4 Leadership Lessons from the Crystal Cathedral

March 27, 2013 — 6 Comments

In 2009 my mom, sister, and I made a summer trip to Southern California. We had a great time visiting places such as Disneyland, the Reagan Library, Nixon Library, and Crystal Cathedral.

4 Leadership Lessons from the Crystal CathedralPhoto Credit: Sylvain Leprovost

The hallmark of our visit to So Cal was to the Crystal Cathedral. Crystal Cathedral Ministries started in 1955 by Robert Schuller with 50 people coming to church service. Over the years, the church’s impact in the community increased so so did its ability to erect amazing buildings that can be seen from far away as well as the I-5 freeway. The Crystal Cathedral’s amazing buildings stand as a reminder to others of Christianity and a God who cares for them.

Our visit to the Crystal Cathedral was amazing and memorable  While touring the facility I took notes and later reflected on my experience. Reflecting on my notes revealed a few leadership lessons:

  1. All dreams start out small and are built one seat and one window a time: At Robert Schuller’s first service in 1955 there were about 50 people in attendance and an offering of $83.75. Even though something might look big and successful now it is important to remember that it started small and was built slowly over time.
  2. God uses his servants to do great things: Touring the facility and seeing such an amazing building with its architecture and items caused me to wonder how such an amazing building could be built. The answer is God and his workers. When God commissions great people to do great things, great things happen.
  3. Build the foundation and let momentum carry you the rest of the way: Our docent told us a story about how Robert Schuller said in 1977 that the building of the Cathedral was impossible and that they should abandon the project and give back the money they collected for the building. However, the designer of the building assured Mr. Schuller that everything would be okay if they would just build the foundation. The rest is history.
  4. Break down the big goal into small steps: Our docent also informed us of the way money was raised for the building. You could donate specific amounts to the building to help in a tangible way. For example, you could donate $500 to place a window in the building, $2,500 for a seat, or $5,000 for a stone outside. The actual cost of those items was not $500, $2,500, or $5,000, but using these small steps and measures allowed everyday people to feel they played a tangible and specific part in building the building.

At the time of our visit in 2009 the Crystal Cathedral was owned and ran by Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Sadly, since that time the church property has been sold to another party due to financial troubles and bankruptcy of Crystal Cathedral Ministries. At this time Crystal Cathedral Ministries is changing the name of the church and in the process of moving.

I know that there are some people who think American Church is simply about buildings and programs, and some people even believe that is a bad thing for church. By writing this post I am not advocating for big church buildings or that all churches should do the same as the Crystal Cathedral. I am simply sharing with you some of the obvious lessons about the process that took place in building such an amazing and memorable place that people recognize as a place of Christian worship.

Question: What leadership lessons (good or bad) have you learned from Crystal Cathedral Ministries or Robert Schuller?

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I also may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

  • Christopher, I know who Robert Schuller is but don’t have any ideas about his teaching. I love the fact that you were able to pull leadership lessons out of a visit to the Crystal Cathedral. It’s amazing where we can get these lessons from.

    The most important lesson to remember is your lesson 1. Things start out small. Don’t forget that.

    • Joe,
      Like you I am somewhat unfamiliar with Schuller’s teaching. I do agree that often great things start small. Through lots of hard work and persistence, great things can happen long-term.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      • It was my pleasure Christopher. Your post was an enjoyable read.

        I know you mentioned how the cathedral started small because of the size of the congregation. Another thing to think about is that each piece was small at one point too. Brick by brick, window pane by window pane. Until it was eventually built.

        It’s what we all have to keep in mind. One foot in front of the other gets us to where we’re going.

  • I’m not too familiar with either Robert or the church. I can tell you have a teachable mindset because you turn experiences into lessons.

    All great points, especially how God uses Christian workers to do great things! It’s amazing what we can do when we are walking out our purpose.

    • Thanks, Dan. I do enjoy “experiencing” things and then reflecting on the leadership insights. I am grateful you and Joe found the post helpful.

      By the way, Happy Good Friday Eve. 🙂

      • It’s a great habit too have. So you also must be a people watcher, right? Just a guess:) I enjoy watching people.