When you build a house, you must begin with the foundation. As you imagine the type of house you want to build, you may visualize a sweeping floor plan, arched windows, vaulted ceilings, and a wide, curving staircase. However, all of those components must rest on the foundation. Without a solid, well-constructed foundation, the beautiful windows you’ve designed will not last. In this sense, the foundation is the most important part of the house, even though you may not even be able to see it when you look at the finished product. Likewise, core values are essential to the structural integrity of your church and for your personal life. Without values to provide support and direction, you’ll have no basis on which to make decisions. Your life and the life of your church will be—in the words of Shakespeare—full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
What are Core Values?
Values answer the question: “Who are you?” They are deeply held convictions, priorities, and underlying assumptions that influence your attitudes and behaviors. Core values describe the unique way people in an organization work and relate to one another. In a sense you could say that core values describe the personality or character of a ministry.
People and their organizations behave in ways that are generally consistent with their core values. In fact, core values can be validated only through behavior. If a person or ministry has a stated value that is not backed by behavior, it is only an aspiration or preference.
Why Core Values Matter
The reason we start with values and why they are so important to identify is because most conflict is the result of differing values. Churches may attract all kinds of people with different ideas. If the ministry does not clearly articulate its values from the beginning, bringing a sense of unity, the church can be pulled apart by the diversity.
Another reason we start with these is because most strategic planning fails because values are not articulated early enough in the process. As the ministry grows and expands, the multiple paths of ministry options increase. If core values are not established, clear direction is also difficult to establish.
Ultimately, we prioritize our time, energy and money according to what is important to us. By looking at the patterns of ministry you have set in the past, you will have a good view of what your actual values are. For example, you may give mental assent to the value of raising leaders, yet find your time consumed by caring for the sheep. You spend your energies meeting immediate needs and tending hurting sheep. Leaders in the church may demand less of your attention, but that doesn’t mean they should receive less. A true value of raising up leaders will be evidenced by clear examples in your past ministry experience of times spent mentoring and coaching emerging leaders.
A coach can help you clarify your personal values or the core values of your ministry and then prioritize your time to live out those.
Jeannette Buller Slater has been a coach since 1984. She offers executive coaching for pastors and church planters through www.CoachingPastors.com