The Importance of Culture

Culture ConceptOne of the most important things a leader does is to define the “culture” of an organization.  However before one can define the “culture” of an organization, he/she must first know what “culture” is.  If you look up the term “culture” in the dictionary, you will find definitions like these.The beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time.

A particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.

A way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or an organization.

The customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the characteristics of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time.

I can remember my professor in my organizational theory class trying to simplify the meaning of the term “culture” for us.  He said it is simply the way people doculture-01-01 things in an organization or society.  Whatever definition one chooses to use, the fact of the matter is that every home, school, church, business, community, country, etc. has a culture; a way of doing things while going through everyday life.

I have found that even in a Christian school every teacher and/or coach develops a culture for his or her classroom or team setting.  However, sometimes the culture that a teacher establishes in the classroom is not in line with the culture that the school is trying to develop.

As Christians, our homes, churches and schools should have a distinctive culture that is different from the culture of the world.  After all, we are called to be “salt and light” and that means we must develop a culture that is biblically based and kingdom focused.  But how is that accomplished?

It is important to understand what shapes or develops a person’s, an organization’s or a society’s culture.  The figure below gives us some insight into what goes into the making of the culture of a group of people.Culture

I have found that the beliefs, values, priorities and language of a home, church or school are the key ingredients to the culture found in each of these social groups.  There first has to be a common set of beliefs that the group must not only know but fully embrace in order to develop the desired culture.  These beliefs will lead the individuals and the organization collectively to set some core values which will, in turn, lead to establishing culture-sahping priorities.

Finally, all of the individuals involved in shaping the culture must know and use a common language.  I am not talking about everyone speaking English or Spanish or some other language.  I am talking about a common definition and use of terms that will establish a desired culture. Notice I say that we must not only use common terms but everyone in the organization must also define the common terms the same way.  My friend Christian Overman explained how he doesn’t use the word “nature” when referring to the physical universe.  Instead, he uses the term “creation” because this reinforces the truth that this world was created by God and did not evolve on its own.  In the same way, Nancy Pearcey refers to “creation ordinances” rather than “laws of nature” in her writings.

Right after my book, Kingdom Educationwas published, Dr. Larry Taylor and I started discussing how we could help school leaders drive the philosophy of kingdom education into every facet of a school’s culture.  We saw that too often a school’s culture was defined by the leader’s personality and/or skill sets.  Once the leader left the school, the culture would change.

At the same time we reculture-and-real-qualityalized that secular education was winning the battle for the hearts and minds of future generations.  It was our belief that this is because secular education has a comprehensive and intentional plan to drive a secular philosophy of education into every aspect of their educational programs.  With this in mind, Dr. Taylor started putting together a game plan to establish a kingdom education culture in his school.  When the Lord led him to another school, he was able to, once again, develop a biblically based, kingdom-focused culture at his new school.

We then knew that any Christian school could develop a comprehensive, intentional and fully-integrated plan that would help establish a culture that was based on the biblical principles found in Kingdom Education.  For the past 14 years we have conducted the annual Kingdom School Institute (KSI) where hundreds of Christian school leaders have been helped to develop and implement a culture-shaping plan for their schools.

We have discovered that when a Christian school develops and implements an intentional, comprehensive plan to drive a biblical philosophy of education into every influencer of the school’s culture, the school will be able to fulfill its God-given mission to spiritually transform young hearts and minds for eternity.  This year we will be conducting the 15th annual Kingdom School Institute in Dallas, Texas.  The dates are June 15-17 and, once again, Christian school educators will gather from across the country to learn how to establish a lasting kingdom-focused culture in their schools.

I encourage every school leader to prayerfully consider attending this summer’s KSI.  Take advantage of the early-bird registration rate and join other school leaders in shaping your school’s culture from a kingdom-focused perspective.  Register today!  Remember that one of every leader’s responsibilities is to shape the organization’s culture.  To find out more about this summer’s Institute click on the KSI logo below.   I look forward to seeing you in Dallas this summer.