6 Must-Know Truths About Core Values

Left to themselves organizations—including churches—drift. It can happen to the best of us if we’re not careful. As organizations and churches grow, they naturally become more complex. There are more assets to allocate, more people to manage, decisions seem to have greater consequences than they did when you were smaller and more nimble, and those decisions seem to just keep coming faster and faster. It is easy to become consumed with the business of running the church. But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re taking ground.

Core values are the guardrails of any organization or church that is taking ground. They are the core beliefs that drive how the people in the church interact with one another and how the church as a whole behaves toward others outside of the church. They are the grid that filters our behavior to ensure that our activity is actually getting us where we believe God wants us to go.

So here are six things your church should know about core values.

1. Values aren’t real until they’re lived out in the church.

There’s a big difference in most churches between what they say they value and how they behave. You can write anything you want to on a sheet of paper, you can train the staff and volunteers on it, you can distribute it on a slick promotional piece to the church body, you can even teach about it in the weekend services. But until it’s lived out, it’s not a value, it’s an aspiration.

2. Keep the list of values short.

If you value everything, then you don’t value anything. There must be a few nonnegotiable hills that you’re willing to die on that drive the behaviors you’re looking to create. For a lot of reasons, I encourage churches to try to keep the list of values to be no more than five.

3. Don’t copy values.

Unless you want to be a clone, don’t copy values from other churches. Take the time to discover the unique personality of your church and what God has uniquely put in your heart as the leader. Copying values from other churches simply doesn’t work. You have to be you.

4. Hire and fire (staff and volunteers) based on your values.

When team members or key volunteers demonstrate values that are contradictory to the values of the church, either coach them up or lead them out. As you recruit volunteers and staff to join you, allow your values to drive the recruitment. Because you become who you recruit.

5. Articulate your values.

You’ve got to do the hard work of wrestling these ideas to the ground in such a fashion that they can be articulated in a clear, concise and compelling manner. If your value statements can’t be sent out using twitter, then they’re too long. If it doesn’t inspire or move people toward action, it’s too dry.

6. Prayer and doctrine aren’t values.

Prayer, evangelism, discipleship, outreach, core doctrines of the faith and the like aren’t values. They’re assumptions. If anything, they’re permission to play values. Those basic values that allow you access to the room. I’ve listened as church leadership teams say they value outreach. Outreach doesn’t make a church unique, it’s the common behavior of any person or church that is following Jesus. Values are core and compact identity issues that make your church distinct from others.

 So what else would you add to the list? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your input!  

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Paul Alexander
Paul Alexander, a ministry consultant at the Unstuck Group and has more than 20 years of experience serving in the local church. He has served on the Sr. Leadership Teams of some of the nation’s leading mega-churches. Currently, Paul is serving as the Executive Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multi-site church located in the Phoenix area.