Creating a Social Covenant Helps Build and Empower Relationships at Gateway Church

Gateway Church has developed a  Social Covenant including 14 biblical commitments for staff.

Gateway Church has developed a Social Covenant including 14 biblical commitments for staff.

The mega-church that’s found a way to create and sustain high levels of trust among its staff of 600 over multiple locations!

Gateway Church in Dallas regularly receives 26,000 individuals to its five weekend services. Welcoming and integrating this many people into worship and service has increasingly required its staff to work together and be on the same page. But how?

Instead of relying on a strict “top-down/trickle down” hierarchical model of accountability, Gateway’s leadership took a “flatter” approach.

“We call it our Social Covenant,” says Associate Pastor Allan Kelsey. “Its comprised of 14 biblically grounded commitments. The first 7 speak to the importance of investing in relationships, and the second 7 help us empower those relationships.

“Regardless of a person’s authority or rank, we wanted the Social Covenant to level the playing field of how we were going to do life together.

“At the start of new staff initiation, every new employee sees the Social Covenant spelled out on two large 2 x 3-foot posters highly visible throughout our workplace. The specific commitments are simple and clear, yet crafting them wasn’t a piece of cake. Our senior leadership locked themselves in a room for 48 hours. We honed the semantics of each statement to get just the right word or phrase:

Fully invest in relationships by:
o Listening to each other
o Encouraging and affirming each other
o Offering, soliciting and receiving honest feedback
o Believing the best motives
o Resolving conflict with forgiveness and reconciliation
o Being vulnerable and teachable with each other
o Reproducing ourselves in others

Fully empower relationships by:
o Trusting each other within healthy boundaries
o Challenging constraints and engaging in healthy confrontation,
o Developing potential in each other, which results in personal growth
o Walking in unity with grace and truth
o Focusing on the task(s) at hand
o Being accountable to produce fruitful returns
o Extending the opportunity to dream and have fun

True to the purpose of giving its staff a Christ-honoring way to do life together, Gateway’s Social Covenant invites accountability to link arms with charity, especially when trust is threatened. As Kelsey, explains, “A staff member has the freedom to call a foul on any person he or she believes has violated the Social Covenant. The ‘fouler’ must respond with two encouraging affirmations aimed at the teammate who was fouled. If the issue is weightier, the fouled team member has the option to ask for a “level up” conversation and go directly to the fouler’s boss, without fear of retribution from the ‘fouler’.

“The Social Covenant has been in place for two years. While we believe it’s fair, its ultimate effectiveness—as with our Christ-like actions—is a daily work in progress.”

Next: Creating a fair, competitive staff compensation package is beginning to pay off.

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One thought on “Creating a Social Covenant Helps Build and Empower Relationships at Gateway Church

  1. Al,

    Thanks for sharing this best practice. It’s important for organizations to clarify relational expectations in writing and, I would add, share the stories of people who bring these values and practices to life. Southwest Airlines shares 4-5 stories each day on its intranet site. The stories are sourced by 150 “culture ambassadors” throughout the airline. They also have a “culture office” with 30 staff. More organizations are becoming intentional about nurturing healthy cultures and I’m thrilled to see Gateway Church’s social covenant one example.