Why Church Culture Trumps Strategies and Tactics Every Time

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ConferenceI like church conferences, especially those with workshops focused on ministry approaches, growth strategies, and best practices.

More than once I have attended a conference with a ministry team and come home convinced that we had discovered new tactics and strategies needed in our organization.  And more than once our attempts to implement those discovered practices failed.


After failure, we would go through a season of reflection, in which we would think about what went wrong and who was to blame, including ourselves.  But eventually, we would encounter another tactic or strategy at a conference that we felt was a better solution and restart the cycle of discover-attempt-fail-reflect all over again.

I finally lead a team to break that cycle when we realized there was something stronger than good strategies and better tactics at work in our organization.  It’s called CULTURE, and culture will trump your tactics and strategies every time.

I recently came across the work of Michael Sahota regarding organizational change, and I think his definitions of tactical, strategic and cultural approaches are correct.

Tactics – How we do work (practices & processes)
Strategies – What we want to achieve (goals & initiatives)
Culture – Who we want to be (values & vision)

More importantly Sahota argues, “Break-through results only come from culture – not tactical or strategic approaches.”

Sahota visualizes culture like the 90% of an iceberg sitting below the water-line, while tactics and strategies are visible above the surface.  Attempting to adopt tactics and strategies that are not aligned with with your church’s culture repeatedly fuels the discover-attempt-fail-reflect cycle.

In order to break the cycle you have to adopt tactics and strategies that support your church culture.

For example, you cannot implement a discipleship program when discipleship is not a value of your church culture.

If you truly want your church to pursue a discipleship strategy you will have to redefine your church identity (culture), not just your church programs (tactics).

Ironically, conferences offer great environments to begin reshaping your organization’s culture.

For ways to begin reshaping your church culture, listen to this Friday’s podcast “How to Get the Most from a Conference with Your Staff”.  

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