Friday, March 18, 2011

Discover Your Culture

CULTURE, as defined by my MBA professor, Mr. Efren Cruz is "the beliefs and expectations shared in an organization." An individual may act one way when outside the organization, but when joined in a collective group, he may act differently. He illustrated, "Inside my class, some of you may be very quiet. But I'm sure many of you are loud and would love to joke around outside this class." I saw many of my classmates smirked, we understood the point perfectly.

An organization has shared beliefs, values and expectations. These beliefs, values and expectations shape up an organization, these may differentiate one business from its competitor, or a daughter church from a mother church. These BVEs become the norm in a structure that everyone is expected to follow. But just as they step out of the structure of the church, they do not necessarily have the same BVE any longer.

Now, how do we know what the church's beliefs, values and expectations are? Are these etched on the structure or monument or printed on a banner? Are these the mission, vision and core values typed on the website? Are these the things being preached every Sunday? NOT NECESSARILY. One way you may discover your organization's real beliefs, values and expectations, the ones that lie in the core of the organization is through ROLE STORIES.

Role stories are stories being shared informally during lunch breaks, coffee time, or a few seconds brush through the hallway. These are the stories shared by churchmates who chitchat after the service, or officemates who happen to have lunch-outs together. Of course when they are together, they talk to each other. They share role stories. Role stories mirror the beliefs, values and expectations in their organization.

My professor cited an example, "You know my previous students would like to share things about me to other students. They would scare other students perhaps they would like to brag. They'd say, "Ang hirap talaga ng STRAMA, bawal mambola kasi boboldyakin ka."" (Strategic Management class is really difficult, you cannot woo the professor because the professor would snap at you.)

He learned this by listening to students and their stories. In each of the role story, there is always a hero or a villain. In my professor's illustration, he was the villain and perhaps the student who passed the course was the hero. The belief there was that the class was really difficult; and the expectation was that if you woo the professor you would be deadmeat.

Culture is not really like principles or policies that you can easily set in an organization. It is something to be discovered, something that has grown and developed through years of experience.

This got me thinking. What is the culture of the church nowadays? What do you hear after the service or prayer meeting when everyone's ready to head home? I've heard a couple of stories plenty of times. Listen and help me analyze these role stories:

1. "Napapagod na ako sa ministries, ang dami dami kong kelangan gawin." (I'm getting tired of the ministries, there are so much things I have to do!)

The hero here I guess is the person speaking ("ako" or "me") because he is the one tasked to do all the ministries. Ministries are valued as services for the Lord in the church and they are considered to be good. The expectation is that the ministries are too many and are tiring to do. Another possible expectation is that we have to do the ministries, for some it is a sign of growth, for others it is a must for every Christian.

Let us analyze this culture, why then do we get tired of doing the ministries? Perhaps it is because we have the wrong focus. We focus more on the service and not on the ONE whom we are serving. We worry about our to-do list that we are left with little time to commune with our Father in Heaven. This is the Martha culture.

2. "Mr. Plato is such a good pianist! I'm sure our praise and worship this Sunday will be successful!"

The hero here is obviously Mr. Plato who is the good pianist. He is believed to be talented and skilled. And because of this, the expectation is that on Sunday, if he were to play, the praise and worship would be successful.

This is the human pride culture. They value (or they look highly) on gifts, skills, talents, achievements, knowledge and the like. If these are the values of the church in order to "succeed" in doing its mission, then, we are guilty of Jeremiah 17:5. It says there, "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord."

Trusting in man means we do not trust the Lord. It is mutually exclusive my dear readers. It is either we trust man to do God's work or we trust in the Lord. It's either we trust Mr. Plato to move the hearts of people to sing praises to the Lord, or we trust the Lord. It's either we trust Ms. Sophie to teach entertainingly that the Sunday School kids would instantly have passion in reading the Bible, or we trust the Lord. It's either I trust myself to encourage you as you read this or I trust the Lord to do that.

What I noticed in these two examples are that the Martha Culture and the Human Pride Culture are similar in so many ways. First, their beliefs, values and expectations are focused on what man can do. The hero is the man who has done something good for the church and not the Savior who has saved the man from sin and enabled him to have eternal life and do the good works. Second, both of them turn the hearts of people away from the Lord. The previous takes the focus away from the Lord, the latter takes the trust away from the Lord.

I don't know what the culture in your church is. Try listening to role stories on Sunday. Compare them with the best standard of culture in the world, the Biblical Standard.

Happy listening everyone! :)

P.S. If you have noticed that your culture is different from the culture in the Bible, change is definitely possible.

STEP 1: Identify facets of present culture that prevent the organization from meeting its mission and vision. Compare it with Biblical Standard.

STEP 2: Pray about it.

STEP 3: Talk openly about problems of the present culture and what behaviors will bring us closer to the Bible culture.

Note: The examples above were written for illustrative purposes only. They were not intended to pinpoint any person specifically.

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