Organizational values are the things that matter, what drives what they do, how they accomplish goals, and what they put out in promotional materials. Churches aren't immune to the need for values, though we may not always put them together the same way. Beyond that, many organizations have a set of unknown values that are driven by practice rather than policy. Baseball is one of the best examples of unwritten values. Tim Kurkjian wrote a lengthy piece about this last year, and the website Ranker put together a list of the sillier unwritten rules.
What I believe matters in churches are the written values and core practices, but more so I believe the unwritten and informal values have just as much (if not more) influence. And that is where leaders have the ability, platform, and collateral to step in and provide direction. As leaders, we have the ability to set many of the values in our churches and ministries. We must steward that responsibility well, because what we put forward as values will become practice which become protocol which become traditions.
You set values by what you promote - When we take particular time to emphasize certain things, we're demonstrating that those activities, programs, ministries, and people are important to the vision. We can't promote everything that happens. That's why you publish newsletters, bulletins, and social media. But for the things you really want to draw attention to, the things that are really important to you and the vision, draw those out in large and small gatherings. If your church is serious about families, don't spend all your promotion time on the next workday. Be intentional about what you promote, it's what people will remember.
You set values by what you fund - Here's a surprise, churches and ministries don't have unlimited funds. I wish it were like Monopoly, where you just use slips of paper when the Bank runs out. But churches have limited resources and limited budgets. What you fund, what you give priority in the budget to, what you choose to defund--all of that matters. I don't believe in funding everything that people want to do in a ministry. There are times where it's necessary to take up special collections. But what gets published in the budget should reflect what you're trying to accomplish.
You set values by what you allow - In many ways this is setting values passively, rather than actively. We set values in a lot of situations by what we don't do. If we never hold people accountable, don't expect excellence, don't deal with bullies, and don't try to make a great first impression, we've done a lot by doing nothing. We've determined what we'll allow. Perhaps the best example here is with the Church Bully, the guy who makes demands and threatens to leave/stop giving/tattle/etc. When leaders fail to stand up to the bully, they've communicated that if you push hard enough you can get your way. That's crippling. One of the best words a leader can learn is "No."
You set values by what you celebrate - We can't cheer on every little thing that happens, but when we do take opportunity to celebrate victories, we're reemphasizing what we value. Where we're at now is a church hoping to grow, so we're celebrating new members, baptisms, and a few weeks ago I held up the stack of visitor cards. I want to emphasize and celebrate new folks. It's important to celebrate faithful servants who have labored well, to celebrate milestones in the church's life (paying off debt, missions giving goals, anniversary of the church's founding, etc.) because they help show a consistent and healthy ministry history.
You set values by who you empower - Finally, who we empower, who we put into places of influence, who we hold up as leaders, and who we send out is a statement of what we value. Leaders have to give up their influence and delegate to others for a number of reasons. Who you nominate and ordain as deacons communicates who you want others to follow and be like. Who you bring on as staff and leadership, who you ordain for ministry, who you send out for missions and ministries (even if they move for a job) dictates much more than we think. When we make it a point to empower the right people, to delegate them to the right jobs, when we nominate for leadership roles, we're saying "These are people you can follow, you can trust."
How else do you see unwritten values determined?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.