At ReFresh 2023, Shea Sumlin and Matt Younger presented updated values for Northway Church, along with our hope to model these values within our respective ministries. The hope for any organizational values, as Shea further articulates in the ReFresh talk, is to help people get from their mission to their vision.
The purpose of this document is to tell the story of the evolution of Northway’s ministry values over the last five years. We hope it serves you with greater clarity and context in understanding how our values have taken shape over time. In order to understand our values we must first remember our history. Where did it all begin for us?
Northway Baptist Church was pioneered by a group of men and women who desired that North Dallas be reached with the gospel. Settling into a few acres on Walnut Hill and Hedgeway (then on the outskirts of town) Northway Baptist began in 1952 with a group of 52 men and women. Over the next 60 years, Northway Baptist would experience heights of influence followed by seasons of spiritual drought. By 2009, the church was financially depleted, although this didn’t stop a small group of remaining members from earnestly seeking the Lord for his renewal.
Fifteen miles north of Northway, The Village Church (TVC), was experiencing an explosion in growth. Two years prior the church had embraced a multi-site model when, faced with spatial restraints, was approached by a declining church in Denton who offered their building and congregation to be absorbed by TVC. This modeled a precedent for multi-site ministry: TVC would stream live preaching to the campus and provide a unified ministry playbook while local ministers sought to care for the members of the church in Denton as they employed TVC’s strategy of ministry. Within months the once floundering church, now called TVC Denton, was experiencing its own renewal with hundreds of new members now part of the church.
In God’s providence, a few key leaders from TVC connected with key leaders from Northway Baptist Church. With humble hearts, eager to see a work of the Spirit among them, they followed the path of TVC Denton, and in the summer of 2009, Dallas Northway became TVC’s next campus. Over the next ten years the Lord would add three more campuses to The Village Church as the church impacted the Metroplex with the gospel.
Within the heart of TVC leadership, a significant question emerged just a few years after the inception of the Dallas Northway campus: What is the future of these campuses? Will members persist under the video preaching of elders who do not know their stories or their context? Will ministries at each campus be able to contextualize around the unique burdens/seasons of life represented in each place? Leadership felt this tension and would wrestle through the implications for years to come.
As the campus model grew, leadership sought best to align ministries for the sake of symmetry and consistency. Simplicity was at the heart of the formula. TVC’s initial strategy was to employ only a small number of ministries and provide significant resources within these departments. This model began with primary attention given to groups and NextGen ministries, with an emphasis on training in the years that followed. And akin to a traditional “franchise” model, each of TVC’s campuses would offer identical ministries across the city.
TVC leadership continued to consider and discern the future of campus ministry in light of the aforementioned tensions. A few things became apparent. First, TVC recognized their limitations in caring for and leading the campuses across cities full of members that they loved but people they didn’t know. Second, leadership at each campus was increasingly desirous to lead their people in ways they thought best and in contexts that they uniquely understood.
As a result, TVC courageously announced Multiply, a campaign which saw the vision as right and good for each campus to eventually become an autonomous church. Each campus would set its mind on preparing for the future as local and independent congregations.
The Lord united the hearts of the TVC leadership and Shea Sumlin, and together, discerned Shea would become the campus pastor of TVC Dallas Northway and lead the charge toward autonomy. Shea joined our congregation in August 2018 and began leading a staff of invested leaders who were eager to see Northway flourish as a local church for Dallas.
In the fall of 2019, The Village Church Dallas Northway launched as Northway Church. With the launch came a highly entrepreneurial and creative energy. What was necessarily more of a franchise and simple model of ministry gave way to a new opportunity for local ministry to Dallas with a new vision. Everyone was excited to lead in this newfound freedom.
With a mission of “making disciples of Jesus” and a vision, “that our city would encounter the truth, goodness and beauty of Jesus,” Northway emerged with twelve values that we hoped to solidify our identity as we sought to turn our mission into our vision. The values included: Scripture, Spirit, Worship, Equipping, Mobilization, Love, Justice, Unity, Generosity, Generations, Care, Community. With a lot of excitement, ambition and high ideals, we hit the ground running to see these values employed.
As we look back, we are grateful for our “Season of Twelve Values” because it showed the eagerness of Northway’s staff to aspire to accomplish much. But over time, through some helpful coaching, we were able to see that we simply had too many values. In explicitly trying to value so many things, we weren’t providing our church the clarity we needed to flourish in the most important things. We had to humble ourselves to see that no church can do everything well.
What did we learn? Churches have to prioritize what they believe is most important in their contexts and for their people. It’s great to have high ideals, but no church can be robust in every area of ministry practice. No one church can be the best of every church. In trying to be about everything, Northway needed to figure out our key priorities that would help our mission become our vision.
In early 2023, Northway leadership revisited our “We Statements,” a six part sermon series we delivered as the church stepped back into normalcy after COVID-19. In this series we listed six statements that conveyed a philosophy of how we wanted to make disciples: We believe, we gather, we belong, we serve, we train, and we send.
In reviewing the “We Statements”, leadership realized that four pillars defined the heart of what Northway was seeking to accomplish in getting from our mission to our vision. Also, seeing that “gather” could fold into “belong,” and “serve” was conveyed through “belonging” and “sending,” Northway leadership felt that four values could convey how we want to get from our mission to our vision. It was apparent that believing, belonging, training and sending were the values that most compelled our leadership and were most apparent in the ministries we sought to employ.
Northways elders and staff worked through these refined four values and felt a good bit of clarity and momentum. They gave us a sense of our true north in how we want to see our mission lived out and our vision fulfilled. It also provided clarity to ensure these values were driving our ministries and not our ministries driving our values. How would we describe these values?
We Believe: We make disciples with robust faith who are grounded in the knowledge, wisdom, and promises of Scripture
We Belong: We make disciples who live out the one-anothers of Scripture in authentic community with other believers
We Train: We make disciples who are growing to understand and apply the Scriptures to all of life
We Send: We make disciples who preach the gospel to their neighbors and extend the gospel to the nations
At the heart of all of our ministries is the hope to make these values explicit. In other words, gospel communities, training/sending, NextGen, care, connections, and worship all exist to make these values real in the life of our church in our hope to make disciples.
In clarifying our values, our hope is not to discount the manifestation of our original values. Rather, by embracing our limitations and focusing on what’s most important for us, we can move toward becoming the healthiest version of the church God wants us to be.
We hope this context is helpful for you in understanding Northway’s renewed values announced at Refresh in 2023. For more insight into this story and for a greater understanding of how we are working out our values across ministries, please listen to Shea & Matt's talk.
You can also find the NextGen Ministry Map and Training & Sending Visualization that Matt shared in his talk linked below.