Thursday, September 17, 2009

Core Values

This Sunday, September 20 our Emerging Community is gathering at 6:00 p.m. at Abundant Life Church in Blaine, 1105 117th Ave NE to start developing the Core Values for our congregation. We’ll munch on desserts to start our time together and then get to work on our Core Values. Child Care will be available.

A Core Value is a principle, a quality, a belief, and/or an attitude that is foundational to our community. In his book Church Unique, Will Mancini compared values to motives and said, “Motives [are] the shared convictions that guide the actions and reveal the strengths of the church. They are the values that represent the conscious and collective soul of your church because they express your most deeply held ideals.” (Page 129)

I am very excited about the opportunity to develop the Core Values at Chain of Lakes. If we do the process right, our Core Values will have a tremendous influence on the character of our congregation in the years to come. Coming up with Core Values is a wonderful opportunity for us to shape our future congregation. Most people never have the chance to have the opportunity to determine a church’s Core Values. What an opportunity!

Recently I listened to a radio interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. One of the Core Values of Google is: “don’t be evil.”

Schmidt also shared a bit how this value defines the company. All of the staff at Google know the value, “don’t be evil.” When a new program is offered at Google it has to pass the “don’t be evil” test. The Google staff frequently talk with each other about what “don’t be evil” means. This value has helped define the culture of Google.

In the interview Schmidt was asked the difference between “don’t be evil” compared to “always be good.” It was a wonderful question. There is a difference between the two phrases. Google has chosen “don’t be evil.” The question shows the importance of being very specific with our Core Values.

Some might legitimately ask about the relationship between our Purpose Statement and our Core Values. Our Purpose Statement answers the question, “Why do we exist?” Our values are the principles, qualities, beliefs and/or attitudes that lead us to live out our Purpose Statement. Our Core Values undergird the relationships in our community. Over time our community will develop an understanding behind our Core Values. To take the Google example, how would one define “don’t be evil?” I’m guessing at Google there is a discernable understanding of what “don’t be evil” means. Over time if we articulate and live out our Core Values we will have a discernable understanding of our values.

We will know that we are living out our Core Values when we come to the point of having a Core Value violated. When that happens many in our faith community will rise up and say, “no, this is not who we are.”

For example one Core Value that most of our society has adopted is not to use racist images in our public language. If someone said such a racist word in a public setting—a word that was probably used frequently 150 years ago—that person would be publically reprimanded. The reason for the reprimand is because of our core values.

One challenge of developing Core Values is to drill down so deep that we can all agree that we have clearly articulated the nuance of what we want. For example most churches express a desire to be friendly. But friendly means something different to different people. So we have to drill down into that word, “friendly.” What are we trying to articulate and express about the value, “friendly?” Is it hospitality, is it welcoming, is it acceptance? Each of these words means something different. What are we aiming for? For a Core Value to be powerful we have to find laser sharp precision.

It’s important that we don’t have too many Core Values, no more than five, perhaps four. Just as I want my eight-year old daughter, Hannah—and all eight year olds—to know our Purpose Statement by memory, I want Hannah and other kids to know our Core Values.

It’s important that our Core Values are not reactionary. We want to say what we are instead of saying what we are not.

It’s important that we are passionate about our Core Values. We will be willing to stand up and even fight for our Core Values. If we don’t speak up for our Core Values, then our Core Values are not important enough to us.

It’s important that our Core Values stir something up within us.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the Spirit leads us to develop as the Core Values at Chain of Lakes. Please pray for us as we begin this process. Everyone who has come to an event at Chain of Lakes is welcome to come.

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