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Erica Fast

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.

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

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 a youth pastor at Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, 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.

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.

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.

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