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Developing Ministry Core Values

Erica Fast

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

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.

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
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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.

Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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