Shepherd’s Care: Congregational Values

As those engaged for the spiritual leadership of communities, we can never limit our understanding of values to those that we hold personally.  We must realize that we move into communities that have corporate values.

Sometimes we learn this the hard way when our values collide with those of the congregation.  So, it’s far better (early on in our time in a new community) to spend time finding out what the group holds dear.

As we do this, we have to remember that at both the personal and communal levels, values may be positive or negative—that is, some values may indeed be affirmed and strengthened, while others must be challenged and changed.

This may be the intersection between “pastoral” and “prophetic” ministries, which eventually converge in us!  Through positive values we can indeed pastor people to an increase of faith and witness.  But when negative values are in place and providing obstacles to ministry and mission, we have no choice but to challenge them.

In all cases, as we deal with values, we do so in the larger context of the fruit of the spirit.  We are never permitted to violate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as we seek to shepherd our people toward enrichment and away from enemies.  In the final analysis, I believe the only way to do this is to be as relational as we can be.

The old phrase says it well, “People care how much you know when they know how much you care.”  Whether it be enriching positive values or challenging negatives ones, people will follow us most and best when they trust us—and trust is based on a deeper value: love.

If people know we love them, they will respond to our encouragement and give pause to our warnings.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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