Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast: Why Coaching is a Transformative Edge for Your Church

by Todd Weir


“Please do not laminate our new vision statement and put it on the wall,” a member quipped as we completed our work on defining who we are. She had seen too many statements and strategic plans come and go, while working as a non-profit leader. They hang powerless on the wall like a “No Smoking” or “Exit” sign.  Too often churches invest a year or more in clarifying purpose and developing a strategy for growth and change, only to see the wheels fall off during implementation. In stunning research by the Harvard Business School, 83% of strategic plans fail to be fully implemented. You would think new strategies have at least a 50/50 chance!
What happens to our carefully laid plans?  A major reason for disappointment is that organizations fail to deal with their culture, which is not in alignment with the new plan. Culture eats strategy for breakfast!  Culture is that intangible mix of attitudes, behaviors, history, standard operating procedures, assumptions and “the way we do things around here.”  It is mostly unnamed, but you know it when you see it. Here are some examples.  A church that has been in decline for decades makes a bold growth plan, but the culture has a limiting belief that they really aren’t capable of being anything different than they really are.  Many in the congregation may be excited about a new initiative, but a few people who feel displaced by change undermine things with their negativity.  The new plan calls for increased stewardship and inviting people to church, but deep down people are uncomfortable making the ask. These are examples of how culture eats strategy for breakfast. Go ahead and make your own list!
How can coaching help?  A real, transformative change for an individual or organization requires a shift in awareness. If we really want change, we must move into a new sense of who we are, with new habits and self-understanding.  A coach is trained to listen deeply to people and ask powerful questions that help uncover the unspoken reality and hidden false assumptions that get in our way.  We seek to get at the hidden beliefs that are really controlling behavior.  This is one way coaching is different than consulting. We do not offer strategies or best practices. (You can find excellent resources and insights at Super Saturday and through other programs our Conference offers!)  We focus on you, the pastor or congregation, helping you be conscious of what is really happening and accountable to yourself about what you really want.
Coaching can be a crucial component to help increase the effectiveness of other programs like Crossroads and Churches Alive!, which are offered by the Massachusetts Conference. These programs guide congregations in making bold new decisions for health and vitality.  A coach can accompany your congregation to get through the pitfalls and ask the questions you may not ask on your own.
Are you ready for a real transformative shift? The Massachusetts Conference has several coaches ready to accompany you on the journey. Their profiles will be available soon on our website. We just might be the transformative edge you need to take the next step to what you really want for your future.

Rev. Todd Weir is senior pastor of the First Churches of Northampton, and an ICF (International Coaching Federation) certified coach. Visit his website at

Todd Weir

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