My November 12 blog post, “Mission Minded Biblical Worldview Integration,” was about mission-minded biblical worldview integration. Strategically speaking, you need to know why you are before you can proceed to the hows and the whats.
Today we consider an additional important tool for your biblical integration toolbox. Called “core values,” this tool identifies who you are. Core values are important because they promote self-conscious awareness of your identity. They can encourage biblical worldview integration. They can guide decision-making. They can be used to promote your school both internally and externally to your wider community.
Identify Your Core Values
Every school is different, so how do you identify your core values? Gather your stakeholders (ideally staff, board, and school community leaders or their representatives) for a time of discernment. Using a “small group to large group” process, use the definitions and prompts in the following paragraph and look for patterns in the stakeholder’s responses.
Core values are guiding, foundational principles your school will not forsake. They make you who you are. Sometimes we refer to them as follows, “If you gave up one or more of them, you would cease to be who you are.” In addition, Verne Harnish, in his classic Mastering the Rockefeller Principles, encourages organizations to think in terms of:
- New hires: besides basic competence, describe an ideal new hire.
- Current embodiment: which current employee(s) most embody who you are?
- Stories: can you recall one or two stories that demonstrate the core of who you are as a school?
Core Value Statement Example
Identifying the reasons behind your responses to the above prompts should lead you to four to six core values. While every school is different, it may be helpful to provide a sample of one school’s core value statement. Using the process described above, this school identified its core values. Note that each core value has an explanation gleaned from the stakeholder’s discussion during the group process.
- Biblical Worldview: We value seeing life through the lens of scriptural truth and living accordingly. We acknowledge the sovereignty of God over every aspect of creation. We address the fallen-ness of humanity and the broken-ness of creation by directly addressing their effects on life as God intended it to be. We do not avoid difficult issues; we teach biblical discernment.
- Educational Excellence: We value high academic standards for our students, cultivating each child’s potential capacity as an image-bearer of God. We value proactive innovation, carefully assessing the need for change and seeking new methods to improve education when appropriate. We provide educational excellence for each student within a safe and loving environment.
- Whole Child: We value each child as a unique workmanship of God himself. We develop the wholeness of each child’s character, academic progress, effort, physical abilities, and artistic expression.
- Outstanding Teachers: We value outstanding, passionate, and faith-filled teachers, who meet the highest professional standards and are flourishing both personally and professionally. Our teachers are committed to the calling of Christian education.
- Responsible Stewardship: We value responsible Kingdom-advancing stewardship over all of creation, including community, people, time, facilities, financial resources, and the environment.
- Intentional Christian Community: We are a covenantal, faith-infused community. Our faith is passionate and the Spirit is alive among us. We lovingly hold each other accountable to the core values stated here. We demonstrate unwavering support to our fellow community members in upholding these same values.
So What Now?
Identifying your core values isn’t worth much unless they are both authentic and alive in your school. Remember, their purpose is to promote self-conscious awareness of who you are and to encourage living into your true identity. Here are some ways to make your core values come alive at your school.
- Publicize them to your community and ask your community to hold you accountable to them. (A great way to do this is to survey your community each year and track your progress.)
- In your school publications, publish stories from school life that illustrate how you are authentically living out your core values. No need to overdo this; a small amount of water, constantly flowing, makes a dramatic difference.
- If your school chooses a school theme for the year, relate your theme to one or more of your core values.
- Use your core values in your hiring process. It is important that you choose employees who are in tune with and support your true identity.
- We measure what is important. Make your core values a part of the set of expectations you have for everyone in your organization.
- Post your core values throughout your building, if possible near everyone’s workstation and in every classroom.
- Make sure that your core values are “front and center” in each of your school’s major decision-making processes.
If you want everyone in your organization and everyone it influences to know who you are (not simply recognizing your school name), proactively living out your core values can make that a reality. When combined with proactively living out your mission (see November’s blog), you can begin the process of building up the loyalty of your current community and attracting new families who buy into who and why you are.
– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist