Blessed to be a Blessing

Values-Driven Leadership by Aubry Malphurs

Values are the single most important element of an individual or a Church.  If you do not know what yours or your church’s values are you are probably in bigger trouble than you realize.  A valueless church has no present and subsequently, no future.  Values-Driven Leadership by Aubrey Malphurs could be one of the most important books you read about the direction of your Church or even the reorganization of your ministry.  The core values conversation goes much deeper into who you are than the popular “purpose-driven” literature.  Malphurs’ short (143p.) book is geared toward Church leaders but would be beneficial to anyone looking to help their ministry (professional or lay ministry) understand itself, their future, and direction.  Values-Driven Leadership includes discussion questions and many helpful resources that would make for an excellent book to study with a Church board, ministry team, or staff.

Malphurs first describes what core values are not.  Values are not Vision, they are not strategies, and they are not doctrinal statements.  “Vision answers the question, What are we going to do (30)?  Values answer the question, Why do we want to do it (30)?”  Values lay underneath vision, mission, and strategy as the primary driving force explaining what a Church does and why it does it.  “I (Malphurs) define a church’s core values as its constant, passionate, sacred core beliefs that drive its ministry (31).”  Constant because they never change, passionate because they grab hold of your heat and tell you where you stand, sacred because they are found in things that God values.  Values drive a ministry because they determine what makes one church different from another and provide the shaping priorities that get a ministry where it wants to go.  For a church, values “often serve to unify the church and communicate the church’s central thrust (51).”

Whether you know it or not, you already have default values.  Every person does and every ministry does.  With that being understood, you may not have articulated them or gotten to the point where you have flushed them out.  Some values are good, some are bad.  For example:  If you spend more time at work than you do with your family, then you highly value work.  For in a ministry context: if you spend more time, effort, and money on worship than anything else, than worship is a core value for your church.  (Too much work is bad.  A high value or worship is neither good nor bad but would help you understand what makes your church unique.)  The question you ask here “is not, what values should you hold? But, what values do you hold (61)?”  Malphurs suggests finding out your personal core values before working discovering an organizations values.  How are you going to do it?  Malphurs has a “values audit” in his book (165) that is helpful along with other resources in the appendices that are worth the price of the book alone. Self-understanding is critical to not only church leadership but life itself.  Take some time to describe and write out what your ideal church looks like, that shows you what you value.

Malphurs gives ten reasons for discovering core values (58).

  1. Values discovery and clarification empower a ministry to know its distinctiveness.
  2. Values help people outside the ministry determine if it is a ministry for them.  This answers the question; Do we join or look further?
  3. Values communicate what is important to the organization.  People know where to focus their energies.
  4. Values help people embrace positive change.  They determine what change will be helpful or harmful to the ministry.
  5. Values influence overall behavior.  They drive the decisions made, problems solved, goals set, and so on.
  6. Values inspire people to action.
  7. Values enhance credible leadership.
  8. Values clarify a ministry’s character.  They affect how it conducts its ministry.
  9. Values contribute to success in that they generate deeper personal involvement.
  10. Values determine ministry’s vision.  They are the hidden motivators that guide the selection of the vision.

Shared ministry values are important to discover.  You can find these out by observation or talking with people who have been involved in it for a long time.  Asking, “Why is this church here?” and “Why do you come here?” are helpful questions.  Even ask for a copy of the budget.  “Like people, churches spend money on what they value most (63).”  Malphurs spends the rest of the book working from a very practical standpoint.  In chapters 4-7 he discusses writing your values credo, communicating core values, implementing them into the church or sub-ministry, and how to preserve core values.

The thing that sticks out to me the most is “that when ministries know and are explicit about their core values, they can legitimately expect people to abide by them (59).”  For example: if worship team decides together that they value excellence and hard work to glorify God, people who are always late, lazy, or put out shoddy work know they will not fit here.  Everyone would know they are expected to work their best and they can hold each other accountable when someone breaks a value.

Values-Driven Leadership is an excellent resource for any ministry.  If you are the primary leader of a church you need to read this with some leaders and define who your church is and what it stands for.  If you are in youth ministry, worship ministry, or any other sub-ministry you should read this and work through it with your volunteers so everyone knows what your ministry stands for.  Once you understand your values you can move on to vision, mission, and strategy but discovering and casting the core values for any ministry is the most important thing you will do to set your ministry up for future growth and success.

I have done this myself and you can take a look at my refreshed core values under my Philosophy of ministry page.

Dr. Aubrey Malphurs is a professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary.  He is the author of more than fifteen books as well as the president of the Malphurs Group (, a training and consulting firm.  


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