On one level, your mission, vision, strategy are all a part of your values statement, after all they are all spelling out the things that you value.

However, it's normal to take the time to spell out a list of things that surround your core mission. These are they things that shape the way that you plan to go about your mission, the flavour of your ministry.

Values are the hardest thing to pin down, but they can also be one of the most powerful things once you have them.

WRITING YOUR VALUES STATEMENT

Your values statement will probably not be systematic and complete, but rather evocative. This is the big key to writing a good values statement. You are not going to writing on every topic, but only on those which are especially influential for your particular church.

Remember that your doctrinal statement and mission statement are the anchor that hold your church to the most important things. Let them do that work. And remember that your values statement may shift and change over time, to reflect changes in your church or community.

Sometimes a bit of structure can help you tease out your values. What is important to you when it comes to God, to the church? to the world? What are your spiritual values? your community values? your ministry values? your organisational values?

Finally, it can be very helpful to see the difference between actual and aspirational values. Actual values describe what you already are. One way to discover your actual values is to ask – What makes us different from other churches? How would outsiders describe the flavour of our ministry?

Aspirational values are those things which you do not currently embody, but those things to which you are striving. These are often clearer in our minds, for they are our ideals.

USING YOUR VALUES STATEMENT

Unless your values are especially catchy, I don't expect that your average church member will be able to rattle them off in a list, although they should be able to recognise them and expand on them once they are read out. The values statement is especially valuable to new members to to the leadership team.

1. For new members, or even potential new leaders, values help spell out the kind of ministry you are trying to be. Certain types of people find a values statement very helpful to figure out what the church is on about and where it is going.

Mission statements can sound very same-ish. But some good values help you figure out what is unique about the church. And of course the more people who join your church, or leadership team, with a good understanding of who you are and where you're going, the easier it will be to get on with things.

2. For the leadership team, the values can serve to shape a whole range of things – the visual design, preaching style, ministry program structure. Like any strategic document, the important thing to remember is that it is only going to help you if it is a living document. You need to find a way to have your values statement out in front of you when you are praying, planning and problem solving.

For example, you may hear of a great political cause or evangelistic program that other churches are involved in. If, however, this cause or program doesn't fit with your church's values, it may be better to leave it to others.

As in writing, so with using values statements, it is important to differentiate actual and aspirational values. Talking about aspirational values as if they are actual can be misleading or even self-deluding. We must instead figure out how we are going to begin to work towards our aspirational values with clear, concrete goals.

Values statements can be slippery, frustrating and vague. But having a clear idea about the unique shape of your ministry will help you present the church publicly and stay on course in planning ahead.