Elevation Church Core Values

Elevation ChurchI’m a firm believer that defining your core values is a foundational strategic necessity for any church or organization. I’ve already discussed this in-depth in my Core Value series. That said, I thought it’d be cool to share the core values that Elevation Church has defined for themselves. These have got to be some of the most unique, well written, values I’ve ever seen. They are interesting, inspiring and instructive. When I read them, I find myself pulled towards them and that church. It makes me want to learn more about them.

Understand, I’m not suggesting you copy these values and make them your own. I do suggest you develop your own values and consider modeling the style of how you write and communicate them after Elevation. Enjoy.

Elevation Church Core Values

  • We Are Known For What We Are For 
    We will speak vision and life over our people. We will lift up the salvation of Jesus rather than using our platform to condemn.
  • We Will Not Take This For Granted
    What we are experiencing is not normal. This is the highest calling, and we will remain grateful for God’s hand of favor.
  • We Are All About The Numbers
    Tracking metrics measures effectiveness. We unapologetically set goals and measure progress through all available quantitative means.
  • We Act In Audacious Faith
    In order to dominate a city with the gospel of Jesus, we can’t think small. We will set impossible goals, take bold steps of faith and watch God move.
  • We Need Your Seat
    We will not cater to personal preference in our mission to reach this city. We are more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.
  • We Are United Under One Vision
    Elevation is built on the vision God gave us. We will aggressively defend our unity
    and that vision.
  • We Dress For The Wedding
    We will continually increase our capacity by structuring for where we want to go. Not where we are. We will remain on the edge of our momentum by overreacting to harness strategic momentum initiatives.
  • We Are A Generation Of Honor
    We freely give honor to those above us, beside us and under us because of the calling and potential God has placed inside of them.
  • We Are Ruth’s Chris, Not Golden Corral
    Simplicity enables excellence. We place a disproportionate value on creating a worship experience that boldly celebrates Jesus and attracts people far from God.
  • We Lead The Way In Generosity
    Our staff and church will go above and beyond to give sacrificially to the work of God
    in our city.
  • We Think Inside The Box
    We will embrace our limitations. They will inspire our greatest creativity and innovation.
  • We Eat The Fish And Leave The Bones
    We will always maintain a posture of learning. We seek to learn from everyone and incorporate a variety of influences into our methodology.

Strategy Kickstart – Asking the Question, ‘Why?’

strategy kickstart logo3A Strategy Kickstart is a short 3-5 minute video clip which can be used to ‘kickstart’ a strategic discussion in your church or ministry. Simply show the video clip to your team and use the ideas and question posed to stimulate a valuable and hopefully relevant discussion on how you can better fulfill your ministry mission.

In this Strategy Kickstart, Wayne Hedlund challenges us to identify events and activities in our church and challenge them as a team by asking the question, “Why do we do this?”


Critical Thinking Series – Introduction

The articles in this series are from my e-book, “Thinking for a Change: a fresh look at critical thinking”. The e-book is available for download at a price of $2.99 at the Transforming Leader Online Store.

critical-thinkingYears ago I heard a story about a man who tried to steal an ATM machine. His plan was to rip the ATM out of the wall of a store-front by chaining it to the back bumper of his pick-up truck. After securing the chain, the incompetent thief got in his truck and hit the gas. A few seconds later, he heard a terribly loud noise and the truck suddenly lurched ahead. Frantic and scared he would soon be caught, he quickly hit the brakes and ran around to claim his prize. Appalled, he discovered the ATM machine was still secured to the building. Lying on the ground in front of him was the truck’s back bumper which had been ripped off. Scared and frustrated, the man got in the truck and went home. Hours later, the police showed up at his door and arrested him for attempted robbery. He was easy to find. The police just checked the license plate on the bumper left chained to the ATM. I don’t know how true the story is, but it makes me chuckle and I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually happened.

It is incredibly easy to make daily choices without a good and proper dose of critical thinking. Something happens to us and we either react (which can barely be define as thinking at all) or we do the first thing that comes to mind that seems halfway reasonable. Often, it’s a shot in the dark whether our half-baked decision will come back and bite us or not. In fact, the old saying “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” has its roots in Scriptures. Psalm 7:15 says, “He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.” Humanity has made a lot of holes throughout history and, unfortunately, we don’t always learn from our mistakes! Check out some of these quotes that so aptly capture our propensity for doing or saying something prematurely.

