I have a DEEP belief that vision and values trump nearly everything when it comes to organizational health and success.
But I have a corresponding belief that trying to clarify the language of those things too early is a mistake for most people.
No business plan survives first contact with customers, says Steve Blank. He means that the planning, spreadsheets, and strategies sound great on paper, but once you get started, things change. You may learn more about the market, but it’s more likely you will learn more about yourself.
In the same way, I don’t think core values and mission statements survive the first couple of years in an church or organization. It’s nice to put them in the brochure, but when you’re just starting out, you don’t really know who you are.
You likely have an important mission that makes sense in your head and to your core followers, but you will struggle with the exact wording. You likely have some values, but those are a combination of personal preferences, convictions and personality, not organizational values. It’s semi-focused and partly fuzzy.
But that’s okay.
You’ll go to the training seminars that force you to think through this stuff and those are good exercises. But I don’t think you have to get it exactly right and lock it down for ten years. Be patient. Give it some time.
When we first started Oak Leaf Church, I spent a good bit of time writing seven core values. Relevance and Excellence were among them.
About two years in, I realized that relevance didn’t mean anything and excellence just wasn’t true. Relevant for who? And excellence compared to what? Excellence wasn’t a true core value…it was a buzz word lifted from church planting vocabulary. It took two years for us to figure out who we were and what we were about.
Only then did the mission statement come alive. Only then did the core values really reflect who we were.
Mission statements are core values are the most important things you can have in an organization. But you may not know who you are until you’ve lived a little.