Dear Ones in Christ,
As a Presbytery we boldly state that we are Missional, Pastoral and Prophetic. I'm sure that many of our churches also have statements that reflect their core values. Some may have Mission Statements, others focus on Vision. Some congregations may even have a motto or an "elevator speech" they coach their members to remember. Then there are the unspoken values that never quite make it onto the letterhead, but are central to the identity of the congregation.
The last church I pastored was the first church in the US to be lit by electricity.
They were also this incredibly diverse congregation with folks from all over the world who worshipped there. As a motto I went with Isaiah's "A Light to the Nations". Get it? There's both the light AND the diversity. It went on the letterhead, the website... I marketed the heck out of that idea. Problem was: No one remembered it.
One day one of our newer members (a
) pulled me aside to tell me that he had figured out how to describe our wee church. He asked if I had seen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. When I assured him that I had, he laughed and said "We are the CHURCH OF MISFIT TOYS". Within days the entire congregation had embraced it. My fancy, Biblically-based motto had nothing against this homegrown expression of the essence of who that church was. Its core value was loving deeply on anyone who walked in the door regardless of where they came from, or what story they might tell. Church of wonderful misfits, indeed.
Knowing your congregation's core values is important. Finding ways to share values is important to the development of a congregation (or Presbytery's) culture. The danger is that there are times when we make our organizational values an
object of worship. I've known churches to elevate Preaching or Mission or an incredible music program beyond a core value to their reason for being.... forgetting that our chief end is to glorify God. Part of our evaluation needs not just to examine how well we do at what we do... but why we do it.
So how do you evaluate whether or not you're living into your core values? Ask folks. Don't just ask those that sit in the pew next to you (although, that's not a bad place to start... some find using the
Congregational Assessment Tool
helpful!) but best sure to ask those in the neighborhood around you what comes to mind when they think of your church. Look at your budget, and see what it professes as being important to your life together. Consider the energy that is given to certain areas of your congregation's life... but not to others. Does this line up with who your congregation professes to be? Especially as we look at the mission work our congregations are engaged in, why is it we do what we do? When is the last time you shared that "why" with your congregation?
As a Presbytery, what might we hear if we enter a similar time of discernment? We state that we are Missional, Pastoral and Prophetic. Are those the first words that come to mind when congregations consider our work together? How are those words reflected in the budget? In the energy we spend in committees and commissions? Perhaps we need to focus not on creating new letterhead with bolder letters that advertise our values, but instead evaluating the values we espouse (especially WHY we have them) and then determining how best we might live into them.
Grateful for all that you do -