Mar 8, 2022

ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations: Patrick Lencioni on Work Culture

header image for Lencioni recap

On a recent ChurchPulse Weekly episode, Patrick Lencioni talks with co-hosts Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman about how churches can cultivate a healthy team culture while also maintaining high standards to attract good leaders.

On the Importance of Building a Healthy Work Culture
Recent Barna data shows that one in five U.S. adults (19%) has left a job for a new employment opportunity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another one in four U.S. adults (26%) has lost a job since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on the reasons that many individuals desire to leave their current job for something new, Lencioni notes, “[The COVID-19 pandemic] has accelerated the importance of actually giving employees what they need to feel good about work. 

“I wrote a book years ago about employee engagement and the three things people really want in their jobs,” he continues. “They want to be known… They want to know that their job matters—that what they do really changes somebody’s life in some way, large or small. And they want to know that there’s some way that they can assess their success for themselves.

“They can see the impact of what they’re doing,” Lencioni adds. “When people have those three things, they are self-motivated and relationship-motivated in the organization.”

Discussing ways that churches can create a more satisfying work experience for their leadership and staff, Lencioni looks back to the model of three. “People want to be known. … In churches, we tend to think, ‘Oh, we don’t need to do that here. We’re ministering to the people in the pews.’ … No, you have to minister first to your employees.”

He continues, “Is your work relevant? Being a pastor or working at a church has the highest and easiest possibility of understanding why your job is relevant … What should be happening in church is every time we see someone changing somebody’s life in some way, we should stop, notice and celebrate that and remind people how cool it is to introduce [people] to Jesus or comfort others.” 

Lencioni concludes, “Lastly, how can we measure the impact of what we do? … We have to figure out a way to help people assess that they’re really doing a good job. … Talk to the people you’re serving and find out what’s going on in their lives. Look at the number of people that are actually accessing what you’re offering and how it’s changing their lives.”

[barna-ad offset=0]

On the Importance of Maintaining Work Excellence
In his conversation with Nieuwhof and Kinnaman, Lencioni also shares on how important it is for churches to maintain high standards for what their employees are working on and sharing with the whole congregation.

“The truth of the matter is what drives people away from churches. Mediocrity—when we accept things in a church environment that wouldn’t be accepted in a for-profit company,” Lencioni states. “Somehow we say, ‘Since we’re not paying [church employees] a lot, we should expect less of them.’ That is a great way to attract employees who have no standards and to repel people who really want to work there.

“I believe that we could have more great employees in churches and pay them adequately,” Lencioni continues. “If we create an environment that rivals or surpasses [those at for-profit companies], it’s going to be a game changer. But to do that, we have to shift. It’s not just about work hours. It’s about expectations of behavioral excellence, the way we treat one another, having more good conflict around excellence and not thinking that we just have to be nice to one another. … Nobody wants to work in an organization where you’re supposed to be nice to each other at the expense of actually accomplishing your mission. Too many churches fit that description.”

Describing why humans have a desire to pursue excellence, Lencioni quotes St. Augustine, who says, “Our hearts will not rest until they rest in God.” Lencioni expounds, “God is the essence of all excellence. He’s truth. And mediocrity is saying, ‘I’m willing to settle for something less than that.’

“I think we have a desire to be the best versions of ourselves. And whether you work at [a for-profit company] or the church, it hurts to settle,” observes Lencioni. “We need to make our churches, and every organization, have that sense of excellence.”

Comment on this article and follow our work:
Twitter: @davidkinnaman | @barnagroup
Instagram: @barnagroup
Facebook: Barna Group
YouTube: Barna Group

About the Research
“This survey sampled n=1,526 U.S. adults through a representative online consumer research panel. Respondents were quota sampled to be representative by age, gender, ethnicity, region, income and education. Minimal statistical weighting was applied and the margin of error is +/- 2.01% at a 95% confidence interval.”

Featured image by Jason Goodman on Unsplash.

About Barna
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

© Barna Group, 2022

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

Get Barna in your inbox

Subscribe to Barna’s free newsletters for the latest data and insights to navigate today’s most complex issues.