Developing Ministry Core Values

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What makes a successful children’s ministry click? What
makes it run smoothly and effortlessly? How can you get deeper
commitment from your volunteers?

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If you’ve been searching for a way to unify your ministry team,
core values may be your solution. In this interview with Dennis
Bloodworth, you’ll learn how to develop core values that’ll help
volunteers commit to your ministry.

Many churches have successful ministries with volunteers who
thrive when the ministry has specific priorities or core values.
Former children’s pastor Dennis Bloodworth says that core values
can unify people and create a purpose-oriented ministry. Dennis,
who’s now the lead pastor at Christ’s Church of Scottsdale in
Scottsdale, Arizona, can help give your ministry the direction it
needs to create unity and purpose.

Q: What are core values?

A: They’re a set of priorities that govern
everything that happens in our ministry. Everything that we do –
every event, program, or retreat — will somehow address these
priorities.

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For example, our church values commitment to excellence. That
means if I teach a class at an off-site retreat center, I’ll do the
best I can with what I have in that setting. Or if I’m leading a
group on a trip, I make sure all of our vehicles are full of gas
and ready to go, that drivers have keys and maps, and that
everybody has medical forms. Our commitment to excellence means
that we’ll be professional, pay attention to details, and do the
best we can with what we have.

Q: Why are core values important to an effective
children’s ministry?

A: Core values determine how you do everything.
They keep a team unified because everyone knows the priorities.
Whether a person’s job is greeting kids at the door or working with
children in small groups, the values guide each person in his or
her specific responsibilities. Instead of having a bunch of
individuals doing things their own way, you have a team of
committed people who are united with one purpose. It makes for a
much better, purpose-oriented ministry.

Q: How have you seen core values positively impact an
organization or ministry?

A: When I was at Christ’s Church of the Valley
in Peoria, Arizona, the church was growing slowly and had 850
people when I first came on staff. Then while attending a
conference in California, the staff and elders worked to determine
the church’s core values. From that day on, we saw immediate
results throughout the church because suddenly we all knew the
parts we played on the team. Today the church is over 5,000.

The one common denominator was our values. Regardless of the
people’s ages or the tasks of their ministries, the values were
always the same. Our church saw immediate results, and that enabled
us to experience unlimited growth. Once we had clarified and
determined our values, we saw amazing results.

The key to values is that they’re based on Scripture. I don’t
think values mean anything unless they come from God. God blesses
people who labor with purpose, meaning, clarity, and direction. The
sky’s the limit.

Q: What are the steps a leader should take in developing
core values?

A: I think you have to look at your culture. We
spent serious time in prayer and in God’s Word trying to determine
Jesus’ core values — what mattered most to him and what he
commanded the early church to do. We tried to make our values easy
to remember and came up with a list of five things that were clear
and specific. Our core values are integrity, commitment to excellence, a heart for evangelism, relationships, and a servant’s attitude.
Churches are different, but I think if you were to look across the
board, you’d find six to 10 similar values.

Q: Are there any cautions along the way?

A: Don’t have core values just to have core
values. Don’t think that just because you have a list on a piece of
paper, you’re going to see immediate results. Values are not just
taught; they’re lived and practiced. However, you could do more
damage by publishing your core values and then not living up to
them. If you aren’t going to follow them, you’d be better off not
even having them.

Q: How do you get people on board with your
values?

A: I don’t think it’s hard when your values
come from God. Your core values affect the people who aspire to be
leaders in the church. We get people on board just by making them
aware that we value what Jesus values. Because we strive to be like
Christ, we try to imitate him. When people know that your values
come from Scripture, they start to take hold of them and see their
importance.

Q: You’ve developed a volunteer commitment based on the
core values. How easy or difficult is it to get volunteers to sign
such a commitment?

A: Excitement is always the #1 recruiter. I
think that those who are excited are willing to have a standard by
which to do what God has called them to do. We have Scriptures that
we ask volunteers to look at. Those Scriptures address a
Christian’s personal choices. I won’t ever tell volunteers not to
go to R-rated movies, but I do tell them that they’re called to a
higher standard.

The volunteer commitment has helped recruiting because
volunteers also know that they’re a step above. They’re part of an
elite bunch. Volunteering isn’t something that everybody can do,
but when people are ready for it, they know that we expect a lot
from our leaders.

Q: What makes the process of committing to the core
values easy or difficult?

A: It’s easy because we emphasize teamwork. We
tell volunteers that they’re going to be pouring themselves into
these kids, but at the same time, we’re going to be pouring
ourselves into them. Volunteers step up and commit, but they’re
going to get special care and attention from leaders.

