Something interesting happens every time a visitor enters your church:  He or she immediately experiences the culture and the DNA of your church.  You cannot prevent it from happening, even if you wanted to.   This experience is immediate and it is lasting.  You’ve heard it said, you don’t have a second chance to leave a first impression.  If there’s some truth in that saying, and I believe there is, then it seems to me that we need to give attention to culture and DNA.

For the purpose of this blog I will define these terms in this way:  Culture is the environment people experience when they enter the church.  DNA speaks to the underlying values which drive the way ministry is carried out in the church.


Is the culture (environment) of your church inviting?  Is it leaving the visitor with the best possible first impression?   The answer to these questions is much more complex than one might think.  Literally hundreds of ingredients come together to form the impression people have when they walk into your church.   Some ingredients are physical and concrete, while many others are intangible and abstract.  All are important to examine.

These ingredients can be separated out and each one examined with a probing question.   Here’s a start:

  1. Is the building clean, functional and easily accessible?  (physical)
  2. Is there passion in the preaching and the worship?  (intangible)
  3. Is the temperature in the room set at a comfortable level?  (physical)
  4. Is there positive momentum in the ministry of the church?  (intangible)
  5. Is it easy to find a good parking spot?  (physical)
  6. Is there a spirit of genuineness among the people?  (intangible)
  7. Is someone readily available to answer questions or provide assistance?  (physical)
  8. Is there intentionality in how things are done?  (intangible)
  9. Is there diversity of people, representing the larger community?  (physical)
  10. Is there a receptive and warm attitude toward new people?  (intangible)

As church leaders, I encourage you to do a thorough analysis of the ingredients that make up the culture of your church.  Ask a probing question about each ingredient and then ask God to give you the wisdom and the courage to change the ingredients that need changing.


  • DNA

Does your church possess the right spiritual DNA?  When there is a problem with church culture, it’s often the result of a problem with the spiritual genetics of the church.  What is it that your church truly values?  First time visitors to your church know the answer to that question.  They begin to draw their conclusions on the very first encounter.  They will probably never tell you.  I think it best that we discover the answer before they do.

When I speak of values, I am speaking of biblically held beliefs and convictions which drive the way we do our ministry.  These values are the reasons why we do ministry the way we do it.  These values shape the culture and build a reputation for the church in the community.  When the values are biblical, intentional, and adhered to, they will help shape a healthy culture and build a positive reputation for your ministry.

These values can be separated out and each one examined through the lens of Scripture.  Here’s some examples of biblical values that will fuel a healthy culture:

  1. We value reaching lost people.
  2. We value speaking truth in love.
  3. We value building loving relationships.
  4. We value mentoring future leaders.
  5. We value enthusiastic worship.
  6. We value every visitor who comes to our church, without exception.
  7. We value doing ministry as a team.
  8. We value accountability within the body of Christ.
  9. We value personal ownership of the mission.
  10. We value gift discovery and participation in serving.
  11. We value generosity.
  12. We value spiritual and numerical growth.

As church leaders, I encourage you to examine the values of your church.  How do some churches become unwelcoming to visitors, judgmental of outsiders, critical of their leaders and hurtful toward one another?  It doesn’t happen overnight.  I believe it begins with a breakdown in values.


The culture and DNA of your church is important.  It’s important because you never know if you will have another chance to leave a good impression for the kingdom.  If you and your leadership team give great attention to these things, you will increase your missional effectiveness.  If you’re not sure where to begin,  develop a First Impressions Questionnaire and begin to see your church as outsiders see it.  Let me know if I can assist you in this endeavor.