I’m a big “DNA” fan; that is, I believe that, before a church can be effectively planted, grown, or transformed (pick whichever category you find yourself in), its leaders, and ultimately its congregation, have to wrestle with this question: “Why do we exist and what does it matter?”

 Once the grappling is over and the leaders emerge from the board room, they have a fully mapped congregational genome with 6 strands:

  • Mission
  • Compelling Vision
  • Core Values
  • Bedrock Beliefs
  • Expected Behaviors
  • Strategic Focus

That’s the order I always see the DNA Genome in, but that’s not the order I recommend tackling them if you’re working with an existing congregation. In most congregations I’ve worked with, before any sort of transformation begins, I help them develop their expected behaviors. Expected behaviors are how leaders and members of the congregation agree to treat each other. The final product is six to eight statements that become the core of a leadership covenant that is adopted by the official decision-making body (board, council, session, etc.) and then is voted on by the congregation. Only when you have these in place can you expect to lead the congregation forward through the more difficult process of defining the rest of the DNA.

The process, in a nutshell, is to work through the “one anothers” (there are over 50 of them in the New Testament) in order to combine and condense them into a covenant. You will also want to include a reference to Jesus’ conflict resolution training in Matthew 18:15-17 as well as ensuring that something gets put in there in terms of leaders being the models of the behaviors. I’ve recently been working with a congregation in the transformational process and below is the discipleship covenant that they developed (often called a membership covenant). It took a full four months, but here are the results.

Discipleship Behaviors

  1. We will treat each other with respect and compassion, speaking honestly and taking the time to listen to one another.
  2. We will joyfully accept and embrace all people into our midst, practicing generosity of our time, our abilities, our financial gifts and our prayers for each other.
  3. We will pursue agreement through honest interaction and then speak well of resulting decisions by the church and its leaders to build trust in fulfilling the united mission of the congregation.
  4. We will practice peacemaking by following the teaching of Matthew 18:15-17.
  5. We will be faithful in regular worship attendance, small group bible study and prayer, growing in spirit and grace, so that we experience the life transforming movement of God’s Spirit within us.
  6. Leaders will model these behaviors of discipleship, being of one heart and soul, by continuing to grow in spirit and grace, inspiring others to come alongside.

Once the behaviors are accepted by the congregation, the hard part actually begins … holding the bullies and terrorists accountable to the congregation’s agreed behaviors – though it’s a lot easier when you can say, “Bossy Bob, we all agreed we wouldn’t speak to each other like that.” However, once you’ve called the bully out on their behavior, you’ll hear a collective sigh of relief from the congregation at large.

Question: Do you have a membership covenant? If so, why don’t you share it with us? If not, let us know what you’d like to include in the Comments section below.