leading from values vs. goals

not long ago, i started a discussion thread on the youth ministry 3.0 facebook group about how leading from values is “better” (not sure that’s the right word) than leading from goals. the response was discussion was fantastic, at least for me. so i thought i would bring a bit of it over here for the rest of you. feel free to comment here, or go over to the facebook group and add to it there.

here’s what i wrote to start the discussion (and i’m adding some illustrations here that i couldn’t figure out how to post in the facebook group!):

i was chatting with chris cummings, a young youth worker who’s been active in this group, at the nashville nywc, about ym3.0. i can’t remember what his actual question was (chris, do you remember?) that got me thinking about the difference between leading change from a set of values rather than leading change from a “strategic planning” path, with goal setting and “plans”.

i’ve been meaning to post on my blog about this for a while, and will eventually get around to it are more length than i will here. but i think it could be a good discussion for us.

when ys needed to go through some significant re-engineering a few years back, i took a group of “can do” ys staff on a retreat to palm springs. my “goal” was to ideate — to come up with a list of “actionable” new ideas (this flowed out of my reading of seth godin’s book, purple cow, which i’d had them all read in prep for the retreat). while on the retreat, the conversation turned to values (not by my doing). and making the courageous choice to speak honestly, the staff starting talking about ys’ values, stated and unstated.

we rolled with it, and created a big list of all the organizational values we could think of. some of them were “positive” — but more of them were “negative” (like, “we value control” and “we value compliance”). we spent another two days creating two new lists:
- those existing values that we wanted to particularly re-affirm
- “new values” that we wanted to embody (most of which were positively stated variations on negative values from the list).

then, we used these lists to make decisions, and have for years (though the lists have continued to evolve).

i think the notion of ‘strategic planning’ and ‘goal setting’ are 2.0 practices. they call for these leadership roles and metaphors:
- statistician
- financier
- manager
- police

but leading from values (and decision-making from values, and considering change from values) calls for a different set of leadership roles and metaphors:
- horticulturalist
- environmentalist
- curator
- anthropologist


what do you think?

how do we re-conceive our roles as youth workers in this way?

and (as i’m sure some will ask), how do we live into these roles and metaphors if our church context is enmeshed in and mesmerized by the first set?

joel mayward wrote:

The metaphor of a factory and a garden has been in the back of my mind for awhile. YM 2.0 feels more like a factory, an assembly line faith focused on doing more to reach the next step and accomplish the next goal. YM 3.0 may be more like tending a garden, creating a healthy environment for growth to occur, where maturity happens a bit more spontaneously. Factories look and feel homogenous; gardens are unique to their environment. I hope that makes sense.

mark maines pushed back a bit with:

Strategy and goal setting are not in conflict with value-based leadership. Both are essential and both must be defined in order for the organization to be effective. Its not that one is good and the other is bad. They address entirely different issues. One answers the question, what is important and how will we behave? The other, “how will we get to where we want to go and do what we believe God wants us to do? Effective leaders answer both questions for their organization.

chris cummings wrote a little poem!

Based on goals, there is success and failure
Based on values, there are stories to share

Based on goals, there is a final end point
Based on values, there is an exciting journey

Based on goals, change must take place
Based on values, change might take place (but usually happens naturally and without being purposed to do so)

Based on goals, there is an individual achievement focus
Based on values, there is a communal heart

Based on goals, accomplishing the mission is of utmost importance
Based on values, loving as we are loved is the only focus

then a few of us slugged it out over whether values change or not, whether goals are good or evil (or just distraction), and a variety of other subjects. really great discussion here that is worth plowing through.

15 thoughts on “leading from values vs. goals”

  1. to use politics (because we’re all so familiar with it right now) as a metaphor – mccain led with goals, obama lead with values. one had to keep chopping and changing because of polls and opinions. one set the course and followed true.

  2. hmm…Heidi, doesn’t the fact that Obama campaigned on “CHANGE”, mean that he (and those who follow him) hope, desire, and even Demand that things be different than they are?

    Goals aren’t bad (although, there are bad goals), goals are simply informed by our values.

  3. ps – not trying to start/continue a political discussion (I think we are a bit tired of that now), but was just using the metaphor already in play.

  4. this article put into words something that i’ve been feeling for a while. it seems hard to – as a person who works in a church – lead from goals. i mean, sure they help set direction, but they leave people feeling like you’re not happy with them. when you tell a congregation that you’re goal is growth, then you’re telling them that you’re unsatisfied with them. when you tell a congregation that you value outreach, it doesn’t have anything to do with being dissatisfied, you merely value outreach and you always will value outreach.

    the same is true with student ministry, when i harp on kids to invite their friends to stuff, it sounds like my goal is to have a “large youth group.” but when i am continually helping them see the importance of making disciples, they aren’t going to look around and say, “oh, i bet adam isn’t happy because there are only 12 people here.”

  5. This really is great conversation. It’s really got me thinking about how I currently lead my ministry and how I should be leading my ministry. I can see areas where I am leading by setting goals and areas where I’m leading through values. The funny thing is that the goal setting seems to be unconscious. I think the wiser choice would be to lead through values. When we lead through setting goals we could potentially miss what God wants for our life and/or ministry. Even when we set what we think are “good” and “healthy” goals, they may still not be God’s best for us. However, if we lead by sticking to the values set out for us in God’s word then I think we are naturally working with the Spirit of God to see fruit in our lives and ministry. The crazy thing about leading through values though is that it may be easy to become complacent and stagnant in the work God has called us to. I’ll be reeling over this one for a while.

