I was talking with our worship leader and he said, “It’s like we have a whole new group of people and values than we did 2 years ago.” It’s true. The atmosphere is way different now, intentionally so, and it’s been something we have been working towards for the past few years. We have been striving to change the culture of our Wednesday nights to one of actively seeking Jesus, leaders who are bought in, one of fun, and all of the things we have done are starting to pay off. 

Let me just preface though, because I have seen some posts regarding this on our awesome Facebook Community, changing the culture of your group is not an easy thing. After almost 3 years of casting the vision, modeling to out leaders, repeating myself over and over, countless leader meetings to chat about the state of our youth ministry, I think we are just beginning to see the fruits of it all… 3 years later. So be patient.

So how do we do that? It got me thinking about some of the things our team has done to implement this change in our group, so I thought I would share.

Pray – Our team spent time in prayer together. We got together to dream and wrote down our values what what we wanted to see in our ministries and we began by giving it up to God. Yes, people can change the culture to a point, but the type of change that we feel called to introduce to our students can’t come from us, we don’t have that power. Only Jesus does. Give it up to him.

Observe – For 4-6 months I just observed our group. I took crazy detailed notes. I looked like a creeper in the back as I took notes and began to write down things that could/needed to be changed. From the tech, to stage and program, to volunteers, job descriptions etc. Everything was under the microscope. After months of seeing how our systems were set up and looking at what they were producing, we began to address them one by one. If you have had some veteran leaders who have been around a while have them do the same. Do it with new leaders too so you can get fresh eyes on all your programs.

Apply slowly – At first there was just cosmetic stuff to make services flow better or look better. Everything we changed first were things we had the power to easily change. Graphics, social media, sermon illustrations, song choice, band and games we played. Changing the culture is not a “band-aide” mentality, you can’t just rip it off. People are biologically ingrained to resist change… so do it gracefully. After the services were were we wanted and we found a good balance, then we moved to people.

Volunteers – People are different than programs, we all know that. From the very beginning of me starting my position, I cast vision of where we want to be. Along the way, some people realized they were not on board, so they decided to get off. Others, not so easy and hard conversations followed. You can never repeat your vision enough. By the time you are tired of hearing your vision, your volunteers are just beginning to get it. Adjusting the vision of current volunteers can happen and when they get it, they go after it. Once we established who is in or not, we began seeking after new leaders with this new vision who all they know is the new ways and when they get it… they are bought in. Culture begins to leak from them to your students.

Relationships – Now that we have these leaders with this vision of where we are going and they know what success looks like, we release them out on students. Volunteers who understand the vision of your ministry and know what success looks like are unstoppable forces in the name of Jesus. This summer, all events we had were purposefully relational. Park days, beach days, summer camps with the leaders who get our vision has been one of the coolest things to watch. This has established our core group of students and now we get to build with an incredible foundation moving forward as we begin to launch small groups and continue to reach students far from God in hopes to see them come close to God.

I know there is a ton more we can all say when it comes to the culture of your group and I know the culture is different in every group. I do know, and have experienced, that if you don’t like the culture you can begin to prayerfully, slowly and change the culture you desire for your leaders and students to come to know Jesus in a way they have not been able to with the current culture that is in place.