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Culture Over Vision or Mission By Doug Mazza

The Culture far outweighs an organization’s vision or mission.

Your culture is more important to your success than your vision or mission. All sustainable success requires a great culture.

“May the God who gives endurance, and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:5

If that Scripture does not describe your ministry, you’ve got work to do. Because Christ is the standard, none of us are ever done. Let’s unpack that powerful Scripture for a moment. It’s filled with leadership keys for a great ministry culture. Powerful words. Irrefutable goals for any Christian leader; God-given endurance, encouragement, unified Christ-centered attitudes, believers who are working together with one mind and one voice that reaches the level of glorifying God. All in one scriptural sentence!

I can tell you firsthand, the ministry that strives for those lofty objectives with faithful sincerity will be blessed. That means when plans are made, before execution, the cultural prerogatives must be built into the plan.

There is much to learn from when you study the Four Pillars of a Romans 15:5 culture.

(1) The Jesus Distinctive

Jesus Christ is the ultimate distinct competitive advantage.

For every plan, whether a business plan, ministry plan, or life plan, it is vital to identify its distinct competitive advantage. If not, you are building a false-centered ministry, or company or life. As Christians, the Creator of the universe is our distinct competitive advantage. Too many ministries and churches work on the souls of those the mission statement serves without giving equal or even greater attention to the growth of their associates.

Yes, you’ve hired good Christian people. But getting a ministry to be a Romans 15:5 based ministry, meaning being of one accord with one mind and one voice, requires a purposeful commitment to the Christ-centered growth of the flock within your own walls. This requires constant training that brings Christ consistently and continually into the center of the labor.

There can be many processes that achieve this goal, but at Joni and Friends, we use the Lead Like Jesus teaching approach to be the anchor to the culture. After all, if you aren’t seeking to “lead like Jesus,” you are going to have to tell him who got the job instead! All new hires are exposed to Lead Like Jesus training, and employees are given refresher courses over time. Lead Like Jesus has intentionally become more than a course, it is the operating system through which the ministry performs. That brings every employee under a common understanding affecting every policy, program and activity. The result is a ministry working together at a higher than usual level of “one accord.”

(2) Unity

Integration is the glue that creates a unified team operating “with one mind and one voice.”

Integration can be described in its purest form as a culture of no surprises. If you have ever been at work and said, “We’re doing what?,” you don’t work in an integrated environment. Taking time to be sure everyone is in the loop may seem like too many extra steps, too many emails, too many cc’s. It will also drive managers who like to “shoot from the hip” crazy. But here are the benefits; integration hits all the Roman 15:5 points and creates a process that exceeds the definition of teamwork. Most practically, it results in higher productivity every time. Every time! It leaves in its wake a team that is highly engaged with a feeling of empowerment, ready for the next project.

(3) Standard of Excellence

Excellence in your area of expertise is essential.

Far too often, ministry positions are filled with the “available” instead of the “qualified.” This practice is a disservice to the employee, to team members and to donors. In a healthy culture, it is management’s responsibility to help people find their God-given crafting. We are each unique. Proper use of human talent is a part of ministry stewardship. The effectiveness of each of the elements of a ministry honors God. Invest in your people. Be open to cross-department transfers when talents are discovered.

(4) The Right Metrics

You can only manage what you can measure.

 I am dismayed at how many Christian leaders say, “You can’t measure culture.” That’s simply not true. Finding a process for confidential feedback from your employees, on a wide variety of subjects, will let the leader know how the organization is doing. Do not fear feedback. Do not take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s about the mission and vision being accomplished through the efficiency of good information and communication. Surveying employees empowers the individual and draws people together while raising their confidence in management. That’s great culture. Joni and Friends uses the Best Christian Workplace Institute to measure culture with great success. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken, and guessing is a culture killer!

Your success will never be better than your culture, and it starts at the front door.


Doug Mazza served as President and Chief Operating Officer for Joni and Friends from 1999 to 2019. He currently serves as an International Board Member for the organization. Prior to 1999, he was a global executive in the automotive industry. Learn more about Joni and Friends. This post is an excerpt from Doug’s article in the Spring edition of Outcomes Magazine. Members may access the full article through the RESOURCE archive.


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