Have you ever hit a wall of resistance with a new idea for a ministry? Whether you're a new pastor to your congregation, have served for a few years, or you've been an active member for a long time, resistance to new approaches are often met with, "We've never done it that way before!”
What's going on when you encounter resistance to a new idea, is that you bumped up against a church value. Values make your church’s DNA or culture what it is. Our DNA is what carries the instructions to your body on how to develop, grow, and function. In the same way, the culture of a congregation carries instructions on how people are to function together.
Like the majority of the iceberg’s mass (see picture above) is underwater, regardless of the things that we see that a church does, or the sound of what people say, we never grasp the entire picture. What we see and hear is the metaphorical “tip of the iceberg,” and the values, which are often submerged, define a congregation’s cultural energy. And every church has a unique culture or DNA. Culture, like an iceberg, stays afloat by the shared values beneath the surface that ultimately drive the behavior of the church.
Because the values form a large portion of the church’s culture, when a pastor speaks of “changing the culture," he or she is talking about rediscovering the values beneath the surface. Put another way; the culture will not change unless the right behaviors align with the values of the church.
Many times, what the church says that it values publicly, doesn't reflect the behavior or how it allocates its resources. Here are a couple of observations on how to rediscover a church’s values:
1. Follow the church’s collective behavior
A church can have value statements hanging on a wall or plastered on a website, but you can usually tell what is valued by how the church makes decisions. In ministry, people’s behavior reveals what is valued. If community is valued, then leaders are engaged in groups inside the church and reaching out to impact the community outside the church. If local missions are valued, then stories of how people are serving that make an impact are commonly shared.
2. Follow where the church puts its resources
A church’s budget is another excellent indication of what the leadership and congregation value. For example, if your church values kids and student ministry, the budget will show it. If you value leadership development and discipleship, then your budget will prove it.
Our churches need to learn how to rediscover its values. To help pastors and leaders with the rediscovery process, the Atlanta Decatur Oxford (ADOX) District is hosting a Training Event on Values. The training will be held on Sunday, September 16, at Salem UMC, from 3-5 pm.
Each church is encouraged to bring its key leaders along with their pastor(s). During this time, we will have table discussions and questions to help churches identify its values. Each church reports its values during the Zone Charge Conferences.
I look forward to seeing you there.
On the Journey,