4 things churches don’t need, and what they really need instead (Part 2)
In episode one of this series, we outlined how it’s possible to have clarity and alignment around your mission statement and still be doing the wrong things to get the results you want.
After years of serving churches, we came to realize that just clarifying mission, vision, and value statements and running an improved version of the same old playbook for reach and spiritual formation strategies did not necessarily help churches get unstuck.
WHY YOU DON’T NEED CORE VALUES (AND WHAT YOU NEED INSTEAD)
Most values statements just seem to add another level of “organizational statement clutter” without actually accomplishing the original purpose for having core values. In other words, it’s possible to have clear core values that leaders have memorized… and still be stuck.
In this episode, we’ll talk about our experience with core values statements—and what we’ve learned is a much more critical foundation for creating healthy, thriving churches. Listen as Amy and I discuss:
- The common problem with core values
- Why behaviors matter more than values
- The three steps to shaping culture
- How to identify culture-shaping behaviors
Finding Momentum: Unlock the Keys to Healthy Growth
In this season, many pastors feel like they’re just surviving Sunday to Sunday with no real plan for the future. Join us for a free one-hour webinar where Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson will teach you the three keys to kickstarting momentum and healthy growth in 2023.
This Episode is Sponsored by Planning Center:
Planning Center is all-in-one church management software where you can organize your ministries and give your congregants a place to connect and get involved. With a unified platform of products, you can keep people from falling through the cracks by creating workflows to follow up with first-time guests, accept online donations, and empower your staff and volunteers to run individual ministries smoothly.
Learn what else you can do at planningcenter.com and get a 30-day free trial to start exploring for yourself!
Other Episodes in this Series
- You Don’t Need a Mission Statement – Episode 265
- You Don’t Need a Vision Statement – Episode 267
- You Don’t Need More Christian Education – Episode 268
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Many churches have spent significant time defining core values, writing them on the wall and having staff memorize them. But often those churches find themselves feeling as stuck as ever. What if instead of defining values, there’s something more effective at helping create health and accomplish your mission? On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy share week two of our series on why what we sometimes think we need isn’t really the need at all. Before we go there, though, if you’re new to the podcast, head over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’re gonna get resources to go along with each week’s episode, including the Leader Conversation Guide and bonus resources, as well as access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before we get into today’s conversation, here’s a word from Tony.
This episode is sponsored by Planning Center, an all-in-one church management software where you can organize your ministries and give your congregants a place to connect and get involved. With a unified platform of products, you can keep people from falling through the cracks by creating workflows to follow up with first-time guests, accept online donations and empower your staff and volunteers to run individual ministries smoothly. Learn what else you can do at planningcenter.com and get a 30-day free trial to start exploring for yourself.
Well, welcome back to our listeners. Tony, last week we launched a new series, and I’m not sure if the podcast team has decided what to call this series yet, but based on what we’re talking about last week, I’m suspecting they may call this series “What 2022 Tony Would Tell 2009 Tony About Getting Unstuck.” What do you think?
I kind of like that idea. I like just being very specific about what we’re talking about and true to what we’re talking about. And I think that title gets it, Amy. So just to recap our conversation from last week, and this is what Amy’s referring to, I launched The Unstuck Group back in 2009, and again, I just like to call things what they are. And what kept on coming up in the conversations that I was having with pastors is all this description that ultimately led to pastors saying, “…and we’re stuck.” And so I decided, well, I’m gonna call this ministry that we’re offering to pastors and churches, The Unstuck Group. However, I also learned some things that I thought would help churches way back in the beginning of The Unstuck Group didn’t necessarily help us get churches unstuck. I learned that just clarifying mission statements, vision statements, value statements and then running an improved version of the same old playbook for reach and spiritual formation did not necessarily help churches get unstuck. Churches may have been more aligned, they may have been more unified, but they weren’t necessarily getting better results. They weren’t getting unstuck. So this is the key thought that I shared last week. It’s possible to have clarity and alignment and still be doing the wrong things to get the results that you want. And last week we talked specifically about mission statements, and we talked about it being possible to have a great mission statement and even etching that mission statement in stone to ensure that everyone in the congregation knows it, and for the church to still be stuck. In fact, most of the stuck churches that reached out to us already had mission statements, so you can be a healthy church without a great mission statement, but you can’t be a healthy church without knowing your mission field. And more specifically, who is it that you’re trying to reach within your mission field? And that’s what we talked about last week. So if you didn’t hear that conversation, you’ll wanna go back and listen to that. But this week we’re going to talk about core value statements, and what I’ve learned is really a much more critical foundation, rather than having core value statements, we need some other aspects of who we are as a church to be clarified in order to become a healthy, thriving church.
