Living, Breathing, Values

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

I hope get a chance to peruse our most recent annual report.

The Community Relations team did a great job organizing the narrative around our foundational values. As I thought about those values as expressed in the report and on our web site I had a moment: these values are the reason I chose to join in the Center’s work as an executive director. So much of who I am as a person in this world and my own values align directly with what this place is about.

First a bit of clarification about values since the word is often misrepresented in our hyper charged political environment. We can express our values as an organization, but if they aren’t enfleshed, lived out in daily behavior, they become empty rhetoric. Somewhere along the way I read this on a management website (forgive me for not tracking down the source yet):

Values shift the focus from the greater organization to the individual.  Values define who individuals need to be to achieve the organization’s vision and/or live out its mission.  Values articulate a set of desirable traits or characteristics that people can exemplify in their faithful service to the organization and its cause.            

For me this means that organizations and individuals walk the talk and the behaviors are easy to spot when you observe the day-to-day. So let’s take a look at our publicly expressed values and see if we can find evidence of how they’re lived


We strive to help as many people as we can regardless of ability to pay. One of my personal values is social justice, that all might have what they need to flourish in this life. I’m glad to know that we provide services to help as many as we can. That is not to say that we don’t also provide services to those with good insurance who can afford to go anywhere. We strive to help as many as we can. It’s good to know that people choose our exemplary services no matter where they land on the socio-economic spectrum and that we do our best to serve as many as we can.

Integration/holistic approach

We like to talk about the healing process for the whole person: body, mind and spirit. Practically, this has meant a number of things over the years. Lots of modalities use work on healing the mind, but a number of our clinicians utilize techniques that help clients and patients to get in touch with their bodies so that they can augment the healing process. Hope and healing for the spirit means different things to different people. One of my favorite quotes heard around here is that we meet people where they are, not looking to “fix” them, but to walk with them as a whole person to explore what a flourishing life might look like for them.


The annual report mentions that a large percentage of people come to us because they have been referred by someone in their circle that currently or previously used our services. What could be a better indicator of trust. We don’t take this lightly.

Respect and compassion

This hearkens back to the quote about meeting people where they are. We encounter diversity in many forms among our clients, staff and board. Lots of varied perspectives and commitments, yet we somehow find a way to hold together the notion of community so that we can carry on this important work together. At the root of compassion is the ability to empathize, something we see on display every day at all levels of the organization.

High standards/experience

It is incredibly humbling to watch colleagues carry on their craft. Our staff have great credentials and are products of high level training programs—including our own. That’s inspiring enough. It’s the witnessing of it in daily behaviors that’s even more inspiring. I wish more people could sit in on our consultations just to hear the wisdom of colleagues as they work together on sorting out what the best course of action might be for a client. Their compassion is evident, but their expertise always leaves me feeling grateful that our staff is there to help in moments that people are most in need. The people we serve are in good hands.

Let me conclude with a final value: community. Though much of our work happens in one-on-one settings, none of this mission is lived out in isolation. Other patients, staff, board members, volunteers and donors have gone before us. We stand on those shoulders as we do our work. Each member of this community—past, present and future—is necessary in order for us to be who we are and do what we do. The values we share aren’t just words, they are actions we see walking the hallways, in meetings and phone calls and broadcast on zoom screens each day.

I am grateful to be a part of it. I am also grateful for all of you who are the community that makes it all possible.

To read more of Jim’s blogs, click HERE