This post is a continuation of my last post on the importance of core values in the local church. Core values are foundational concepts that shape a church’s personality and “drive its ministry”, according to Aubrey Malphurs.
So far, we’ve been exploring what happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values. In the last post, I described a church that was damaged by perpetual conflict because influential parties in the church refused to take ownership of their own personal values.
Here is another scenario…
Scenario #2: Mission Drift
Pastor Mike has served at Christ’s Fellowship Church for more than a decade. He is well known for his strong pulpit ministry and his shepherd’s heart. Christ’s Fellowship is known in the community as one of the busiest churches in town. They have events and programs going at the church building every day of the week. Sunday’s schedule is full of Bible studies, worship services, and volunteer training. Monday and Tuesday feature specialty studies, outreach programs, and a full slate of committee meetings. Wednesday evening has a long list of age-graded ministries along with ministry teams preparing for upcoming services. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday include affinity groups for outreach, numerous social gatherings, and a large youth sports program. Pastor Mike and his church members work hard to maintain all of these ministry opportunities. They don’t have as many people involved as they once did, but they are faithful to “get the job done.”
In time, Pastor Mike notices that his church members seem tired and worn out from all of the activity. He spends an inordinate amount of his time recruiting new leaders and volunteers. He is proud of all that His church is doing, but secretly wonders how long they can keep it up.
In addition, Pastor Mike has also noticed that Christ’s Fellowship seems to have a hard time keeping newcomers. Guests visit and attend for a few weeks or a month, but they fade away with no explanation. When he follows up with some of the guests who are more open about their experience, they share that they are unsure where to get started or how to plug in since there is so much going on at the church.
This is a more subtle problem with core values, but it is just as damaging. When a church fails to define and defend its core values, it begins to drift from its mission. If you try to chase too many priorities, you will get overwhelmed, and soon or later you will have to let something go. Churches leaders that do not know their church’s core values will be tempted to adopt every new ministry trend that comes along. Church members that do not understand their core values will try to start programs to meet every need. Or, they will have a very hard time letting go of a ministry that has outlived its usefulness.
Churches that drift from their mission will have a hard time retaining newer members. People are excited about joining in with a group of people that are going somewhere. They are less excited about joining up with a group that seems to be going everywhere at the same time.
It is important that church leaders and church members know and act on their core values. They are what brings the church together. Tomorrow’s post will describe a third scenario of what happens when that’s not the case.
Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.