Core Values are the guard rails that keep a church focused on its mission. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to get them right. There are several traps churches fall prey to when addressing core values. While every church has core values, they are not always clearly identified and articulated well. Many churches rush to identify what their core values “should” be, and quickly throw them on a website. But over time, visitors and members will easily see that the written values are disconnected from reality. In other cases, the values are produced without conviction and connection to the leaders of the organization. In such cases, an idealized or mistaken view of the organization and its leadership is presented.
To develop core values that connect leadership to the congregation, remember these four key words.
The core values must be connected strongly to the organization and leadership’s “functional” vision and mission. What have you been doing? What is important to you? What hill must you die on? What mantras have you memorized? What do you find yourself coming back to time and again?
What values or dreams get you physically, mentally, and emotionally excited when you work through and communicate them? Values should spring from a place inside the leader and the organization.
What do you honestly care about? A value isn’t what a leader should think about to be successful. It’s what the leader and church truly values. We can’t psych ourselves into a core value. We either value it or learn to value it through process, but you can’t just magically think something is important.
Language is perhaps the most negotiable point, but the way you say it does have an impact. Finding language for core values is about instilling the idea into your target group in a way that builds conviction around the value concept. Instead of “We Believe the Church Should be Unified”, how about “We Fight for Unity.” Instead of “We Believe in Giving”, how about, “We Live Big through Generosity.”
Writing your church’s core values effectively will require some time and frustrating conversations. I recently took our leadership team through the arduous process. More than fifteen hours over five weeks of sitting around tables, asking and answering questions. We thought we had our values identified. Then one staff member recognized my passionate tone as I spoke about some leadership principles I live by. It caused us to go back to the drawing board and re-write them again. Then we labored for several more hours putting them into language that would stir the people’s soul. It was a frustrating journey, but all guard rails are worth installing to keep us on a journey of excellence and commitment.
Featured image credit, edited for size.