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Dan Zimbardi on Defining and Deploying A Unified Team Culture


Hey, everyone, it’s great to have you join us today for this week’s episode of the unSeminary podcast. I’m excited to have with us today Dan Zimbardi, the executive pastor of Sandals Church.

Sandals Church started 20 years ago in Riverside, California, in Pastor Matt Brown’s living room with eight people. Since then the church has moved from location to location many times, even using the gym at a local university for several years. Six years ago they moved to their permanent location in their main campus, Hunter Park, and now they also have three additional campuses. Through God’s grace the church now has about 8400 hundred people coming to their services.

It can be difficult to sustain and keep the culture alive during growth and changes, and so Dan is with us today to talk about how to keep your team pushing in the same direction.

  • Define your culture, not just your vision. // Dan heard a great quote once that says, “Culture eats vision for lunch.” You can create a vision and put the statement on every wall and document within the church, but it’s the culture that makes the church. Culture, as Dan explains, is how people react and respond. Culture is the outward expression of what’s happening inside the church. Sandals Church has spent the last few years defining their culture. Without a definitive culture within the church, it can become just a byproduct of personalities and things that have happened in the church over the years. In defining your culture, you should make sure your values are clear and define the attributes of your staff which can create success and value in the community.
  • Use feedback to drive culture. // One of the things Sandals Church does in order to evaluate their culture is an anual anonymous survey among the staff. The survey asks the staff how the church is doing with their values and culture, and then the leadership compares the results to previous years to see whether they are going up or down. Action plans are built around the things that aren’t going well in order to boost the culture in those areas.
  • Create steps to examine and define the DNA of the church. // One of the first steps Sandals Church used in defining culture was to examine what values and traits among staff were really important in their fields, and also important to the DNA of the church. Dan wrote out a list of key attributes that are important in people who are thriving in their environment. The next step in defining culture was to really hone in on the organizational values in the church. What things are important to the church and have been important for years? Dan worked with the pastor to create an ethos document that is used in how they review staff and the orientation with new hires.
  • Develop leaders within your church. // There are barriers in the growth and development of a church—often times finances and process within the church. But you can work through these barriers by having a well-defined financial model and standard consistent processes that define the church. The biggest barrier is usually having leaders across the church and campuses that can step into key roles. You need campus pastors and worship leaders and leaders in the children ministry who understand your culture. In order to meet this need, Sandals created a 12-month leadership development system that is focused on learning leadership by doing. Everyone is given a mentor and a ministry pathway. They are then given real leadership roles and assignments along that pathway. Dan advises churches to create a leadership development system to train your leaders who will step into the roles needed within your church.
  • Measure your success. // Businesses measure their success through results and impact on their target audience. Even churches can measure their success through their results and impact. It’s key for the entire staff to think about what they want to measure in order to track success and then start tracking and measuring things that are important to them. Some ways that Sandals does this is by using top level scorecards which go out to the board and a scorecard for the executive team. Each department has developed their scorecards and measures. Once you’ve determined what you want to measure, set goals against them and track those goals. Then analyze what drove those results, whether you are failing in that area or soaring. Identify what is the key push behind those results.

You can learn more about Sandals Church by visiting their website and download their ethos document here. You can also reach Dan at [email protected].

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Lightning Round

Organizations Following // Apple, Google, Uber

Influential Book // Becoming an Agile Leader Know What to Do … When You Don’t Know What to Do by Victoria Swisher, leadership resources by Korn Ferry

Inspiring Leader // Bono, Jonathan Ive from Apple

What does he do for fun // hanging with his wife

Contact // Sandals Church, email Dan

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.