  • “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” -Albert Einstein
  • “I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a ‘learning experience.’ Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I’ve done as a ‘learning experience.’ It makes me feel less stupid.” -P.J. O’Rourke
  • If you don’t do stupid things while you’re young, you’ll have nothing to smile about when you’re old. –Author Unknown
  • When you’re thirsty, it’s too late to begin thinking about digging a well. –Japanese Proverb
  • Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once. –Author Unknown

Consider the Children’s Ministry Director who is faced with a dilemma. A Sunday School volunteer calls to explain that she won’t be able to teach her preschool class (which is starting in 15 minutes!). The director is now in a quandary. There will be several families showing up in a matter of minutes and something needs to be done quickly. He may react and grab the first warm body he sees to fill in; or perhaps he quickly decides to let the teen assistant teach the class alone. Either way, with an extra minute or two, he could have come up with more viable options. Of course, the old saying “Hind sight is 20/20.” is only quoted when we discover our hasty decision created bigger problems. In this example, what if the ‘last minute’ sub ended up yelling at the children and left them alone for several minutes for a bathroom break. The quick decision might end up with new families who are angry and unsure if they want to continue attending church or not.

One reason we are OK with this way of thinking is that it usually gets us by. Anyone with a head on their shoulders, a little experience, and some common sense can make a halfway decent decision that saves the day . . . most of the time. So this way of thinking becomes the standard simply because it often works!

In the above example, the quick thinking of that director could have saved the day if nothing went wrong. In hind-sight he might also wished he had thought things through more thoroughly. An extra 4 minutes would have sufficed!

There’s a better way. I believe we can learn to think with perspective. It’s my personal goal to be a ‘critical thinker’ (not a critical person!) as often as possible; and I’m beginning to see that my goal can and is being realized in my day to day life.

To read more, check out the next article in this series or purchase the e-book at my online store today!

photo credit: steven n fettig via photopin cc

How To Draft Your Core Values

draft-core-valuesI’m a firm believer in core values for your church or organization. I’m not going to delve into the WHY or the WHAT in this post because I’ve already done so in the following two posts:

So in today’s post I’d like to outline some ideas on how your strategic team might go about drafting your ministry Core Values.

  • Set Your Expectations
    In my experience, the process of defining and clarifying your core values is both time consuming AND rewarding as a team. It is definitely a team sport though. Don’t go about drafting your core values alone. It’s meant to be accomplished in a team environment. So make sure you have set aside several hours to work on this project. You may want to consider two or three 3-hour sessions right away. Side-Note: Be sure to keep your meetings close together on the calendar. The more days/weeks between meetings, the less momentum you will build towards completing the project successfully.
  • Get On The Same Page
    It’s important that everyone on your team has a basic understanding of why developing your core values is important as well as what core values are and are not. The aforementioned articles (above) would be a great place to begin. Be sure you spend time talking about these things as a foundation first, so you don’t end up doing so half-way through the process.
  • Assign Homework
    Next, I recommend you ask each person on the team to take an hour by themselves to personally brainstorm what they believe the core values of your organization are. Be sure they are armed with the “What Core Values Aren’t” document when they do so! I suggest they either keep their list until you return together as a team or submit the list to one individual on your team. I don’t recommend each team member sending out emails to the rest of the team with their list. You want to have conversation about this stuff, but live, not digitally.
  • Combine, Discuss, and Condense
    Now is when the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Be sure you have a good chunk of uninterrupted time to talk and have each team member share each value on their list as well as “why” they believe it’s a value that should be considered. As each team member shares, write the list down on a white board so everyone can see the list developing. This one meeting is probably one of the most important. If you don’t have a good degree of trust and openness on your team, people may find it difficult to challenge or question some of the thoughts and ideas being presented – which is an important part of the process.After everyone has shared and the list is developed, begin working on condensing the list down to as few primary core values as possible. Resist the temptation to have a ton of values. You’ll find that, with some effort, many of the values can be combined into a bigger category. For example, “caring” and “responsive to needs” can both potentially fall under the umbrella of ‘caring’. You’ll also want to test each value against my list of what a core value is NOT. Keep in mind, as well, that choosing to not keep a value doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not important to you or the ministry – but that it doesn’t fall into the primary DNA listing of values for your church. Ideally, you’ll be left with a handful of values – preferably less than ten.
  • Rephrase Your Values For This Culture
    Unless you’re target audience is boomers on up, you probably don’t want to keep your list of values as is. I recommend you engage in another strategy session or two and rephrase each value in such a way that it will capture the attention of your ministry guests and attendeesFor example, at Elevation Church they hold a value that in it’s simplest form could be phrased: ‘Teachable’. However, the way they explain it on their website is much more interesting, catches my attention, and draws me in. They say: ‘We eat the fish and leave the bones’. Check out their 30 second explanation of that value by clicking this link and selecting the fish in the bottom right corner. Or in Granger Community Church’s recently revamped core values they define ‘Team’ this way: ‘We Value Team: We is Better than Me’.
  • Share Them and Live Them
    Finally, you need to discover ways to regularly communicate your values to your congregation, leaders, and even your guests. I suggest you post them on your website and literature about your church, preach a series about them and package it up and give it away to everyone who takes your members class, add them to your strategic dipstick list (the list of things you check on strategically on an annual or semi-annual basis), blog about them, talk about them, and do so regularly.Most importantly, make your values so important that they are non-negotiable. A negotiable value isn’t really a value, it’s an idea. If you have a value of integrity, make sure you and your team consistently think up ways to lead your ministry with integrity. If it’s about teamwork, don’t just talk about teams, build in your very structure standards that prevent people from running ministry all by themselves.

