Developing the Church’s Core Values

One of the questions that came up immediately when we launched Cornerstone was the question of values. What were (or would be) our Core Values? What would be those essential guiding principles that would help us know who we were, or what our programing should look like? Like most church planters, I looked to the churches that I respected most to see what their Core Values were.

With the help of a few trusted launch team members and some large church websites, we forged our first list of 7-8 things that we believed were key to growing our church in Grand Rapids, MI. However, as the years went by, that list was never re-evaluated. Slowly, it began to grow. Every time we were able to hire a new staff member for some other phase of ministry, they would say something like this: “Well, kids certainly are a core value of our church. Let’s add it to the list;” or, “We surely value prayer. Let’s add that as well.”

Over the years our Core Values grew to about 17! We valued EVERYTHING! You know what happens when you have 17 Core Values? You really have 0 Core Values. They may certainly be values, but not Core Values.

Several years into the church, we decided to take about year to “rethink” our vision which included our values. What came out of those many discussions are truly “Core” values. These values did not so much represent specific ministries such as “we value evangelism, or, we value students, we value prayer, and we value good coffee….and much more.

Then we realized that values are more of a descriptor of who you are and who want to be. Our new list contains just 5: Conversational, Invitational, Relational, Glocal (Global and local mission), and Foundational. Each comes with a one sentence description. These Core Values truly represent what we are and hope to be in the community and in the world for Jesus Christ. The also drive every part of our life together.

If you are planting a church or if you are re-envisioning a church, I encourage you to think about those values very carefully. They are the engine that will drive what you do and who you are. In the early days, you really do not yet know your personality. I understand that. But as soon as it begins to develop, it is worth revisiting your values with some trusted leaders to help you plan God’s best future.