“Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” by Samuel R. Chand

Samuel R. Chand, Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011). $24.95, 224 pages.

According to Sam Chand, “Culture—not vision or strategy—is the most powerful factor in any organization.” Many churches formulate excellent vision statements and strategic goals for reaching their communities. But their success or failure depends on whether they have attended to “the personality of the church,” that is, its “organizational culture.” Chand arranges these churches on a spectrum from “inspiring” to “toxic.”

What separates inspiring churches from toxic ones is how they deal with seven organizational issues, which Chand outlines using the acrostic CULTURE:

  • Control: “People function most effectively if they are given control (or authority) with responsibility.”
  • Understanding: “Every person on a team needs to have a clear grasp of the vision, his or her role, the gifts and contributions of the team members, and the way the team functions.”
  • Leadership: “Healthy teams are pipelines of leadership development.”
  • Trust: “Mutual trust among team members is the glue that makes everything good possible.”
  • Unafraid: “Healthy teams foster the perspective that failure isn’t a tragedy and conflict isn’t the end of the world.”
  • Responsive: “Teams with healthy cultures are alert to open doors and ones that are closing.”
  • Execution: “Executing decisions is a function of clarity, roles and responsibilities, and the system of accountability.”

I wish that Chand had devoted a chapter to the spiritual dynamics of church cultures alongside the excellent chapters on organizational dynamics. But that is my only caveat. I recommend this book to pastors whose vision for reaching their communities is bumping up against the toxic elements in their own and their churches’ personalities. This book will help them identify the challenges their church culture poses and work toward solutions.


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