What makes our commitment difficult is that not everyone is
ready for such a commitment. I have to remind people that they’re
in ministry and they’re setting an example. I want them to look at
Scripture and evaluate their lives. Are there things that could
cause others to stumble? Can they put those things aside while
they’re volunteering? Some people aren’t ready for that.


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Q: What else would you say to leaders who want to
develop core values?

A: If you’re going to list it, live it. It has
to be apparent. I’ve never known a system to fail when values drive
what a church is doing.

You also have to evaluate every element in your program and
every person on your team and honestly say, “Do we really have
these values or not?” Bring in outside observers, give them your
values, and ask them, “Can you see these things in our people? Can
you see these things in our programs?” As much as you might like to
think you’ve got excellence or a heart for evangelism, sometimes
other people don’t see what you see. Values need to be under
constant evaluation. It has to be obvious that your values drive
everything your ministry does.

I think core values are the most powerful tools I’ve ever seen
in church growth and programming. When all those cylinders are
firing and your ministry is obviously led by God, nothing can stop
the church. Jesus instilled values in his disciples and sent them
out, and he was a master at identifying what’s most important. Why
should the church do anything less?


Erica Fast is a former intern for Children’s Ministry
Magazine.

Our Children’s Ministry Dream

We dream of changing our world — one child at a time. We dream
of children waking up on Sunday morning excited to go to church. We
envision brilliant smiles as kids are welcomed by familiar faces
into bright classrooms.

We dream of volunteers so excited about kids that they teach,
listen, and serve with laughter. First-time visitors relax as they
step through the door.

We dream of a clean, kid- friendly place where thousands of
children experience God’s creativity through music, art, games, and
drama. We envision a safe environment where parents cheerfully
leave their children so they can worship without distraction. We
dream of a secure environment that builds confidence with parents
and protects volunteers.

We dream of babies sleeping peacefully, nursing moms enjoying
privacy, and toddlers riding bikes on shaded playgrounds.
Preschoolers praise God in rhythm band parades through the halls,
while older children send emails to missionaries in foreign lands.
In times of prayer and discussion, children make lifelong
friendships.

We dream of prayerful adults leading children to Jesus. We dream
of whole families growing closer to God and to each other through
programs that motivate and prepare.

We dream of changing our world by building a foundation of faith
that leads to a life of devotion to Christ and multiplies the
kingdom — one child at a time.

Pat Verbal
Frisco, Texa
s

Stellar Values

Three children’s ministry veterans share the core values of
their ministries.

Sandy Spooner, director of children’s ministry at SunRise United
Methodist Church in O’Fallon, Missouri, says, “In our planning of
anything, from VBS to Sunday school to summer art camp, I go back
to the basics and test everything against our core values. Is this
program or project in alignment with what we’ve said is important?
How is this program or project edifying our core values?”

Sandy’s children’s ministry core values:

Because we believe that God created humans for relationship with
him and one another, we value:

  • Investing ourselves in connecting people to God and one
    another.
  • Relevant, uplifting, and inspiring worship that connects us
    with God.
  • Prayer as our vital link to the power of God.
  • Personal and corporate study of God’s Word.
  • Stewardship of time and resources.
  • Leadership development.

Craig Jutila, children’s pastor at Saddleback Community Church
in Lake Forest, California, defines his ministry’s core values with
the acronym P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. — a custom or habit of doing
something.

We value:

  • Protecting children with an uncompromising safety process.
  • Risking failure through innovation and reinvention of
    programs.
  • Affirming, honoring, and valuing others through authentic
    leadership.
  • Creating an exciting and fun learning environment with
    excellence.
  • Trusting God for the impossible, the unknown, and the
    unseen.
  • Investing in others through open and honest relationships.
  • Coaching leaders to realize and fulfill their shape and
    potential.
  • Empowering leaders and children through active ministry
    opportunities.

Gary Webb, children’s ministry director at Northwoods Community
Church in Peoria, Illinois, says that values are filters that guide
decisions and behaviors. The church’s values influence and inform
the values of the children’s ministry, which follow.

We believe…

  • Each and every child is a gift from God.
  • It’s important to provide a child-centered environment.
  • The Bible is God’s Word and should be taught and applied in a
    manner that is relevant to the child.
  • Authentic biblical community is to be modeled and emulated by
    staff and children.
  • Children’s ministry should be fun, creative, and implemented
    with excellence.
  • Parental partnership is essential to the success of children’s
    ministry.
  • Equipping and empowering adult and student staff is necessary
    to teach children.

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