photo credit: Venessa Miemis via photopin cc

God the Master Planner

Blast from the past . . . originally posted on September 3, 2010.




Isn’t it great to know that “planning” is God-inspired? He has no desire for us to live our life and run our ministry “spur of the moment” or spontaneously every second of every day. Oh, there’s room for that, at least I hope there is since I participate in unanticipated activities fairly regularly. But God is into planning. In fact, He is the Master Planner.
Just go outside and look at this world we live in. Wow. And the stars, each a massive inferno so expanse that we can see them millions of miles away. Last week I discovered a praying mantis clinging to my screen door. I gave him a good look. The design and symmetry and “perfection” of this little noble creature is just as awe-inspiring.


Genesis 1 says that God built all of this in seven days, in a particular order too. It would be interesting to know why he created the animals in the water and air on one day and the land animals on another. Why not both the same day? Or the other way around? Must be some serious strategic planning going on there. I mean, if I were God, I think I’d just do it all at once. But God saw it fit to phase creation in, even including a day where He intentionally did nothing.


Wow. Thanks God, for reminding us that you’re into planning. It’s a reminder to us that every moment we spend thinking about the future and building processes, steps, and ‘plans’ towards that future we are participating in a God-inspired activity.

Strategic Planning for the Local Church


“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Wow. This quote so aptly applies to what Christ has done for us on the cross! What a privilege to be serving on the side of victory! It (the quote) also serves as a reminder that sometimes the best way to fulfill a vision is to map out a strategy for getting there before we ever begin. That’s what I want to talk about in this post.

Last year Elim Fellowship produced a professional recording of my one day workshop entitled, “Strategic Planning for the Local Church”. In this workshop I tackle the following topics:

  • How to build and maintain a cohesive strategic planning team.
  • How to clarify your ministry’s DNA (Mission, Vision, Values).
  • How to apply the ‘Strategic Process’ to any challenge your church faces.
  • How to roll out a strategic plan to your constituents.

At the time of this teaching, my goal was to impart to my listeners everything I’ve learned about Strategic Planning. I have received, by far, more positive feedback from this material than any other teaching to date. One pastor told me he requires all new elders and key staff to review this workshop as part of their church leadership requirement. Another pastor mentioned to me the other day that his leadership team has already walked through the workshop twice since purchasing the DVD set – and they attended the workshop in person!

All said, I’d like to invite you to consider purchasing a copy of this workshop for your church or ministry as well. I really do believe it can make a big difference in how you approach and think about ministry. Cost for the workshop is $99.00. It is available at my online store or you may purchase you’re copy by clicking ‘Buy now’ below. Blessings!

Strategic Planning for the Local Church Workshop: $99.00
Note: if you are receiving this post via email, click on this link to buy now.

Thursday Quote: Who – The A Method for Hiring

This is a guest post by Pastor Doug Cowburn II. Pastor Doug serves as the Executive Pastor at Elim Gospel Church in Lima, NY. Recently, while sharing lunch together, Doug told me about this book and readily agreed to writing this Thursday Quote about it for your benefit. Enjoy.


