Understanding the Four Types of Core Values

In the world of ministry, values aren’t just about what you believe or prefer. They’re the deep-rooted and passionate forces that drive and direct everything you do. Think of them as the pulse of your ministry – they keep things moving and point you in the right direction. These values are more than just concepts; they’re the spark that ignites action and breathes life into your mission.

Values in ministry are like a hidden hand. They animate leadership and their congregations towards particular decisions that shape their future. For any ministry looking to really make a mark and cultivate a strong, vibrant community, understanding your core values is non-negotiable.

As we dive into the four types of core values, remember that each one has its own special role in determining the health and vibrancy of your ministry. From the ingrained values that form the foundation of your church to the aspirational ones you’re striving towards, every type contributes to your ministry’s overall well-being and fruitfulness. Let’s unpack these four types and see how they come to life in the day-to-day workings of your church.

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Actual Discipleship Values

At the heart of any thriving ministry are Actual Discipleship Values. These are the God-given values shared among healthy churches, deeply inspired by the Holy Spirit. Picture the early church in Acts 2, embracing values like Worship, Biblical Instruction, Prayer, Service, Fellowship, and Evangelism. These aren’t just nice-to-have elements; they’re the core actions and motivations that come naturally to believers but need to be constantly reinforced and cultivated.

Actual Discipleship Values are both caught and taught. They’re contagious, spreading through the example and teachings within a church. It’s vital to remember, though, that these values can’t be taken for granted. They need to be clearly articulated and consciously nurtured. Just assuming they’ll take root on their own is a mistake.

These values form the backbone of a church’s identity. They aren’t just theoretical ideals; they’re lived out in the day-to-day life of the church. From the way members engage in worship to how they serve their community, Actual Discipleship Values are the tangible expressions of a church’s faith and commitment. They’re what makes a church not just a building, but a vibrant, living body of believers.

Aspirational Discipleship Values

Aspirational Discipleship Values are those essential elements that your church might be striving to achieve but hasn’t fully realized yet. They’re like the missing pieces in your ministry puzzle. These are the Acts 2 values that are conspicuously absent but are crucial for a well-rounded, healthy church life. It’s about identifying what’s lacking, whether it’s deeper fellowship, more fervent prayer, or more committed evangelism, and then actively working to cultivate these values.

Often, these values are crowded out by unhealthy behaviors or competing priorities. It’s like trying to grow a garden but neglecting to weed out the harmful plants that choke out the healthy ones. Aspirational values get overshadowed when we lose focus or get sidetracked by less important things.

The absence of these values can be a sign of spiritual malnutrition – a red flag that something vital is missing in the church’s spiritual diet. Just like our bodies show symptoms when we’re lacking essential nutrients, a church will exhibit signs of weakness when these values aren’t present.

But here’s the good news: Aspirational Discipleship Values can be developed! It’s not about lamenting their absence but about actively pursuing them. This pursuit will involve reorienting priorities, aligning ministry to intentionally achieve these discipleship outcomes. Cultivating these values is an intentional process, one that requires commitment, patience, and often a shift in the church’s culture. It’s a journey worth taking, as these values bring fruit and fullness to your ministry, completing the picture of what a healthy, dynamic church looks like.

Unique Values

Unique Values are those special, actionable qualities that give your church its distinct flavor. They are positive, energizing, and crucial in defining the unique culture of your ministry. Think of them as the special ingredients that differentiate your church from the one down the street. While all healthy churches share certain core values, Unique Values are what make your church uniquely yours.

These values are not universal to every healthy church, but that’s exactly what adds to the rich tapestry of faith. These are often colored by your surrounding culture or context. For example, a church that exists within a planned retirement community would have a different set of unique values from a church that is planted next to a major university. Whatever they are, these Unique Values contribute to the overall diversity and vibrancy of the global church.

What’s important about Unique Values is that they are actionable. They’re not just abstract concepts; they are values that are lived out and experienced in the daily life of your church. They shape your church’s identity and how you interact with your community and each other.

Remember, these Unique Values are the seasoning, not the substance. They enhance the core discipleship values but don’t replace them. They add depth and variety to the foundational values that all healthy churches share. Embracing and nurturing these Unique Values can help your church create a more engaging and relatable faith experience, drawing in people who connect with what makes your ministry distinct and special.


Anti-Values are the silent but potent undercurrents that hinder the growth and health of your ministry. They are the actual, often unnoticed, unhealthy core values that stand in direct opposition to your discipleship values. Think of them as the weeds in your garden – they might go unnoticed at first, but over time, they can take over and choke out the healthy plants.

These Anti-Values don’t just appear overnight. They tend to metastasize over long periods, slowly and subtly. They often develop when we lose sight of our primary goals and priorities. It could be a gradual shift towards self-centeredness, a creeping sense of complacency, or an increasing focus on material success over spiritual growth.

The danger of Anti-Values is that they can become so ingrained in a church’s culture that they’re mistaken for the norm. They might manifest as a persistent undercurrent of negativity, a culture of tradition rather than evangelism, or an unwelcoming attitude towards newcomers.

However, there is hope. Anti-Values can be identified, confronted, and ultimately eliminated. This process requires a commitment to honest self-assessment and a willingness to make tough changes. It often involves returning to the basics of faith and re-centering the church on its core discipleship values. This journey can be challenging, as it requires dismantling long-held beliefs and practices, but it’s essential for the health and vitality of your ministry.

Eliminating Anti-Values is a crucial step in ensuring that your church remains a positive, nurturing environment, where true discipleship values can flourish and guide your community towards spiritual growth and fulfillment.

In exploring the four types of core values in ministry – Actual Discipleship Values, Aspirational Discipleship Values, Unique Values, and Anti-Values – we’ve journeyed through the heart and soul of what shapes a church’s identity and impacts its effectiveness. Each type of value plays a crucial role in the spiritual health and vibrancy of a ministry.

Actual Discipleship Values are the foundational elements that naturally emerge from a healthy faith community. They need to be actively nurtured and articulated to maintain their vitality. Aspirational Discipleship Values, on the other hand, are those that a church strives to develop, recognizing gaps in its spiritual life and taking deliberate steps to cultivate these missing elements.

Unique Values add flavor and distinctiveness to a church, reflecting its particular approach to ministry and community engagement. These values help a church stand out, offering a special touch that resonates with its members and the wider community.

However, the journey doesn’t end there. It’s equally important to be vigilant against Anti-Values – those subtle, often unrecognized attitudes and behaviors that can erode a church’s core values. Identifying and eliminating these negative elements is crucial for a church to thrive and stay true to its mission.

In summary, understanding and nurturing these four types of core values is essential for any church seeking to foster a dynamic, healthy, and impactful ministry. By embracing and balancing these values, a church can create a vibrant community that not only upholds its spiritual principles but also evolves and adapts to meet the needs of its congregation and the world around it.

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Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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