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Almost every church I meet with has a list of things they value. Often, they are called their “Core Values”. These are things the church says are important to them. They are the doctrines, practices, or morals that define them as a church. Some of the more common values I see at churches are things like . . .  

Community, Evangelism, Biblical Preaching, A High View of God . . . and so on.   

One church where I was a pastor had nine of these items that we said we valued. I’m not sure many of the leaders could even name them from memory. I couldn’t. Nine values were more difficult than the one church I was at that had five of them. But that was still difficult to remember.  

These values come in all shapes and sizes, but each church has things they believe are important. Things that drive them. The values are the secret sauce of how an organization (or church) makes decisions. It is what moves them in how they treat each other and how they are to live with other people. If you are a pastor and reading this, you know what I’m talking about. Hopefully, you are better than me and can remember those things you have stated are valuable to your church.   

In my role in helping lead our EveryEthne team, I spend lots of time thinking about our values. We have a team of over 100 missionaries who are hardly ever together in one place with each other. How do we keep a unified value of how we believe missionaries should act with each other; engage churches in their community; and reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ?  

Wouldn’t it just be great if we could say our core value as a church or organization is just “Be a Christian”? That’s what we want anyway. We long for people who are part of our organization to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want everyone associated with EveryEthne to act as a committed follower of Christ. His virtue. His love. His care for others. His servanthood. Follow His example in everything. This is what a Christian is and does.  

But for clarity, our team developed 4 Cultural Values that are the most important to us. Here are the four things we value:  

  1. Cards: A Culture of Transparency. We believe that open communication is important for effective communication.  
  1. Shoes: A Culture of Service. We walk alongside pastors and churches to help them fulfill their God-given mission. 
  1. Elevators: A Culture of Movement. We seek to elevate other ministries (and leaders) in ways that will mobilize the church. 
  1. Knees: A Culture of Dependency. We believe that apart from God we can do nothing but with Him all things are possible.  

Maybe someday I’ll take time to write out why we chose these and how they impact our thinking. But for now, I want to share what I’m learning about how to develop and make sure the values we say are important . . . are really important.  

Here are 3 Steps To Reinforce Your Cultural Values: 

First, Talk About Your Values All the Time. I have no doubt our team is tired (at times) of hearing these four words discussed. Cards. Shoes. Elevators. Knees. We talk about them all the time. They are part of almost every conversation we have with our teammates.  

If I were pastoring again, I would find places in sermons to bring up and talk about the values of our church. I would do a sermon series on them from time to time (not if we had nine of them). There is one church I know that shares one of their values every single week in their opening greeting to the church. It goes something like this: 

“Hey, welcome to our church. Our mission is . . . And one of the things we value at our church is . . .”  

You get the point. Every single week this church talks about something they value. On repeat. Over and over again.  

In his book, Gaining by Losing, J.D. Greear, says, “I tell our staff that when I am sick of saying one of them, it usually means that they (the staff) have probably just heard it. And when they, the staff, are sick of hearing it, our congregation has probably just heard it for the first time.”  

His point was to keep banging the same drums all the time. It would do you well to talk about those things you say you value more than you probably talk about them.   

Second, Tell Stories to Reinforce Your Values. Stories paint pictures that make things easy to remember. Our minds are wired for stories. This is why Jesus told so many parables, to connect the eternal truth to something tangible.  

When you see a value lived out by the people of your church, share that story. Put it in a video. Announce it from the pulpit. Make it an illustration in your sermon.  

It does not have to be a big deal. If one of your values is community, let people know how you had to ask someone else to lock up the building last Sunday because they stayed so late talking and spending time with people last Sunday. Maybe a passing comment. But an opportunity to reinforce one of your values.  

The stories you tell help create the culture you desire for your church or organization. When you tell those stories, it gives people a picture of how that value is lived out in real life.  

Third, Develop Behaviors Associated with Your Values. This is somewhat new to our team. The best way to measure values is to create behaviors associated with them that are measurable.  

For instance. Almost every single church I know has a value of Evangelism. (It is not the time or place to talk about the difference between actual and aspirational values.) If Evangelism is one of your values, then create a behavior that helps you evaluate whether it is happening at your church.  

Evangelism Behavior = Every member of our church shares the gospel at least one time every month.  

That’s measurable. Collect the data. Ask the questions.  

What would happen if you had 1–3 behaviors connected to each one of the core values of your church? How would that help you evaluate whether it is an actual value of your church or an aspirational one? 

Talk about your values all the time. 

Tell stories to reinforce your values. 

Develop behaviors associated with your values.  

Peter Drucker is famous for saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” His point is that no matter how strong your strategic plan is, the culture of your organization will dictate whether or not it can be successful. 

Pastor, please give time this week to think about the actual values of your church and how they are impacting what you are trying to accomplish. And if our team can be of any help in the process, please do not hesitate to reach out.  

After all, one of our values is SHOES: A Culture of Service! 

Thad Bergmeier serves as Executive Director for EveryEthne. Previous to that he served in pastoral ministry. Thad joined the EveryEthne team because of their commitment to the local church. His desire with EveryEthne is to come alongside local churches to help them plant churches.

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