Culture is powerful. Peter Drucker famously declared it more important than strategy when he said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture is the shared values among a group of people that drives their behavior. Every single organization has a culture; some are healthy and some are harmful.
How do you identify the culture you are in? As you cultivate the culture you are responsible for, how do you reinforce the values that make up the culture?
Heroes and stories.
Because culture is what a group collectively values, you can quickly get a snapshot of the culture by looking at the heroes and the stories. Both heroes and stories reveal what is deeply important. Who the group holds up as the heroes to emulate and what is celebrated as “a win” gives a clear snapshot of the culture. Listen for the heroes and the stories to learn a culture, and if you want to cultivate culture, utilize heroes and stories.
Plato once stated, “What is celebrated is cultivated.” So leaders are wise to be careful and strategic with what they celebrate. Celebrate and point to those who are living the values you want reinforced. If you celebrate the wrong things, you will get a culture you don’t desire.
Stories are powerful. The narratives told and repeated among a group of people help crystalize what is important. Stories give life to the value statements that are hanging on the hall or written on paper.
Heroes and stories are powerful in building ministry culture. In a church, the ultimate Hero must be Jesus. He alone can bear the responsibility for His people. Jesus, not us, created and sustains the Church. If you want to build a culture of “mission engagement,” point continually to our Hero, who stepped into our depraved world to rescue us. And constantly tell stories of people and groups in the church who are living on mission for Him. If you want to build a culture of “service,” continually point people to Jesus who served us and tell stories of the volunteers who are sacrificially serving in response to His grace.
As a leader, you must cultivate the culture of the group of people you are leading. Heroes and stories can help.