What a Schnauzer Taught Me About Church Culture

Environments / The Church //

This past year, we welcomed a new member to our family:
A dog named Pepper.

Like all dogs, Pepper’s instincts run deep. But Pepper is a schnauzer which means that she thinks she’s about 12x more ferocious than she actually is.

And I have to admit: it’s kind of endearing. Schnauzers are great family dogs. But because of their instincts, they’re also great guard dogs.

We have a large front window in our living room.
It’s Pepper’s guard post.

Pepper will sit by the window – back straight, head level, ears cocked – focusing her eyes on the sidewalk. A squirrel could crack an acorn six houses away and she would know about it, signaling everyone in the house with a bark that could wake a dead man. She has the attitude and poise of a highly trained military sniper.

In the dog world, Pepper’s posture is on par with a Navy Seal: fearless, devoted, and ready for action.

We’ve tried to calm her down.
But it never lasts.
Cuddling, scratching, even eating.
These are all distractions from her vigilante-type instincts.
Blame it on breeding or genetics, but Pepper’s posture is part from who she is.

Posture is who you are when you’re free to be completely yourself.
The funny thing is that most of us are largely unaware of it.

The next time you’re in a meeting at church, work, of even out with friends, pay attention to what happens when someone gets a text alert on their phone. Unless we’re conscious to stop it, most people instinctively move their hand to their pocket.

Even if the ringtone is different.
We can’t help ourselves.
Our posture is largely unconscious.

Consider the handshake – a staple, cultural gesture in the west. Have you ever tried to explain a handshake to someone? It’s nearly impossible. Handshakes are easier to demonstrate than explain. There are an infinite number of variations to making a good handshake: the grip, the speed, how hard to shake, when to let go. If any of those variables are outside the unconscious cultural expectation, you may have botched your first impression.

Similarly, your church has an unconscious posture.
For good or for bad.

Without realizing it, there are cultural expectations and practices put into place that no one really thinks about. For example, consider communion: How many unspoken and unconscious activities surround the observance of the Lord’s Supper? A third-grader might eat the bread too early, spill the juice, or dunk the bread in the juice. Unthinkable. But if, like me, you’ve grown up taking communion, you’re largely unconscious of the movements involved in the practice. I haven’t thought about dunking since I was five years old. It’s just not done.

Being unconscious of your posture isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s important always to recognize that there are elements that define your posture, habits, and practices that you might be totally unaware of.

Wouldn’t you want to know if you acted like a schnauzer?

If you’re a leader in your church, start a discussion around your church culture by asking the following:

– What do you think our church does naturally?
– What do kids think about our church?
– Is there any way we can find out what they think?
– How can we build a posture that is open to kids?





About the Author

Brannon Marshall is Director of Global Church Engagement for Awana and serves on staff at Christ Community Church. He has served as a church planter and youth pastor, and is a frequent speaker on issues relating to church health. Brannon and his wife, Mandie, live in Elgin, IL, with their children: Joseph, Carston, and Hannah.