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.


  1. I've read quite a number of very exciting mission statements, but it generally seems to me that few of them indeed reflect even remotely what the actual values and experiences are of the congregation itself. I sometimes get the impression that a fairly small number of talented and verbally adept folks sit down together and craft something that they think "should" be the mission of their congregation. Folks all nod happily in agreement with the finished product, publish it in the annual report, print it on some stationery or a banner, and then simply move along with whatever they were doing all along. In this sense, mission statements tend to be about as "valuable" as strategic plans . . . .

  2. Yep, better to have a mission than a mission statement! Amen.