The Role of Organizational Culture


In the first article of this six-part series, the connection between personal stewardship and organizational stewardship was explored. That article highlighted organizational stewardship’s impact on personal stewardship. Steward leaders were identified as essential in engendering confidence in organizational stewardship. Effective steward leaders signify with their attitudes and actions that they hold their position of trust in high regard. Confident and trustworthy steward leaders are better able to inspire persons to faithfully serve and financially support a missional purpose.

Three interconnected spheres of organizational life illustrate the key factors enabling confidence to thrive in the minds of those serving and supporting the mission of the church organization. This article focuses on organizational culture and its role in building and sustaining the currency of confidence.

Each organization has its unique organizational culture, which is a composite of individual attitudes and backgrounds. However, leaders in each organization are the persons who set the tone of that culture as it relates to integrity, ethical values, stewardship, and transparency. If leaders do not set an example in these areas there will be no moral compass to guide organizational decisions, and the behavior modeled by leaders will invariably be manifested in the actions of those whom they lead.1

The foregoing perspective on organizational culture is critically dependent on the tone set at the top by church leaders. In setting this tone, church leaders not only show the way in terms of integrity, ethical values, stewardship, and transparency, but they also inspire those whom they lead to share in these ideals. When these ideals are both shown and shared, they provide the framework for determining normative behaviors within the church organization.


INTEGRITY represents the soundness of character that allows an individual to stand tall in the face of open scrutiny knowing their motives are sincere and their methods are sanctified. Allowing the mission of the church organization to hold primacy in both word and deed, the individual sets aside personal interests and makes choices that do not give rise to suspicion. The positive influence exercised by persons of spotless integrity is needed at all levels of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul described his own life of integrity while being about his apostolic mission: “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth, we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.”2

ETHICAL VALUES enable the organization to distinguish right from wrong, even in complex situations. For Christian individuals and organizations, the most decisive script is the life of Jesus Christ. He teaches us how to love God and one other. Contained in these vertical and horizontal love relationships are values of respect, trust, honesty, fairness, justice, mercy, and humility, to name just a few. The prophet Micah enumerated the last three of these previously mentioned values as being actual requirements of the Lord (Micah 6:8). By promoting these and other values, church leaders cultivate a culture in the organizations they lead that is consistent with the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:4, 5). “The ethics inculcated by the gospel acknowledge no standard but the perfection of God’s mind.”3

STEWARDSHIP is premised on the compound fact that while the steward has no personal ownership, there remains the expectation of personal accountability for the position or property entrusted. In other words, the access a person may have to a position or property will require accountability, and the strength of character to gladly accept this accountability.

TRANSPARENCY is defined by The Business Dictionary as the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision- making that is accompanied by an absence of hidden agendas and conditions. This definition affirms the prospect of an unreserved openness regarding all motives and actions. For the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a spiritual community, this should indeed be our default position.⁴ We need to live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we must show that we are true ministers of God.⁵


A recommendation for church organizations would be to expand upon the ideals of integrity, ethical values, stewardship, and transparency by developing a code of conduct that delineates a set of expected behaviors. Such a code of conduct would serve as a worthy companion to the stated mission of any church organization, because what is being done would be complemented with clear guidance on how it is to be done. In developing a code of conduct, a church organization benefits by:

1. Inscribing the standards of behavior expected of everyone for internal reference.

2. Informing new people who join about the prevailing working environment and expectations

3. Inspiring observers’ confidence in the alignment between the organization’s Christian mission and the Christlike motives of its people.

It is important to note that a code of conduct cannot only be a corporate exercise but has to be even more so a genuine commitment to abide by this code in public and in private. For it is with this commitment that persons find themselves to be worthy of that to which they have been called (Eph. 4:1-4), their words and deeds all done in the name of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17).

An example of a code of conduct for church organizations can be seen in a document developed by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC) for application to itself as an employer as well as to its employees.⁶ The document was constructed to state first the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, followed by a declaration of shared values that further delineated the ethical responsibilities of employer and employees. A close reading of this document would be worthwhile for church leaders at all levels to facilitate the necessary task of preparing something similar for their own spheres of responsibility. This exercise will help leaders to be intentionally engaged in creating and managing an appropriate organizational culture. Edgar Schein, a noted management author, asserted that this may be the only thing of real importance that leaders do.⁷

In advance of your taking the time to read the entire document prepared by the GC, the following table excerpts for your consideration show the shared values and focal points of ethical responsibilities for the GC as an employer and its employees.


So far in this series of articles we have examined the part played by attitudes and actions of steward leaders in promoting organizational stewardship and explored the important role of organizational culture in building confidence. For the upcoming articles, the complementary role of organizational controls in building confidence will be addressed with particular reference to internal control, financial decision-making, and oversight.

Paul H. Douglas

Paul H. Douglas, MBA, CPA, serves as the director of General Conference Auditing Service (GCAS) , headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland. For more information about GCAS, visit