When Rules Fall Short

I’m looking forward to the day I no longer have to give my daughters rules.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not excited about them growing up. I love them at these ages. The thing about having young kids at the house is we have to teach them a lot of rules. The rules are safeguards for their life and our sanity. The rules aren’t perfect, but they are helping to guide the girls in a direction we want them to grow.

If I could be honest for a moment: I really dislike rules, and not for the reason you might think. I don’t mind the boundaries and structure that rules bring, I’ve just noticed that rules don’t really capture the heart of the matter. Rules are like a shadow – but there is something of greater substance.

For example:
I don’t want my daughters to need a set of rules for how to treat people. I want them to understand how to value people. If they understand truly valuing people then the way they treat people will be as good (if not better) than if they simply followed my rules.

The idea isn’t mine originally. I stole it from Jesus.

In what is probably the greatest and most challenging sermon ever given Jesus took the rules of the day and invited His listeners to trade in those rules for something better…and more costly.

“You have heard it said…but I tell you…”

  • The rule is “Don’t murder anyone,” and it was replaced with “value people by not even cultivating anger or bitterness in your heart
  • The rule is “Don’t be an adulterer,” and it was replaced with “value others and treat them as people not as objects of sexual desire
  • The rule is “Love your neighbor, hate your enemy,” and it was replaced with “value everyone who was created in God’s image

Rules sure seem a lot easier, but they fall short of imparting the values that allow us to thrive in life.

This is why the most valuable training for your volunteers is around the values that should drive them. People are most effective and flourish when their actions are informed by values. Rules and guidelines give a general idea of what we should do – but values answer questions when rules fall short.

Values provide team members an answer in their gut in those moments when their head is saying, “I don’t know what to do.

So by all means give people great tools.
Provide some guidelines on how to get started.
But most importantly do the work of digging deep and training people around values.

When you commit to identify, train and reinforce values for your team you will notice people end up “doing the right things (external rules)” not because they are trying to obey but because they are naturally (and internally) compelled by a set of values.

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