Yeah. Tony, as you mentioned, we’re gonna talk about core value statements this week, but Tony, can you help us understand why you think churches don’t need these statements, you know, to list their core values?
Yeah. And don’t need maybe an overstatement, Amy, but the question that we wanna get to is, are these statements really producing results? And what I’ve found many times is even though churches have gone through a process of clarifying their core values and putting them in statement form, they’re not necessarily becoming healthy, thriving churches on the other side of that, and what we’ve seen is organizations can establish core values for a number of reasons. And some of these are very valid. So for example, organizations establish core values to clarify who they are. They want to, as ministries, churches specifically, they want to describe what’s distinctive about our ministry, about our church. Sometimes organizations establish core values to shape their culture, and that’s a very valid concern, and we’re gonna talk about culture a lot in today’s conversation, but it’s interesting. The core values statements themselves don’t necessarily shape culture. Another reason why organizations establish core values is to try to create alignment on the team. And again, that’s very valid, but value statements don’t necessarily create that alignment. And then lastly, we see core values being established to help with decision making, especially around competing priorities. And that is a piece of what it is to make better decisions, but it’s not necessarily going to bring that alignment around decision making that we’re looking for. And, I’ll just be honest, originally helping churches with core value statements, it was a part of our original Unstuck Process, and again, we would spend hours engaging this conversation. We would work with church leadership teams to identify their unique core values. What was crazy about that is many times churches would create lists of core values that really just mimicked statements from other churches that they admired. But we would go through an extensive process through this. We would help teens wordsmith those statements. And then churches would commonly post all of their core values on their website. They would hang them on the wall someplace in the church and then they would expect their leaders to memorize all of those core value statements. And it was a very lengthy process. And I’m not sure if we got much result from that, Amy.
Yeah. What was your typical experience, Tony, at the end of that process?
Yeah, so, what I found is it was hard to try to push them to identify values that would be really distinctive to their mission and the culture that they were hoping to create. The list of values tended to be very similar from church to church. And so let me just give you some examples. We found many churches that would try to articulate some core value around authenticity. And, you know, I can appreciate, I hope every church really would embrace authenticity. I think I can’t imagine a church that would be pursuing being inauthentic in these days. So it should be, I mean, churches should be pursuing authenticity. Another example would be something around teamwork. And again, I think every church should be embracing teamwork. And then it wouldn’t be uncommon for there to be some description of this core value around integrity. And if any organization should be leading with integrity, it should be the church.
But I would put all these examples under the category, well, Pat Lencioni, who was on our podcast just a couple of weeks ago, in one of his books, he described these as “permission to play” values. It’s just kind of like, if we’re going to be a church, we have to embrace these values, and so to articulate them as “our” distinctive core values, we’re kind of making the false assumption, of course, that, well, there are inauthentic churches. There are churches that don’t embrace teamwork. There are churches that don’t have integrity, and that’s definitely not the case. I mean, if you’re going to be a church, you have to embrace these certain foundational values. And then similarly, we would also see churches use their core value statements to kind of reinforce core doctrine. So a value for prayer or a value for biblical teaching. And then we would still see other churches that would try to restate their spiritual formation strategy in their core values. And so they would talk about a value for worship or serving others, or connecting with others, or reaching others. But in all of these examples, the value statements just seem to add another level of, I would just call it, organizational statement clutter.
Oh, that’s so good.
