Published: 6 years ago

When Culture is Broken

Whether you manage a store or minister at a church, sometimes you have to face the harsh reality that your culture is broken.

Exhibit A: last Thursday I went to a local big-box store for a quick errand. One item on my list, five minutes from the time I left my car until the time I got back in. And yet during that time, I witnessed two employees complaining about something that happened the night before rather than focusing on their task at hand. Another employee was driving the store’s motorized wheelchair around the entryway, saying “I’ve got to do something to have fun around this place.” The lady at the checkout desk acted as though my presence (and my money) was putting a serious cramp in her ability to have a conversation with someone else. And two more employees were having a heated conversation as I left, something about “They told us to…and I’m not going to do…”

Exhibit B: that night I drove to a local pizza chain to pick up dinner. They told me it would be ready in 20 minutes. It wasn’t. The tiny lobby was crammed full of angry people whose pizza also wasn’t ready. The floors were filthy. The place didn’t smell like pizza. And all of the managers’ missives to his employees were posted in clear view of the customers. The lady at the register had been hired exclusively on her ability to mumble and not make eye contact, and when I had the audacity to present a coupon, she sighed so loud I thought the coupon (and me) would blow out the door. And then without a word, she walked to the back of the store, where she stayed for four minutes, doing I don’t know what, except I hope against all hope she wasn’t adding extra ingredients to my pizza, if you know what I mean.

Two stores. Two businesses that depend on customers for their livelihood. And two examples of places where culture is broken.

The employees either don’t know or don’t care that – as a customer – I should be their priority. The management apparently stopped caring a long time ago. And if the broken windows theory holds true for retailers, they’ve started a downward spiral that will be difficult to fix.

We see the same things happening in our churches. We forget that we’re not the proverbial museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners. We forget that when it comes to the weekend and the reception of our guests, everything speaks. We forget that a cold, unfriendly greeter can override the warm hospitality of the gospel. And we forget that our job is not to angrily react to the outside invading culture, but to lovingly and proactively create a new culture – one where people are honored and the gospel is proclaimed.

When churches forget their role in culture, their own culture will pay the price.

I don’t think the examples listed above are beyond fixing. Neither do I think that a church who has forgotten it’s God-given vision is past repair. Culture breaks. Sometimes culture breaks quickly and dramatically. But for the sake of our guests and the glory of the gospel, we have the responsibility to own the broken culture in our churches and do what it takes to fix it.

What part of your church’s culture is broken?


(click for photo credit)

  1. JeremyW says:

    question for you….have you ever thought about using “secret shoppers” to gauge the experience a guest is having at one of our campuses?

    • Danny says:

      I would tell you, but it’s a secret. 🙂

      Actually, we do use them. In 2013 we’re going to be doing some inter-campus visits where FI guys from one location will visit another, unannounced, and give helpful feedback. When I have friends / family who are visiting me from out of town, I’ll often ask them to arrive separately and act as a secret shopper. And of course as large as the church is getting, I can pretty much show up at another campus and go incognito for a while…especially if I put on my fake mustache.

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