What Makes The Soul Of An Organization?

As leaders, we have an issue to face: How can we really influence the culture within the organization we work?

We have all experienced those ministries, organizations, or businesses where we wonder who is at the helm.  How, based on their leadership, is that organization the way it is?  I mean, doesn’t the gas station owner know that the nastiness of the bathroom has to affect those who want to stop there?  The owner of the gas station chain in Texas, Bucky’s, sure does.  And it sure shows.

Over the last few years, our ministry has had to grapple with this question.  Now we have 8 different properties and over 50,000 campers each year.  With each area of our ministry, we want our culture to be consistent, and our “soul” the same.

We finally landed on three key components we feel are critical to creating a culture where the entire organization is rowing in the same direction, with similar passion.

1. Who we hire

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  It’s not. We might start out with good intentions, but it is easy for us to fall into what is quick or easy.  A friend recently told me that in an organization he used to work with he had to hire, “anyone with a heartbeat”.  With that type of culture, you might have warm bodies taking up space, but few people who will help propel the mission.

Be selective.  In his book, Good to Great: And the Social Sectors, Jim Collins describes Wendy Kopp and her organization, Teach for America.  Asked how she convinced graduates to work for low pay in tough classrooms, Wendy answered, “first, by tapping their idealistic passions and second, by making the process selective”.  I believe she is on to something, and we all could learn from it.

2. How we train who we hire

You can’t just expect to hire great people and then let them loose.  I heard someone say once that nobody ever drifts toward anything good.  Said differently, people will always gravitate to where they are most comfortable.

Once we have great people, we need to:

  • Set the mission before them
  • Cast the vision of what could be
  • Give the necessary instruction on how to get there

This process of training shouldn’t be boring and predictable.  If you believe in what your mission is all about, your level of training will reflect it.

3.  What we expect of who we hire

This rests on our shoulders as leaders.  I’ve seen great people who were trained well eventually fizzle out.  Give your staff one load too many, helping them understand God’s faithfulness when they step out in faith.  The Spirit of the living God is in each believer.  Therefore, we have the power to love when its seemingly impossible or have joy in the midst of tough circumstances.

Think about an old coach you had at one point in your life.  They pushed you hard, taught you in the process, and encouraged you when they saw those glimmers of hope that you could perform at a new level.  As leaders, we can do the same.  After all, when someone is a part of a winning team, they love it.

Below is a video we recently posted online.  In it, I address these three areas to parents looking to send their kids to Pine Cove.  My goal in the video was to explain the soul of our ministry, with all the little facts to help paint that picture.

How about yours?  What makes the soul in your organization?  What would you add or change to what I’ve said here?


  1. Kenny Gill October 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Thanks Kev just read you blog on the 3 things that makes a great org. I will be puting those in to buissness plan soon thanks for all the in sight it’s been a true blessing to to read From God’s gift from you to me thanks. Kenny GAW

    • Kevin East October 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

      Good to hear, Kenny. I’m glad to know it helped you formulate aspects of your business plan. Grace Auto Works, I’m sure, has a great mission!

  2. Bobby Miller October 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    Through wisdom is a house (camp) builded; and by understanding it is established. Proverbs 24:3
    Kevin. The above components makes me want to sent my grandsons and granddaughters to Pine Cove. Great keys for a God honoring ministry. Am I to old to go to youth camp?
    Bless God
    III John 4

    • Kevin East October 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

      Well hopefully someday your grandsons and granddaughters will come out to Pine Cove. I’ll see if I have any pull and could make that happen……

  3. Robert Wilson October 18, 2010 at 3:39 am #

    thanks for the post

  4. Jared Angell October 18, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    I love to hear the purposefulness and urgency with which you guys are operating, and the great things you all are continuing to do year after year!

    • Kevin East October 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

      Thanks Jared. We believe in what we do, which makes it easy to strive for excellence.

  5. Daniel May 31, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    Kevin, hard to believe its been seven years since I was a counselor on your summer staff when you were a camp director at the Shores… and I’m still learning from your leadership through a blog!

    What a blessing! Thanks brother. Awesome to see how the Lord has continued to grow you and shape you into a powerful force to be reckoned with for His kingdom.

    I still want to be just like you when I grow up. :)
    Daniel “Amp” Jordan

    p.s. one thing that strikes me most powerfully through this post – integrity. The Lord’s vision and mission of Pine Cove has never changed as long as I’ve known it. Its been the same when no one is looking and the same when thousands of summers staffers are trying to figure out what the place is all about. This integrity and clarity of vision and purpose, without a doubt, comes from the integrity of its leaders. Thanks for modeling what it looks like to be that pillar.

    • Kevin East May 31, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      Thanks Daniel. You are such a good man. You have grown up, and you are quite the man. I appreciate your kind words in your comment.