Culture is a loaded term. Socially, it encompasses the art, customs, and institutions of a group. That covers a lot of ground. It is difficult to find anything in a given group that cannot be said to be part of its culture. And there is no person in a group who goes untouched by the powerful pull of culture. That’s why, at VOUS, we are intentional about culture. We know that culture is always in a continuous cycle of shaping and being shaped by the people in the group. There is no escaping it. So we may as well work to direct the process.
One of the most powerful ways to influence culture is through language. Idiosyncratic language develops naturally among groups—people who live in a particular region, go to a particular school, or engage in a particular activity use words and phrases that are specific to their group. But this natural phenomenon doesn’t have to develop by default. It can be designed. Changing the way we speak about something is a powerful way to shift our perspective on it. What we choose to call a person, event, or activity influences the way we perceive, interact with, and value those things.
We first developed our Culture Guide in 2018. Three years after launching our church, we wanted to compile the cultural language we had developed over the years and create a resource that would give everyone a clear understanding of the distinct language of our church. If you want to create clarity around an idea, write it out. It will force you to simplify and clarify your thoughts. If you can’t explain it in a few sentences, you aren’t clear on it yet. Writing is a refining process. Our Culture Guide took what had been floating around in conversation and grounded it in ink on paper.
Here is a breakdown of what our Culture Guide covers.
The guide opens with our seven Core Values—the non-negotiables for our staff and leaders—and our seven Staff Values—the aspirational values that drive our staff to continue to grow and improve.
This section is simple but important. It lists all of our current locations, including staff headquarters, current building projects, and Church Online.
First Things First
This part of the guide details the eight key building blocks of our church, from Sunday services to small groups to outreach.
Next we cover the various events we host as a church. Some of these events are ongoing, others are a thing of the past. We include both as a record of where we have been and a reminder that things change.
Not every event at VOUS comes complete with a theme, but certain recurring events come with a theme attached. These phrases often become condensed expressions of profound lessons we’ve learned as a community at a particular moment in time that we carry with us into the future.
We close out our guide with a list of key cultural phrases that are part of our regular vocabulary at VOUS, along with a glossary of terms covering everything from Basecamp to white tents.