Considering the Core Values of a New Church

New churches do well to consider these four different types of values: biblical, missional, personal and cultural.

The core values of a new church help form the foundation of who and what the church is about. They help clarify the new church’s practices and interactions, and help explain why the church does what it does. When trying to distill values in general into a few core values, churches may find it helpful to consider four kinds of values: biblical, missional, personal and cultural.

Biblical values are often specific to calling. God may speak strongly to one church planting team about a clear biblical mandate to serve the poor, and speak to another about radical justice keeping or generosity. He may speak to one church planting leadership about a mission to all the peoples of the earth, and another about a mission to earth stewardship, or a simple call to consider others more highly than self.

Missional values are strategic to the mission of the church and help the church establish best practices. They include values such as reproducibility, indigeneity, readiness or flexibility. One church helps every member maintain passports so that they can travel overseas on mission at any time God speaks.

Personal values help church planters make decisions about how they will work. A church planter with the value of a balanced personal life or a strong family life, for example, may also carry a value of shared leadership in order to accomplish the work of the church while maintaining a stable home life.

Cultural values help church planters listen to their communities. A cause-oriented community requires a church to listen to what is in the community’s heart. A community that is indigenously multiethnic may not be comfortable in a church that serves a single ethnicity.

Sometimes, corresponding values show up in more than one category, and, when they do, it is wise to pay special attention. For example, over fifteen years ago, a group of friends decided to plant a church. They represented several ethnicities plus mixed racial families. They had a strong personal value for a multiethnic church, even though, in those days, that was considered an impossibility.

The group was attracted to the beauty of the biblical reality that, someday, every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord. That became their primary biblical value. The neighborhood in which they wanted to plant was racially and ethnically diverse, and the community liked it that way, so there was a corresponding cultural value. In addition, the friends shared a missionary calling to the peoples of the earth.

Multiethnic, multicultural ministry became embedded in every fiber of that new church. It was reflected in staffing, in what was served at the refreshment table, in children’s books and toys, and in many other ways. It became a real core value, and not simply an acrostic that looked good on a website or was easy for new members to memorize. What do you and your leadership team really value, and how does that translate into the core values of your new church?

Linda Bergquist
Linda Bergquist is a catalytic church planter / mentor/coach/ teacher. Her planting contexts are as diverse as urban tech gulches to churches started among new refugee groups to a state prison. She is the co-author of Church Turned Inside Out: A Guide for Designers, Refiners and Re-Aligners, plus a new book due to be released later in 2013: The Wholehearted Church Planter: Leadership From the Inside Out. Bergquist lives with her husband, Eric, in San Francisco, California.