Recently, two different people I know recommended that I read, Who: The A Method to Hiring. I found that this book was not only a great resource for when you need to hire someone, but also a great way to look at writing your own job description. If you’re like me, you want to know when you are being successful at your job. The problem is that many who are in ministry are either working without a job description or the one they have is all activity based. Activity based job descriptions say things like:
  • Connects with volunteers
  • Teaches on a regular basis
  • Leads the deacon team

Someone could follow an activity based job description for years and never actually move the needle on the church’s mission. I want to be an “A Player” who delivers his best and contributes toward the church’s vision and mission. In order to do this I need a job description, or as this book suggests, I need a scorecard that gives me some targets to hit.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“We define an ‘A Player’ this way: a candidate who has at least a 90 percent chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10 percent of possible candidates could achieve.”

“The scorecard is composed of three parts: the job’s mission, outcomes and competencies. Together, these three pieces describe ‘A’ performance in the role—what a person must accomplish and how. They provide a clear linkage between the people you hire and your strategy.”

“While typical job descriptions break down because they focus on activities, or a list of things a person will be doing (calling on customers, selling), scorecards succeed because they focus on outcomes, or what a person must get done (grow revenue from $25 million to $50 million by the end of year three). Do you see the distinction?”

“Scorecards: • Set expectations with new hires • Monitor employee progress over time • Objectify your annual review system • Allow you to rate your team annually as part of a talent review process.”

As you can see, this book was written primarily for the business world, but it has huge implications for ministry related job descriptions as well.  What would your scorecard look like?

Feedback, The Breakfast of Champions


I definitely don’t have the stomach to be a boxing champion. I’m not talking about my amazing abs of steel (stop laughing and keep reading). I’m talking about the diet some athletes insist on for breakfast. RAW EGGS. Evidently, eggs lose a lot of their nutritional value when cooked. Setting aside the obvious health risks, I just don’t think I could do it. Putting a cold, slimy, egg down my throat would probably make me gag, perhaps throw up.

Unfortunately, many church leaders feel the same about a critical ingredient for a thriving church and growing leaders. Ken Blanchard once said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” And like raw eggs, feedback can be tough to swallow. In the closing paragraph of last week’s post entitled, “Johari Window for the Local Church” I promised to share some thoughts on how to deal with our Blind Spots. I would like to suggest that getting great feedback can be a big key. 

Why Feedback is Tough to Swallow
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are a few reasons why we prefer our eggs cooked rather than raw.

  • People Can Be Rude.
    You know what I mean. Sometimes people will give you feedback and by the time they are done you feel like a squashed bug. Who wants that?
  • People Don’t Get It.
    Many times, when people share feedback they don’t have the bigger picture in mind. This can sometimes make their input seem irrelevant. What’s the point?
  • People Won’t Tell The Truth
    We know there are things we are doing that could use some adjusting, but we don’t know what they are (they aren’t called ‘blind spots’ for nothing). The problem is, nobody wants to tell us either. They know that raw eggs are yucky and really don’t want to be the ones feeding them to you!
  • We Don’t Want People To Think About It.
    We don’t want to ask people to focus on the negatives. It seems like we will just get them into the habit of criticizing things – in fact, we might sort of be ‘authorizing’ them to do so. Who wants yet another self-proclaimed critic?
  • It’s Emotional.
    It can be very draining to receive feedback. Even when the feedback is helpful, it usually requires some self-evaluation, internal arguments, and eventually a commitment to do things different – which also means more work. Ugh. 
  • The Truth Can Hurt.
    Just because the Bible says, ‘The truth will set you free’, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Often it’s painful and difficult walking through the valley between ‘truth’ and ‘free’. 
  • We Are Too Overwhelmed.
    Feedback usually results in more work. Since we already have several stacks of ‘things to do’ on our desks, there doesn’t seem much of a point to add to the stack.
  • We Think We Are Doing Great.
    Sometimes we don’t look for feedback because we are ‘blind’ to our need for it. Again, just read the post mentioned above. So we fail to seriously look for feedback. Why do I need people to tell me what I already know?
  • We Know We Are Doing Good.
    Jim Collins, in his book, Good to Great reminds us that the reason we have ‘good’ hospitals, governments, businesses and churches is simply because we’re comfortable with ‘good enough’ and won’t pursue ‘great’. Because we are doing a ‘good’ job, there’s really no reason to rock the boat and try to do something great.

