Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Elements of a Good Mission Statement

What do I like to see in a Mission Statement? I like to see the leadership of a parish state three things.

Who are we as this community, called by God, in this place and at this time?

In my next blog I will write more on this because it involves the “Vision” of the congregation. I make a distinction between a church’s vision and its mission.

What are we called to do?

I like to see active and strong verbs. Vision Statements are about nouns, but Mission Statements are about verbs. When I see a Mission Statement, I underline the verbs, and I especially like to see if there object is beyond the members of the congregation. This leads to:

Who will benefit from this mission?

This is often the missing ingredient in most Mission Statements, and there is usually a reason why it is missing. The reason is because the statement is aimed at members of the church, i.e. “to nurture one another in Christ” and isn’t about a Church’s mission to the world, It is inward focused instead of outward focused. This doesn’t mean that such things are not important, however, I’ve often found that many Mission Statements have almost no “mission” in them.

In looking at this third element, I suggest that a congregation target who they can best reach. When I do this, leaders of a church often say that this would be wrong since, “our doors are open to everyone.” Consistently, when church leaders insist that their doors are open to everyone, their congregation is in decline. Can you guess why? I’ve found that a congregation that knows who they are trying to reach with their mission is much better in reaching all others.

Of course, all this work usually produces a rather long Mission Statement, sometimes as long as a full page. I then suggest that “knowing their mission” those congregational leaders can then create a one sentence (even phrase) that summarizes this mission and becomes a kind of banner. Once they have t his, I recommend this be put on every communication; newsletters, websites, stationary, business cards. You can put an attractive and consistent logo with it too.

Here is the mission banner statement of the Cathedral of St. Matthew.

“Our mission is to invite all to join our diverse community, worshiping God and sharing Christ’s compassion.”

One of the most evocative banner statement that I’ve seen was “Our mission is to find a hurt and heal it in the name of Christ.”

Feel free to share your Church's Mission Statement in reply to this post.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Written Mission Statements

Sure your congregation has a mission statement, but does it have a mission? Many congregations have undertaken the task of writing a mission statement and generally speaking, I think this is a good thing. Yet, over the years, I’ve noticed that many churches with mission statements do not seem to have much of a sense of mission. Here are some critical questions to ask about your mission statement.

1. Is it up to date? Secular organizations know that the rapid pace of change means that mission statements tend to go stale or become irrelevant very quickly. This can even be true of churches too.

2. Is your statement too, well quite frankly, theological? Many mission statements that I read reflect the heavy hand of the rector in creating it. Better mission statements are usually created by lay people who say in normal language what they mean. Clergy, if this offends you, remember that the New Testament was written in Koina or common Greek. I would add this caveat for clergy; the rector should always write the finale version. After all, she or he will be the person who most often has to say it.

3. Are the verbs in the mission statement weak, or even worse, passive voice. The strength of a mission statement is found it active and strong verbs. “Nurture” and “Support” are poor substitutes for “care” and “love.” You might want to think of the Great Commission here with “go, make, teach as the active verbs.

4. In other words, some mission statements are really maintenance statements in disguise. What they really say is “We intend to keep doing things the way we like it around here and we would like to find some new people who will help pay for this!” Is this what your statement really says?

5. Is your mission statement borrowed from someone else? After “Miracle in Darien” was written in the early 80s, many churches adopted “to know Christ and to make him know” as their mission statement. Few did it.

6. Can the lay people tell you what the mission of your church is without reading it? If they can’t, it isn’t a mission statement.

7. Can the new people tell you what it is? This means you are attracting folks on the basis of your mission and not the Rose Window.

Lots of times folks ask me what is wrong with using something such as the Great Commission or the “to know Christ” statement (actually this is Archbishop Temple’s great statement on the mission of the church.) In one sense, nothing is wrong with it especially if the people really own it and the congregation really does it. What I would ask a group of leaders if they told me that their mission was “to know Christ and make him Known” is “can you tell me five exciting and dynamic ways in which you actually do this?

By the way, what is the mission of the Church? Paraphrasing St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians in the 5th Chapter, the catechism correctly says that “it is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”