3 Realities of Team Culture

A few months ago we were preparing for a response moment at church. I was leading a quick connect with some staff to walk through the flow of the moment. We were all on the same page and moving forward until a moment when I could tell I lost the room. A few phones came out along with big laughs as I tried to figure out what was happening. The picture below is what was captured.


My intent was to draw a clear process for a response at church. What it looked like was an overview of the female reproductive system. No, I didn’t plan to wear a shirt that would match the color on my face that day…it just happened.  This happened months ago, and I am not sure I will live it down. The picture made its way back to me last week – and it instantly reminded me of a few important things about our culture at 12Stone. You see we love to laugh at our church – we would say we take God seriously but we do not take ourselves too seriously. This picture reminds me of that cultural truth on my team.

Culture is a big thing in any organization. It speaks to our trends and habits as a people. When all the members of a team embrace the culture they are a force to be reckoned with. When the team does not collectively own the culture it can look like a 5 year old baseball team playing defense…lots of activity with little clarity about how they are all supposed to work together.

Helping volunteers embrace the culture of your team is essential, but you have to approach it in a different way. You can equip people for a team through basic training.   Adapting new volunteers to your culture is a different animal – and while there is no precise way to impart it, here are 3 things to know when it comes to culture:

  • Culture is Caught not Taught – you can provide information about culture through teaching and knowledge transfer. However if your goal is to have volunteers embody the culture of the team then the transfer method is osmosis over time. People will embody what they observe of the leaders actions more than what they hear from the leaders mouth.
  • Culture is Conditioned not Trained – A training environment is a great place to equip a person for service. Culture is not something you equip a person with, it is something you slowly condition them into. At Chick-Fil-A when you say “thank you” the staff member will always respond “my pleasure”. They might have heard it in training, but it takes conditioning for it to become a natural part of their work.
  • Culture is learned through Experience not through Explanation – Every team has values and practices that could be written down to explain the essence of the team. While it is important for these key items to be explained, the culture of a team is best learned through experience. That does not mean you avoid explaining the things that are culturally important on your team. However new volunteers will slowly embody the culture as they experience it through the rest of the team.

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