Every church operates out of what it values. The problem is that most churches never take the time to consider what those core values truly are. The typical values work undertaken is simply distilling down a list of good ideas and thoughts to a final, succinct list. Those values may rise to the level of convictions for some leaders, but after that work is complete, few churches use those values as tools for ministry.
Do you know what your church’s actual core values are? Could you defend those values by your actions? The difference between stated values and lived values is the difference between aspirational values and actual values.
An example we use to explain actual vs aspirational values is from a company whose stated values were Respect, Integrity, Communication, and Excellence. Sounds like a good company, but in fact, those values were presented by the Enron Corporation, which is now notoriously known for scamming people out of millions of dollars. Integrity was an aspirational value at best.
Subscribe below to never miss an episode.
5 Ways to Leverage Core Values for Greater Church Health
1) Speak about what you actually value, not what you hope to value.
It is not uncommon for us to work with churches that have some form of evangelism shown as a value. Yet when we dig into how the church has actually developed ministries, we find little evidence that evangelism is an actual value. That discovery forces a decision point for them. What we desire is for those decision points to be made when the values are decided upon, so that from that point forward the church will strategize to live out its values.
Too often, churches write values as a silo disconnected from the ministries of the church or other strategic endeavors. If you discover that a stated value has actually been aspirational, then consider changing the way you speak about it – use terms like “striving for,” “in pursuit of,” or “running the race towards.” All those phrases are probably true anyway. The key takeaway is to become aware of where you need to the most work. Then you can make the necessary changes to get where you know you need to be.
2) Don’t shy away from the pain
When a group of church leaders come together to honestly dig into how they’ve operated, it doesn’t always end with cheers and celebration. In fact, tears are not uncommon. Has your church truly been about the things of the Lord, or just going through the motions and talking a good game? Teams often are driven to repentance and feel sorrow for wasted time.
Emotions can run high because people are invested in their areas of ministry. How much time have we wasted? Could we have reached more people and transformed more lives? What idols have we put above the Lord?
3) Let your leaders be honest
Don’t worry about hiding from your core values. The reality is that you can’t. Your actions speak volumes about your values. When everyone speaks openly about core values, people become more aware, growth areas become apparent, and your team may find that it is collaborating in new ways. Make sure the discussion centers around authenticity and the need for teamwork rather than complaining or critiquing one another.
Team ministry support and accountability will have to be available to elevate everyone to a new level. Core values crossover throughout the church, so it will take everyone’s effort to improve.
4) Let aspirational values drive transformation
As Christians, we all need to grow and experience transformation. Churches, likewise, have an ongoing pursuit of holiness in an attempt to align their thoughts and actions with Christ. Even the most seemingly together church will always have the opportunity to improve. The body of Christ expressed as a local congregation is still a collection of individuals, sinful, and in need of a savior.
It takes honesty and boldness to get real about your actual and aspirational church core values. When you know what values are driving your current actions and admit where you could improve, a sense of clarity can come that can transform your heart, your church, and your community as the Holy Spirit guides you into becoming more like Jesus.
5) Actual and aspirational values must be expressed through action
So you’ve done the hard work and discovered your actual and aspirational values. Now what? Now you strategize to live those values out in your church. If you’ve followed The Malphurs Group for some time, you know that we believe the values of the first-century church in Jerusalem, as expressed in Acts 2:41-47 are a great example of how we should structure ministry today. That being the case, the way you live out your values is through your Discipleship Pathway. That is a systematic framework for providing opportunities for people to engage in the values of the church. Nothing can take priority over anything else. If we want our people to engage in worship, and evangelism, and fellowship, and generosity, and prayer, and God’s Word, then we have to build our churches around those things, and lead people to each and every action.
Imagine what your church and the world around you would look like if everyone was doing all those things? That’s Vision, and that’s a topic for another day.
BONUS: Get a free Team Discussion Guide in the video description on YouTube.
A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive. A.J. lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.