Our local hospital has developed a set of values, from which I would suggest any church could learn. Throughout the hospital there are signs stating: “At our best we are a kind, professional, positive team”.
Notice the realism of this statement: “at our best we are…”. There is an implicit recognition that there are times when not every member of the hospital community is reflecting this set of values – nonetheless there is no sense of complacency. The articulation of these values is a spur to encourage the staff to be at their best. In this respect I found it significant that these values were placarded everywhere – the staff are constantly reminded of the vision which had been adopted.
I was struck too by first value: kindness. My immediate reaction was to say to myself: “in a church context we would probably aim to be a loving community rather than a kind community” – but then I realised that this was a nonsense. To be kind is to love. Paul’s hymn to love in 1 Cor 13 states: “love is patient; love is kind”. Kindness here is the active counterpart of patience. Kindness reaches out through deeds that demonstrate compassion and mercy (so Ciampa & Rosner). Chrysostom says that such kindness works “to appease and extinguish” the community fires set by the anger of others “not only by enduring nobly, but also by soothing and comforting”. Thus “they cure the sore and heal the wound of passion”. Wow, what a difference kindness could make in some church communities!
The second value is professionalism. Note that the reference in this hospital context is not just to so-called ‘professionals’ such as doctors and nurses, but also to porters and kitchen staff, and the many others who might be deemed to be performing ‘lowly’ tasks. Professionalism here implies the giving of one’s best. What a difference that attitude could make to many a church: in our service to God we are not called to be ‘happy amateurs’, but rather in all that we do, whether it be in welcoming newcomers or making coffee, we are consciously seeking to “do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10.31) At every level of church life there should be a striving after excellence.
The third value is positivity. Many years ago Bing Crosby used to sing, “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative”. The Apostle Paul similarly sought to ‘accentuate the positive’ when he wrote to the church at Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4.8). There is no room in church life for criticism and gossip – rather we need to be constantly talking one another up, always looking for what is good and helpful.
Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the whole hospital community is regarded as a team: all the members of the staff are working together to make a difference to those in need of their services. What is true of a hospital, should also be true of a church. True, calling the church a team may at first sight seem stretching a point. Teams are normally composed of a limited number of people. It has, for instance, been said that “Two is a company, three is a team and more than fifteen are a crowd”. However, describing a church as a team can be helpful: it brings out the fact that every member of the church has a role to play in the mission and ministry of the church. Nobody is just a ‘punter’. We are all called to make a difference.
At its best every church is be a community marked by kindness, professionalism, positivity and teamsmanship!