Conscious Culture Building

8/2/2020

FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN

Have you heard the saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast every day?” Culture refers to the habits and behaviors that characterize how we actually live each day. Strategy refers to the plans we make for our churches – like plans for church growth, youth ministry, and so on. As good and as needed as those plans may be, if the local church culture is not conducive to them, they will not succeed. 

Strategy is what we say we want to do; culture is how we really act. And culture always wins.

Times of disruption, such as what we are experiencing with the coronavirus, give us the opportunity to take a look at the health of our local church culture. When our normal “busyness” comes to a halt and everything seems out of kilter we can come to new understandings of what is most important and are able to see fresh expressions of local church ministry. Instead of our local church’s culture being present but not recognized, now is the time to recognize and assess the real culture of our church. A good name for this is Conscious Culture Building. As we find new normals and restart in-person services and ministries, what kind of culture is God calling us to build? 

A specific example of Conscious Culture Building is found in the description of Pentecost in Acts 2. Pentecost is the 50th day after Easter, and this year it was on May 31. It is the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the believers gathered in Jerusalem and the Christian Church was born. Acts 2 describes the new culture that emerged in the lives of those earliest Christians: they met daily in the Temple, broke bread together in their homes, engaged in prayer and study of the Apostles’ teaching, shared their possessions to meet each other’s needs, and finally, they gave joyous witness to Jesus and the Resurrection. They consciously built a culture of worship, table fellowship, prayer, study, generosity, and testimony.   

How would you describe the culture of your local church? 

Last February, our conference staff – about 30 in all – met for a day of Conscious Culture Building. We reflected on past and current habits and behaviors. Then we asked what kind of culture we want to consciously build among ourselves in order to serve Christ and the South Georgia Conference effectively and fruitfully.

With Claire Bowen as our facilitator, we collaborated for hours. By the end of the day, we expressed our desire to consciously build a staff culture that is shaped by three core values:

  1. We are a strong team with a basis of trust.
  2. We nurture an environment where creativity is expected.
  3. Building on a strong past, we invest resources into our present and future.
Then we asked ourselves what steps we can take to consciously and intentionally create this culture. The work groups identified specific actions we can take, such as:
  • More interaction (spend more time together in planned partnerships, spiritual formation)
  • Default to trust (give people the benefit of the doubt)
  • Have respectful conversations (good faith effort to discuss “this is how I see it” with another person)
  • Have crucial conversations (don’t avoid the elephant in the room)
Quite rightly, we are focusing a lot of attention on how to have a safe “rolling restart” of certain in-person gatherings. But I invite us to add another line of thought to our preparations: what kind of local church culture do we want to have?

Your conference staff is working on that. If you would like resources or would like us to bring this process into your local church, please email Allison Lindsey (allison@sgaumc.com). 

And as we prepare for Annual Conference on Aug. 15, let’s keep asking ourselves:  What kind of culture do we want to consciously build in South Georgia?

Alive Together in Conscious Culture Building,
R. Lawson Bryan