Monday, March 1, 2010

What is the Vision of Your Community?

For me, a Vision Statement is different from a Mission Statement although I find that many consultants and church leaders use these interchangeably. When I look at a church’s Vision Statement, I expect it to tell me who these people are. This means that in a Vision Statement the nouns are the important words as different from a Mission Statement where the verbs are the key words.

When a community attempts to say “who they are,” they are saying a great deal about what they value. This means that a Vision Statement says both who we are and who we want to become. This means that Vision is bigger than mission and is about identity which also means that it tends to be a bit more global and at times fuzzy.

This is why I often find it more helpful to articulate a Church’s mission – what we feel called to do – before we charge into the Vision Thing. After helping a Church write their Mission Statement, I would ask, “what does this mission say about who you believe you are and who you believe you are becoming?”

If you think this Vision business is simple, think about how many ways the Scriptures try to articulate the identity of the people of God; God’s own people, the household of God, the family of God, God’s own chosen, a royal priesthood, a holy nation – to name just a few.

I might mention that I believe one of the issues before the Episcopal Church today is that we have diverse and at times conflicting visions of who we think we are.

A community’s Vision Statement can be remote and abstract especially if it is detached from the core values of a community. I see core values as the DNA of a community. Over time a congregations core values expand and become diffused. This is what makes re-vitalization so difficult because by the time re-vitalization is attempted different members are too invested in different things.

No where is this process of Vision better illustrated than in a new church plant. These are most successful when built around 3 or 4 core values. A long-standing congregation’s leadership may list as many as 20 core values if asked. I’ve often found it helpful to ask leaders to start with their long list of values and reduce these to the seven most important. Even this is difficult for some congregations.

So to summarize: as a congregation works on self-understanding, I like to see three things emerge or be put in place: one is the Vision Statement, the second is a Mission Statement, and third is a banner or slogan statement. Churches that have these three things in place have done the hard work of understanding who they are and what they are called to do TODAY.

It is hard work, but it is very much fruitful. Besides, it is better to have leaders spend their time on these things than on balancing the budget!

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