Without actually accomplishing the original purpose for having the core values. So like last week when we talked about mission statements, I learned it’s possible to have clear core values that leaders actually have memorized. We have all of our staff and all of our leaders memorizing these core value statements, and for the church to still be stuck. In fact, most of the stuck churches that reached out to us a number of years ago, they already had core values statements in place. And so it wasn’t a question of alignment around these core values that was causing the church to have stuckness. There must have been some other challenges that churches were experiencing, and that’s where I’d like to take the conversation today, Amy.
All right. Well, if having a list of core values doesn’t necessarily help a church get unstuck, what have you learned that’s more helpful?
Yeah. So let me share the principle, and then we’ll unpack how to engage this with your team. And after that, I’ll share an example from a church we’ve served recently that I think is really winning when it comes to their culture. But here’s the principle. “Having a strong team culture is much more important than having clear core values statements for either your church or for your team.” Or to put it another way, your culture, whether it’s healthy or toxic or any place in between, will do more to impact the fulfillment of your mission than whether or not you have clearly articulated core values. In other words, it’s less about what you say and more about how you behave. So, a number of years ago I was on vacation and had the opportunity to visit a church with my family. We walked into this church, and there were a number of people there. It was a holiday service. And I think we walked in with just this certain expectation, first-time visiting the church, especially around a holiday, that we would be welcome, that people would come up to us, they would want to meet us. We looked like we were visitors. So I just assumed that, you know, people would be reaching out to us. And ironically, as we’re walking into the church, we’re seeing this statement of core values on the wall of the church, one of which was, one of our core values as a church was stated like this, “We’re providing a welcoming and engaging worship for all people.” I like that. I mean, that’s a good thing. We want to be welcoming. We want our worship to be engaging, and we want that to be for all people. But we walked into this church, and we were there several minutes before the service started. We went into the auditorium. Amy, we sat in the second row right in the center. I mean, we were, the pastor and everything that was happening in the church service, was happening right in front of us. We stayed for the entire service. We hung out as a family in the sanctuary for a few minutes after the service. Then we walked through the church and out to the parking lot and drove away. And, Amy, not a single person in that church said hello. They didn’t welcome us. They didn’t offer to help us. There was nothing. Nothing happened that said, “We are glad to see you. Thank you for coming. How can we answer any questions?” None of that happened, even though the core value statement at the church was, “We want to provide a welcoming and engaging worship for all people.” So in other words, their behaviors said more about the church than their core values did that they had on the walls of their church and on their website.
That is a terrible example. I mean, it’s a good example, but it’s terrible. Well, so it obviously begs the question then, you know, how do you shape culture?
I’m guessing not many of you are gonna like this answer, but the challenge, of course, is there are no shortcuts to shaping culture. There’s no done for you solutions in this area. In other words, you just can’t copy and paste what another successful church has already done. But let me start to unpack with you what I think the process of creating a healthy culture looks like. And then, frankly, you just have some hard work to do here. But it’s good work, and it needs to be done in order for your church not only to experience health, but for you to fulfill the mission that God’s called you to. But here’s the first thing. It starts with the lead pastor, the senior pastor, of the church. Your culture in your church and within your team will reflect how you as the pastor behave and more specifically how you treat other people. And so, here are some examples that I think will help create some healthy culture if you as a senior pastor begin to lead in this way. First, lead with good questions. If you want to create a culture of curiosity, you as a pastor have to begin to lead with good questions as you engage conversations and as you engage the decision making process. If you wanna create a culture of continuous improvement, you need to model being intentional about improving your leadership and your preaching, as an example. So if you’re expecting the team around you to be continuously improving, making better the things that they’re doing, you need to model that in the areas where you have some control, beginning with your leadership and your preaching. If you want to create a culture of collaboration, as an example, you need to invite others into solving challenges and overcoming obstacles. You just can’t come with all the answers to those challenges and obstacles. You need to invite others into that process as well. On the other hand, if, as an example, you’re unable to control your anger and you’re verbally abusive, or at the very least insensitive to other people, that’s going to create a culture of fear. It doesn’t matter what core values you have on your website or on the walls of your offices or in your church. If you model that type of behavior, that’s the culture you’re going to create. Or let me give you another example. If you fail to follow through on decisions that you’ve made. If you fail to follow through on the words that you’ve communicated, you’re going to build a culture of distrust. And so we’re just sharing some examples of how pastors have shaped their culture, not by the value statements, but rather by modeling certain behaviors. Let me give you another example. If you expect honor, but it only flows one direction, and that’s from the bottom up to you as the senior pastor, that’s going to create a culture of control. And that is gonna be, that unhealthiness, is being shaped by the behaviors that you’re expecting of the team around you. And that’s going to create a culture for your church. So again, the first thing here, as the senior pastor, you need to start behaving like the culture that you want to create among your team. And it really begins with how you treat other people.
