By Steven Ackley
Creating the culture that you want in your church or ministry is hard work. After you’ve done the hard work of coaching your team and moving the ball of culture down the field, one of the worst possible scenarios is that you don’t do the ongoing work of sustaining the culture you’ve created.
I’m a firm believer that language is vitally important to your ministry culture. Language is not typically what creates the culture, but it supports and sustains it. The way you talk and what you talk about is essential to the long-term health and alignment of your ministry team. Here are four ideas on how you can use language to support and sustain your culture.
Be sure you are saying the same things and using the same terms the same way.
In my experience as a family ministry leader, nothing confuses families, leaders, and even kids more than when one ministry talks about the church and their ministry differently than another ministry. I’ve even seen family ministry environments where the same term means something different in each area. Terms like “discipleship,” “evangelism,” and “leader” ought to be defined and used consistently in all ministry areas.
You should also use the same language with interchangeable elements for each ministry. For example, the mission statement for family ministry at my church interchanges the words “preschoolers,” “kids,” and “students” to specify which group we’re talking about at the time. Every other part of the mission statement always stays the same.
Tied to the consistency of language is a shared goal.
As a family ministry leader, our mission is to establish an intentional partnership between the church and home to teach kids, develop leaders, and equip parents in order to make disciple-making disciples. As we develop goals that feed from this hope, the outcome is in same regardless of ministry area: to make disciples of the kids, leaders, and parents. This shared goal helps align ministries to move each part toward the same thing.
Use consistent language and responsibilities in every job description.
We use this approach from pastors and staff to intern and volunteer roles. In our context, each job description includes this statement, “Fight to protect unity of the church, the NextGen team, and your ministry team.” This is a jumping off point for everyone we hire about shared values and vision and the importance of alignment. It also gives us a point of accountability to revisit with all team members.
Make your vision visible.
Literally, put it on the walls and doors of your offices and church facility. Whether that is vinyl wall decals or 8×10 pictures, be sure your purpose is always in front of you. When you meet with kids, parents, or leaders it will be visible for them too.
Language is vitally important to leading in ministry. You must know what to communicate then communicate it clearly and consistently.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.