Three Questions to Ask as You Discern the Culture of Your New Church

Realtors love the summer because it is a time when many families move. Kids have completed a school year, so summer provides a transitional season. When ministry leaders change roles, they often do so in the summer. I know this personally as our moves from Cincinnati to Miami and then Miami to Nashville both took place in the summer.

As you enter a new ministry assignment, it is wise to assess the culture. The culture of a ministry will inevitably drive behaviors and decisions and will impact how your leadership is initially received. If you are transitioning into a new role, here are three questions to help you discern the culture of the new opportunity.

What is celebrated?

Plato famously said, “Whatever is celebrated in a country is cultivated there.” He was right—whatever is celebrated in a church is cultivated there. By listening to the stories of celebration, you can determine what has been cultivated through the years. For example, if evangelism is a deeply held value, then stories of people sharing the gospel with friends and coworkers are told and celebrated. An unhealthy culture can also be identified by listening for what is commonly celebrated. As an example, if the culture values and expects the pastor to do all the ministry instead of equipping others, stories are told about a former pastor’s heroic efforts to meet every need.

What is prayed about?

As you sit in meetings and other gatherings, listen to the prayers. You can learn a lot about the culture of a church by listening to the prayers of the leaders within the church. For example, a church that is externally focused prays for those who are not yet His. A church that exists to bless and serve the community prays for the city where the church is located. And conversely, a church that fails to pray for the surrounding community is a church that is self-consumed.

What is funded?

We fund whatever we value the most. You can learn a lot about what your new church values by looking at the budget.

The ministry you will be leading has a culture. You are wise to learn it so you can lead within it, especially if you prayerfully hope to change it over time.