Why We Need Feedback
After reading the above list, no wonder we don’t pursue feedback very often! Again, referring to Jim Collin’s book, gaining and properly responding to good feedback will pave the road for us to (chapter 4) “Confront the Brutal Facts – Yet Never Lose Faith”.

As church leaders, you understand more than most how important it is for Christians to understand the Truth of the Gospel. Paul talks quite a bit about making sure people aren’t hearing lies and distortions of the Truth. You are passionate about communicating the Truth to your congregations! You know that long-lasting change is very difficult to find without Truth being revealed first. When you equip them with what they need to know, you empower them to become who God has called them to be.

The same holds true for your church. Until you are ‘in the know’ about every aspect of your ministry, you can’t effectively plan to improve and become all God intends for you. Example: If I were your tennis coach and I noticed that you swing the tennis racket wrong, you will probably never play in the big leagues until I share that feedback (truth) – which then empowers you to make a change.

So why do we need feedback? Answer – to EMPOWER us to pursue meaningful, long lasting change.

In an upcoming post I will summarize my ideas on how to ask for, receive, and utilize feedback. Stay tuned!

Image from jsmith on

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”

Pixar and Creative Thinking


I love to hear stories of people who know how to engage in creative thinking. Creative thinking is a very important ingredient in a thriving, growing and culturally relevant organization. One of the important questions creative thinkers will eventually ask is, “Why?”. (Note: check out my eBook, ‘Thinking for a Change‘ to learn more about the critical thinking process.)

This 2 minute clip by Pixar Studio’s vividly captures what the creative process can look like, and how it can lead to simple solutions and great ideas (even if the finding the solutions weren’t that simple).

If you can’t see this video, try clicking this link.

Clarifying Core Values


Patrick Lencioni once had a conversation with a business leader about his core values. The business leader boldly declared that “a sense of urgency” was one of their core values. When Patrick asked if his employees all met their deadlines, the executive responded with a profound, “No, their complacent as hell, which is why we need to make urgency one of our core values!”

As Patrick describes so clearly in his article entitled “Make Your Values Mean Something” in the Harvard Business Review (a great and quick read), it can be very easy to define values that are, in fact, not really values at all.

I’ve already blogged about why I think defining core values are an important part of an ongoing & strategic environment right here. In today’s post I’d like to identify what core values are NOT.

  • Core Values are NOT the same as Mission.
    Your mission should be one simple statement defining WHY you exist as an organization. Your values will support your mission by providing the ground rules for effectively walking out that mission every day. 
  • Core Values are NOT the same as Vision.
    Your vision represents a desired future based on the mission of your church. Your values are different. They represent HOW you will carry out ministry between now and the fulfillment of that vision. For example, “be a multi-campus church” is a vision statement, not a core value. 
  • Core Values are NOT Core Beliefs.
    It can be easy to confuse the two. Simply put, your values COME FROM your beliefs. For example, I have a core value that all ministry should be Bible-Based because I have a belief that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Using the illustration in my post entitled “Why Core Values?“, I have a value that my preschool children will not watch certain evening programs because I have a belief that those programs will harm my child’s development.
  • Core Values are NOT the same as personal growth principles.
    There are many powerful principles about how we are to live out our faith in the Bible. For example, we will personally grow if we love others, be fiscally responsible, work hard and give glory to God while we do, worship, pray, fast, read the Bible, stay connected with like-minded believers, not be unequally yoked, etc. These are all important aspects of the Christian’s life. However, they should not be confused with your church core values. 
  • Core Values are NOT Strategies or Goals.
    Strategies and goals will, by necessity, change over time. Core Values will rarely, if ever, change. Don’t confuse a strategy for fulfilling a vision with your values. For example, ‘summer camps’ may represent a strategy for reaching young people in your church. However, I would not consider ‘summer camps’ a value. Perhaps in 5 years you will decide that mission trips will reach young people better than summer camps. That would be a new strategy. 
As a general rule of thumb, think of your Core Values as the basic rules by which you will accomplish your mission as a church. These well defined rules should never be broken, as that would ultimately compromise a basic belief you have about how ministry should always take place.

Your mission represents WHY you exist.

Your vision represents WHAT you think the future should look like.

Your strategy represents the PLANS you have set in motion to fulfill your vision.

Your values represent HOW you will carry out those plans at all times.

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