I think one of the challenges when you talk on that downside of one, a culture of fear, distrust, control, that lead pastor often has some blind spots that nobody’s willing to really speak into, right? My husband just preached last weekend and he threw out that question. It wasn’t original to him, but being courageous leaders to ask, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me,” is probably a good question for people at the top of the org chart to ask every once in a while. Because we all have blind spots. But when we’re lower in the organization, it doesn’t have such a big effect in culture as the lead person or even the Senior Leadership Team.
Yeah. Well, and that brings me to the second step then. Your culture will reflect how your Senior Leadership Team behaves, and more specifically, how that team treats other people. And so this is going beyond now the senior pastor, and it kind of doesn’t matter what their roles are, but if you look at the top five people on your team, whether those are staff leaders or volunteer leaders, those top five people in your ministry will begin to shape, then, the culture of not only the rest of the team, but the church as a whole. And so senior pastors, this is a challenge for you and your leadership too, because you are going to be responsible for how that immediate team of leaders around you behaves. And you are ultimately responsible for how that team treats other people. And that’s going to shape how people perceive you and your leadership. So this is a critical responsibility that you have. If that team of leaders around you is behaving in a way that is just treating people poorly or in an unhealthy fashion, that’s going to be a reflection of your leadership. So not only is this going to impact your culture, but it’s also going to impact how people perceive your leadership. And so this is one of the—we talk about the four roles, Amy, that senior pastors can’t delegate. One of them for the senior pastor is shaping culture. This is one of the ways that we shape culture as senior leaders is we have to make sure that the leaders around us are behaving in a way, treating people in a way, that is going to be a reflection of the culture that we’re trying to create. And in a way, what we’re trying to do here is to create some peer to peer accountability for getting the job done and some peer to peer accountability for the culture that we want to shape within our team and then ultimately through the rest of the church. And, Amy, this is so critical that we include it in the exercises we use to help pastors determine who should be on their lead teams. I mean, we wanna make sure that they’re getting high capacity leaders on that Senior Leadership Team, but we also wanna make sure that the people that are going to be in these leadership roles are a reflection of the culture we want to create. So, Amy, will you explain how we coach senior pastors through this?
Sure. As a part of our staffing and structure engagement, we take time with the lead pastor to actually look at the team leaders in two critical areas. One is overall leadership performance and then their leadership capacity. And well, let’s start with performance. These three Cs are not new to most leaders, but we have a conversation around each leader’s character, their chemistry and their competence. You know, how are they doing in these areas? And, you know, we’re often coached to play to our strengths and not focus on our weakness. Have you heard that Tony? Heard that advice before?
These three areas, no leader can be weak. I mean, none of us are perfect, but all of us as leaders, we have to continue to increase our abilities in those three areas. So when we start with character, you know, I explain this includes not only the morals and ethics, but also the leader’s personality traits, their attitudes, their behaviors, some of those things you were just talking through. Do they demonstrate healthy conflict skills? Are they trustworthy? Do they do what they say they’ll do? Or do we see some things like passive aggressiveness? I mean all of these are, in my definitions, character examples. And then we assess chemistry, and this is that intangible quality of being able to fit within the existing team. So do they deal with others in the most effective way? Do they have 360 degree influence? Or do they have blind spots that get in the way of their ability to influence others? And then competence, you know, do they get things done? Are they thinking about what’s next? Are they hungry? Or is this leader someone that needs to be checked in on? Do they get stuck in ruts? So having that diagnostic conversation helps lead pastors hone in on where their leaders need to be developed and coached. And, you know, low scores in any of those areas really removes them from a spot on that Senior Leadership Team, because, again, that’s gonna replicate throughout the church’s culture. And then the second conversation we have is around leadership capacity. And this is referenced in your book, Tony, “The Unstuck Church.” And it’s based on Exodus 18, where Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, gave him a system for leadership structure to accomplish their purposes. In essence, we assess, Are the leaders leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, or thousands? And those two conversations help lead pastors assess their leaders’ behaviors, and it helps them to determine whether or not they are shaping the culture that the lead pastor desires. And if a church, by the way, actually has the behaviors identified that they wanna live out those distinctive behaviors, we’ll also include, you know, that in the conversation as well. Well, Tony, the first thing you pointed out when shaping culture is that it starts with the lead pastor. And then the second was how people on the Senior Leadership Team behave. Are there more?
