Assessing the Aroma of your Area Culture

Scratch and Sniff: Making Your Area Culture the Aroma of Christ


There are a lot of metaphors about what Christ followers should be and one of those is to be an aroma that others are drawn to. In your Young Life community, that “aroma of Christ” is one of the most powerful and potent elements of your fellowship. If you want to see Young Life thrive in your area, you need to become a culture-shaper. When you do — you can almost smell the difference.

Culture doesn’t have to be influenced by you, it’s happy and glad to continue evolving with or without your input. But you have influence, you can shape it. If you want to be a kicktail culture shaper, you start by being a kicktail listener.

Consider this … what if you aren’t really aware of the current status of your area’s culture? What if your assumptions aren’t true? What if your team really doesn’t like sharing ideas because they think you’re closed off? Better yet, what if this is a great moment to show your team that you want to listen to them? Having a great culture makes the work of your team more productive, enjoyable and creates a magnet for your recruiting efforts. When your area culture is thriving, people will speak favorably about their experience, you will see more and more great leaders, staff and committee come through the door, tenure of leadership will likely increase, and the snowball rolls down the hill.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” — lots of people

Do your volunteer leaders love being together? Do they feel successful? Do they feel supported in their role? Do they feel a sense of pride and ownership about Young Life in your area? Do they feel that their ideas are welcomed and valued? These may seem like little things, but THEY ARE NOT. For example, if people feel their ideas aren’t welcome, they are less likely to bring them to the table. What if their idea is the innovative thing that helps reach the next kid? What if their friend is the next best leader? What if they could be a leader for 2, 10, 20+ years? Without a healthy area culture, we may never know.

You know how you can smell if a gallon of milk has gone bad?  You have to open up the jug and pay attention. Periodically, you need to do the same thing with the culture in your ministry.  Feedback is a gift to the person on your team sharing it, and pure gold for us as leaders. Practice this two or three times a year, and you will have great intel to help you pay attention to the right things. Here’s a simple way to listen well:

  • Send a survey to your leaders (survey link here for you to copy: Volunteer Leader Culture Make sure to duplicate this survey, do not send this one. Click the three little dots in the upper right-hand side and select, “make a copy.” Change it up, make it yours, make it anonymous if you dare.

  • Ask each team leader to give 10-15 minutes at the beginning of their next meeting to have leaders fill it out.

  • WAIT, don’t read responses as they come in. View the results all at once with a few trusted friends (committee member, team leader) and see what trends come up. What parts of your area’s culture are thriving? What parts need attention? What can you foresee as the leader that will have a huge impact if you invest now?

  • Pick a few things you want to influence and get after it together. How do you do this? … That’s for another day, but for now, see the resources below.

Remember, YOU HAVE INFLUENCE, and you can make a difference. The scent of a healthy community focused on Christ is hard to miss. Listen to others, love like Jesus, then notice the change. “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2: 15).

Written by: Christian “Bo” Gross (

P.S. [FREE BOOK!] First 10 people to email me and say, “I’m doing the survey,” will be sent a free copy of one of my favorite books on organizational culture. Bo Gross (

P.P.S. If you want to learn more, check out this stuff:

View September 2018 Email