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October 25, 2016

The 3 Levels of Culture

By Shelley G. Trebesch

We’ve established in previous blog posts from August and September that leaders build the foundation for the church’s culture by what they do, especially in the beginning. It’s not about just starting programs or having gatherings or copying the “successful” church in your city, but discovering, identifying and articulating your church’s DNA, because that’s God’s sacred calling for your church. Once there’s a sense of the DNA, work can be done to intentionally and strategically plan behaviors that establish the culture of the church.

Culture has three levels: 1) artifacts—buildings, office layout, way people dress, etc., 2) values—standards, principles and 3) assumptions—default modes, unspoken rules for belonging / not belonging, etc. The seen (artifacts) and unseen (values and assumptions) constantly interact with and reinforce each other.

Stop and think.

What are your church’s values? How might someone experience these values when they first encounter your church? How might one know if they belong or not belong?

My prayer is that you are leaders who create environments / cultures for flourishing. That you, in tune with Jesus’ leadership and through the power of the Holy Spirit, establish flourishing churches—those that are authentic, life-giving, growing and reproducing—and that subsequently, persons in this faith community flourish.

Doing the following exercise in a group identifies flourishing, because we can see together what promotes growth, transformation and maturity—what we call discipleship.

Think of a time when you would say that you “grew like a weed.” Where you experienced deep transformation? What were the circumstances that allowed you to grow and/or learn rapidly? Tell the story to someone or write it down. Now go back and reflect on the story. What were the factors that enabled growth? [1]

Capturing these factors in a large group, say in your congregation or team, enables everyone to see what attitudes and behaviors promote cultures of flourishing. You can then consider how these might translate into strategies and programs (the outward artifacts) that create the internal values for flourishing. Remember, what you as leaders model, teach, pay attention to and measure establishes culture. My prayer is that you create flourishing culture.

Make sure to watch the NewChurches.com Q&A Webinar with Shelley Trebesch.  This webinar is part of Plus Membership, so to get access to it, and much more, I encourage you to become a Plus Member.  Click here to see all the benefits of becoming a Plus Member.

[1] Shelley Trebesch, Made to Flourish: Beyond Quick Fixes to A Thriving Organization (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 109.


Shelley G. Trebesch

Shelley G. Trebesch (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) has served as vice president for capacity development for Prison Fellowship International, as well as assistant professor of leadership and organization development at Fuller Theological Seminary and in Singapore as global director for Membership Development for OMF International. An active consultant, trainer and seminar leader, Trebesch has facilitated complex change processes and developed leadership curricula for churches and organizations around the world.


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