Growth begins with core values


Editor's note: Third in a series

By Embra Jackson
Administrative Assistant to the Bishop

Core values, perhaps the most significant of the A2 Indicators, are sometimes difficult to describe and to define.

The A2 definition states that core values are “non-negotiable principles that define the meaning and practice of a congregation within a particular framework for ministry, i.e. your congregation and the surrounding community.” How do we translate this description into action within our local churches and communities? 

Drs. James and Molly Scott in their book Kingdom People contend that core values are derived from our behavior that derives from our beliefs. Core values are the deepest, most important and most cherished values that we have. 

“One might say that he (she) values his (her) children, but the calendar of the past month shows so little time spent with them that their behavior reveals it is not a core value, not one of the most important values,” the Scotts write. “Another way to think of this is to look at each of your core beliefs (What we believe to be true about God, life, ourselves and others) and what kind of behavior and action would be logically expected from that belief and ask if your behavior matches that answer.”

One of the major determinants to a church becoming a disciple center is its DNA, its foundation. Without a strong foundation a building is easily destroyed. Likewise, churches that lack a firm foundation are not very stable and easily fall when the storms of life come their way. 

Foundational for a local church is discerning the call of God upon the congregation. Faith Communities Today states that “More important then theological orientation (for churches) is the religious character of the congregation and the clarity of mission and purpose. Growing churches are clear about why they exist and about what they are to be doing.”

Here are some suggestions to help lead churches in the process of discerning core values:

Develop leadership partnerships. Leadership is paramount in churches developing a sense of identity. A church’s leaders must have a shared sense of calling and purpose. It is only when the clergy and laity are on the same page – God’s page – that churches will be transformed. 

One of the best resources to assist the church in forming such partnerships and thus discerning their core values is GBOD’s L3 Leadership Incubator. L3 stands for “Loving, Learning and Leading.”

The conference’s 2007 Transformational Leaders’ School will focus on L3 at its November session. For registration information, contact my office at (601) 948-4561, ext. 23. There is no charge to participate in the school, but registration by May 30 is required.

• Use retreats to revisit your mission. Many congregations develop vision and mission statements only a few times in the entire life to the church. I believe that because every congregation, regardless of its size or location, is called by God to ministry, churches should revisit their mission and calling from time to time. A retreat every two or three years with the pastor and lay leaders is a good opportunity to explore the church’s sense of calling. 

Hinton Rural Life Center’s guide, “Visioning and Planning for Effective Ministry” and “Creating a Vision, A Mission, and a Plan for Your Church” by Douglass W. Johnson of the General Board of Global Ministries are excellent resources to assist with this process.

Look to the book and the Book of Discipline. We should never forget that the Word of God is the record of God’s relationship with humanity throughout history. The Bible reminds that we are a covenant people and that we are called to be in covenant with God and with each other. Local churches should develop a written covenant on a regular basis. Kingdom People includes sample church covenants.

Likewise, a review of the function and purpose of a local church should assist churches in becoming more aligned with their core values. The 2004 Book of Discipline in paragraphs 201-204 cites the definition, function, relationship and care of members of local churches. The Discipline states that “the local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple making occurs.”

Pray. It is also our obligation and duty to pray as we seek to discern what God is calling us as individuals and as a community of believers to be and to do. Failure to pray is one of the largest obstacles that we must overcome in our discernment of our core values. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge God and God shall direct thy path.”

Jackson serves as administrative assistant to the bishop.