When people think of church mission statements, there are usually two related but separate things they imagine. One is a mission statement, and one is a vision statement. The difference between these is that a mission statement is very practical in its scope. It focuses on what you will accomplish and how you will do it. A vision statement is designed to be more abstract. It focuses on the personality of the church and how God sees your local church fitting into the larger context of the global church.
The distinction is subtle, and many churches end up combining the two, but for the purposes of discussion we’ll just address the mission statement here.
Set practical goals
The main purpose of a mission statement is to focus the efforts of your church on unified goals, so every ministry builds off the others and the effect expands. It’s like when you push your kid on the swing set. If you always push at the moment when they begin their swing forward, you can build more and more energy into the system and they go very high with minimal effort. But, if you push at random intervals, you usually cancel out most of your work.
If you want to unite your ministries’ efforts so they build off one another, you have to outline practical steps so there’s unity. It would be nice to eradicate poverty or preach the Gospel in the whole world, but there’s nothing there for your members to focus on. It’s too vague for a mission statement. You want to outline concrete steps, such as giving away groceries in the inner city. This is a practical step your members and ministries can focus on.
Set measurable goals
This is really just an extension of making your goals practical, but it’s so important that it deserves its own heading. If you don’t want your members to be burned out after years of pursuing the same mission, you need to give them some way of knowing their efforts make a difference. Using the above example, you might track how many boxes of food you’re able to provide year to year. As that number grows, your members see the progress.
And, be selective in your goals. Not every action is measurable. That doesn’t mean you can’t do things that can’t be measured, but you should either combine them with something measurable, or acknowledge that people can get burned out faster in that ministry and structure accordingly.
Set goals that grow with you
You don’t want your mission statement changing every two years, so plan ahead. Find goals that can be practical and measurable, and never finished. Providing nutritious food in the inner city is a good example. When you start, you could do it just once a week, when you grow as a church you may find yourself with the funds to buy a five story building and set up a school and a grocery store and other things you can’t dream of starting now. But, even if New York, Rome, and Paris aren’t big enough to accommodate your ministry, the mission you set out for yourself still won’t be finished. You can always take it one step further and serve one more person. Goals like this are very practical, but will grow with you.
Map everything to your vision statement and visa versa
Even though I started this article by trying to separate ways people approach their mission statement and their vision statement, I still argue that the two are linked. They may be separate, but they work together. That’s why you need to evaluate your mission statement in light of your vision statement. Remember, your vision statement is how you believe God sees your ministry. It describes the personality of the ministry. Your actions (represented by your mission statement) should grow out of your personality (represented by your vision statement).
As an example of this principle, let’s take Mark 10:45, which I like to think of as Jesus’ vision statement, and compare it to Luke 7:22, which I like to think of as Jesus’ mission statement. Granted, these labels are a bit arbitrary on my part, but I think most will agree that these verses fit the titles I’ve given them.
- Jesus’ vision statement—Mark 10:45
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Jesus’ mission statement—Luke 7:22
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
In the passage from Mark, you can see the focus is on defining Jesus’ personality and the way God sees Him and His ministry. The ideas are measurable, but not something others can go off and put into practice. It just defines who Jesus is and helps those under Him know what distinguishes His ministry from John the Baptist’s or Isaiah’s or anyone else’s. On the other hand, the passage from Luke is very action oriented. There isn’t much discussion of what Jesus’ personality is or what differentiates Him from others, but instead it tells those participating in His ministry where they should focus their efforts.
If you compare the mission statement to the vision statement, you can also see how everything from one supports the other.
- Does telling John all these things come from a servant’s personality? Yes. John was in prison and understandably depressed. Telling him about Jesus’ miracles would encourage and serve him more than anything else could. This part of the verse can even be seen as a directive for the disciples to serve others by reporting the great things God is doing all over the world.
- Does healing the blind, lame, lepers, and deaf serve others? Yes. It’s not just a nice way to serve somebody, but anyone who’s a doctor or has been on a medical mission trip can attest that healing people is so emotionally draining and the ill become so desperate for help that only someone with a heart to serve can hold up under the strain.
- Does raising the dead respond to the view God has of Him? Yes. It is both a service to others and, if you think of spiritual death, it fulfills the goal of ransoming many.
- Does preaching to the poor fulfill the servant personality? Yes. Again, it’s not just a nice thing to do, but by going to the people who can do nothing to repay you, who can provide for none of your needs, you could very well end up going hungry while working all day every day. This, too, can only grow out of a personality defined by service.
As you work on your own mission and vision statements, keep this unity of purpose in mind. Ask whether everything your mission statement says you’ll do stems from your personality as a church. Will your personality be fully expressed by the actions your mission statement has outlined? If not, add to the statement. Make sure all the actions you outline for yourself work toward the common goal outlined in your vision statement. And, keep your mission statement measurable, or your members will burn out for lack of seeing any progress.
Since you are in the vision/planning mindset…
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