Since I recently posted Craig Groeschel's new values, I thought I'd share some common pitfalls when articulating values. Call it want you want: values, code, DNA, philosophy of ministry, etc. Most attempts in ministry to articulate the core motives and driving convictions of the organization or movement don't amount to much. Of course, our intent is good, and we have a lot of energy the day they are written. But all to often, we simply populate another web page or birth some bullets for a membership class, without creating a tool that actually helps to shape culture.
Why do values have so little value?
- We have too many values. With every value your list, the gravity of you values weakens. If you have too many you have nothing. Your organization may value 10, 17, or even 50 things. The point isn't to list them all, but to list the 4-6 that matter most. How many values have you spelled out?
- Values are too generic. When a church regurgitates Rick Warren's 5 Purposes, it has said nothing specific about the culture of your church. Don't tell me that you value worship or fellowship or evangelism. Go deeper. What drives how you worship or experience fellowship? For example, does worship inspire wonder with the awe of God, or emphasize a personal authentic connection? Right now review your values and ask the question, "Which one of these could be said of every church in North America?"
- Values are reactionary. Values should be the essence of what you stand for, not the reminder of what you don't like. For three decades many of our statements have been littered with the terms "excellence" and "relevance." But do these terms really say that much about us? I recommend articulating what makes you relevant or what makes you excellent. Keep pushing through until you get to the core.
- Values repeat doctrine. It's important to be clear on your doctrinal belief system and these beliefs can and should influence your values. But values shouldn't be limited by restating doctrine. For example you might believe in the authority of scripture or the priesthood of all believers. Again, free your values to show something more specific or in addition to the belief rather than just restating it. For example, one church stated the value of "Truth with Gentleness" to describe the manner with which they teach the whole counsel of God. How many of your values are redundant to doctrine?
- Values aren't actionable. Any value that does not give rise to a new thought, emotion, attitude or action is worthless. I recommend creating a bullet list for every value as a running "demonstrated by..." list. Every team in the ministry can then flesh out the specific meaning and desired outcomes of the shared value in their context. If the code can't "connect the dots" to practice, then you won't gain more than inactive intellectual assent. Are your values springboards for daily action?
- Values are too aspirational. If values represent more of what you want to be than what you are, you'll immediately loose credibility as a leader. There is a time and place for vision, but that is different from values. Two-thirds of your values should be rooted in what you are today. What makes you great right now? Why will you win this week? Again, don't be afraid to have some aspirational content. But when you do, be sure to take the lead in sharing them as DNA dreams. Otherwise people will think that you're smoking something.
So how valuable are your values? Could yours use refreshing? I would love to hear your thoughts or your example of re-articulated values. After all, Craig Groeschel was man enough to refresh his.