Clarifying Core Values


Patrick Lencioni once had a conversation with a business leader about his core values. The business leader boldly declared that “a sense of urgency” was one of their core values. When Patrick asked if his employees all met their deadlines, the executive responded with a profound, “No, their complacent as hell, which is why we need to make urgency one of our core values!”

As Patrick describes so clearly in his article entitled “Make Your Values Mean Something” in the Harvard Business Review (a great and quick read), it can be very easy to define values that are, in fact, not really values at all.

I’ve already blogged about why I think defining core values are an important part of an ongoing & strategic environment right here. In today’s post I’d like to identify what core values are NOT.

  • Core Values are NOT the same as Mission.
    Your mission should be one simple statement defining WHY you exist as an organization. Your values will support your mission by providing the ground rules for effectively walking out that mission every day. 
  • Core Values are NOT the same as Vision.
    Your vision represents a desired future based on the mission of your church. Your values are different. They represent HOW you will carry out ministry between now and the fulfillment of that vision. For example, “be a multi-campus church” is a vision statement, not a core value. 
  • Core Values are NOT Core Beliefs.
    It can be easy to confuse the two. Simply put, your values COME FROM your beliefs. For example, I have a core value that all ministry should be Bible-Based because I have a belief that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Using the illustration in my post entitled “Why Core Values?“, I have a value that my preschool children will not watch certain evening programs because I have a belief that those programs will harm my child’s development.
  • Core Values are NOT the same as personal growth principles.
    There are many powerful principles about how we are to live out our faith in the Bible. For example, we will personally grow if we love others, be fiscally responsible, work hard and give glory to God while we do, worship, pray, fast, read the Bible, stay connected with like-minded believers, not be unequally yoked, etc. These are all important aspects of the Christian’s life. However, they should not be confused with your church core values. 
  • Core Values are NOT Strategies or Goals.
    Strategies and goals will, by necessity, change over time. Core Values will rarely, if ever, change. Don’t confuse a strategy for fulfilling a vision with your values. For example, ‘summer camps’ may represent a strategy for reaching young people in your church. However, I would not consider ‘summer camps’ a value. Perhaps in 5 years you will decide that mission trips will reach young people better than summer camps. That would be a new strategy. 
As a general rule of thumb, think of your Core Values as the basic rules by which you will accomplish your mission as a church. These well defined rules should never be broken, as that would ultimately compromise a basic belief you have about how ministry should always take place.

Your mission represents WHY you exist.

Your vision represents WHAT you think the future should look like.

Your strategy represents the PLANS you have set in motion to fulfill your vision.

Your values represent HOW you will carry out those plans at all times.

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