Shaping Culture Through Axioms

Written by Keith Doornbos
April 21, 2020

n church revitalization healthy culture is more important than good strategy.  As someone has rightly pointed out, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

In church revitalization healthy culture is more important than good strategy. As someone has rightly pointed out, “culture eats strategy for lunch.” But how do leaders shape a congregation’s culture? One important tool is employing axioms to embed healthy culture into congregational life. Axioms are short, memorable statements that name cultural expectations in the life of a faith community.

Here are examples of axioms that can shape congregational culture:

  • Around here we keep the waters sweet
  • Around here we live under the umbrella of grace
  • Around here we disagree without drawing blood
  • Around here we focus on making today’s disciples for tomorrow’s world
  • Around here the Gospel is the beating heart of everything we do
  • Around here relationships always trump programs
  • Around here the least and last are celebrated as Jesus among us
  • Around here we fail big and learn fast
  • Around here we speak the language of gratitude not complaint
  • Around here visitors are our first priority
  • Around here we believe excellence increases influence
  • Around here we seek to be thermostats not thermometers
  • Around here ministry is a “get to” not a “got to”
  • Around here we’re faithful in small things
If a church can identify 10-20 essential axioms and drive them deep into the life of the congregation, they will discover that those axioms will begin to shape the congregational attitudes and behaviors.

Here are three essentials for creating culture influencing axioms:

Essential 1: Name the culture you are trying to influence

Developing axioms begins by knowing the behavior you’re attempting to shape.  Are you attempting to get people to be less critical, more hospitable, more neighbor-focused, more willing to volunteer, more committed to sharing the Gospel, etc.   Begin by knowing what you want to shape.

Essential 2: Give language to your goals

After you know the culture you’re seeking to influence you can give language to that change.  The language can be borrowed from Scripture, from culture, from other churches or you can create an axiom fresh from your own imagination.  The statement must be short and contain a unique twist so it has a barb that will hook into congregational memory.

Essential 3: Incorporate axioms into the life of the church

Once created an axiom must be driven deep into the D.N.A. of a congregation.  This is done by applying axioms when vision is being cast, when ministry priorities are being established, when leaders are being trained, when difficult situations are being addressed and when sermons are being illustrated.  When axioms are regularly applied to ministry, they become the hooks on which all ministry is hung.

Written by Keith Doornbos

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