Leading Through Your Core Values
Leading Through Your Core Values

By L. E. Mackenzie

You did it! As the lead pastor of your church, you established an amazing mission statement to keep everyone focused and on track. It looks so good on paper that you framed it and hung it on the wall behind your desk. You show the statement to others, you preach on it, and your people know it by heart. But something is not right . . .

You have strong, practical ideas to grow and mature your church, but you feel resistance at different levels. In e-mails and quiet conversations people ask, “Why are we doing this?” A ministry leader seems to understand the directive but fails to properly execute it. You feel as though you are spinning your wheels. Where is the disconnect?

A small-town, Midwestern, multisite church had a compelling mission statement, relevant preaching, and Christ-honoring pastors and elders. Everyone in the church could recite the mission statement. The culture was welcoming and established and the people committed.  But there were rumblings . . .

“What is this secular music and why is it so loud for Easter services?” “Why is the pastor wearing jeans and a T-shirt?” “When did we get a teen floor hockey league in the gym? They are stinking up the place down there!” These questions and others were signs of unease and discontent—something was keeping people from fully embracing leadership initiatives. In the eyes of the people, leadership was all over the map.

The people understood the church’s mission was to help people find an “intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” The mission was so clear, in fact, that people were abbreviating it as “IPRWJC” in their journals and on Facebook and Instagram posts. The mission statement was fine, it turns out, but the people didn’t understand the steps leadership was willing to take to execute the plan or whom they were intending to reach. The people didn’t understand the boundary lines for executing the mission.

It was a situation that required refocusing on the church’s core values . . .

Ask yourself:

What does your church value?

What resonates with you as a Christian leader?

What do your actions say about what you esteem most highly?

Why do you “do church” the way you do?

While environment and culture may change around you, your core values (CVs) reflect biblical qualities that give your church its distinctive flavor and character. To put it another way, on a spiritual compass, your mission statement is “true north” and the CVs are the boundary maps defining how to get you there.

Establishing CVs helps your organization on all levels, from your student ministry pastors and worship leaders to the volunteer who faithfully makes and delivers cookies to new people week after week. CVs provide direction as to the “how?” and the “why?” of the mission.

Why do you do the things you do? What are your hot buttons? CVs are the reason you get out of bed each day, the reason behind every program decision, every sermon idea, and every capital campaign.

Craig Groeschel, senior pastor at Life.Church, centered in Edmond, Oklahoma, says your values should be memorable, portable, and emotional. He believes values should be tweetable, actionable, and inspirational.

Ideas vetted through your CVs straighten the road. Decision-making becomes easier as you align yourself and your church with what is closest to God’s heart. As you focus your decision-making and proactively lead your church, the reasons behind your actions become clear. Without this focus, your church will have unrealistic expectations of what they should absorb from your preaching and teaching.

Remember that small-town, Midwestern, multisite church? The one with the loud secular Easter music, a preaching pastor who wears jeans, and the stinky floor hockey league? That’s my home church.

Earlier this year our leadership decided to develop our core values and share them with the church. When we told our people we are focusing outward to reach those far from Jesus by any means possible, they understood why we would play loud secular music at Easter—it’s for the “Chreasters” (Christmas and Easter attenders) who may not be comfortable in church. When told that to be relevant, we would do fresh things in fresh ways to reach those no one else is reaching, the people were OK that the preacher didn’t dress formally. And once everyone started to focus downward to reach the next generation—the future hope of the church—they understood that kids and sports and Jesus go hand in hand, and outreach to students is important in our church culture.

Conversations in the hallways of our various locations have begun to change. The people are describing their ministries in terms of the CVs. Ideas are being filtered through the sieve of seven tenants our leaders adopted. I believe our people—from elders and pastors to volunteers and attendees—are beginning to align with these CVs. This has been a game-changer.

Does this all seem like an unattainable dream? It isn’t.

After your church defines its “true north”—its mission statement—invest the time to establish the boundaries—the core values—needed to get there. Our leadership completed this in a few weeks, and the elders approved it after a single presentation.

As a leader, you have the potential to change your environment, give new life to your ministry, and direct your church by using the resources God has given you in your leadership teams, your church network, and online. Do an online search to find the core values of various churches and companies; this will provide ideas for writing CVs for your church. Once these are determined, it is time to drive those core values deep into the culture of your church.

Moving forward, these CVs should permeate your sermon series as well as your print, visual, and social media, and they should pepper your church’s everyday speech. The day you hear your people using these values to explain their actions and how the church functions, you will know you are making the necessary strides in unifying and aligning your people.

Give it a try. You can lead a new chapter in the life and unity of your church.

For a step-by-step guide to creating core values, listen to Craig Groeschel’s leadership podcasts, “Creating a Value-Driven Culture,” at www.life.church/leadershippodcast.

Leigh Ellen Mackenzie assists the executive team at The Crossing in Quincy, Illinois, as lead researcher, handler, and creative stylist. She has taught and led in various ministry areas for 11 years. In addition to God’s Word, her heart’s delight is pastoral support and care.

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