For them, Teen Bible Quizzing is simply not a part of their church’s culture – and that may be just fine for their unique situation. On the other hand, they could be so much more fruitful if they offered this highly effective youth leadership and discipleship program to their teens. They just don’t know that they don’t know what they are missing.
Alternatively, why do some quiz programs regularly produce quizzers who excel in competition while other similarly mature quiz programs do not? The answer is the same: it is their culture.
Culture is simply the beliefs and values that determine how someone acts. Culture is developed by what we do – or do not do – regularly. When you hear things like, “My church just doesn’t do that”, that is culture.
Jesus, too, sought to change the church’s culture of His day. His message was radically different from what they were accustomed:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. (Matthew 5:38-40 NIV)
So given that the culture of a church can influence their decisions, the question is: How can we influence a culture that is already established? How do you change a culture that says they want their youth to know Jesus, but has no interest in Teen Bible Quizzing? How do you change a church culture that is negative? Or even lazy?
How To Change Your Church's Culture
This may seem obvious, but you have to know what you want before you can create the culture. You can’t simply be dissatisfied with the way things are; you have to know why you are dissatisfied or what needs to change.
So, if you are trying to get other teens at your church to participate in quizzing with you, your first step is to look inward. How have you (not your leader) influenced them? Now, define the culture you want: We care for each other. We have fun together. We give our time sacrificially. We study God’s Word to make a difference eternally.
If lack of time to study is the issue, clarify that the goal is to learn and apply God’s Word to your life and suggest ideas to make time available. If not knowing how to study is the issue, do the same thing. Just clarify the goal and how to accomplish it.
Define what you are for, not what you are against. People are not inspired by negativity. Telling everyone how bad the culture or their behavior is won’t inspire change. Instead, describe your vision of the way things could be. It could open their eyes and change their attitude and behavior.
2. SHARE THE NEW CULTURE VISION OFTEN
Share the why of the cultural change. If you are trying to change the culture at a small church so the pastor is not completely relied upon to lead or start new ministries, start with Scripture. The disciples in Acts were asked to wait tables and they had to raise up new leaders so that they could do what God had called them to do.
Whatever challenge you are facing, share the why behind the new culture. Share the why often and with as many key people as possible. Talk regularly with your District Superintendent and NYI President. Say it on Facebook, Twitter, at conventions, at church board meetings, in newsletters. You get the point. The goal is that when you are ready to get started the key leaders will be on board and supporting the plan. The culture will then embrace the change, especially if their leaders are united for the mission.
3. CHANGE SOMETHING
It does not have to be major to have a big impact. Set up a dedicated Quiz Practice area in the Youth Room to drive home the message that Quizzing is a vital part of your Youth ministry. Start having the pastor or another church leader attend (or help) at a Quiz Practice to emphasize the importance and leadership support of Quizzing. Start attending regional competitions to inspire your quizzers to put forth the effort to excel at a higher level. If your group needs a change in leadership to spark a change, just change how you lead.
4. INVEST IN OTHERS
Find those leaders within the congregation that have influence. They can be youth or adults. Get them to buy in to the plan and the culture you want to create. You need their help in influencing others. They may not have a title or a position that looks like leadership, but every group has those people. Find them and invest in them at the very beginning. If you are the only one leading the charge, what happens when you are not there?
5. BE CONSISTENT IN EVERYTHING
Do not send mixed messages. If you are changing a culture, it is all or nothing. Communicate openly, communicate often, maintain a consistent message, and limit distractions. Make it a big deal and be sure all of your leadership team is on board. This team has to be all in if you are going to change a culture.
6. EXPECT OPPOSITION AND NEGATIVE RESPONSES
“We just don’t have anyone willing to lead.” “Our teens aren’t interested.” You will no doubt get these responses if you are trying to recruit a church to participate in Teen Bible Quizzing. You can obviously point to similar churches that started Quizzing as an example, but more importantly, just stay on task. Keep pushing the spiritual and disciple-making benefits of Quizzing and eventually more will buy in. Some will change their way of thinking. Some will not. Know that most people don’t resist change – they resist being changed. Just keep scattering the seed and praise God for those that take root!