I have been in my current position for a few years now. Recently, during a conversation with one of our youth leaders, he remarked, “It’s like we have a whole new group of people and values.” Indeed, the atmosphere has shifted significantly compared to four years ago, and this transformation has been intentional. Throughout the year, we have diligently worked towards altering the culture of our Wednesday nights to one that actively seeks Jesus, embraces committed leadership, and fosters a spirit of enjoyment. Our efforts are beginning to yield results.

So, how did we achieve this? Reflecting on the steps our team took to implement change within our group, I’d like to share them.

  1. Prayer: Our team dedicated time to prayer together. We gathered to envision and articulate our values and aspirations for our ministries, surrendering them to God. While individuals can influence culture to a certain extent, the profound change we sought for our students could only be realized through divine intervention.
  2. Observation: Initially, I spent four to six months simply observing. I meticulously took notes, scrutinizing every aspect from technological setups and stage arrangements to program content, volunteer engagement, and job roles. After gaining insights into our existing systems and their outcomes, we systematically addressed areas for improvement.
  3. Gradual Implementation: We began by making superficial adjustments to enhance the flow and aesthetics of our services. These changes involved aspects such as graphics, social media presence, sermon illustrations, music selection, and recreational activities. Changing culture is not a hasty process; it requires grace and patience as people naturally resist change. Once we achieved the desired service environment and struck a balance, we progressed to addressing personnel matters.
  4. Volunteers: Recognizing that people differ from programs, we consistently communicated our vision from the outset. Some individuals naturally aligned with our vision, while others required candid discussions to reassess their involvement. Reiteration of the vision is crucial; when you feel fatigued from repeating it, your volunteers are just beginning to grasp it. While adjusting the vision for existing volunteers is possible, recruiting new leaders who resonate with the new direction proves invaluable. These leaders, fully immersed in the envisioned culture, serve as conduits for its transmission to students.
  5. Relationships: Empowered by our shared vision and understanding of success, our leaders engage with students in purposeful relational activities. Events such as park outings, beach trips, and summer camps, led by vision-aligned leaders, have cemented relationships within our core student group. With this foundation, we are poised to establish small groups and expand our outreach to students seeking spiritual fulfillment.

The journey to reshape your group’s culture may entail various strategies, tailored to its unique dynamics. Nonetheless, I have found that prayerful, gradual, and intentional efforts can foster a culture where leaders inspire, collaborate, and empower others.