Building a school of ministry over the last four years has been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. Way back at the beginning as we sat down to plan the practicalities and design the school we first began with this question: What do we want the culture of our school to be?
For anyone involved in leadership in the business world you may have heard this quote: “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
This is birthed out of the realisation that building a culture is one of the most significant things you can do in any organisation. Even a clever strategy will fail if it does not have the culture to support it. So we began by defining the culture of the school – what are the values and behaviours that will shape our environment?
For us we began with a phrase you may have heard of as its use has increased in the Christian world – a culture of honour. We studied under Danny Silk, the author of the book “Culture of Honor”(sic) for a couple of years and perhaps most importantly lived in this culture. In my experience since coming home to Scotland, this phrase and the culture itself has been misunderstood a lot. So I thought I would write out a few of my observations as we have sought to build this culture in our school. These are my own thoughts – I don’t claim to have articulated Danny’s vision but this is how I have begun to unpack it. The results in our school environment have been beyond what we imagined.
Most commonly when a culture of honour is mentioned people think immediately about the respect that will be shown to those in authority positions. There are at least a couple of things wrong with this conception.
Culture of honour is more than respect
Respect is perhaps the first word that people associate with the idea of honour. It is a good word, an important word. For me however, it does not come close to defining the culture we are building. The problem with respect is that it can carry with it the sense of distance. I can respect you and not love you. I can respect you but avoid you. I can respect you but remain passive in our relationship. Respect is earned – honour is given freely.
I have come to see a culture of honour is primarily about loving people as God does. Training ourselves to see others as he sees them. The cross demonstrates once and for all God’s incredible love. At the cross God shows us that each person in the world, whether they know him or not has unsurpassable worth.
In a culture of honour we unashamedly recognise the worth within individuals and openly and enthusiastically call that out. Even on their worst day we learn to give them value, just like Jesus does for each of us.
It has nothing to do with earning respect. Honour is given to those who deserve it least, have not earned it, and even given to those who are dishonourable. It chooses not to stumble over peoples weakness or lack or poor choices. The truth is that below all of our weakness is huge value. Sometimes our behaviour just makes it is just harder to see.
Honour is a powerful internal choice to live in honour no matter the person you face. No matter whether you are personally shown honour.
Honour recognises people for who they are, their personalities and their gifting. The way that they uniquely reveal God’s image. It avoids control, forced conformance and embraces diversity.
Culture of honour affects everyone
The bible calls us to honour everyone. If honour only operates like a pyramid where the person at the top gets all the honour and those at the bottom get none you just have control, not honour. If honour is a way of getting recognition for leadership you have missed the point.
If a culture of honour does not recognise the janitor staff at your church as well as the senior leader you have missed it. If honour does not change the way you approach the difficult people in your church it has not yet become an internal culture. If it has not yet changed the way you view people who see things differently to you it is still immature.
We are only four years into the experiment that is ESST and building a culture of honour has been at the heart of it. Yet the fruit is already showing all over the place. God has been the one that has enabled us to build it and has showed us ways to infuse our culture with honour and love.
We keep hearing testimonies from people about the impact it has on them. People come to our school for the miracles, to learn about gifts of the Spirit, yet they stay for the culture of honour.
One lady in her forties shared, rather emotionally, that ESST was the first environment she had come into in her entire life where she felt she was actually valued for being herself. The first environment in forty years! Shocking and yet I am sadly learning this is all too common.
One student shared with us that even from her initial phone interview she recognised something different in our team member who spoke to her with honour.
One of our students recently shared with us that she decided to take the idea of a culture of honour and apply it to the business she owns and runs, with dramatic effect. Her best year in business was the year she started to implement this culture. Just simply learning to value people really well, Christian or not.
At it’s heart, a culture of honour is a practical expression of a community who loves well. It is simple and yet it is profound, perhaps just a clearer way to describe the impact love can have on a group of people. I believe it is the foundation for any Kingdom activity. It provides that solid place on which to disciple nations.
Everyone is longing for this sort of environment, a place that they can be valued unashamedly as themselves. A culture worth building I think.