Building a Culture Where Relationships Thrive

Building a Culture Where Relationships Thrive

Every organization has a culture.  It might not be written down anywhere, but everyone experiences it.  People know the culture so well that it shapes the patterns of behavior, the decision-making process, and how people get things done.  Culture is difficult to define but it is the very water your organization swims.  It is all around you.  You are a part of it.  Whether you are a non-profit, a business, or a ministry, you do have a culture that is impacting your goals and effectiveness.

For many years, leadership was focused on vision, values, and goals.  Of course, these elements are important.  Any organization that desires to be effective, must unify people around a common direction.  But just as important is the culture of an organization in which the vision is accomplished.  The culture can greatly impact the success of the vision either positively or negatively.

Perhaps you have swam in a toxic culture in the past.  You may still wear the scars that toxic cultures inflict on its members.  As I have consulted with different organizations, some stories stand out.  One reported that they didn’t “feel safe”.  The culture didn’t value competing ideas.  If someone shared a contrary view they were quickly shut down.  They couldn’t help but think that they were marginalized after speaking out.

In a ministry I was working with it was reported that the culture would not allow anyone to be called out for poor behavior.  This resulted in a toxic culture where dysfunctional people grew in influence and did great damage to the church.  It wasn’t ok to identify the problems or those who were causing it in fear of hurting some one’s feelings.

After conducting focus groups in a church it was reported by many people that the church seems to jump from program to program. The church didn’t seem to have a plan and was just trying different things, but not with any purpose or commitment.  The people were frustrated by the lack of follow through and patience.

In each of these scenarios, the members were describing a culture.  Culture includes many things including those important vision, values, and goals that written down somewhere or posted on a wall.  But what is perhaps even more important is the way people relate to one another.  Culture is ultimately defined by the interpersonal relationships between members and the relational patterns that are developed.

In Stephen Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, he makes the thesis that an organization can only move at the speed of trust that is found in the relationships of an organization.  When trust is low, an organization must spend precious energy and activity trying to get people to get along and work together.  When an organization has a high trust, energy is directed to accomplishing the vision.  There are fewer meetings needed, people are willing to delegate and believe the best of each other.  There is a free exchange of ideas without judgement.  People feel safe and are more open and less defensive.

High trust organizations are often organizations that have healthy cultures.  If that is true, organizations would become more effective by developing trusting relationships.  Consentia Group is committed to helping non-profits and ministries develop cultures where relationships thrive.  Relationships thrive best when people understand their own motives and the motives of others.  Knowing the “why” of other’s behaviors is critical to trust.  SDI gives us a way of helping people grow to appreciate the differences people have in motivation.  Learning about the strengths we choose and why they are important to us enables us to be more flexible about what strengths are needed for situations.  In short, SDI has the capacity to shift an entire church’s culture in how people relate to one another.

Church boards and staff that have been through a workshop together with SDI grow in trust and understanding.  But often times that learning remains confined to that small group of leaders.  When the learning of SDI concepts and the spiritual side (Three Passions of the Soul) are shared more broadly with the congregation, we have the opportunity for a cultural shift to take place in the entire body.  That is why Consentia Group has launched new workshops for marriages (Soulmates For Life) and for the congregation as a whole (CommUNITY).  When an entire congregation grows to appreciate and understand our differences and learn how to work together with less conflict and friction, the people grow in trust and the ministry moves faster.

What is the culture of your church or ministry?  What is the trust level in your culture?  What could be done to grow the relational intelligence of your congregation so the ministry can thrive?

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.