Yeah. The third step then is just to remember that your culture will reflect how your staff and your lay leadership team behave, and more specifically, how those teams treat other people. Do you see a theme here, Amy?
I do. I love it.
Yes. Yeah, so it begins with the senior pastor. Then it goes to the Senior Leadership Team, but then shaping culture, it needs to be reflected in the entire staff and lay leadership team as well. And so it begins with looking at, are we leading out of competence, character and chemistry in a way that is shaping the culture? And that begins, of course, with our recruiting and hiring. And here I think this goes beyond paid staff roles, but it also should be a factor in the volunteer leadership roles that we’re filling as well. Are we filling those roles with people that are modeling the competence, the character, the chemistry that we’re trying to create on our team? That will begin to shape the culture. It also needs to be reflected in the intentionality of the on-boarding process that we’re having. So we’re not just coaching to the wins, the performance, that we’re expecting, but also the culture that we’re trying to create on the team. And this is where coaching and development comes into play. I think many times when we start into coaching and development conversations with people, it’s about getting things done. But we also need to be very intentional about the culture that we’re trying to create on our teams. And I will just say, it’s not enough to hold people accountable to getting the job done if they’re, in some form or fashion, behaving in a way or treating people in a way that’s not creating the culture that we’re trying to create. And with that, then, I do think there needs to be some intentionality about reviews periodically to make sure that we’re hitting both our performance plans and the culture development plans that we want for our team.
Tony, just to jump in for a second. I think this is great cascading information about how lead pastors affect culture. You know, I think a lot of lead pastors know they’re responsible for it, but even for me, as you’re talking through this, it’s becoming more and more clear what they start at the very top, how that impacts culture. And just to jump in on that coaching development, performance plans, development plans, I mean, a lot of lead pastors glaze over on those things because it’s so hard to understand how to do that well. But in this cascading of behaviors, when we do a diagnostic on character, chemistry, culture. Man, they’ve got so much information now that they’ve had those conversations about team members, how to actually develop them. And most of the development, Tony, when I’m on site with the church, the performance ones, they already knew about, you know, the competence piece, but they just discover gold when we start talking about blind spots in the chemistry area or the character area because as managers of people, just organizational managers, we need to provide feedback to people so that those blind spots get smaller. So, just really good stuff.
That’s right. Well, and as we talk about kind of this cascading leadership, if you will, if you are intentional about how you behave and treat other people in these three levels of leadership, then that will certainly begin to shape the culture of your team and then eventually that is going to shape the culture of your church Now, to help you get more intentional about shaping this culture, I do think it’s helpful to clarify this framework in writing. And, you know, just making sure that we are clear in writing about the culture we’re trying to create. That’s gonna be helpful for you. But rather than developing a list of core values, I think it’s actually wiser to list out the specific culture shaping behaviors that you’ve already started to model. So this is not stuff that we’re aspiring to be, this is stuff that we’re already modeling as leadership, but to actually document these culture shaping behaviors in writing so that the team is aware of it, so that your congregation can be aware of it, and to make sure this really does get reflected then in the behaviors, in the way we treat people as a team. And I recommend that you narrow down that list of culture shaping behaviors to no more than five specific behaviors. Make them action oriented, and make sure that they describe what it looks like when teammates live out these behaviors as they engage with other people on your team. So let me give you some examples. I saw one church that we worked with. One of their culture shaping behaviors was we wanna stay hungry. And then to support that behavior and to make sure everybody understood what that meant, they included this clarifying statement, “We are never satisfied with the status quo. For us good enough is not good enough.” They’re trying to make it better. They’re trying to stay hungry. Another church that I worked with, one of their culture shaping behaviors was, “We laugh together.” And their clarifying statement around that was, “We choose to be joyful and have fun in our journey together as a team.” So, these are all examples of, we’re gonna clarify what’s that culture shaping behavior. We’re gonna add a clarifying statement to it so that everybody knows what we’re gonna talk about. And then this will become the framework for us as a team to model these behaviors, to coach toward these behaviors and then to create accountability, peer to peer accountability, on the team around these behaviors as well.
