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Resource Center

Congregational and Corporate Cultures

Aug 22, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Congregational and Corporate Cultures

There has been a lot written about corporate culture. But, more recently, it is being addressed at congregational levels.

So, what does culture look like (mean) when speaking about congregations’ cultures?

Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company interacts through employees outward.

A congregational culture is very similar but some of the terms are replaced. 

Let’s take a look at terms as they relate to a congregation’s culture.


A congregation’s beliefs are firmly rooted in their denomination’s doctrine. There is no question as to what they are. It is the basis for all. They are considered “unchanging truths”.


If you google “behaviors” you will find much defining it as the way in which one acts or conducts oneself outwardly, especially toward others.

For corporations, behaviors flow from management down. For congregations, it is the same, leadership down.

For both corporations and congregations, behaviors can become deeply institutionalized, becoming a habit that newcomers acquire or aspire to. In actual practice "reinventing" from the top down, therefore, is difficult to achieve, takes time, and happens only under strong leadership. 

However, unlike corporations, behaviors cannot be dictated to church members, subject to employment rules. Therefore, behaviors can hold onto traditions and past leadership, passed down from generation to generation.


In the corporate world, an interaction is a transactional one, comprised of customers. There is the manufacturing of a product/service, selling of that product/service, purchasing the product/service, and use of the product/service. Each one of these steps speaks to the culture of the corporation.  Is there a culture of cost vs quality, customer satisfaction vs sales? And each are not independent of the other.

There is no transactional interaction in a congregation. There is not anything being bought or sold as the main purpose. Church exist for the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

If you look closely, interactions are present – “make disciples” and “baptizing”. Yes, these are indeed interactions.


Outward interactions are just that. They are not directed to those inside the walls, whether it be a corporation or a congregation. They are directed to those outside the walls.

Corporations see those outside the walls as customers. But not all are included. They are aware that everyone is not nor has the potential to be their customers.

For congregations, this primarily consists of those who are not only non-members, but those who do not yet know Jesus. It is “all nations”. So, unlike corporations, there are no exclusions.

This is probably the biggest and most important difference between corporate and congregational cultures. There are no exclusions as to whom our culture impacts. All those outside the walls of our church are seeing, and interpreting our culture. A congregation’s behaviors, demonstrated by interactions to all those outside your walls are being interpreted as its beliefs.

Congregational culture can then refer to the external interactions by those outside the walls of your church, that through their demonstrated behaviors, define the beliefs of the congregation.

Do you know what your culture looks like from the outside?


Ann Ciaccio

Written by Ann Ciaccio

Ann Ciaccio is the Communications Assistant for the LCMS Northern Illinois District. She graduated from Northern Illinois University, where she studied Marketing and is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Batavia, Illinois. Ann enjoys the challenge of using her marketing skills as a tool to help carry out the mission and ministry of the Northern Illinois District. She is married and has two daughters, a junior in high school and a freshman in college. Her motto: “dark chocolate works.”