No matter how grandiose your vision for ministry my be, a toxic culture will eat your church’s vision alive. In his book “Cracking Your Churches Culture Code” author and church growth expert Sam Chand says it this way:
“Culture – not vision or strategy – is the most powerful factor in any organization.”
In an effort to help you avoid or eliminate a toxic culture, I’m going to write a three part series on creating healthy culture in the local church. In part 1 we’ll highlight 12 Ways A Church Leader Can Create A Toxic Culture. In part 2 we’ll identify some ways church members can contribute to a toxic culture, and in part 3 we’ll zero in on some tried and true ways to cultivate a church culture thats biblically healthy.
My prayer for this first of three posts is that none of the following points will resonate with you. If they do – than I pray you’ll muster the courage to do whats needed to right the ship.
1 – Lead by Intimidation rather than Inspiration.
Great leaders inspire – insecure leaders intimidate. Nothing shrinks a church or ministry team like a leader who makes people feel smaller just so he or she can feel bigger. Since leading by intimidation breeds fear and resentment in the hearts of those that you’re leading this is a great way to add toxicity to the culture of your church.
2 – Make pleasing people more important than reaching people.
If you want to create a truly toxic culture in your church than make it your mission to please the found people rather than reach the lost ones. Every time someone complains about the music style (or volume) – change it! If they don’t like the LED lights on the stage – throw those lights out! If they don’t like it when you custom tailor the message to reach those that have never heard the Gospel before – than by all means keep things as they are and use language that unchurched people would NEVER understand. Catering to the personal preferences of those who believe that church exists just for their own personal comfort is a great way to create a toxic culture in the local church.
3 – Minimize integrity
The way a leader lives his or her life will set the standard for the rest of the team. So, if you want to create a toxic culture than throw integrity out the window. Make looking good more important than being good. Lie to get out of embarrassing situations. Blame others for your bad decisions. Tell the people you’re leading to tithe, read their bibles, and pray, but never do those things yourself. At the end of the day you can only reproduce who you are, not what you say – so a lack of personal integrity is a surefire way to create a toxic culture (in your church and your home).
4 – Refuse to admit your mistakes.
Nothing creates trust and transparency like being honest about your mistakes and shortcomings, but hey, this isn’t a post on how to create a healthy culture; this is a post on how to create a toxic one! So whatever you do – NEVER admit that you’re wrong. In the minds of those around you, you’ll create an unattainable goal of perceived perfection resulting in an environment where people are scared to death to try anything new for fear that they won’t measure up.
5 – Refuse to invest in yourself as a leader.
Perhaps nothing will put a lid the growth of a church as fast as a leader who refuses to invest in him or her self. As the leader goes so goes the church. If you want to create a toxic culture than pretend that you have already arrived! No need for you to read books, seek out a mentor, go to conferences, or listen to podcasts. When it comes to personal development, if you want to create a toxic culture than the best thing you can do is – nothing.
6 – Engage in petty arguments on social media.
Leaders reproduce who they are, so if you’re committed to reproducing leaders who will diminish the churches influence in the community you’re trying to reach than make sure you engage in every petty argument you can possibly find on Facebook and Twitter. Show people how spiritually tuned in you are by casting off patience, understanding, and self control. Get out there and show the world how much you want them to think you know!
7 – Instead of communicating directly, practice passive aggressive communication.
Don’t address issues with people directly, just post something on Facebook that’s directed at the person you’re frustrated with without actually using their name and just hope that they’ll get the message you’re trying to send. If they confront you about it, deny it and pretend like there’s nothing wrong. You’ll be on your way to a full blown toxic environment in your church!
8 – Withhold trust from your team.
When you sow trust you reap trust, but trust is dangerous to a toxic culture so by any means necessary make sure to withhold trust from the people on your ministry team. By doing so you’ll cultivate an environment of suspicion where nobody shares information, ideas, or opportunities with one another because everyone refuses to extend trust to each other.
9 – Never hold people accountable.
When it’s done right, accountability pulls the best out of people and creates a culture of excellence and integrity. When attempting to establish a toxic culture remember to NEVER hold people accountable. Let people do whatever they want, however they want, even if it doesn’t reflect the mission and vision of the church. When you see that there’s a problem just hope that things will work themselves out over time. The longer you pretend nothings wrong the worse things will get and the more toxic the culture of your church or ministry team will become.
10 – Gossip
Gossip in one the the main ingredients when creating a toxic culture. Make sure you talk badly about people to other members on your team. This will subconsciously teach the team that they can’t trust you and it will drive a relationship wedge between them and those that you’re gossiping about. Gossip is like fuel injection when creating a toxic culture.
11 – Have a vision, but NEVER talk about it.
Rather than admitting that you need help implementing your vision, just hang your vision statement on the wall, read it one time from the pulpit, but never talk about it again. This will create the illusion that you’re going somewhere when in reality your just going in circles and hoping that people “think” you’re all going somewhere.
12 – Dishonor
Talking down to people, manipulation, and using verbiage that communicates disrespect all creates discouragement and division ( aka – toxicity). It pushes people away and breeds resentment. If repeated often enough, your dishonorable tone will eventually result in a toxic culture on your team and in the church.
Disclaimer: I’ve written this post with tongue in cheek. PLEASE don’t take any of this as literal advice.
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