Yeah. One things I tell the pastors when I facilitate this is, can you actually evaluate if someone is doing this behavior, as a way to know have we really named a behavior? Well this is part of the episode where we get to brag on one of the churches we’ve worked with at The Unstuck Group. So Tony, when it comes to culture, who do you wanna brag on this week?
Yeah. We’ve worked with so many great churches in recent months with strong cultures, but the one that has stood out to me, head and shoulders above the rest, is The Journey Church. They’re located in Delaware, actually very close, though, to the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Their senior pastor, lead pastor, is Mark Johnston. And I know that he is leading out in the behaviors that shape the culture of his team because the leaders around him get it. They’re fully aligned in the culture they’re trying to create. And then the rest of the staff, I mean, every staff person that I interacted with as I was working with this team, they all reflect the culture that Mark is trying to create at The Journey. So I reached out to Mark and just asked him to share some thoughts about the culture that they’re trying to create. And let me read what he shared with me. He said, “We shape a strong, healthy culture by living it out, calling it out and hashing it out. So we are our culture rather than trying to have a culture. We highlight it when we see that in action, and we engage in constructive ideological conflict when we see that it’s missing. We lead all of that with the “why.” Most churches don’t start with unhealthy cultures. They start with unqualified cultures, and unqualified cultures become unhealthy cultures.” And then he added, “Culture is how we are here. It isn’t until teams are clear about how we are here that they can effectively pursue what we do here. That’s how culture helps us accomplish our mission.” So consistency is the key to a great experience. When people sense consistency in the culture, they want to come back, they want to invite their friends, and they want to take their next steps towards Jesus. And so, Amy, again, there’s just no doubt about it. They had a healthy, strong culture. It was modeled from the top down. And now when you hear Mark share some of, kind of, the basis for the culture that they’ve created, it makes complete sense why they’re winning not only in this area of culture, but how that culture, that strong, healthy culture is helping them win with the mission God’s called them to as a church.
And I’ve mentioned this on the podcast before, but you gave a terrible example before about going into the church, hanging out at the church, leaving the church, and no one said anything. I actually did the secret shopper for this church (The Journey), and I felt it. The health, the joy, I bet I could come up with, you know, how he names those culture shaping behaviors because it was just a place I wanted to come back to. So, well done to The Journey in Newark, Delaware. Fun to brag on you and thanks for letting us share your story a little bit. Hey, Tony, this is a great conversation. I’m even gonna go back and listen to it because I think you’ve articulated so well how lead pastors impact culture. But any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Well, in this series, we’re revisiting some core topics related to ministry strategy. We’re talking about mission statements, core values, vision statements, and we’re bringing it back to the basics because a lot of pastors in this season feel like they’re rowing aimlessly or maybe just drifting, the ministry equivalent of kinda living paycheck to paycheck, with no plan for a change. And if that sounds like you, then I wanna invite you to join us on October 20th for “Finding Momentum: Unlock the Keys to Healthy Church Growth Again.” And in this one hour webinar event, Amy and I will walk through the three key steps for kickstarting momentum and healthy growth again in 2023. And you can register now at the link in the show notes.
Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Like Tony said, if you’d like to explore some practical ideas of how your church can get back to health and growth again in the new year, join us on October 20th at 1:00 PM Eastern for our free webinar on “Finding Momentum.” Again, you can register by using the link in your show notes. And if you don’t yet have the show notes, just go over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. Next week on the podcast, we’re back with another brand new episode. So until then, we hope you have a great week.