Every Church Operates by a Set of Values
All churches and organizations have values that apply to their entire community. In this blog, for simplicity of focus I’m going to speak to church values, but these ideas can apply to any organization. Some, maybe most churches have never taken the time to identify their values. They have their belief statement and maybe a vision and mission statement, but they don’t know specifically what their actual values are. Others intentionally created values so they can post them on their website, but they are not the real values that the church or organization lives by. These kinds of values are something the group aspires to embrace, but they are essentially wishful thinking at the present.
Operating Values Create the Culture
If a value is a true operating value and not just an aspiration, then that value drives how we live and act. The real values that are operating in every church or organization are more powerful than a sermon on Sunday, the weekly programs, the policies enacted and the people who lead. That’s right, I’ll stand by that statement. You see, values are core to what creates our unique culture and that culture will win and rule the day every day. Maybe you have heard the famous statement – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” For example, if you preach that we should be actively engaging with lost people not a part of any church, but everything you do as a church is for the church members – you’ve not just sent a mixed message but the value, not the sermon, will teach your people what they are to value.
What are Core Values?
Our core values are the foundational motivations for what we do. They provide our inspiration as non-negotiable guiding principles. These become the “die for” beliefs we will never sacrifice. They inform our decision making and shape what we say “yes” or “no” to. They influence, shape and characterize everything that happens in and through our organization. They give our community it’s unique “flavor” and in our context, collectively sets us apart from other churches (not better, just different). These values remain constant, even though our vision will grow and our staff, strategies, plans and programs will change.
In a church context, values are in addition to, serve, and are subservient to our Statement of Belief, as well as our Vision, Mission and Ends. The leadership team lives by these values and applies them literally on a daily basis in decision making, HR matters (hiring, terminations, role changes, performance improvement plans, etc.), programming, and more.
Creating Your Core Values
One person can’t create your group’s core values. This is a group effort and a multiple group exercise. It will take time. We recently updated our values. It had been fifteen years since we identified them. Over time, our operating values had actually changed a bit and needed updating. It took us just over six months to do this well. Don’t be in a hurry! Being accurate is more important than being fast. This is a spiritual endeavor. Take time to pray before and during the process. I believe God has created each local church and organization in a unique way and we should attempt to discover and clarify our unique cultures.
Here are some clues to help you discern your unique core values. The key is that you are looking first for what your actual operating values are that you live by. It is okay to add a few “aspirational” values, but if you do, know you have to do the hard work to change the culture to embrace the not yet real value.
One way to discover your operational values is to think about how your members, both long term or new attendees might answer this question: “I’m here, and I stay because we value this or that.” Or how they might finish this statement: “This is what I love about our church…” You can also consider some recent hard decisions you’ve made that were not popular or easy, but your team knew they were right. What were the values that were at play? Look at how your key leaders use their time and how you spend your collective budget. The numbers don’t lie! How you use your time and money is a powerful statement of what you value.
Two Examples of Values
Here’s two of many examples of church values. Don’t even be tempted to copy them, you need to figure out your own unique values. The leadership team at our church (Pantano Christian – Tucson, AZ) just updated our core all-church values this past year. We have posted these on our website (About Us – What We Believe). They are part of our documents that define our church “DNA.” We use them in our introductory Discover Pantano class that helps people decide whether they would like to be an All In Partner at our church. In May, we are going to do a six week teaching series called This Is Pantano where we’ll look at the biblical basis of each and how we can live these out.
We are unapologetic grace givers.
We are all broken, incomplete people in need of God’s grace. We meet people where they are and generously give away the grace we’ve freely received.
What matters most is loving people to Jesus.
Loving God = Loving People. Everyone has value and matters to God. We pursue those who don’t know Jesus to help them write a new life story with him.
Being kingdom first drives us beyond our own church community. We strive to join God wherever He is at work. Church is who we are wherever we are.
Radical generosity reshapes our world.
As a kingdom-first church, we share our resources and people selflessly.
The Bible transforms how we live and who we become.
The Bible is our primary source for transformation. We move beyond information to practical and relevant application.
Connected people are changed people.
Community is essential to connect with God and others in order to be transformed.
And here’s The Code from Life.Church:
We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet-the-farm risk takers.
We’ll never insult God with small thinking and safe living.
We are all about the capital “C” Church.
The local church is the hope of the world and we know we can accomplish infinitely more together than apart.
We give up things we love for things we love even more.
It’s an honor to sacrifice for Christ and His church.
We wholeheartedly reject the label mega-church.
We are a micro-church with a mega-vision.
We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ.
To reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing.
We will lead the way with irrational generosity.
We truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive.
We will laugh hard, loud, and often.
Nothing is more fun than serving God with people you love.
We always bring our best.
Excellence honors God and inspires people.
We are spiritual contributors not spiritual consumers.
The church does not exist for us. We are the church and we exist for the world.
We will honor Christ and His church with integrity.
If we live with integrity nothing else matters. If we don’t live with integrity nothing else matters.