Every organizational structure has a list of priorities. Businesses define what they value because they need to know what to say “yes” to, and what to say “no” to because of finite resources. The motivation behind a business organization defining its values is increased profitability, but what are the motivations behind a church using this concept?
Definition of core values in a local church setting is one of the most valuable pursuits that a church can take on as it’s planning for the future. We would even argue it’s crucial to the longevity and effectiveness of the local church in carrying out its God-given mission (Matt. 28:18-20). In the case of the church, though, the motivation is not increased profitability but increased effectiveness in ministry. A desire to reach those who need to hear the Gospel and seeing disciples of Christ grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, being able to live out a life that is fully pleasing to God, should be the motivation behind doing anything in the church.
There’s a misconception in the church that anything from the business world should not be applied to the church itself, because the business world is secular and the church is sacred. Some say these two arenas should be kept separate. To a degree, this is true. However, there are some organizational practices that the business world has adopted that would allow the church to be more effective in it’s ministry.
What is a Core Value?
Aubrey Malphurs, in his book “Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don’t Teach Pastors in Seminary,” has this to say about core values:
“Values communicate what is important – the organization’s bottom line. Thus, core values define what you believe is God’s heart for your ministry or church.”
Core values don’t necessarily answer the question “What do you believe?” like you would find in a doctrinal statement. A doctrinal statement is important, but core values focus more on the following question: “Why do we do what we do?” The core values give us an idea of why we pour time, resources, and planning into certain things and not into others.
Three Reasons Core Values are Important
First, let us say that every local church has core values, whether they clearly articulate them or not. They flow out of what is important to each local church, giving each one its unique identity and thumbprint. With that said, here are three reasons core values are important…
1. They bring unity to the local church and Scripture makes a big deal out of unity. One of the biggest benefits to clearly defining core values is they help everyone to be on the same page and committed to the same causes. Have you ever been in a situation in the church when there was disagreement regarding where time and resources should be spent? Agreement on core values ahead of time helps everyone to know what the local church’s priorities are before becoming a part of the ministry.
2. They help other people from outside your church understand what it is you value. Core values very clearly define what it is is important to your church. Those who are searching for a new church will have an easier time deciding whether or not their values lineup with your church’s values. The result is a greater retention rate and, again, increased unity. Core values will also help new members integrate more quickly into the church because they know upfront what it is you value.
3. They help you decide where to spend your resources, including time, manpower, and finances. Have you ever had a hard time deciding how and where to spend money or time as you’re planning with a group of people in your church? Core values make it very clear where time and money should be spent. There’s less guesswork in the long run. This translates to less time spent on planning and more time on the actual doing of ministry. In short, the decision-making process is streamlined for everyone in the church.
It is important that core values are communicated and taught frequently. The goal is that these core values serve to help the church be more effective in reaching the lost for Jesus Christ, and helping those who follow him to more effectively reflect him in their lives. This can only be done if people know the church’s core values so they can allow the values to drive and shape the ministries in which they play a part.