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Blog » Church Cultures that Grow Giving: Red Flags for Leadership

Church Cultures that Grow Giving: Red Flags for Leadership

Church Cultures that Grow Giving: Red Flags for Leadership

Your church’s culture can build or hamper your online church giving program

In this series, we’ve been exploring un-silo-ing your giving program and tools for permeating a donor relations culture across your church’s staff. There are some red flags that we as pastors and ministry leaders have to watch out for (and avoid ourselves) if we’re to successfully create a church culture where giving grows. 

Every organization develops its own unique culture that is the internal playbook — how we value our colleagues and constituents, how we handle ourselves. Unfortunately, many organizations unintentionally develop toxic cultures that lead to staff turnover and disengagement. 

Churches – and especially large and multi-campus church settings – can unintentionally create those types of cultures in part due to the size of the staff and the inevitable disconnections or crossed-wires that can occur among them. As pastors, a key part of our roles is to recognize when one of our ministry areas or departments is slipping into a red zone of toxicity. 

Talk to people as they exit an organization and one of the most frequent themes will revolve around the culture they experienced in that organization. Exit interviews are a great value on this point. Organizational culture happens whether you’re intentional about developing it or not. The greatest asset in any ministry is the people. How to develop a team, how to create an environment where people are heard, how to evaluate and assess performance, how to humanize the senior leaders yet not remove their stature as leaders— these are all key factors in creating a place where people want to contribute, where they feel they’re making a difference.

We need to ask ourselves these questions:


Is this an autocratic culture? Does the leader trust and believe in the organization’s downline leaders and staff, giving them room to make decisions and take risks? An axiom I use often with my team members is, “Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Sometimes failing will lead us to a greater breakthrough.” Top- down autocratic leaders are like dinosaurs devouring emerging leaders – and they will move on quickly.


One of the real joys for me as a leader is to journey with a group of people over many years. Of course, while some have stayed with me as a leader for many years, others, we realized, were ready to get out from under my leadership and go lead their own efforts. A real test of the culture of any organization is the presence of high turnover. This can be caused by many factors. However, it is a major challenge to creating a consistent synergy of leaders.


A staff that plays together stays together. I believe that the best staff communities are built away from the workplace. Sometimes when the days are long and the work is especially difficult, these social times can be the key to fostering a healthier community. Listen closely to what boundaries your staff need and to what value they place on the staff community in your church. That culture is the foundation for everything else…and will help you flag “disturbances in the force,” or when toxicity is entering the community. 

In my decades of work in the ministry and philanthropic world, I’ve learned that certain behaviors can be cultural poison. When we as leaders or staff in our churches are exhibiting these behaviors, something is wrong and if unaddressed, it can damage the culture. When staff feel uncertainties, threatened or insecure, those behaviors can escalate. Building a healthy staff culture means watching for warning signs when something is out of whack. Celebrate the victories and reinforce the behaviors that will grow your giving culture.

Next week, we’ll wrap up by looking at lessons learned as churches walked this path and re-tooled their cultures to support giving.

Tim Smith has over 30 years of experience in Church, Non-Profit Administration, Management, and Fund Development.  Serving as an Executive Pastor and Chief Development Officer in growing Churches and Non-Profit Organizations has provided a wide range of expertise and resources. Tim serves as Founder and CEO for Non-Profit DNA, a boutique firm committed to helping nonprofits and churches build their capacity through fundraising, leadership, team building, staff recruiting, and coaching.

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