This is a guest post by Scott Magdalein of TrainedUp.
Every local church has a unique culture. That culture is shaped by the people that make up the church body, the community they minister to, and the leadership of the church.
Most often, a church’s culture is an accidental or incidental thing. Their culture is formed organically without much thought about how culture is shaped. In those cases, the culture of the church tends to be a mixture of what the church cares about and what the church allows. That’s how you get bloated ministry programs.
In some churches, culture is formed intentionally to reflect the things that the people value most. You can tell when a church is intentional about its culture. They tend to be vocal about one or two things.
Unfortunately, these churches sometimes get criticized for being two-dimensional and not offering enough variety in their approach to ministry. However, these churches are often quite effective when it comes to executing ministry in the one or two areas they most care about.
And effectiveness in one or two areas is better than mediocrity in a lot of areas.
Before we go further, I want to lay out a disclaimer. This post will only be valuable to you if you care deeply about Bible study. If your church is not big on Bible study, you’ll find this post unhelpful.
If you’re still with me, great! We’re going to go step-by-step through the process of creating or shaping a culture of Bible study in your church. Each step takes time to develop, clarify, execute, and see the fruit. That’s okay, though, because your church will be around for a long time and you want to do it right. There are no quick routes to culture shaping.
There are 5 steps in the process. None of these steps involve launching new Bible studies or ministry programs. There is nothing here that will increase the busyness of your church calendar or call your people away from their families.
Everything here is about showing and guiding your people to love and do Bible study on a regular basis. It’s about empowering and equipping, not obligating them to more church activity.
Culture is largely rooted in definitions and language. That’s why, when you see unique cultures, that always have a unique language and ways of defining the things around them.
When it comes to Bible study, you need to be clear with your people what you mean. For your church, Bible study probably means something specific. For example, studying the Bible might mean something between relaxed reading and preparing to teach a Sunday school class.
It helps to give your people a simple framework. These simple principles are an excellent starting point for people who curious about how to start studying the Bible.When it comes to Bible study, you need to be clear with your people what you mean. Click To Tweet
This is one thing so many leaders don’t understand. You must define success if you expect to see success.
When it comes to creating a Bible study culture, you must take the time to define what it will look like when your church has accomplished that goal. Use descriptive language with a mixture of both quality attributes and quantity goals.
For example, your definition might sound like this: “A culture of Bible study in our church will look like more than half of our church body engaging multiple times study each week in Bible reading, seeking to understand the context of their reading through the use of trusted commentaries, and taking time to write out the application of the passage.”
To see the language and culture of your church change, you have to start using the language you want your people to use. Your church body will say what you say.
When you talk about Bible study, which you should do often, you should use specific language over and over again. It will feel redundant to you as the leader right about the time your people are getting used to it.
Use the same language in the pulpit, during announcements, in church-wide emails, and in volunteer team rallies. The repetition sends a signal to your people that this is important. It communicates a unique culture through unique use of language.To see the language and culture of your church change, you have to start using the language you want your people to use. Click To Tweet
Repetitive communication is only one step in culture-forming. You also need to train your people to do Bible study the way you envision. You can talk about it all you want, but if you’re not equipping them to follow through, then your communication is wasted.
Train your people in a way that’s easy to access and easy to review. Training meetings are starting to fade. Many churches are moving training to an online platform like TrainedUp.
An online training tool will allow you to produce effective training materials once and reuse them many times without more work. Your church will be able to engage with your training at a time that fits their busy schedule.
Finally, make sure your training is a show-and-tell experience. Don’t just tell them what to do. Use the opportunity with the online format to show them how you do it, too.
I’m a huge fan of using surveys to keep my finger on the pulse of my church body. A survey can tell you a lot about your people.
Use an online survey to make it easy for your people to complete it. Ask questions about the nature and frequency of their Bible study.
Finally, distribute the same survey a few times a year to get a feel for everyone’s participation and your success in building a Bible study culture at your church.
This week, meditate and journal on the following passages:
Scott Magdalein is the founder of TrainedUp. Previously, he worked as project manager for YouVersion and Church Online, a software developer at Treehouse, a digital director for an ad agency, and as an Executive Pastor in multiple local churches. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and three kids.