When I get called in to work with other groups and organizations, one of my first questions is: “Tell me about why you do this work. What are your core values?”
I tell them then that core values are your bedrock reasons for doing things – they are the “why” of how you act the way you do. People have them, and organizations have them. For example: A corporation may decide to give expectant mothers six weeks of paid maternity leave – which is better than average here in the USA. That is the “what”. But their core value of, “We value our employees, and want them to thrive in all areas of their life” is “why” they do that.
The philosopher Nietzsche said that if your reason for doing something was strong enough, you could endure any means to accomplish it. Admittedly, he was using hyperbole, but the point remains – knowing why you are doing something makes it easier to go on when things are hard.
And there are times this work is hard. And during those hard times, if you don’t know why you are doing this work, you will fail, and burn yourself out and then nothing changes – at least not for the better.
Since we get asked a lot about why we do this work, I thought I would share our core values with you. These are the values that inform our work, and they guide our decision making. When we make a decision, we run it against the Core Values to see if it is consistent with what we believe and aspire to as an organization. And if it isn’t, we scrap it.
While I have listed them in a linear fashion, they are more properly understood as self-reinforcing, feeding into each other, and building on each other.
The Core Values of Love Wins Ministries
We invite people to come into our lives and our spaces, not to convert them to our side or to change them, but to create free space where we can become friends with each other based on who we each are – not who we wish they were. Hospitality means creating spaces for people to be themselves.
Homelessness is, at its core, about relationships. It is the people who give our lives shape and meaning, and nobody has their best day alone. The relationships we strive to achieve must be real, based on the realities of who people are, and not agenda driven, or based upon who we wish they were.
History has taught us that when there are two groups of people, policies and decisions tend to bias upward, benefiting the group in power. The people we work among have often been on the wrong end of this power dynamic, so we seek to bias downward whenever possible. Asking ourselves, “Does this benefit the people in our community, or just the people in power?” is a useful decision-making filter.
Grace is the decision to forgive people in advance of their being proved worthy of it. Forgiving them in advance of their being proved worthy of the forgiveness creates space for people to live into being their best selves. Grace is also aspirational – we extend grace because we wish to be recipients of it.
No one is voiceless, but there are voices that cannot be heard because the rest of us will not be quiet. Therefore, we will use our privilege and platform to bear witness to the goodness we see, the hope we encounter and the pain we share, and amplify the voices of those who cannot be heard. By doing this work in public, we seek to stoke the imagination of the watching world about the sort of goodness that is possible.
Agency is the right of people to exert power in their own lives. It is a fundamental human right, and to the extent we take away that right, we dehumanize them. People get to make their own decisions, they have the power to choose. Honoring their agency means honoring their choices, even when that is not the decision we would have made for them.
Most outreach work is predicated on the idea that “we” can meet “their” needs. We believe that we can meet each other’s needs, if we are willing to enter into a relationship based on the belief that we all have inherent value and worth. Mutuality involves seeing people as your peer and not as students to be taught or children to be monitored.
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Those are our Core Values, along with a bit of explanatory text. Over the next few months, I will write full length posts on each Core Value, in order to provide more context and examples of how they work.
NB: There are people who will tell us they are upset that our Core Values are not religious in nature: We would say that is to misunderstand them. We would argue they are rooted in the Christian tradition, but are not exclusive to it. In order for them to be understood by the widest range of people, we have explained them secularly.