or special events will help you identify what worked well and what needs to be improved…

… so next time you can make the experience for everyone even better!

You’re the leader and leaders lead, specifically in this area of improving ministry.

Leading in this way will show your team what a church culture of improvement looks like and how to do it right. Over time, you’ll find it becomes a regular part of who they are, as well.

(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)

Take the Church Growth Audit for Pastors in Ministry

2. Identify the main areas of ministry on which to focus.

After you’ve set the stage to develop a culture of church improvement, now you’ll need to identify the main areas of ministry on which to focus.

This will be different for each church. And let’s be clear. All areas of your church can be improved. ALL of them. However, you cannot improve ALL ministries at the same time.

You want to see improved ministries and the results that improvement brings. But realistically, you are going to have to focus on just a few things to improve in order to see substantive change in results.

In terms of identifying which ministries to start with, the first thing I would do is an assessment of the “core” ministries of the church.

There are certainly a bunch of core things the church does and unfortunately, in too many churches those ministries are done at a mediocre to good level… but not at a great level.

Not to be critical but we have to be realistic with what it’s going to take to improve the church to the level of great.

Where do I start?

Things like evangelism, discipleship, hospitality, kids’ ministry and preaching generally have very high importance to most churches, including yours.

Your job is to identify which areas of these or others you are going to focus on to bring ministry improvement. As noted above, certainly improving your preaching will be a first step in getting better at ministry.

Pastors ask, “Well, after my preaching, where is another area where we should put our focus?” I recommend an often-overlooked area of ministry to see improvement and that is in hospitality or the first-impressions ministry.

Churches ALWAYS tell me their church is REALLY friendly. And yet one of the main reasons guests don’t come back to a church is that they feel the church ISN’T very friendly. Ironic, huh?

Most of us know what it feels like to experience outstanding customer service in restaurants, banks, hotels, online services, etc… because we so seldom experience such 5-start service.

Why not set the stage for your church to provide over-the-top hospitality, to be unbelievable in providing outstanding customer service, to be the very best at caring for people.

We don’t generally use the term “customer service” when thinking of the care we give to the regular folks at our churches and certainly the guests. But why not?

How about if your church becomes the model for how to take care of people in your community… and that everyone in the community knows about it. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

You’ll note in the second of this three part blog series we’ll cover specific church improvement ideas. You need to check that out.

3. Develop a plan to improve overall church ministry and area-specific ministry.

How does a pastor develop a plan to make church ministry and area-specific ministry improvement?

It’s one thing to have a desire for getting better at doing church, and hooray if you do set the stage for doing so.

And you’re way ahead of most if you can identify those areas of ministry where you can focus on getting better at church.

However, if you don’t put a plan in place to do church improvement, it just simply will not happen.

How to Develop Your Culture of Improvement Plan:

1. Pray.

It is critical that you gain the mind of the Lord as you begin to navigate your plan to improve ministries. You’re a really smart pastor, but not that smart. Doing this on your own will leave you woefully short of the goal of ministry improvement and growing the church. Move forward with confidence having prayed first.

2. Start simple.

You’ve identified the area of ministry on which you want to put focus, so STAY simple and focused on that to start with.

3. Identify the key players.

Pull together the 2-5 people you believe will be most influential in making the shift necessary to improve the identified ministry.  Challenge them as noted above.

4. Talk about the culture of church improvement.

You cannot assume everyone is on your page. More people than you care to know think your church is just fine the way it is… and it is not fine. So, you have to talk about improving ministries ALL THE TIME!

5. Set a reasonable target.

You will not know if you’ve hit the mark to improve the ministry if you don’t identify what that mark is. But… be cautious to not be overzealous in shooting for targets that could discourage your volunteers. You don’t want them to feel like they cannot improve the ministry to the level you want it, which is why incremental improvement is so important.

6. Set reasonable, flexible time frames for improvement.

You cannot leave church improvement open ended in hopes that at some point in the future, you’ll get better at doing church. Be reasonable and flexible with your timelines knowing that it’s marathon, not a sprint.

7. Plan to re-tool.

On the journey of getting better at ministry, you must always plan on re-tooling your plan. You’re really smart and the plan will probably be a winner, but stuff happens. Just know you’ll need to adjust along the way. This is a good thing.

8. Start over.

Once you’ve arrived (which remember, you never really do) you need to start over. We cover this in video 6 in the Make It Happen video series which I encourage you to consider picking up. (Use the promo code “75off” to get 75% off.)

NOTE: If you have a Leaders.Church membership, you already have access to this series.

In summary, the three primary aspects to building a culture of improvement are:

1. Set the stage for a culture of church improvement.
2. Identify the main areas of ministry on which to focus.
3. Develop a plan to improve overall church ministry and area-specific ministry.

Work your plan to do church better & succeed, then do it again & even better! Click To Tweet

When you follow these three items, you will be well on your way to improve the ministry and see a clearly developed culture of church improvement grow at the great church you serve.

When it’s all said and done, it’s not about the church getting better for the sake of getting better. It’s about getting better to see more lives changed for Jesus.

So, what do you think? Improving the ministry and just simply getting better at doing church is a journey well-worth taking.

That’s what you want, that’s what we want, and that’s what God wants. So let’s get started!

Now it’s time to check out the next two parts of this series on church improvement:

Part 2: The Top 8 Areas of Ministry to Improve
Part 3: 7 Questions to Ask When Striving to Improve Ministry

(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)

Take the Church Growth Audit for Pastors in Ministry


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