Saturday, June 11, 2016

Seminary PL10: Identifying Core Values

This is the tenth post in the Pastoral Leadership part of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first nine were:

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
1. The last six posts have been about strategic planning. Another element in that equation is to identify the core values of your church or organization. If you have followed the sequence thus far, you have identified the core mission of your church and you have set an overall vision for what your church might be in general. Now as we move toward specific goals, it is often helpful to identify what the core values of your church or organization are.

It seems to me that identifying core values is usually a more crucial step than creating a mission statement (which are often so general as to tell you little) or vision statement (which does point toward a course but only in the most general of ways). When you create a list of five to ten values, you are beginning to name explicitly aspects of your church's identity that you will want to translate into concrete reality.

Again, many churches in the past have intuitively known such values and have skipped the methodical and process oriented sequence thus far and gone straight to goal setting. We should be careful never to crown one personality as superior to another. Many process-oriented personalities give a logical basis for doing something, but have a hard time ever doing anything. Intuitive, task-oriented personalities can get things done, which is after all the very purpose for strategic planning. The value of strategic planning is that the best tasks are set in motion.

2. When Wesley Seminary was mainly a dream, my friends Russ Gunsalus and David Smith called a joint meeting of the undergraduate ministry department and the graduate ministry program at Indiana Wesleyan University. In that meeting, we together brainstormed and drafted a list of eight core values for a new MDiv degree that might eventually become part of a new seminary. [1] These values actually became part of the official proposal for the new MDiv degree.

The church where I attend has identified six values: transforming, discovering, preempting, resourcing, including, and belonging. The university where I work has four key "strategies": great students, great people, great programs, great scope.

These sorts of explicit value statements can help a church or organization stay on task. All organizations only have a limited number of resources. If you try to do everything, the chances are that you will do very little of anything. A core values list is one thing that can help keep your church on target. And if you find yourself increasingly branching out into ventures that aren't part of your core values, perhaps it is time either to modify them or get back on target.

3. Aubrey Malphurs gives nine reasons why core values are important: 1) they determine your ministry's distinctives, 2) they dictate personal involvement, 3) they communicate what is important, 4) they embrace good change, 5) they influence overall behavior, 6) they inspire people to action, 7) they enhance credible leadership, 8) they contribute to ministry success, and 9) they determine ministry mission and vision. [2]

This last comment on his part suggests that the order in which some of these strategic steps are taken is fluid. For example, one might clarify your ministry's values before you set the mission and vision. A church can use common sense in these things. What are we clear on and what are we not so clear about?

4. Values can be an embodiment of aspirations. We value innovation but we are not very innovative. Let us move forward in an innovative way. Or we are about to start something that we want to be innovative. What are going to be the distinctives of our new church?

Values can help clarify new direction. We have been doing too many things and are spreading ourselves too thin. By identifying our key values, we are helping ourselves decide which ventures to continue and which to let go.

Too many values suggest that you are not focused as a church. You are trying to be all things to all people, which is rarely possible. A list of five is better than a list of ten.

Some values may relate to what you do or who you are. Others may relate to how you do things. Are you more a "being" church or a "doing" church, or both? Do you value worship more or outreach? Are you more about holiness or evangelism? After you have brainstormed a list, you might ask what is missing. If some core feature of the church is missing, it might be time for some self-examination.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 11: Setting Goals

[1] The eight values were 1) missional/kingdom focused, 2) accessible, 3) application-focused, 4) spiritually formative, 5) innovative, 6) value-adding, 7) high quality teaching and learning, and 8) global.

[2] Aubrey Malphurs, Advanced Strategic Planning: A 21st Century Model for Church and Ministry Leaders (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 150.

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