Church Leader Foundations – Church Culture, Church Identity

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Part of the ministry resources on Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal. See also the resources on Leadership and Organizational Culture.


Just as ecclesiology helps us understand the church from a theological angle, church identity or congregational culture looks through sociological and organizational perspectives.

One may define identity or culture as the unique personality of a church created by its ministry, history, location, size, beliefs, leadership, demographics, age groups, and patterns of social interaction. Identity ascertains how a congregation, once biblically conceived, expresses itself in a local setting. What “personality” does it develop and reflect? What images do the members and the community use to describe that congregation? These images, whatever they are — pillar, anchor, family, community of faith, etc. — are deeply etched into the consciousness of members. Churches tend to pass on these images to their children and to new members who identify. Often the transmission is sub-conscious, but no less real.

The reality is that “culture trumps everything.” As Samuel Chand says, “culture eats strategy for lunch.” (Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code, 3). No matter how effective the strategy or how competent the leaders, identity/culture is the guiding force behind congregational life.

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The following resources provide in-depth understanding of congregational culture/identity. They are listed in suggested order, although each makes important contributions to the subject. One may also be interested in a similar guide on Leadership and Organizational Culture.

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