What is a Christian Organisation?

Identity

Or: What makes an organisation distinctively Christian? What is it about "Christian" organisations that makes them different to non-Christian organisations?

We believe that the identity of a Christian organisation is defined primarily by how it operates, its identity and ethos as being Christ-centred: by the motivation behind what it does and the way things get done.

Many people define a Christian organisation only in terms of its purpose being in some way "Christian" - e.g. it engages in mission, social action, retailing Christian merchandise, etc.

In defining a Christian organisation it is helpful to consider what defines an individual as a Christian. We would suggest that the individual's relationship with the living God in Jesus is the one core factor that distinguishes the Christian from the non Christian. This life choice, belief and relationship in turn affects the inspiration, motivation and behavior for everything we do. The belief gives rise to values that we choose to apply in all we do as a way of expressing our belief in action.

If we see a Christian organisation as a corporate expression of a set of joint and agreed beliefs and values then we would suggest the following. The organisation's statement of faith and its shared values affect the quality of relationships with others and thus the way people are enabled to do their work. It will also hold a commitment to prayer, and the way it understands its role in relation to extending the Kingdom of God. However, identity is only seen in practice when these joint organisational Christ centred beliefs, are reflected in respect and love for God which leads to a respect and love for others as we apply God inspired values to how we relate and organize the working environment.

The tree described in the Bible by Jeremiah provides a useful picture of a Christian organisation. "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord they are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit" New Living Translation, Jeremiah 17 v 7 -8 and also Psalm 1 v 3. What is key is that from the Christ centred core flows the life of the organisation, giving health to the whole.

The McKinsey 7S framework (strategy, style, skills, systems, staff, structure and shared values) is a well known model which further emphasises the importance of aligning joint, agreed, shared values to vision.

The identity of a Christian organisation is seen and demonstrated when the joint beliefs and values impact on how we expect people to relate to one another and so on how work is carried out. For example joint and agreed expectations are often formalised into organisational and people policies and procedures that enable and encourage a consistent way of working together in line with the organisation's values and beliefs. It is the outworking of these internal policies and procedures in practice which shows whether or not the organisation is true to the beliefs and values, and thus, whether or not it is demonstrating a "Christian" identity.

Christian identity in an organisation is therefore manifest in attitudes, in approaches to work, in the direction of the organisation, in behaviour, in the way people relate and in the overall 'atmosphere'.

To find out more about how these elements can be assessed, go to Aspire How it Works.