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Core Values & Your Church

The first thing most church members or leaders are going to ask is, “What is a core value and what does it have to do with church?”   

In human terms, core values are your personal priorities.   They influence how you think, make decisions, how you treat others and how you live. For example “honesty” is a core value that affects what you say and how you deal with others.   In the local church setting, core values define the local church and reveal what that congregation (as a whole) values.   These values determine a church’s purpose, her vision, decisions, plans, and ministries.   They are a church’s priorities.   Good or Biblical core values ‘run’ or ‘drive’ the church in a positive direction.  Self-centered core values stunt growth and create division and actually drive a church in a negative direction.  The idea of core values is taught in Matthew 6:19-21 (Where your treasure is that’s where your heart will be also–‘Irwin’ Translation) and Colossians 3:1-3 (Set your mind on things above….).

Core values are usually found within a church’s mission statement and vision statements.   All 3 (the mission statement, vision statements and core values) should (and usually do) relate consistently to one another.   They basically flesh out what the church is all about.

Some examples of church core values are:   truth, fellowship, worship, compassion, unity, love, acceptance, fruitfulness, holiness, prayer, excellence, integrity, discipleship and empowerment.   Sometimes core values are seen in people:  children, the lost, the poor, etc.  On one church website they listed 5 core values and each one was about young pe0ple; no other age group was mentioned.  This was very specific and it affected their worship, ministries and overall work of that church.  What core values do you think Jesus had?  Has?   What should YOUR core values be as a Christian?   Church leader?   Congregation?

At first glance, some folks might say, “Yes, these things are our values, so why we be so concerned about them?”

Every church has core values (written and unwritten, spoken and unspoken, known and unknown, intentional and unintentional).   Most churches do not have them written out.    Seldom does a church leadership share them with the church or prospective members.   You may hear some of the core values from time to time from the pulpit, in the announcements, in the prayers of the church, in sermons, in comments from the leaders or in a classroom. They can also be seen readily in a church’s budget. But they are not formally stated as such.  Do they need to be written?   Not necessarily so, but Biblical core values can benefit (when intentionally known, reviewed and lived out) the church in the following manners.   They can…

Keep a church focused on her local mission (we often get distracted from this).

Keep the church motivated in fulfilling the mission of the local church

Keep and encourage unity among her members

Keep the goals of the church clear in the minds of her members (we need reminding often of what we are all about).   At times, we need to be reminded of how we should be, think and live.   Core values, often repeated, educate as well as remind brethren who they are to be.

Biblical core values can create passion and excitement in the local church.   Much of what churches do is maintenance in nature. While maintenance is vital, missional core values create excitement in the local church.     Some congregations start a building program to create excitement. But such an endeavor is expensive and temporary at best.

They can inspire members to be more and do more

They can assist in making better decisions; whatever violates your core values receives a negative vote.   It’s that simple.

They help churches and individual members reach goals

They can prevent discouragement.

Biblical core values determine purpose and intention.

Core values should be determined by the leaders or by spiritually mature members of the church.

Some churches are not growing because ‘growing’ is not a core value.   Some churches tolerate immorality because ‘holiness’ is not a core value.   Some churches have personal comfort as a core value; they are more interested in being comfortable than reaching out to the lost (or stepping out of their comfort zones).

Note:  Core values can and should change simply because we are (to be) growing as individuals and as a collective group of believers.

I am NOT promoting human creeds.   I AM promoting church focus.   Too many churches have no real goals towards which to work.   Many congregations are on what I call “automatic pilot.”   They have sweet Christian members that go through the same motions and activities with little result.   As much as the Lord wants us to assemble, He also wants us to do so many other things that are just as important to the health and well-being of the local church.   Also, many church leaders assume that their members know what the Bible teaches about Christian living and values.  However these have to be taught again to every new Christian and every generation of children and adults.

God has mission statements for the local church and He wants the local church to envision what can be done specifically when we take Him at His Word and do what He says—-when we have His core values.

The church is only as strong as her core values, and her core values must be based upon the Word of God.

How may you learn what your church’s core values are?   We’ve already mentioned some ways a church’s core values are seen and acknowledged.   However, if you wish to know the core values of the church, you can simply ask the members.   Having done that, you will want to ask another question:   “based upon the Word of God and the local needs of the church and our community, what should be our core values?”     I think you will be pleasantly surprised and challenged.    The church leaders should ‘lead’ in the pursuit and discovery of Biblical core values for their congregation.

If we can help you in defining your core values or assist you writing out a mission statement and vision statements, please let us know.

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

travisirwin@att.net