Monday, January 2, 2012

I Yam What I Yam

"I yam what I yam!  I'm Popeye the sailor man!"

Popeye knew who he was.

Do you know who you are?

So often, we tend to think of our organizations, ministries, and volunteers by what we do.  Maybe we mentor orphans, we feed the world, we save the environment.  In one of my last blogs, I referred to YouthReach International's mission boiled down into "we mentor orphans."

But we aren't what we do.  We are who we are.

And who we are boils down to our values.  Those characteristics that truly define a person or an organization.  Our values are the very DNA of us - and each organization is different.

What we do may change over time.  It may change daily, weekly, or through some other time period.  We may find that a particular project or effort has served its course, or maybe solved the problem that we were trying to achieve.  Maybe the goal was to clean up the water supply in your town, and over the past 10 years with your efforts, advocacy, and community support, that water is now crystal clear and back to what it was intended to be when God created the creek.  And now you find yourselves looking to other water supplies in nearby counties, or maybe working to lessen the effects of the local landfill, or focusing your attention towards air quality.  The specific tasks of what we do can change.

Who we are does not change.  At the very least, it doesn't change frequently.  Our values define us and our organizations.  They provide the filters for what we are willing to do, and those things that we should stay away from.  They are the adjectives that others will answer when asked, "what is one thing that defines this organization?"

If you haven't already, it's time to sit down and think about who you are as an organization, a ministry, a movement.  Ask other people to give you the answers to "if you could describe us in a single word, what would that word be?"  Pray about it, meditate on it, and ask your board, staff, and volunteers.  If you serve a particular people group, ask them how they would describe your values.

Then take some time and write them down.  Agree upon a list.  Come up with a short description of what each value means.  Keep them to a half dozen or so, so they're simple.  Maybe you've come up with words like:

  • Partnering
  • Modeling
  • Integrity
  • Relational
  • Accountable
  • Servant-Leaders
Bring these prospective values to your board of directors, and discuss them, pray about them, and vote on them.  These will now define your organization, what you do, and how you ago about doing it for years to come.

Define your values.  Live them out.

And remember, "I yam what I yam!"

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