When Values Lead the Way

I grew up watching The Price is Right as a kid. I don’t know what evil genius decided that a game show about guessing the values of antacid and eggs could be fun, but that man probably yodeled his way up a mountain of money! Watching Bob Barker’s patience wear thinner and thinner due to increasingly ridiculous contestant behavior over the years was pretty great too.

That show is great because we love to calculate value. It’s almost everything we do. It’s the basis for how we schedule and prioritize our day. It’s also the way we choose friends and decide on a career or a car. Assigning value is a HUGE part of our day to day. Those values come from a set of values that you somehow came to possess.

Every evaluation runs through a decision-making process based on these values.

It’s like that Play-Doh pump that you can either press the dough through and turn it into a tube or put a shape filter in front of it to make a star or spaghetti to trick your younger brother into eating it. Sorry, Taylor.

Values in a ministry are like that slide filter. They define how you are going to go forward and accomplish the vision and mission, eventually decided what it looks like.

Values are what you want to be known for.

When you ask people about your ministry, what do they say? What words do they use to describe you? Chances are, it’s a close hit to what you actually value. So what do you want to be known for? Do they match? That’s where we get into the very common disconnect of aspirational values and actual values, and it can be painful to recognize.

Aspirational Values

This is what you put down on paper and said “I want our ministry to be like this!” You’ve probably made decisions based on the idea that you already were those things. However, it may not be what you actually value.

Actual Values

This is what people who are familiar with you and your ministry say about you when you’re not there. It’s what your brand stands for. It’s what you can give actual examples of happening within your ministry.

For example, many ministries say “evangelism” is really important, however the leaders and laypeople may not share their faith directly hardly at all (and inviting them to church really doesn’t count unless the Gospel was clearly preached that week and an opportunity to respond in some way was given. See also “Talking about Evolution”).

Take Dominos Pizza for Instance…

A few years ago, the CEO of Dominos pizza went on TV and said “We’ve heard our customers and you’re right, our pizza is terrible, but we are going to do better.” They even put the mean tweets from customers on billboards and then underneath promised to do better. It was placed in the hometown of the person who tweeted it!

Dominos Pizza realized that their aspirational values didn’t match up with their actual values. They thought they were making good pizza, and everyone else thought they were like that one friend you have that swears SPAM is delicious. Nobody’s buying it, SPAM-guy!

So, if Mission is the “What,” and Vision is the “How,” then Values are the “umpf!” Values are the engine that makes the whole thing go.

So, let me give you some examples of values to start with by giving you mine. Below are the values I have for Sethmuse.com and The Seminary of Hard Knocks Podcast that drive what I do.

  • Confidence – By gaining knowledge and practical experience, I can make decisions with confidence.
  • Expertise – By practicing what I preach, I become an seasoned expert.
  • Clarity – By being honest about purpose, I gain clarity.
  • Humor – By being lighthearted, I gain a platform to speak.
  • Storytelling – By telling stories, I can teach memorable truth.
  • Vulnerability – By being honest about who I am, I gain trust.
  • Practicality – By giving practical steps, I make the complicated simple.

Now when you go back through the blogs and the podcast you can see where my focus is. You can see how my content and even delivery style are driven by these values.

Now Your Turn…

So what are your ministry values? Go ahead and list all of the things you aspire to on a white board or sheet of paper. Try to keep it to short and simple words.

Now go back and cross out what you have no real examples for in your ministry and BE HONEST.

You may want to ask those who are in your ministry what they think you value as a ministry. Listen to what they say as well as what they don’t say.

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