  6. Adam and I are feeling the same thing I think. I would say that when I set goals and they aren’t met, I am more unhappy with myself than other people are with me (internal value). For me, this is a case of good/better. Really, where goals break down for me is my ability to meet my goals. I wouldn’t want my goals to be something like a numbers alone or whatever, so I would have to set my goals on things like transformed lives, discipleship relationships, etc. The problem with most goals I set is that only God can do them and I can only participate in them. So I like the idea of values because it let’s me have a less concrete goal and still have a target to shoot for.

  7. A very interesting discussion. Adam I would agree with you that leading from goals seems to produce guilt and hierarchy in many groups. One of the best articles I have read on this subject is Sally Morgenthaler’s article in the Emergent Manifesto of Hope, “Leadership in a Flattened World.” According to Morgenthaler in many areas of the business world a shift is occuring: from a Ceo model of leadership to what she calls a “collective intelligence” model. She wants to argue that the church is lagging behind the business world in this regard(continuing to maintain the CEO model).

    While her article is talking about leadership styles and structures, it could easily be applied to a discussion on values vs goals. While a shift to values certainly seems appropriate, it always scares me when the church begins to mimic the business world to form its structure. I wish the goal model would have never made its ways into the church (thanks Constantine, thanks Roman Empire), and while I am excited about a shift to a values model, I am also fearful of any leadership shift that is driven by the world around.
    The best way to fix a broken structure, is not to return to the same place that caused the break to begin with.

  8. I am a children and youth pastor and we just had our big mission vision meeting for the children’s ministry. Aubrey Malphurs has written a book that we used called Ministry nuts and bolts. he talks about core values at the very beginning of the book as being the things that cause action, influence decision and basically answer the “why” question in a family, organization, school, church etc. Our job is more along the lines of identifying and guiding value change so that decisions are simply made in accordance with good values. Its kind of similar to Kuhn’s theory of paradigms in that the worldview/paradigm/core value system you work in develops everything that you do. If your goals match your values, your goals will be successful. If they don’t match, the goal will fail. We have to make sure that goals and values match. goals are not bad in themselves, but forcing goals almost always is. The bible makes it clear that real change happens at the core and in a weird way even organizations can be sanctified or changed from the ground up. I love the garden metaphor in that there are different outcomes for everyone and no students’ faith will look like anyone elses. Our goal is not conformity but shared beauty.

  9. i’m not sure that goals are a bad thing. the problem mainly comes, i think, when goals are sought after at the expense of values–and more importantly–at the expense of people. in order to have proper goals, you have to first establish your values. so… what i’m getting at is… lead from values first, then develop goals that birthed from those values. goals help an organization track whether or not you’re living out your values. that’s my 2 cents anyhow.

  10. There’s a lot of “goals aren’t necessarily bad” language in both the comments and the Facebook discussion, which makes me wonder a few things. I wonder if we say that because we’re so comfortable with goals-based ministry and still aren’t entirely sure about values/vision. Goals are a lot more concrete and tangible, while values are much deeper and philosophical and messy.

    To go back to the factory/garden metaphor, factories aren’t necessarily bad, but they won’t bring about the same life and growth as a garden would. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is more of a full-blown paradigm shift than a new methodology or just new language for the same thing.

  11. Joel, I really like what you said. I believe it is a very scary thing to say that we are going to do away with goals.

    One thing I have really started to do is think about everything around the idea of love. (I am refering to unconditional God love, not romantic love) I was thinking about how love is not a set thing, or even really a set way of doing things. Love reacts to everything and everyone differently. Love, well go read 1 Corinthians 13…you will get the idea.

    Anyway, if God is love, then maybe this is more how we should look at youth ministry too. There is no set way, it must react to each situation differently. It gets dirty, and it must be about relationships because it is the only way it can exist.

    I don’t know how to end, so here you go. Thoughts?

  12. @Chris, I think love has a great deal to do with it, especially in discerning what values are most Christ-like. It’s not formulaic or static, but it does paint a clear picture of who we’re supposed to be in a relational and dynamic way.

    This also feels a bit like a “doing” vs. “being” discussion, with goals being more action-oriented and external, and values focusing on identity and the internal. A lot has been said about goals stemming from values, but it might be more complex than that. We do need to have some form of tangible, concrete direction or else we can end up floundering. But I don’t think that values-based leadership is directionless; it just becomes less about moving up to the next step and more about maturity.

    In Rick McKinley’s book “This Beautiful Mess” he talks about the difference between levels and dimensions in relation to the kingdom of God. Quote:

    “The kingdom is a dimension I acknowledge, I live in, I participate in. Yet it’s never a level I achieve. It is a lot less like building the business of Christianity and a lot more like slipping into the matrix of Jesus.”

  13. hello all. long time reader, first time commenter.

    i really enjoyed the post (and comments) and deeply connected with what you’ve laid out here. i think this shift has been occurring within the church for quite some time, not just in youth ministry but the church as a whole.

    further, i see this not just as a leadership shift, but a worldview shift that could be argued as another facet of the emerging conversation. i think many people have reached such a level of frustration with the factory nature of the church, seeing it as paternalistic and stripped down to mindless thought repetition.

    i’m currently planting a church in little rock, arkansas and we’re in the very, very early phases of planning and growing. on our blog, i’ve expanded on your thoughts and “prettied up” your graphics. :) you can check it out here

  14. …follow-up comment…somehow the link i included goes back to marko’s blog…not my website. (??) if you’d like to check out the blog post i referenced, you can check it out here. that should do the trick. :)

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