Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Creating Culture Part 1 - Inclusiveness

I think it was Erwin McManus who really started to get me thinking about the role of leadership in creating culture in the church. When we first got to Westside, Jamie and I read his book Unstoppable Force and learned about how his job title at Mosaic was a "Cultural Architect". He talks about his primary duty as a leader to create culture in the church and the city.

It's been a while since I've read the book so the details are a bit blurry. But I've been thinking a lot about how to create culture since coming on staff at Family Life Church. It was really interesting starting the NXT Youth Minsitry from scratch and having a huge part in creating the culture. It was an amazing thought for us when we realized that anything we did not like about the culture of our youth ministry was up to us to change. As youth pastors, we are cultural architects.

A couple weeks ago, Pastor Steve challenged his pastoral leadership to create culture in the church focusing on 10 specific areas. I thought I'd do a series of blog posts on the list and start a conversation about creating culture in each area. I'd love to know your thoughts, ideas, experiences, frustrations, rants, dreams etc. as we explore church culture over the next few weeks. Let's get some discussion going!

Culture #1 - Inclusiveness

The church in America has come a long way in creating a culture of inclusiveness over the last 10-15 years. But I think we need to go beyond just welcoming visitors and making services feel more comfortable and understandable. I believe that trend has run its course. God wants this to run deeper in our hearts.

It's a common complaint among young people that our churches have too many cliques. There's always a sense of competition and popularity when you're gathering a group of young people together. But the culture of inclusiveness can be created.

I remember being in high school and visiting different youth ministries in our city. The difference in the inclusiveness was one of the first things I noticed. As as new person, some groups cared that I was there and some didn't. I ended up making some of my best friends through the youth ministries where they had an inclusive culture. Why? Because they reached out and loved me - and I in turn responded to that. Pretty simple.

In our youth ministry we have a "connect team". Their responsibility is to connect with new students on Wednesday nights, set up coffee with them or something, and see how they can help get them involved in Family Life Church. But I really believe we need to do much more than just have a team of people who take this responsibility on. When inclusiveness becomes a robotic and starile or a delegated responsibility we're not truly acheiving our goal. I appreciate all that our connect team does, but I have a deep conviction that every member of our youth ministry should be on the team. In fact, I see a day where we don't need a team because it's just who we are. We include everyone.

I believe that inclusiveness must become a culture throughout the youth ministry and the whole church. I believe that God has called us to do supernatural things. And I believe it is supernatural to get young people to stop thinking about themselves, let go of insecurity and think about how new people can be included. I believe it's possible and I believe it's something that God wants us to focus on this year.

Time for you to chime in -

How do we as leaders create a culture in the church where everybody is welcome?


Calvin said...

I believe our church has seen substantial growth because of the inclusiveness that we have as a family on a corporate level. People love to be loved, and we offer that.

Our youth church has seen great growth to a point (it seems like) and has just stopped. I believe our Youth Culture is lacking the concept of inclusiveness as our corporate church has. Our youth pastors and small group leaders have offered an inclusive Youth group that has even brought me to salvation, but the growth has capped out.

As our leaders have offered us avenues in getting connected to The NXT, in is time for the next generation to step us... that us. The 1st and 2nd year SOE student, its the pillars of youth, we need to take the ball and run with it just as our leaders have shown us. They have truly "equipped the saints for the work of the ministry". if our youth church can grasp this concept I really believe in my spirit that we will also see substantial growth as our Corporate church does.

jamiejoy said...

Well said Calvin!

Leadership always begins with us. You can only lead where you have first gone yourself. As we look to create a culture of inclusiveness, we need to ask for and allow the Holy Spirit to expand our hearts for other people. Our heart will lead the way for our life to revolve around more than just ourselves and our little group of friends.

Jess said...

Wow, this is some good stuff! Here's what I was thinking:

I love seeing new people added to the church partly because I love their heart and partly because I was never really that person--they're fascinating to me. I was always going to church since I can remember; and since then, I've strove to be in those "cliques." Once in one, I strove to stay there by being a "good Christian" and continuing attending services and events. You say the right things at the right times and when you're not at church, you leave your character in the sanctuary. FLC and the NXT have definitely changed my mindset in that way. So this spirit of inclusiveness sounds great, but it's something that I've found has to be worked at! It's not easy and any fear, insecurity, or barrier has to be torn down in order to be that person who pursues the new kids!

I'm not sure if I've expressed what I'm thinking clearly enough... I tried!