Leadership Synchroblog: Good Leaders Set Culture

This week I am taking part in Evangelical Seminary’s Leadership Synchroblog event that is being conducted in support of their Master of Arts in Christian Leadership program. Contributors were asked to answer the question “what makes a good leader?

In November of 1996 I began working as a fish-cutter at NAFCO Wholesale Seafood. While this was not one of the more glamorous jobs I have held, I learned a great deal from my time there… and watched a masterful leader at work.

Working for a seafood wholesaler is difficult work. We would start at 2:00 am and work until we were finished… often well after noon. As a fish-cutter, I would work in a giant refrigerator repeating “knife goes in, guts come out” to myself, several thousand times a day. At the end of the day I, and those I worked with, would be tired… and followed by cats. After reading my description of the work, I am sure that you are dying to sign up; but you might be surprised to learn that there was relatively low turnover at NAFCO:  the result of a healthy culture.

More Than Money

While the company was ostensibly there to provide supermarkets with fish, the culture that was instilled by leadership was one that placed a high value on those who worked there. While this culture manifested itself in many of the more obvious ways (decent pay, excellent health insurance, and a generous profit sharing program), it was the little things that were far more significant to those of us who worked there: our annual Christmas party was the stuff of legends, on especially cold days we would be surprised by hot soup (which is a big deal when you work in a giant freezer), holiday meats (turkeys, hams, etc), and a great deal of verbal encouragement. But as I think back, what impacted me more than anything else was what would happen on Christmas Eve. As the work day would come to an end, the owner would shake each of our hands, look us in the eye, and say “thank you for your hard work.” We would then be handed a Christmas bonus. While the money was nice, the fact that he wanted to personally deliver it says much about what the man valued.

Being Intentional

In the ministry context we spend far more time working with volunteers than we do with paid staff… which makes culture even more important. The culture that you create within the ministry you lead will determine whether you are successful or not… and every ministry has a culture.

Creating a healthy culture within your ministry context takes intentionality, and begins with knowing your why. With a firmly understood, and communicated, why, you have the ability to surround yourself with those who have like minds, passions, and values… allowing you to slowly craft, and refine, the culture of your ministry.

How are YOU intentionally crafting culture?

Are you struggling with how to answer that question? Helping church leaders figure this out is a big part of what I do with Church Simple, and I’d love to help you. Click here to schedule a time when we can talk.


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.

  • Lisa Colón DeLay

    What a great story and so full of lessons. You’ve been tested by fire Matt….

    I’m not sure I’d want to be followed by hungry cats either!

    • Matt Steen

      My cat loved it though… he never ate so much fish!