Why Core Values?
You will never see my wife or I watching the nightly news, select sit-coms, or murder mystery’s on TV at night with one of my preschool children present in the room. It’s simply not something we have ever done. Becky and I have chosen this standard together. It wasn’t hard. It’s one of the family values we share. I’m glad for this value, and will always stand by it for my family. I won’t impose that value on other families, though I may share why we have this value in the hopes that others might adopt it too. This value is part of our family DNA and shapes who we are and what we do in our home.
In the same way, churches have values. They may or may not be well defined, but they are there and they make a huge difference in how ministry happens.
I’m helping three churches develop their ministry core values. In one of our discussions, the question came up, “Why do we need core values?”. I’m convinced that if a church defines their core values, and lives by them, they will serve as both a protection and a guide to church leaders in fulfilling their mission.
Everyone knows that there are no two people exactly alike. Even identical twins are overwhelmingly unique from one another. The same is true for every church in the world. The mixture of leadership, people, culture, values, experiences, etc. ensure that there will never be another church like it. Identifying values helps to clarify for church leaders as well as attendees and guests just WHO you are. For example, a church with a core value of “Family Friendly” will not only attract families, but clarify to all that this is part of who God made this church to be.
There are many paths that can get you to where you want to go, but not every path is the best or right path. While driving, you may prefer to stay away from toll roads or highways. Most GPS units will allow you to program that information in. As a result, the path (or strategic plan) created for you will stick to those preferences. Additionally, when a roadblock forces you to detour, your GPS will recalculate keeping your programmed preferences. In the same way, core values ensure you don’t stray from ‘who you are’ while fulfilling ministry. For example, let’s say you’ve identified a value of ‘Accepting’ – meaning you will accept anyone in your church regardless of status, background, race, etc. If a group of mentally handicapped adults begin attending services and occasionally become disruptive, your value will ensure you find a way to accept them into your church without alienating or rejecting them.
A business consultant once told me that core values are the guard rails that will protect you while you move from where you are to where you’re going. It’s true. Well defined and implemented values will help ensure we don’t fall off or meander off the path. For example, I recommend you adopt a core value of “Integrity”. This means you will build into your culture certain standards and practices that will ensure that your ministry operates with integrity. Perhaps that might include higher standards regarding the handling of money or who counsels who, where, and when, etc.
Values dictate behavior. I’ve heard it said that whenever a person strongly reacts to something it probably means their values have either been violated or validated. When a church selects and chooses to live by certain values, people have a blueprint for how they should act, react, and live out ministry in the church. For example, a value about reaching the ‘younger generation’ might impact the primary means by which the church chooses to communicate to it’s attendees.
Well defined values help others decide how involved they want to be in the life of the church. People want to know what they are getting into, and they want to know they can sink their teeth in deep. Values will help them make that leap. For example, if one of your values includes “Family Friendly” and I have a strong conviction that solid families help lead the church for the next generation, then I will be inclined to give a lot of myself toward the cause.
Finally, your values will play a big role in strategic planning. You have no desire to create plans that don’t incorporate every one of your values, but sometimes that is what happens when values aren’t clarified. For example, a value of ‘team’ might communicate that you have no interest in people running a ministry by themselves. It’s critical that teams are in place everywhere, which will mobilize the church to ‘be’ the church. This value comes into play at the outset of a strategic discussion by asking the question, ‘How will we accomplish this as a team?’ or ‘Who will we recruit to be on this team?